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Holiday Must-Sees: "The Nutcracker" on Both Coasts

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The holidays have become the traditional time for productions of the Nutcracker.  The ballet, through Tchaikovsky’s evocative score, depicts a child’s inner life and imagination—a world transformed by dancing snowflakes and exotic lands of sweets and fantasy. What better time to indulge a bit of fantasy? Here are two, not-to-miss stagings, from the classic to modern interpretations.

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U.S. Sets 3-Hour Limit on Tarmac Waits for Plane Passengers

New York Times — Associated Press | The Transportation Department is ordering airlines to let passengers stuck in stranded airplanes exit after three hours.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday announced the three-hour limit and other new passenger protections long sought by consumer advocates. From January to June this year, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours.

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Burritos, Dim Sum, Shopping in San Francisco....Airport!

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I'm a huge fan of flying United to SFO—the PS flights are my favorite. Another enticement has sweetened the deal: SFO's Terminal 3, the United terminal, has some terrific new food and shopping options.

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With a Flashy New Airport and Hot Hotels, Uruguay’s Star is Rising

Most people probably couldn’t locate it on a map, but the tiny, verdant, indomitably friendly Oriental Republic of Uruguay is one of the world’s underrated places. I like to consider its long virgin shorelines, burgeoning wine industry, and charming European coffeshops my little secret.

But that may soon change.

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In early December a beautiful, dome-like new terminal designed by Uruguay-born, New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly opened, replaced the aging Carrasco International Airport and vastly increasing flight capacity. Here’s to hoping some U.S. airlines will finally begin to offer direct routes to Montevideo (currently passengers must first stop in Buenos Aires). Yes, I’m talking to you, Delta.

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London's Next Great Neighborhood?

Think you know London? Think again. Most locals would struggle to place the under-the-radar Fitzrovia district on a map. Follow writer Mark Ellwood as he takes you around the artists' haven, which is featured in the January issue of Travel+Leisure.

Clark Mitchell is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

Video by Mark Ellwood and Adrien Glover

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Finally Takes Off

Associated Press | EVERETT, Wash. - Boeing's new 787 jetliner finally got airborne Tuesday, the long-delayed inaugural flight of the world's first commercial plane mostly built from lightweight composite materials.

The sleek jet lifted off from Everett's Paine Field on a flight over Washington state, beginning an extensive testing program needed to obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification.

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Go Native: Handy Transit Apps

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Hit the ground running. CityGoRound.com, a remarkably useful new website, has compiled tools that can help you get around wherever it is you’re heading. Just type in your destination city for up a list of websites and easily-downloaded apps for mobile phones (not just iPhones) that can get you up real-time help in navigating the mean streets.

Some of the available tools are tried-and-true favorites like Google Maps, but others possess that tingly magic of future must-haves:

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Holidays on Ice: St. Regis Atlanta Opens Skating Rink

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Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, I had only one option for ice-skating: a spiritless indoor rink, where everyone in the entire state seems to come at the same time. It was practically an ice box packed with jostling skaters, some visibly sick from too much ice cream cake (the only snack offered other than pizza), and the music director assumed we would truly enjoy top 40 jams like MC Hammer's Pray in constant rotation.

Fortunately families now have alternate options.

Recently the St. Regis Atlanta (opened April 2009) started a new tradition—transforming its outdoor Grand Terrace into a festive ice skating rink.

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British Airways to Strike Over Christmas Holiday

The Daily Mail |  A million people were left facing a nightmare Christmas today after British Airways staff voted to strike for 12 days right through the festive period.

Union members voted massively in favour of their first walkout for 12 years as a bitter row over jobs, pay and working conditions escalated.

The industrial action will last from December 22 until January 2, hitting everyone trying to travel with BA over Christmas and the New Year.

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This Tuesday's Emirates Air Sale: $100 Off RT Flights

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We just learned that award-winning airline Dubai-based Emirates throws new sales every Tuesday at Emirates.com/spotlight. This week it’s discounted roundtrip economy-class tickets purchased (via the website) by $100.

Its modern fleet (some 137 aircraft in all) flies to over 60 destinations around the world, including the newly added Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and LA- and SF-Dubai routes.

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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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Holiday Gift Idea: Heavenly Travel Blanket

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Have someone on your list that never gets out of bed? Give the Heavenly Travel Blanket from Westin Hotels! They can literally take the bed with them. Plus, the blanket tucks into a nifty compact travel pillow.

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Survey Puts Italy First for Packaged Travel in 2009

200912-b-italy-03jpgTravel Pulse | Despite the worldwide recession, Americans’ love affair with Italy continues, with the country ranked first as top international destination for packaged travel, according to the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA). In USTOA’s annual informal poll of member companies, Italy—for the seventh consecutive year—placed as the top international country for packaged travel, as well as the top destination overall for packaged travel.

For the second year in a row, Egypt ranked second to Italy, as well as the hottest up and coming country. Australia ranked third as most popular international destination.

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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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New iPhone App Helps Users Spot Celebs in LA

If you follow Carry On at all, you might know by now that two of my favorite things in life are reading up on celebrities and Los Angeles. If you share similar interests, you might be want to take a look at this new iPhone app: Celebrity Star Maps.

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Stamp Out T-Shirts! Bring Home Real Souvenirs

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I recently returned from two weeks in Europe and the Middle East, and as always when I travel my thoughts were occupied by important issues and weighty matters—specifically, what to bring back as souvenirs.

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Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe Opens Today!

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After five years in the making, the Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe finally opened its doors to the public today. (Lucky first guests/skiers at the 170-room property were treated to a fresh snowfall.)

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Massive TSA Security Breach

ABC News | In a massive security breach, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inadvertently posted online its airport screening procedures manual, including some of the most closely guarded secrets regarding special rules for diplomats and CIA and law enforcement officers.

The most sensitive parts of the 93-page Standard Operating Procedures manual were apparently redacted in a way that computer savvy individuals easily overcame.

The document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials which experts say would make it easy for terrorists to duplicate.

The improperly redacted areas indicate that only 20 percent of checked bags are to be hand searched for explosives and reveal in detail the limitations of x-ray screening machines.

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Cruise Line Gets Clubby/All-Inclusive

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Azamara Cruises, the small-shipcruise line launched two years ago by Royal Caribbean, as an upscale sister line to Celebrity Cruises, this week got a new name—Azamara Club Cruises. And officials announced pricing will be going all-inclusive starting in April 2010, with wine at lunch and dinner, soft drinks, espresso drinks and gratuities included in the cruise fare.

200912-b-small-journeyjpgThe line operates two 694-passenger ships, Journey and Quest.

Why the redo? With Azamara not the big hit officials had hoped, Royal Caribbean brought in big-hitter, Larry Pimentel, as president and CEO (he previously helmed SeaDream Yacht Club and before that Seabourn). And he has ideas.

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Shhhhh! Silence is Golden in the Quiet Car

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I have a bee in my bonnet lately about something: When did everyone lose their manners? In the span of ten years, everyone—from the undergrad to the blue-haired grandma—has a wireless device. And everyone seems to be blabbing on it with no regard for their fellow human beings. Cell phone etiquette is at an all time low, if you ask me. And nothing puts my nerves to the test more than having to endure some type A conducting a full-scale business meeting at high volume three feet away from me on the train, in the airport, or on an airplane before it takes off. What will happen when cell phones are fully operable on planes in flight?

Which brings me to the point of my rant: Thank God for Amtrak’s Quiet Car. It’s the one place left on earth where it’s fully permissible to shush your neighbor when he or she answers that cell phone (usually following some really annoying, personalized ring).

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For Bright Young Travelers: Land's End's New "Canvas" Collection

200912-b-lands-end-01jpgLands' End—a company that began life as a purveyor of boating and sailing gear in 1963—has revved up its clothing with a new collection called Canvas.

The Canvas website describes the collection as “clothes for how you live today.” Well, we live today as some-time nomads who visit family in Seattle, celebrate the holidays on a Caribbean beach, and travel to China for business. Lands' End Canvas's classic American heritage clothing is ideal for that lifestyle—versatile and functional for travel.

The LE favorites are all there but with slimmer cuts, brighter colors. I guess you could say it's less mom-and-pop frump and more Tweet generation, which really is a state of mind.

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Why Go Now: Buenos Aires Celebrates 200 Years

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2010 is shaping up to be a great year for Americans to travel to the Argentine capital, which celebrates its bicentennial next year with a wave of new hotels, a grand theater reopening, and one of the best exchange rates of the decade.

HOTELS

Spain-based NH Hoteles is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the country by inaugurating not one but two new Buenos Aires properties: the nominally green, 116-room NH Tango (whose décor, appropriately enough, is themed after that quintessentially Argentine dance); and the sleek, 176-suite NH 9 de Julio, so named for its position on the mammoth 10-lane boulevard traversing the city. Both hotels are located downtown, near such tourist attractions as the Obelisque and the Teatro Colon. Another addition to the city: the luxury 91-room Blue Tree Buenos Aires Ker, in tony Recoleta.

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Smart Power Rovers to Light Up New Year's Eve in Times Square

A couple weeks ago in Times Square, Duracell marked the opening of their Smart Power Lab by unveiling the newest design for their Power Rovers.

At this point, you might be wondering: What is a Smart Power Lab? And what are these Power Rovers? Well, as most people know, one of the biggest celebrations to happen in New York City is the dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball. No doubt a tremendous amount of electricity is used for this iconic event.

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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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Contest Watch: Holiday Edition

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Tis the season for toys and presents, but what about getting your 2010 travel calendar in line? These three contests might make for one heck of a New Year.

Ultimate Fiji Adventurer
Now – January 1st
Make your New Year’s resolution to be more adventurous. Tourism Fiji has launched a video contest to give away a pair of roundtrip tickets to Fiji on Air Pacific (from Los Angeles) and seven nights—with meals—at Sonaisali Island Resort. Contestants must submit a 2-3 minute video explaining why they are an Ultimate Fiji Adventurer at www.fijime.tv/videocontest. After entries close on January 1st, it’s up to the public to vote on their favorite submission. We could not confirm at publilcation time, but contestants shoudle expect to pay taxes and fees.

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Hot Hotel Deals and More in Beverly Hills

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Beverly Hills, 90210 may remind you of all sorts of things: Rodeo Drive, Bentleys, even a recently-reinterpreted television show on the CW. What likely doesn’t come to mind are hotel deals, which is what all the buzz was about during my recent visit.

The Thompson Beverly Hills on the corner of Wilshire and Crescent, brings Stephen Brandman’s chic-and-shiny aesthetic to LA. The hotel is home to the West Coast’s only BondSt sushi outpost, has a rooftop pool with panoramic views, and easy access to the shops on South Beverly. Rooms are sexy, with beds dressed in Frette linens. And the rate? A wallet-friendly $199/per night.

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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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Art Basel Miami Beach Starts Today!

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The sister exhibition to Switzerland’s important contemporary art fair, Art Basel, begins today in Miami Beach. Buzzy Art Basel Miami Beach is back for its eighth year, with a new, 20-percent larger exhibition space featuring bigger booths and additional restaurants and lounges. Also new this year is the Oceanfront area at Collins Park—populated by a collection of Pae White-designed neon huts, the sandy space is set aside for film and video programming as well as a variety of art performances and talks.

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The Best Travel Jacket Ever?

That’s me and Pepper, just back from a stroll about the grounds of Chateau Orwoll. I’m wearing the Quantum Jacket from ScotteVest, or SeV, which I wish I had had with me a month ago during a two-week multi-country trip, because it’s the best travel jacket I’ve ever worn. The main reason it’s so great? Storage.

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When Flying is the Greener Choice

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If you’re traveling more than 1,000 miles, hopping on a carbon-squandering jet is actually the greenest choice for lone travelers or couples. (Well, honestly, bus travel is a more conscientious choice, but traveling by bus for 1,000 miles sounds like the plot of the most boring yet frightening horror movie ever.) Air travel even beats out trains for this distance, though the carbon equation shifts for trips shorter than 500 miles, when train trumps plane travel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which bills itself as “the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world,” knows you’re not going to give up travel and they don’t think you should.

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