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Guidebook Roundup

City guides are a natural for the Web— how better to get good information fast?— and some smart money is betting on them. Microsoft has snapped up top editorial talent for its new Sidewalk sites (www.sidewalk.com): the one on Seattle is in full swing; New York recently debuted; Boston, the Twin Cities, and, presumably, the world, will follow. Though the big M says they're designed "by locals for locals," any traveler will find them remarkably handy. There's a wealth of restaurant, nightlife, arts, sports, and getaway tips— from where to find the freshest oysters to locating Bainbridge Island's best inn— all gathered specifically for the site.

Sidewalk has those nifty features that are simplifying the Web— home pages you can customize, automatic E-mail updates. But what makes it better than the competition is good old-fashioned money: Microsoft's considerable infrastructure promises frequent revisions, an important consideration in the ever-changing urban environment.

Until Sidewalk gets to your favorite destination— and it will— try Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), which has organized its Web index into smaller indexes offering the lowdown on such cities as Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami. One site linked to Yahoo New York is the Village Voice (www.villagevoice.com): if you really want to know the city's secrets, peruse the "Anything Goes" section in the personals.

For serious trip planning, though, try standbys Fodor's (www.fodors.com) and Zagat (http://www.pathfinder.com/travel/Zagat/Dine). Both have made it to the Web with impressive style.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Traditional guides will tell you all about food and lodging, but quirky sites— the Web's forte— are better places to get a taste of a city's flavor. . . . Webscape's Virtually Real Atlanta tour (www.webscape.com) is an eyeful, but beware the 25-megabyte download. . . . Celebrating the centennial of the Boston Marathon, www.100th.com has a tour of the whole 26.2 miles and a look at famous cheats. . . . Read a history of the blues scene and listen to sound bites from Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker on Chicago Electric Blues (www.fred.net/turtle/blues. shtml). . . . Get up to speed with Caltrans's real-time Los Angeles traffic updates (www.scubed.com/ caltrans/transnet.html). . . . On Chuck Taggart's Gumbo Pages (www.gumbopages.com), a Louisianan at cooking school in California ladles up New Orleans dishes. . . . Before there was silicon, there was Chardonnay: www.napavalley.com provides links to winery sites and an excellent map for planning a drive out of San Francisco and into the vineyards.
. . . The Washington Post's Scandal Tour (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/tours/scandal/article.htm) serves up dirt on the city's other landmarks.

Wondering if you'll be taking off on time?Check out the flight tracker at www.thetrip.com

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