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Universal's Halloween Horror Nights gets better as crowds grow bigger

Just when you think Halloween Horror Nights can't possibly get any better, the annual Universal Studios Hollywood event finds new and more impressive ways to terrorize you.

Like an evil genius devising more deviously clever ways to dispatch his victims, Horror Nights has upped its industry-leading game once again with a host of otherworldly and mythological puppet creatures that will take your breath away with their frightening realism.

The downside of this new level of excellence is an unprecedented level of popularity. At one point during my visit on opening night, all but two of the haunted mazes boasted hour-plus wait times.

Indeed, the trio of mazes on the studio backlot had a combined wait time of four hours that produced a sea of people as far as the eye could see. Adding insult to injury, Horror Nights made visitors hoof it from the lower lot to the backlot rather than transporting them by tram as in years past, giving new meaning to The Walking Dead.

The challenge for Universal is...

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Web Buzz: New to a city? Let Villy be your neighborhood guide

Traveling to a big city can be overwhelming. Here's a website that helps you find — and book lodging in — the neighborhood that's right for you.

Name: www.Villy.co

What it does: Recommends neighborhoods and hotels best suited to you based on what you want to do on your trip. Destinations include Bangkok, Thailand; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin; London; Miami; New York; Paris; Rome; San Francisco; and Seoul, with Amsterdam and Tokyo coming soon.

What's hot: First, pick your city, then click on your interests from a short list that includes restaurants, bars and pubs, nightclubs, museums, sightseeing and shopping. Then, note who will be traveling and your per-night hotel budget, hit explore and be prepared to be impressed as a map of neighborhoods appears. The left half of the page lists why the neighborhood has been selected. You can easily see a drop-down list of neighborhoods that have been scored for you, or you can click on more recommended hotels. Hotel price, Villy score (based on its...

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Travel letters: Enhancing a visit to Luang Prabang, Laos

Enhancing visit to Luang Prabang

As much as the article depicted life in Luang Prabang, Laos, I would add a couple of things ["Mind and Spirit in Harmony" by Julie L. Kessler, Sept. 14]. I was surprised the article never mentioned that motorbikes/bicycles are a huge part of the experience.

The accommodations mentioned would be inconvenient for most travelers. We stayed at the Le Sen Boutique Hotel, which was perfect. It is on the main side of the river. It also offers airport transfers and has a beautiful pool that makes it great after a long, hot and humid day of sightseeing. The buffet breakfast is fantastic, and the restaurant is one of the top places to eat in Luang Prabang.

Mike Wagner

Los Angeles

 

On a mission

The mission articles couldn't have been more timely ["On a Mission to Explore" by Christopher Reynolds, Sept. 7]. On Nov. 15, I laced up my walking shoes and embarked on a 750-mile walk to discover California's 21 missions. I'm not soul-searching. I'm not an endurance...

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Travel films and events: A talk on 'Vanishing Tales From Ancient Trails'

TRAVEL

Presentation

James Michael Dorsey will discuss his latest book, "Vanishing Tales From Ancient Trails."

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Monday at Distant Lands, 20 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

Admission, info: Free. RSVP to (626) 449-3220

 

BACKPACKING

Seminar

Backpacker Magazine's Get Out More Tour will offer tips on gear, survival skills and other trail-tested techniques.

When, where: 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Adventure 16 store, 11161 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Admission, info: Free. (310) 473-4574

 

JOSHUA TREE

Field class

Prof. William Hayes will discuss venomous and nonvenomous snakes that inhabit Southern California's deserts.

When, where: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 28 at Black Rock Visitor Center

Admission, info: $70. (760) 367-5535

 

Please email announcements at least three weeks before the event to travel@latimes.com.

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Gear: Baggage kills pests that might hide inside

Bedbugs and lice can surreptitiously infiltrate luggage and clothing before or after a trip. Now comes luggage that functions as an execution chamber for stowaway bugs by heating them to death.

ThermalStrike Heated Luggage has a lightweight polycarbonate blend outer shell, and inside -- hidden behind the lining – ultra-thin infrared heating panels. Just zip up the bag, plug the included electrical cord into the bag’s built-in socket, plug the other end into a wall socket, and slide the timer unit on the cord to two, four or eight hours.

The bag’s internal heat will reach up to a bug-lethal 140 degrees. Integrated sensors automatically turn off the unit when time’s up.

A blue light on the timer unit shows electricity is flowing; a green light alongside the bag’s input socket shows the heating panels are on the job.

An empty bag can be de-bugged in two hours, but the company recommends a full eight-hour cycle for clothes.

The luggage also provides spacious storage and internal zippered...

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Readers Recommend: Oyster Shed on Isle of Skye

Our small group (led by an amazing Scottish tour guide named Ricki Henderson, aboutscotland.net) visited the Isle of Skye and ate lunch at the most wonderful out-of-the-way place called the Oyster Shed. It's run by Paul McGlynn with help from his mother-in-law. Paul not only sells oysters, he also harvests them from his oyster farm. The menu is packed with all sorts of local seafood, and the shed has a great selection of locally made cheeses, vinegars, pâtes and terrines. You order from Paul at the counter, and he shucks your lunch right in front of you. We ate alfresco amid gorgeous scenery. The Oyster Shed was our favorite hidden gem.

Oyster Shed, Carbost, Isle of Skye; www.skyeoysterman.co.uk

Susanne Savage

Hollywood

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Hostels want you to give peace a chance through their 'Sleep' programs

Hostels in 28 countries, including the U.S., will be urge travelers to give peace a chance this weekend.

Hosteling International USA will host special activities from coast to coast to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace on Sunday.

The Sleep for Peace campaign is based on the premise that travel helps foster a greater understanding of people from various cultures around the world.

Several California hostels are among those with special events planned for Sunday. Among the locations and activities:

The Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel  (16th Street at Highway 1, Montara, Calif., north of Half Moon Bay) will welcome visitors to its Gardening for Peace event 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. The emphasis will be on sustainability, both at the lighthouse and at participants’ home. Guests are urged to bring gardening tools and a sack lunch.

San Diego’s hostels will band together for Journey to Peace, a peace-building conference from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Speakers will...

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'Dolphin Tale 2' introduces new stars at Clearwater, Fla., aquarium

If “Dolphin Tale” piqued your interest in Clearwater, Fla., the sequel may start you packing.

The first  “Dolphin Tale” movie told the story of Winter, a 3-month-old calf whose tail was so badly damaged by a crab trap line that it could not be saved. A prosthetic tail was created to help her glide like a dolphin.

Dolphin Tale 2,” which opened nationwide last week, emphasizes Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release. The filmmakers also created a mission featurette.

Joining Winter in the new film is Hope, who was rescued as a 2-month old calf in 2010. Both are permanent residents of the Clearwater aquarium, which is about 23 miles west of Tampa in central Florida.

Admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium costs $19.95 for adults and provides access to viewing platforms to see Winter, Hope and other rescues.

Additional animal encounters include being photographed with Winter ($140 for an individual, ages 5 and older) and participating in a three-hour...

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Hostels want you to give peace a chance through their Sleep programs

Hostels in 28 countries, including the U.S., will be urging travelers to give peace a chance this weekend.

Hosteling International USA will host special activities from coast to coast to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace on Sunday.

The Sleep for Peace campaign is based on the premise that travel helps foster a greater understanding of people from various cultures around the world.

Several California hostels are among those with special events planned. Among the locations and activities:

The Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel  (16th Street at Highway 1, Montara, Calif., north of Half Moon Bay) will welcome visitors to its Gardening for Peace event 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. The emphasis will be on sustainability, both at the lighthouse and at participants’ homes. Guests are urged to bring gardening tools and a sack lunch.

San Diego’s hostels will band together for Journey to Peace, a peace-building conference from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Speakers will focus on...

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Airfare: $520 round trip from LAX to Stockholm on Norwegian

Spring in Stockholm? Yes, and at a discount: $520 round trip from LAX, including all taxes and fees, on Norwegian Air Shuttle.

The fare is subject to availability and is for travel on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from March 31 to May 30.

You must stay over a Saturday night. If you call Norwegian, you will incur an international toll charge.

Info: Norwegian, 011-47-21-49-00-15.

Source: Airfarewatchdog.com

Follow us on Twitter at @latimestravel

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Ketchum, Idaho, festival celebrates bringing in the sheep for winter

A wall of wool will “baa” its way through Ketchum, Idaho, next month as a decades-old tradition--the moving of sheep to their winter lambing and grazing grounds--returns.

The autumn event has been a way of life for more than 150 years, but in more recent times, it’s also been a cause for celebration in the Sun Valley area. The 18th annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival will be Oct. 9-12.

Sunday, the final day, draws the most attention when a parade moves down Ketchum’s Main Street starting at noon. The procession includes musicians and dancers, but the main attraction is the sheep, all 2,000 of them.

Shepherds, horses and sheepdogs all work together as the flocks are brought down from the mountain high country. (Visitors are strongly urged to leave their dogs at home.)

The run-up to the parade is a kaleidoscope of all things ranching and sheep-related.

Championship sheepdog trials will take place Oct. 11 and 12 from dawn to dusk. The trials, sanctioned by the U.S. Border Collie...

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Vegas.com's Drop Watch tool promises you'll get the lowest room rate

Guarantees promising to match the lowest price on hotel rates are nothing new, but a Vegas-centric website is taking that one step further by offering to do the homework for customers.

As part of this week’s relaunch of its site, Vegas.com, one of the largest marketers of hotel rooms in Sin City, has created Drop Watch, an online tool that eliminates the need to keep checking various sites to make sure you have snagged the best deal.

Customers can book rooms, locking in a rate in the usual way. If that rate drops before the arrival date, an email notification will be sent to them. Guests can then call Vegas.com to cancel the old reservation and rebook at the lower price.

“We say to folks, ‘Listen, make a commitment now and we’ve got your back,’” Steven McArthur, the site’s chief executive, told me.

“We are the only travel brand offering the ‘we’ve-got-your-back’ approach to this that we’re aware of.”

McArthur noted that it’s usually wise to book as early as possible, because prices...

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