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Cities Selling Parking, Airports, Zoos

Wall Street Journal |  Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos—a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run.

California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., it's parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs.

About 35 deals now are in the pipeline in the U.S., according to research by Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS Global Banking & Markets. Those assets have a market value of about $45 billion—more than ten times the $4 billion or so two years ago, estimates Dana Levenson, head of infrastructure banking at RBS. Hundreds more deals are being considered, analysts say.

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Last Chance: Sensational Summer Arts Festivals

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Let's face it, we've had a long, hot summer.  Still, you find yourself thinking "but where has the summer gone?"  To stretch out the remaining weeks and re-charge psychic batteries, head to a performance outdoors. There's still time and there's lots to see and hear—music, theater, dance—at festivals across the country.  Here are my top picks:

Tanglewood Music Festival (Massachusett)
Located in the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts, Tanglewood (through Sept. 5), the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, offers a mini-jazz festival (Sept. 1-5), a performance by Crosby, Stills & Nash (Sept. 1), and conductor David Zinman leading the BSO in Gustav Holst's sweeping The Planets (Aug. 27), among a range of orchestral and chamber music concerts.

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Vacationist: Antigua, Cannes, Miami & Santa Monica

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Dear Carry On reader,

The sun may be setting on summer, but a true Vacationist knows the art of getting away anytime—be it slipping off before Labor Day, or planning a proper getaway as fall rushes in. Fortunately, there are plenty of hotel offers and experiences this week to choose, from a posh dalliance on the French Riviera or a retro-chic retreat right in Santa Monica:

Le Cavendish — up to 21 percent off
Cannes, France

This sumptuous Belle Époque original was built in 1897 with half-moon balconies and caryatid columns and refurbished in 2001 as the city's first four-star boutique hotel… (3 days left)

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The Best Brunch in Philadelphia?

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I recently returned from a low-key weekend excursion to nearby Philadelphia—a city near and dear to me, as the site of my first on-my-own apartment—to visit friends. Since I somehow managed to let nearly a year lapse between visits, I had the urge to wander around my first morning. My friend/host Rob and I (with his short-haired lhasa apso, Rufus, in tow), strayed from his Rittenhouse Square abode east into Center City, where we stumbled upon Garces Trading Company.

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5 Tips from the "Queen of Caftans"

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As Hillary Clinton proved at Chelsea’s rehearsal dinner, caftans aren’t just for beaches and pregnant starlets anymore. The long, flowing robes gained a serious following this summer and have even been spotted wafting down the Chanel runway.

Frédérique Birkemeyer, Marrakesh’s “queen of caftans” and owner of the Intensité Nomade boutique, offers a few tips on finding and wearing the right tunic anywhere, from a souk to Saks.

Size up the shoulders and examine the embroidery.

Like a dress, Birkemeyer explains, “a beautiful caftan is shown by its cut and its finishing.” The fabric should drape well from the shoulders. The embroidery, preferably done by hand, should be smooth and even. Take a close look at the sfifa (a band of needlework) and any rows of silk knots used as trimming.

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JetBlue Brings Back Its "All You Can Jet" Pass

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Travel fiends rejoice! JetBlue is bringing back its "All You Can Jet" promotion. Whereas last time, $599 bought you 30 days of unlimited flight anywhere JetBlue flies, this time they're offering passengers two options: for $699, you can purchase an unlimited pass that will allow travel any day of the week. But if you're looking to save a few—or, y'know, 200—dollars, you can opt for the $499 pass. You'll still be able to travel anywhere JetBlue goes, as often as you want, but you won't be allowed to fly on Fridays or Sundays.

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Airlines' a la Carte Services Offer Early Boarding, Legroom, More

USA Today |  You might be flying in coach, but increasingly, passengers in the back of the plane can grab a taste of premium comfort—from more legroom to better meals. But you'll pay a price.

Giving fliers in coach a taste of first class is the latest ripple in the à la carte pricing trend that has swept the airline industry. While many carriers started out charging passengers for essentials, such as checking bags, many now offer perks and privileges for a fee.

Don't want to be smashed into a middle seat in the back of the plane? Purchase a perch in the exit row. Afraid the overhead bins will be full before you board? Pay a few dollars and walk on the plane right behind those with elite status. A growing number of carriers offer in-flight Internet access. And many airlines are selling day passes to their lounges so passengers can relax in a space shut off from the more hectic boarding areas.

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Bumped From a Flight? You May Be Stuck

USA Today |  Lots of luck catching another flight if you've been bumped or miss a connection.

Commercial airlines in the USA have never been so full. Seven of them—Delta, American, United, Continental, US Airways, AirTran and Alaska—reported filling at least 87% of their seats in July. Even Southwest, always the industry's laggard in load factor, beat the industry's average over the previous six Julys of 84.6% by filling 84.9% of its seats.

That leaves precious few spots available if you've been bumped off a full flight or miss a connecting flight. And because airlines are scheduling fewer flights than five years ago, travelers could face long waits for a direct flight to their destinations or have to settle for circuitous reroutings to get there.

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French Tourist Centers Pass "Decency of Dress" Laws

eTurbo News |  Perpignan, near the Spanish border, has become the latest city to issue fines to people who refuse to cover up after being approached by the police. The move comes after Cavaillon in Provence brought in a similar law this year, the Independent reports.

The fines, which have been in place in Cannes and St. Tropez for many years, can reach up to £31 ($39 USD).

The laws were brought in by councils in inland cities after locals complained over the rising number of visitors parading around the streets in little more than shorts or skimpy swimwear.

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Dams, Dinosaurs & Deco: Scouting NYC Goes West

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In Flann O’Brien’s novel, At-Swim-Two-Birds, the protagonist takes a ‘vacation’ by propping a series of postcards around the wainscoting of his room and spending hours focusing on them, one at a time, while drinking to excess. When he gets out of bed at the end of the week, he feels like he’s gotten away.

While I’d never recommend such a voyage, here’s one way of getting away without leaving town. The man behind a great NYC blog, Scouting NY, is currently on a cross-country roadtrip, and his posts from the road may help you escape a little.

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Grand Reopening: Taj Hotels' Mumbai Flagship

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The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai (previously the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower) is reopening on August 15, in celebration of India’s Independence Day, after extensive restorations on the waterfront 1903 flagship property’s Palace Wing.

The 107-year-old heritage wing of the hotel was badly damaged when terrorists stormed the hotel, taking hostages, and burning rooms in the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which also affected the Oberoi hotel (the hotel reopened in April). Mumbai, it appears, is starting a new chapter.

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Three Kids Fly Southwest Without Parental Permission, Without I.D., Paying Cash for One-Way Tickets

How did three children manage to buy tickets and board a Southwest airliner from Jacksonville to Nashville last Tuesday without identification or parental permission? That’s the question on many parents’ minds as the incident begins to get the sort of publicity you might expect.

The three—ages 15, 13, and 11—apparently had $700 in babysitting earnings, took a taxi to the airport, and managed to buy the tickets and get through security without showing I.D. Their goal was to visit Dollywood, but when they arrived in Nashville and discovered that the amusement park was several hundred miles further away, they became disenchanted by their escapade and phoned a relative, who paid for their return airfare.

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Delta Begins Flight-Booking via Facebook

Mashable.comDelta Air Lines has launched The Delta Ticket Window, a Facebook (Facebook) application that lets members find, book and share flights via the “Book a Trip” tab on the airline’s Facebook Page.

Delta aims to reach travelers with Facebook-happy trigger fingers when it comes to travel booking. The application was built to keep the user on Delta’s Facebook Page for the duration of the booking process, as well as give them the opportunity to share their booked flight with friends.

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Safety Board Says All Children on Flights Should Be in Seats

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New York Times
|  Airlines should no longer allow children under the age of 2 to fly in the laps of adults, according to a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board sent to the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday. The group urged the F.A.A. to require that every occupant of an airplane, regardless of age, have a seat on all flights—commercial, charter and private planes. Photo credit: iStock.

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Enjoy "The Ride": $1.3 Million Tour Bus Debuts in NYC

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For many of us, the words, “tour bus” call to mind certain iconic images: sticky, screaming children, headache-inducing camera flashes, a colorfully dressed man on a unnecessary megaphone and, yes, even a fanny pack or two. Banish those images from memory—that was your grandmother’s tour bus.

Meet "The Ride" (above): a revolutionary, $1.3 million take on the classic tour bus, which was on display in Time Square, Manhattan this morning as a prelude to its maiden voyage in September.  Suped up with 49 stadium seats, an IMAX theater-worth of audio equipment and 40 video screens, The Ride certainly has the wattage to separate itself from the competition.  But it’s what’s going on off the bus that’s really grabbed our attention.

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Orbitz Launches Refined Hotel Search

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Orbitz just announced the release of its revamped search engine, making the process of finding and comparing hotels that much simpler. What new features can you expect to see on the site?

Now when you search for hotels, you'll be able to compare property details on the results page; view an expandable interactive map (which not only plots the hotel, but shows its actual current rate); filter results by star/user ratings, price, and amenities offered; and my favorite: view the hotel via Google Street View (where available), so you know exactly what you're looking for when you show up. (Not to mention, take a look at the surrounding neighborhood.)

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Vacationist: Greece, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica!

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This week Vacationist.com brings you a slew of offers to extend your summer vacation just a little bit longer. Look for values in Greece, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica as well as French Polynesia and Southern France later this week.

A two-story villa to call your own, a private pool, and views of the Aegean Sea? A stay at the Naxian Collection on the island of Naxos in Greece sounds like a myth, but if you book with Vacationist—which is offering up to 50 percent less than other booking sites—it can be a reality.

The first Small Luxury Hotel and only four-diamond property in the Dominican Republic, Casa Colonial Beach & Spa (pictured above) on the northern shore in Puerto Plata is a luxurious retreat for those looking for a little sophistication. Book one of their 50 suites and be treated to values at up to 30 percent off other sites.

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Trend Alert: Artisanal Ice Pops to Beat the Heat

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Want a way to maintain your highbrow tastes while cooling off this summer? Gourmet and artisanal ice pops are popping up across the country. These aren’t your kids’ red dye #5 white-shirt-oblitterating coolers either—they’re high-class, big-flavor and the most fun you can have on a stick.

Loco Pops, Chapel Hill, NC
This triangle area—that’s Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill—establishment serves a daily selection of both water- and dairy-based pops to satisfy every palette. Adventurers should try the Mango Chile pop for a sweet and spicy treat. Follow them on twitter @locopops for daily flavors and promotions.

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National Parks To Waive Fees in Mid-August

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Good news for nature lovers (and those looking for some free summer fun): the National Park Service will waive entrance fees at a whopping 146 parks and historic sites across the country (some of which charge as much as $25 admission) on Aug. 14-15. Look for additional freebies (boating, horseback riding) at some parks.

In other park news, Yellowstone, the country's very first national park, saw a record number of visitors this July—957,000 in total, some 60,000 more than last July (its previous record-setting month).

29th Street: New York’s New Hotel Corridor?

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Continuing the precedent  set by the new Eventi of building hotels in unexpected Manhattan neighborhoods, the new Gansevoort Park Avenue will open on August 16 at the interesting but decidedly unhip corner of Park Avenue South at East 29th Street. In a sort of no-mans-land between Gramercy Park, Murray Hill, and Kips Bay (call it Grammurray Bay? Kipsmercy Hill?), the swanky new hotel may do for its neighborhood what its sister hotel, the Gansevoort, did for the now-ubertrendy Meatpacking District.

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Nashville-Style Napalm: Comparing Two Hot Chickens

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In the case of Nashville’s specialty chicken, revenge is a dish best served hot.

Nashville-style hot chicken was reportedly invented by an incensed girlfriend as a warning for her unfaithful lover. She spiked fried chicken with fiery spices and served it to her tomcatting boyfriend, Thornton Prince. Prince loved the peppery poultry; the resulting Prince’s Hot Chicken shack, run by Thornton’s niece André, is now a local legend.

With my lips still tingling from a recent visit to Prince’s, I decided to test a northern homage to hot chicken. A new Brooklyn restaurant, Peaches HotHouse, now serves the dish. How would it stack up to the original?

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Mexicana Files for Bankruptcy

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Poor Mexico.  First its tourism industry takes a hit from the H1N1 virus outbreak.  Then an escalation of drug-related crime scares other travelers off.  Now, the national airline, Mexicana, has filed for Chapter 15. The airline, citing increased fuel and labor costs as well as the drop in tourism, has racked up $1 billion in debt. While the airline says that flights will continue as scheduled, 31 Mexicana flights in Mexico and the U.S. have been suspended since Monday and passengers rescheduled with other carriers.  If you’re holding a Mexicana reservation, check the airline’s website, http://www.mexicana.com, or call (877) 801-2010, to confirm your flight’s status.  Ay, caramba.

Ann Shields is a senior online editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City: MJ Photography/Alamy

Fierce Hurricane Season Predicted

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USA Today | Federal forecasters Thursday called for an "active" to "extremely active" hurricane season this year. They predict anywhere from 14 to 23 named storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Of those named storms, eight to 14 should become hurricanes, including three to seven "major" hurricanes with wind speeds above 111 mph.

This prediction is the highest of any that federal forecasters have made since they began issuing seasonal hurricane forecasts in 1998.

Photo credit: iStock

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Chicago is Worst Tax City for Travelers

USA Today |  Travelers pay up to $101 in sales, hotel, rental car and other extra taxes aimed at them on an average three-day domestic trip, a study out today from a business travel group says.

The study, commissioned by the National Business Travel Association, says travelers pay not only local sales taxes on goods and services when they go to a U.S. city, but up to 144% more each day they rent a car, stay at a hotel and dine.

The association, which represents 5,000 corporate travel departments and suppliers, estimates that each of its members pays $3.51 million a year in state and local taxes that target travelers—excluding what they pay in taxes on airfares.

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Seeking Tango Bliss in Italy

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The cobblestone highway through Naples was four cars wide with a cacophony of motorbikes weaving in and out and vendors hawking their wares. “This reminds me of a New York City tango floor,” Renee, my traveling companion and fellow tango dancer, commented. I had been a follower on the dance floor and was wholly unprepared for navigating this, but it seemed the only way to get us to the ferry for the tango festival in Capri.

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Obsession: Blue Bottle in Brooklyn

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I’ve been hitting the bottle for breakfast lately. Not just any bottle—the new outpost of Blue Bottle Coffee Co. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

This is the first time the cult Bay Area coffee roaster and café has branched out beyond its native turf. Since its opening in March, New Yorkers have given it our signature warm-slash-blasé welcome. Now that the shop has settled into its skin, it’s starting to host classes and public cuppings.

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Game! Set! Save! US Open Deals

cookie_close_up.jpgFrom Aug. 24 through Sept. 12, 2010, tennis greats from around the globe will descend on Flushing, Queens for the US Open. Here are a few deals and promotions to get you in the swing of things:

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Vacationist: Sicily and More Amalfi Coast!

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This week, the values offered by Vacationist.com transport you to Southern Italy. (What better destination to top off the lovely summer season?)

With 22 cliffside rooms overlooking the Bay of Salerno on the Amalfi Coast, book at the Relais Paradiso—for up to 35 percent less than other booking sites—and you'll also have access to gardens, a solarium, and an outdoor pool/patio with spectacular bay views.

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Spirit Air: Money Talks, and Talking Costs Money

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In its latest salvo against the traveling public, Spirit Airlines said it is considering a new surcharge—a fee to speak with Spirit airport employees. Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza told ABC News that it is considering such a fee in light of its airport kiosks that allow customers to buy tickets, check-in, and select or change seats without any human interaction. Baldanza told ABC News that flyers won’t see this new surcharge “any time soon.” What customers are seeing this week, however, is Spirit’s newest surcharge—a fee of up to $45 for carry-on bags placed in an overhead bin. That new fee began on Sunday, August 1.

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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor at Travel + Leisure.

Virgin & Twitter Partner for 24-Hour Sale

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Twitter & Virgin America have teamed up for what they're calling the #FlyForwardGiveBack 24 Hour Sale, with one-way ticket prices starting at just $39. To take advantage of this sale, which started just this morning, be sure to book by 7 a.m. PDT on August 4. Virgin will donate $5 from each flight booked (up to $50,000 to KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Classroom Projects on DonorsChoose.org.

See more details here.

Joshua Pramis is an online associate editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy Virgin America.

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