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Pahrump, Nev.: Jet-pack flights will have you and your spirits soaring

Looking for a lift in life? Southern Nevada’s newest attraction is a jet-pack flight that will have your body — and soul — soaring.

In the town of Pahrump, guests fitted with jet-propelled backpacks fly through the air using technology that allows them to climb 30 feet in the air. Traveling at speeds of up to 25 mph, the rides last 15 to 60 minutes. Packages start at $179.

The flights take place above a man-made lake at the ranch, best known for its land-based performance driving classes. The ranch is about 65 miles west of Las Vegas along State Highway 60.

The attraction has only recently opened, so rides are by appointment only through Jetpack America. The company also offers flights in Newport Beach.

“We have flown everyone including an 85-year-old retiree to paraplegics and quadriplegics,” Dean O’Malley, Jetpack’s president, said in a news release.

That includes Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine, who got airborne a couple of years ago.

“This isn't for everyone,” Erskine...

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How early should you buy airline tickets to get the lowest price?

To find the best deal on an airline ticket, when you purchase your ticket matters, but how much? The lowest domestic airfares were bought eight weeks beforehand and the lowest international fares were purchased 24 weeks beforehand, according to a report, released Wednesday from a company that analyzed 19 months of airfare purchases.

Airlines Reporting Corp. looked at data for tickets bought between January 2013 through July 2014 to figure out the sweet spots for lowest fares. At the eight- and 24-week points, the report says, fliers saved 19% on domestic flights and 27% on international flights.

The company also found that the least expensive air tickets were purchased on Sundays for just about any destination.

"This latest study by ARC is significant because it reveals that not only have the lowest airfares shifted from six to eight weeks out for domestic travel, but the savings are markedly greater on a percentage basis," Chuck Thackston, managing director of enterprise information...

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California: Century-old castle in Pacifica opens for public tours

For more than a century, a castle designed as a refuge from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake has stood in Pacifica, Calif. The fortress-like building with views of the ocean has turrets, towers and 24 renovated rooms that now are open once a month for tours.

Known informally as Sam's Castle, it was built by San Francisco attorney Henry Harrison McCloskey (grandfather of former California Rep. Pete McCloskey) who wanted a place that wouldn't tumble in a quake. The family moved in in 1908.

The castle off Highway 1 about 15 miles southwest of San Francisco changed hands several times before Sam Mazza spotted it in 1959 and bought it for $29,000, according to a timeline on the castle's website. Mazza, who painted and restored San Francisco theaters and other buildings, kept it for 43 years and filled it with kitschy furnishings.

"Sam Mazza's passion for collecting led him to acquire antique furniture, a jade and black lacquer screen once owned by William Holden, stained glass windows,...

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Halloween in Las Vegas? It's very chill, guys and ghouls

Halloween month is a bewitching time to come to the Las Vegas. If the cooler weather doesn’t do the trick, the superbly decorated haunted houses with their casts of goblins are sure to send chills down your spine.

Halloween is Oct. 31, a Friday and the start of the weekend in Las Vegas, which is always a frenzy of activity anyway. The fright fest only ramps it up, with an array of ghastly, ghostly and goofy activities. 

If you’re all about the sugar on Oct. 31, you’ll find holiday-themed goodies without having to ring a stranger’s doorbell.

Costumes are optional, but encouraged, at many of the spooky settings throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

To check out some of the festivities, see the photos above. For a calendar of events, go to 

Follow us on Twitter at @latimestravel

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Ebola and Africa: Geographic misunderstandings scaring tourists away

When the first U.S. case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, did you cancel your fall foliage tour of New England? When American healthcare workers infected with the fatal disease were flown to Atlanta for treatment, did anyone you know cancel a family trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.?

Of course not. But that's what's happening in Africa.

"The tragedy of Ebola goes far beyond the heartbreaking suffering of the people in hardest-hit West Africa," Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Florida-based Big Five Tours & Expeditions, writes in an email.

"Behind the scenes, another lesser known level of devastation is taking place. Tourism to Africa’s great wildlife destinations including Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Botswana is in free-fall, as travelers scheduled to go on safari holidays cancel in droves."

Blake Fleetwood, president of Cook Travel in New York, told the Associated Press that about half the people booking African travel through his agency canceled. He has canceled at...

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California: Pre-Halloween creepout at Tarantula Festival in Coarsegold

You might not like tarantulas much, but Coarsegold does. The mountain town on California 41 near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park will celebrate its 17th Tarantula Festival on Saturday with tarantula races, costume contests and arts and crafts activities.

Why tarantulas and why now? Because they're wildly misunderstood (do not kill them!), and they come out of their burrows in October to mate.

"I’ve had hundreds of people who say they spared the life of a tarantula because of the festival," founder Diane Boland says in a statement. "People report they now gently move them from places they’re not wanted, instead of resorting to a shoe or bug spray."

Boland should know. When she was new to town, she smushed a tarantula. She was admonished by a neighbor who pointed out the spider's importance to the local ecosystem.

Since then, Boland has spread the word, particularly through the festival, which is sometimes called the Tarantula Awareness Festival.

Here are some things to...

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