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New Website Teaches Kids About Travel

Can’t afford to take your kids on an African safari? Or maybe you're just looking for a fun way for them to learn about different parts of the world so they have a greater appreciation when you do book that trip. Well, last week I was introduced to a new website that solves either problem: Wonder Rotunda.

The website is an interactive educational tool for kids. After signing up—a year’s pass to the site is $45—kids create a personalized character and are given a brief tutorial by Mr. Wonder, who remains their tour guide throughout the rest of their animated “travels.”

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Damon and Cheadle Vacation at Clooney’s Italian Villa

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What do George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle have in common? Aside from being A-list Hollywood hotshots, the three co-starred in the high-stakes Oceans trilogy—Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen—each cast as professional thieves you couldn’t help but love, and admire.

So after working together so much, it’s no surprise that the friendly trio enjoys time off-set. Their latest adventure? A trip to Laglio, a waterfront town in northern Italy set against the backdrop of dramatic Lake Como, where George just happens to own 19th-century vacation home, Villa Oleandra.

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Do British Columbia Like Zac Efron—If You Dare!

Zac Efron, the teen heartthrob and young actor of movie High School Musical fame, has been spending some time in Vancouver, British Columbia lately while filming his latest flick, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.

In the film, Zac plays Charlie St. Cloud, a man still stricken with guilt from the death of his brother 13 years prior. So much so, he becomes a caretaker at the cemetery where his brother is buried, and each night plays catch with the child ghost of his dead brother. When a new love interest captures Charlie's affection, he considers breaking his promise to never leave his brother’s side.

So it’s no surprise, really, that to combat the rather somber film’s emotional subject matter, Zac has made an effort to let loose off the set. How, you might ask? By heading to Whistler, where he took a fearless leap off a bridge 160 feet above the Cheakamus River.

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Hiking the Hollywood Foothills

I recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles where, truth be told, I wanted nothing more than to steer clear of the typical tourist hot spots while in town. But with my having, oh shall we say, a moderate-to-borderline-obsessive interest in all things celebrity, the one thing I simply couldn’t pass up was a photo op with the infamous Hollywood sign, perched atop Mount Lee. The approach I took, however, was decidedly non-touristy.

What many people don’t realize is that you can actually hike to the very top of Mount Lee. It’s such a guarded “secret” that even the official Hollywood Sign website will have you believe it’s illegal to hike anywhere near the sign. Not the case. There are several roads—devoid of vehicular traffic, save for the sporadic security car—that wind around the mountain, one which goes to the top. As long as you stay on one of these roads, you’ll be fine—just make sure you’re off the mountain by nightfall.

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Bed-Hopping in New York City

If there’s one thing I love about living in NYC, it’s the constant element of surprise. There’s always something interesting to catch my attention, especially when it comes to promotion. I’ve seen it all: giant heads, edible flavored insects (I’ll pass, thank you), oversized vending machines with human occupants…So you can understand why I wasn’t phased in the least when I stumbled across this bit of awesomeness in Midtown’s Bryant Park:

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That’s right. A giant trampoline masquerading as a giant bed. Put on by InterContinental Hotels as a part of its Biggest Free Nights offer (for every 2 nights booked, guests are rewarded with a free third, to be used later), passersby were invited to throw on a pajama shirt and do what parents always forbade them to do as kids: jump on the bed.

Just another typical day in the City That Never Sleeps.

Joshua Pramis is online associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo by Joshua Pramis

Oregon Turns 150, and Toasts to Itself

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Beginning February 14, Oregon kicks off a celebration of its 150th anniversary as a state by showcasing its wines--namely its acclaimed pinot noirs--in a series of tasting events in the Willamette Valley that will last 150 days. In 2007, Oregon's governor, Ted Kulongoski, created Oregon 150, an organization run by volunteers whose job it's been to "remember Oregon's past, celebrate its present," and now the group's efforts are ready to be showcased.

The festivities kick off on Valentine's Day--Oregon's 150th birthday--with a weekend of wine, chocolate, and gourmet food tastings in the state's Wine Country, and continue throughout September 7, with a series of events at, and sponsored by, Willamette Valley's more than 200 wineries and tasting rooms.

More information and a full calendar of events can be found here.

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