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Cars May Be in the Cards For Colorado Towns

When limited-stakes gambling begins Oct. 1 in the historic Colorado mining towns of Central City, adjacent Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, it will begin with a whisper rather than as a big event. The reason: No one is quite sure how many people will show up and whether the towns will be able to handle the traffic. Parking in the tiny mountain towns is expected to pose problems, too. “It could be horrible,” one local official said. What started out as a move to get gambling tax money to preserve crumbling buildings constructed during the gold rush era is expected to produce major traffic jams through the narrow mountain roads linking the gambling towns with cities such as Denver and Colorado Springs. Advice from local officials: Go during the week and take the bus.

Travel Quiz: What is the only New England state lacking an ocean coastline?

What’s Up in China: Tourism and hotel officials are predicting a drop in tourism to China--still hurting from Tian An Men Square--after a government plan to fix hotel prices goes into effect next year, according to Tour & Travel News. Hotel officials say that average hotel occupancies in China’s major cities are hovering between 40% and 50%, even though five-star rooms are selling to wholesalers for as little as $35 a night. Under the government plan, minimum rates allowed will be $60 per night for a five-star, $50 for a four-star and $35 for a three-star.

Birthday Zoo: Children under 15 can visit the San Diego Zoo for free during October, the zoo’s official 75th birthday. And on Founder’s Day, Oct. 7, admission is free for everyone. Also during the month, activities for children will include games, animal shows, contests and, during the last weekend in October, free cake.

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Ship Shapes: Here are the latest cruise-ship sanitation ratings, based on unannounced inspections in August (a score of 86 or higher indicates acceptable sanitation standards by the Centers for Disease Control): Fair Princess (69), Sagafjord (93), Scandinavian Song (88), Sea Bird (81), Seaward (89), Starship Majestic (95), Song of Flower (99), Spirit of Alaska (69), Golden Odyssey (86).

Basic Business: Even business travelers are back to basics in terms of what they want from a hotel. A six-month survey found that convenience won out over trendy amenities when 7,300 Ramada Renaissance hotel clients (80% of whom are business travelers) were asked to list their needs. Among the essentials: video express checkout, in-room coffee makers and phone on the desk (rather than on the night stand). Other telling requests: healthy breakfasts, bottled water and in-room exercise equipment.

Turning Over a New Leif: Forget Columbus . . . at least for the moment. The Viking version of the discovery of the New World is repeating itself with the re-creation of Leif Ericson’s voyage.

The modern-day Vikings--on three replicas of Viking ships--have already landed in North America and are working their way down the East Coast to New York (Wednesday) and Washington (Oct. 9). In each port there will be daylong celebrations commemorating what the Norwegians and Icelanders say was the discovery of the New World, by them, about 1,000 years ago.

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Quick Fact: Amount of U.S. travel dollars spent on leisure travel in 1989 (latest year available): 76%. (Source: U.S. Travel Data Center.)

Big, Bigger, Biggest: A new tally of mega-hotels (those with 1,000 or more rooms) by Hotels magazine indicates that there are 151 worldwide that fit the criteria. The largest is the Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow: 5,500 rooms. Not to be outdone, Las Vegas is home to the most mega-hotels (18), with the Excalibur Hotel & Casino tipping the scale there at a hefty 4,032 rooms.

Spare Change: The idea that most travelers are “changed forever” by their experiences is a myth, according to a new study by University of Illinois anthropologist Edward Bruner. Bruner says it is, in fact, the native population that is profoundly changed by the presence of tourists. In general, most travelers in groups spend too little time in a place to have “sustained interaction with local people,” the anthropologist says. Tourists also spend most of their time in the company of other tourists, rarely speak local languages and are rarely “radically changed” by travel. It is a different story for the locals, who must reconcile the differences between themselves and the tourists in a variety of respects--including wealth and power. For example, Bruner said, his study shows that since tourism, New Guineans now see themselves as “primitive, backward and inferior.”

Comparatively Speaking: U.S. airline that received the most mishandled baggage complaints for the period January-June: America West. Next greatest: Delta. Next: TWA. Least number of complaints: Midway. (Source: Department of Transportation.)

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Fair Warning: Twenty hours of nonstop music will be offered at the Santa Barbara International Jazz Festival, Oct. 4-6. Headliner groups at Leadbetter Beach, west of Stern’s Wharf, will include Les McCann, Poncho Sanchez, the Cal Tjader Band, Radcliffe, and the Zydeco Party Band. For more information, call (805) 962-0800.

One way to get to the Jazz Festival is on a reserved train car that will feature live jazz and snacks from Orange County up to Santa Barbara. The Oct. 4 Amtrak evening train will leave from San Juan Capistrano at 6:12 p.m., with stops in Santa Ana and Los Angeles. Another train will leave from San Juan Capistrano at 6:33 a.m. Saturday morning. Return will be by bus. Cost is $98 round trip. For more information on the jazz train, call (714) 241-6186.

Quiz Answer: Vermont, where the leaf-gazing is great.


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