It's always ChristmasUp in the Arctic Circle, Santa and...

TRAVEL SMARTS

January 31, 1999

It's always Christmas

Up in the Arctic Circle, Santa and his team of elves aren't recuperating from their hectic Christmas schedule. Instead, they're greeting children from all over the world at Santapark, Finland's newly opened theme park where Christmas is celebrated year-round.

At the $8 million park, visitors can join Santa and his crew for a trip aboard the Magic Sleigh Ride -- which makes stops at a Finnish village, at Santa's workshop, and to see the Northern Lights. Other attractions include rides, shows, exhibitions, games and a gift shop.

About 500 miles from the Finnish capital of Helsinki, and just a few miles outside Rovaniemi, 50 reindeer graze along the road to Santapark's entrance. Built inside a manmade cave known as Syvasenvaara Fell, the park is reached by a 650-foot passageway and is open 250 days a year. Admission: $18.50 for adults and $12.75 for children ages 4 to 11. Call 358-016-333-0000 or check out Santapark's Web site at www.santapark.com.

Louisiana Celebrates Tricentennial

Take Mardi Gras and quadruple it, add some major art exhibits and loads of history and you'll get FrancoFete '99 -- Louisiana's biggest celebration of culture and French heritage to date. Celebrating the Louisiana Tricentennial, the statewide, yearlong fest features more than 600 fairs, festivals, exhibitions and expositions.

Extended events include the "African-American Artists in Paris, 1945-1965" exhibit at the Masur Museum in Monroe; numerous "Acadiana," or Cajun, exhibits statewide; and the "Degas and New Orleans: A French Impressionist Painter in America" display at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

A free and extensive brochure detailing FrancoFete events can be ordered from Louisiana's Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism at 800-395-1939.

The real Washington

Opening next month at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, "George Washington: The Man Behind the Myths" examines how artists and writers have interpreted the nation's first president, and answers questions about his political past and military experiences.

Paintings, prints, books, sculptures and letters written by Washington highlight this exhibit, which commemorates the 200th anniversary of his death. Debuting on Washington's birthday, Feb. 22, the exhibit runs through Oct. 3 in Richmond, then goes to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville and then Tacoma's Washington State Historical Society. Call 804-358-4901 or visit www.vahistorical.org.

Winter in Vermont

The "Vermont Winter Guide 1999" offers information on ski resorts, dining, lodging and activities. Broken into charts with details on costs, range of course difficulty, amenities and other particulars, the lists are easy to read and handy. The free, 120-page guide is available from the Vermont Chamber of Commerce at 802-223-3443.

-- Randi Kest

Pub Date: 01/31/99

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