Planet Earth now open for curious explorers Your luggage luggers

TRAVEL SMARTS

Travel Smarts

July 04, 1999

Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History in New York can now explore the mysteries and marvels of planet Earth in the new Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, or HoPE for short. This permanent exhibition is an 8,830-square-foot tribute to the planet, broken down into five exhibition zones exploring how the Earth evolved, why there are ocean basins, continents and mountains, and what causes climate and climate change.

HoPE, which debuted last month, features re-creations of five ocean floor regions, more than 38 tons of rocks and a collection of videos and interactive computer programs to help visitors understand how scientists go about studying Earth's systems.

The centrally located Dynamic Earth Globe is an 8-foot-wide sphere providing a realistic view of what Earth looks like from space.

The Earth Event Wall broadcasts up-to-the-minute news on global storms, earthquakes and other events gathered from research institutions such as NASA.

The American Museum of Natural History is at Central Park West and 79th Street. Admission: Adults $8, children 2-12 $4.50, seniors and students $6. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 212-769-5100.

BAHAMAS KIDS CAMP STUDIES SEA LIFE

The Bahama Islands are no longer just a hot spot for honeymooners and spring breakers. On July 1, they became the cool hangout for the 12 and younger set when Discovery Channel Camp at Atlantis Paradise Island opened. The camp, for kids age 5 to 12, melds the islands' extensive marine life with the Discovery Channel's reality-based programs.

Kids can learn about predators and their prey at "Jaws and Claws," where they can play in the technology lab on advanced multimedia equipment, make drawings of what they see and, if the weather cooperates, watch as the predators are fed. "Funky Fish Day" invites youngsters to learn the diversity of our universe through the constellations and their myths. "Dungeons of the Deep" explores a replica of the Atocha, a Spanish treasure ship that sunk off Nassau in the 1600s, and kids can find its treasures on the beach.

This program offers a camper/counselor ratio of five to one and each session can accommodate up to 100 children. Cost is $35 for day sessions (3 1/2 hours) and $40-$45 for evening sessions (four hours). Call 954-713-2500 or visit www.sunint.com/atlantis for information or call 800-ATLANTIS for reservations.

Your luggage luggers

Stuffing a week's worth of clothes, toiletries and other travel necessities into a tiny carry-on bag is one way to avoid the hassle of the luggage carousel. Another option -- a new service from TraveLite Enterprises that picks up your luggage, transfers it and finally delivers it to your final destination without your ever having to touch it. This door-to-door service is available in more than 150 U.S. cities and is expected to be international within the next six months.

Cost for this service? For a golf bag and two suitcases to go round-trip from Baltimore to Orlando using second-day delivery, it will cost about $138 and to San Francisco, $188, depending on weight. Luggage is shipped as air freight in cargo flights. Insurance is available. Call 877-BELLHOP or visit www.virtualbellhop.com

Shenandoah on horseback

Horseback rides are now available at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. One-hour tours are given each day of the week throughout the day beginning at 8:30 a.m. The last tour leaves at 6:40 p.m. Two-and-a-half-hour tours are offered weekdays only at 8:15 a.m. All tours leave from Skyland Stables and enable visitors to view the park as early explorers did. Weekday tours: $20 for one hour and $40 for 2 1/2 hours. Weekend tours: $22. Riders must be at least 4 feet, 10 inches tall. Call 800-999-4714 for information.

Rocks in your head?

If you're looking for a place to climb rocks, check out this list of the world's best climbing areas from the June issue of adventure lifestyle magazine:

* Yosemite Valley, California

* Canyonlands, Utah

* The Front Range, Colorado

* Smith Rocks State Park, Oregon

* Joshua Tree, California

* Peak District, England

* Fontainbleau, France

* Phra Nang, Thailand

* Verdon Gorge, France

* Costa del Sol, Spain

-- Randi Kest

Pub Date: 07/04/99

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