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Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson to host National Christmas Tree Lighting

Tom Hanks will bring the jokes and Rita Wilson, his actress-songwriter wife, will lend her voice to the upcoming 2014 National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, D.C.

Travelers lucky enough to have won free tickets given out lottery-style will watch the Hollywood couple host the 92nd holiday ceremony, the National Park Service said this week.

Hanks and a slew of other performers will join President Obama and the first family at the annual Dec. 4 event on the Ellipse near the White House.

During the outdoor Dec. 4 ceremony, Wilson will sing as will Patti LaBelle, pop duo Nico

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Stanford Symphony to perform on Catalina on Dec. 12

Celebrate the holidays with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 12, when the Catalina Island Museum sponsors a concert at the Avalon Casino Theatre.

If you’re a member of the museum or 17 years or younger, you get in free. Otherwise, tickets are $5 apiece

The 7 p.m. program will showcase compositions by Mozart. Anna Wittstruck will conduct a Stanford Symphony Orchestra ensemble with special guests from the San Francisco Symphony: violin soloist Chen Zhao and classically trained soprano soloist Clancy Cox.

This is the second year for the concert, which Steve Mandel, president of the museum's board of trustees, calls "a great new tradition in Avalon."

Because of the island's remote location, cultural activities are limited. The museum teamed with Avalon Public Schools to develop a program during which members of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra would introduce their musical instruments, share their experiences and explain the role of each instrument.

Info: Catalina Island Museum,...

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Thanksgiving travel: 650 flights canceled so far on busiest day

If your Thanksgiving travels are taking you to the East Coast on Wednesday, be prepared for flight delays and cancellations as a powerful storm moves from North Carolina up to New England.

A nor'easter dumping rain and snow in the Northeast is adding to travel angst on the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year in the nation.

As of Wednesday afternoon Pacific time, more than 3,000 flights departing from or heading to U.S. cities were delayed and 650 were canceled, flight-tracking service FlightAware reports. More than 200 flights were canceled late Tuesday, even before the storm hit, as a preemptive measure, the website reports.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York City and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) led the pack of airports with the most cancellations.

The FAA reported average delays of nearly an hour and a half for flights into Boston Logan Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in...

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8 car games -- slightly updated -- for your Thanksgiving road trip

Here are eight games for that car trip you’re taking this Thanksgiving weekend; they may appeal to a slightly older crowd that is, perhaps, a bit more cynical than a 6-year-old and is also interested in traveling, beyond being held captive in the family car.

Some are a freshening of old standbys—the Alphabet Game, Team Storytelling—and others are unique to California.

These may come in handy if your trip is long or your plans are slowed by the weather or by the sheer number of others on the road (3 1/2 million Southern Californians on the road to Turkeyville between Wednesday and Friday).

Play nicely, travel safely and let the games begin. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Spot the Expensive Car: Call out the cars on the road--they'll probably pass you--that cost more than $50,000. You can use a list from US News and World Report. (There may be too many of these to play easily in L.A. so you may need to get away to a more rural area to avoid a call-out frenzy.)  The Aston-Martin V-8...

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In Gruene, Texas, history lives in an old dance hall

About halfway between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, a born-again ghost town called Gruene harbors perhaps the oldest dance hall in Texas.

Here's a bit of Gruene (pronounced green) on video. These days Gruene is surrounded by the city of New Braunfels, but the old structures are alive again. Visitors roam a handful of antique shops, galleries and eateries, including the massive gristmill restaurant, which used to be the town cotton gin. Meanwhile, live tunes and cold brews are still available at Gruene Hall. 

“A Minute Away” is a video series in which nothing much happens -- except you see the world, and hear it, and get a minute’s respite from workaday life. (Actually, some are as long as 1:40.) These are casual moments without talking heads or narration – just natural sound from Machu Picchu, Red Square, the Yucatan, an Alaska float plane or the reading room of the New York Public Library. We add new ones weekly, and we’ve got more than 60 of them now, so if you’d prefer a full hour...

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L.A. ski and snowboard show opens Dec. 4

Los Angeles doesn’t get much -- or any -- snow but that doesn’t stop it from holding a colossal ski and snowboard show each year. This year’s Ski Dazzle, Dec. 4-7 at the L.A. Convention Center, will feature more than 250 booths, with 50 local and national resorts represented.

And this annual perk is back: Attendees will receive a bonus free lift ticket from one of six different resorts – Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, Mountain High, Mt. Baldy, Snow Valley or Brian Head, Utah. Not a bad deal for the $20 admission.

Expo admission also includes free events such as lessons on a 60-foot ramp; a new snowboard learning center for kids 2- to 8-years-old; and a two-story pre-season fitness climbing wall.

Holiday bargains on ski and snowboard brand name gear will also be offered. Reps from K2, Burton, Columbia, Descente, Spyder, Ride, Nordica, Rossignol, Salomon, LibTech and Techinca will be on hand.

Tickets are available in advance online or during the show: $20 for adults, $5 for children 6-12....

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