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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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Attention Travelers: SF's Bay Bridge to Shut Over Labor Day Weekend

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Around 280,000 cars cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge each day—over twice the number that use the Brooklyn Bridge. Without the Bay Bridge, there is no way to drive from the East Bay to San Francisco. That is unless you plan on taking the scenic route through Marin County or down across the Dumbarton or San Mateo Bridges, doubling the journey to several hours in some cases. Unfortunately, these will be the only options this Labor Day weekend when the Bay Bridge shuts down tonight at 8 p.m. through 5 a.m. Tuesday, September 8 as part of an extensive seismic retrofitting project that includes rebuilding the entire eastern span of the bridge.

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Fly from NYC to West Coast on Virgin America for $109!

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Ready to ditch the humid summer heat of the East Coast? Hankering to go on a foodie tour of San Francisco’s North Bay or dine at some of the World’s Best Oyster Bars in the Bay Area or Seattle?

Good news, because West Coast airfares from New York City on Virgin America airlines (voted “Best Domestic Airline” in T+L’s 2009 World’s Best Awards) just dropped to $109 each way. Offers are good to these West Coast cities, and more:

*Las Vegas
*Los Angeles
*Orange County
*San Diego
*San Francisco
*Seattle

The $109 fare is available for travel on Monday-Thursday and Saturdays between Aug. 28-Nov.18, Dec. 2-16 and Jan. 6- Feb. 10 (Friday and Sunday flights cost an extra $25). Tickets are on sale through September 8, but book quickly as certain flights may sell out.

For more information or to book, visit Virgin America.

Lyndsey Matthews is an editorial intern at Travelandleisure.com


Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Matthews

The Willis Tower: Whatchoo Talkin' About?

The Chicago Tribune recently asked locals and tourists alike for directions to the Willis Tower. Most couldn't pick it out on a map. Even cab drivers had never heard of the building. That's because last Thursday, the Sears Tower officially changed its name to the Willis Tower.

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