Leno's looking for 'guest stars'If you've ever dreamed of...

TRAVEL SMARTS

May 30, 1999|By Randi Kest

Leno's looking for 'guest stars'

If you've ever dreamed of being Jay Leno's guest on "The Tonight Show," now's your chance. At NBC Experience, which recently opened at NBC headquarters in New York, visitors can participate in everything from a studio tour -- given since 1933 -- to reading the first script from Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theater" or being the center of attention in Leno's world.

The 20,000-square-foot television attraction has interactive stages where, along with Leno, visitors can be videotaped chatting with Conan O'Brien, helping Al Roker with a weather forecast and joining Bob Costas for a sports report. All celebrity segments have been pre-recorded. NBC memorabilia and 250 monitors displaying NBC's past, present and future are also part of the experience.

The NBC Store carries typical souvenirs as well as items decorated with NBC logos, business-related gifts such as CNBC "Buy" and "Sell" cufflinks, collectibles and daytime soap opera-themed trinkets.

NBC Experience is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until Labor Day, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Thanksgiving through Christmas and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Christmas to Easter. NBC tours cost $16 a person, but visitors can wander through the exhibits for free. Call 212-664-3700.

A wild time

For adventure seekers, Hospitality Enterprises now offers cruises through the alligator-infested waters of New Orleans' Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. The 23,000-acre refuge, in the eastern part of the city, is also home to wild hogs, mink, snakes and hundreds of water birds.

Until now, canoe excursions were the only way to explore the refuge. Although these free canoe trips are still offered, the one-hour and 45-minute guided Swamp Tours use a 60-passenger boat equipped with bathroom facilities. And you don't have to paddle the boat yourself.

Tours are daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $20 adults, $10 children age 3 to 12, and free for those under 3. Visit www.bigeasy.com or call 504-236-3143.

D.C. Visitors Center opens

For the past four years, the nation's capital has gone without a visitors center. This month, however, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center opened at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.

Brochures, tour tickets and detailed information about the city are available, as is a staff equipped to answer your questions. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 202-DC-VISIT.

Remember that nightmare?

Saying you had a "bad vacation" seems like an oxymoron, but bad things happen and the publishers of "I Should Have Stayed Home" and "I've Been Gone Far Too Long" want your vacation-nightmare stories for a new book.

An editor will read the stories and select some for publication. Send your story to Vacation Disaster Editor, RDR Books, 4456 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, Calif. 94611. Visit www.rdrbooks.com for a list of other travel-disaster books.

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