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Must See: China's Harbin International Ice Festival

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival kicked off earlier this week, and is now in full swing. Located below the icy desolation of Siberia, in China's Heilongjiang province, this month-long festival features massive snow sculptures and ice structures illuminated by lights frozen inside blocks of ice. Check out images of some of these wintry masterpieces from past festivals below.

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Lyndsey Matthews is the online editorial intern for Travel + Leisure.

Photos courtesy of Trent Strohm

Going Overboard: A "Titanic" Museum?

 

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Planning a roadtrip to Dollywood next year? While you're in the kitschy wonderland of Pigeon Forge in eastern Tennessee, be sure to add the brand-new Titanic Museum to your must-see list. The three-deck replica of the ill-fated ship will guarantee an educational (albeit ridiculous) experience in addition to riding the roller-coasters at the buxom blonde's theme park.

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Blast from the Past: "Vintage Wonder Theatres"

A few weekends back I went to go see the classic horror film Carrie at the Loew's Jersey Wonder Theatre, a beautiful vintage movie theater in Jersey City. As I settled into my plush velvet chair, I overheard a middle-aged man boast of seeing Carrie when it came out in 1976 at the exact same theater. While nearly 40 years later the movie’s special effects appear dated and not scary, the 1920s splendor of the theater itself is stunning (did I mention the retro-priced $6 ticket too?).

There are four other Loew's Wonder Theatres in the New York metropolitan area that were built between 1929 and 1930. While the Loew’s Kings in Brooklyn remains abandoned, the others have all been restored to their Jazz Age opulence and are now used as movie houses, concert venues, or churches as described below.

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Strange Traditions: St. Nicholas's Day in Prague

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As a kid, I always looked forward to celebrating St. Nicholas’s Day in early December, when one of the older men at my church would dress up as St. Nicholas in traditional bishop’s robes and pass out delicious gingerbread cookies the size of my head.

Czechs also celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day (Mikuláš in Czech), but they do it with a sinister twist.

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Ritz-Carlton Announces its First Hotel in Israel

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Ritz-Carlton Hotels announced today that it will open its first property in Israel at the marina in Herzliya, a suburb on the coast a bit north of Tel Aviv. Set to open in March 2012, the property will have 110 rooms and will also feature 85 Ritz-Carlton Residential Suites.

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Cool (Creepy) Find: Abandoned Catskills Hotel

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Earlier this year, a friend stumbled upon a set of photos of the derelict Overlook Mountain House outside of Woodstock in New York's Catskill Mountains. When TravelandLeisure.com published the World's Eeriest Abandoned Places last month, I was reminded of my desire to explore these ruins. So on a recent weekend getaway to the nearby town of Saugerties, a short two-hour drive north of New York City, I insisted we find the abandoned hotel, which in its prime hosted such esteemed guests as President Ulysses S. Grant, as described in a New York Times article from 1873.

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See It Now: Berlin's Festival of Lights

200910-b-berlin-3jpg This is the final week of Berlin's Festival of Lights. As the city hunkers down for the dark winter months ahead, some of the city’s major monuments, including the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower and the Berlin Cathedral are illuminated in a rainbow of colors by a frenzy of glowing projections and fireworks. The festival, now in its fifth year, began on October 14 and culminates this Sunday.

Click here for an colorful slideshow of the recent festivities.

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Read My Lips...This Affordable NYC Hotel is Awesome!

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When it won the bid to re-conceive the Best Western President Hotel at Times Square, the award-winning architectural firm Stonehill & Taylor (who have redesigned NYC's iconic Plaza Hotel in the past) again pledged allegiance to good design—this time embracing its patriotic side.

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Last night, New York City’s first politically-themed hotel celebrated its grand re-opening after receiving a $15 million overhaul. Centrally located at 48th Street just off Broadway, the hotel has 334 rooms and suites starting at the recession friendly rate of $139 a night (talk about a new deal!), where the term “presidential suite” takes on a whole new meaning—guests can book the Obama, Reagan, Kennedy or even the Nixon suite (don’t worry, it’s not bugged).

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Time Travel: Elderhostel Changes Name, Gets Younger

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Hoping to get rid of dated impressions and open up its programs to adults of all ages, the 34-year-old educational travel organization Elderhostel recently changed its name to Exploritas, a combination of the words ‘explore’ and ‘veritas,’ to promote their mission of pursuing “adventures in lifelong learning,” particularly among baby-boomers.

"Elder was kind of a turnoff for me, and I'm beyond living in dorms with a backpack on my back. . .That was kind of the vision I had of it. But when I started seeing the opportunities and talking to somebody who had done it, obviously it's not the case," Jack Pickard, a 62-year-old from Ohio told the Wall Street Journal.

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Obsession: Zumi Digital “Retro” Camera

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I haven’t been so excited for a digital camera since I got my hands on my Nikon D80 well over two years ago. Unlike my hefty digital SLR (Single-Lens Reflex), my new camera doesn’t require lugging around because it fits in the palm of my hand.

Photo-geek newsletter site Photojojo.com recently started selling the super-tiny Japanese-made Superheadz Digital Harinezumi. Affectionately called the “Zumi,” this camera not only captures the lo-fi dreamy look of vintage film, but also takes silent Super 8 MM-like films, which was perfect for encapsulating Ocean City, New Jersey’s retro vibe over Labor Day weekend.

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