Needle craft Seattle's sky-piercing icon, the 607-foot...

TRAVEL SMARTS

June 11, 2000

Needle craft

Seattle's sky-piercing icon, the 607-foot tall Space Needle, reopens this week after a $20 million renovation. Closed since last fall, nearly every aspect of the 38-year-old landmark has been updated.

At its base, two-story glass and steel walls make up a new Pavilion Level. Old restaurants were gutted and replaced by SkyCity, a new eatery featuring Pacific Northwest fare. And the observation deck now boasts an unobstructed, 360-degree view of the city -- something visitors haven't seen since the Space Needle's opening day at the 1962 World's Fair. From the top, you can see Mount Rainier, the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and a panoramic view of downtown Seattle.

Atop the Needle, the Legacy Light -- first illuminated this past New Year's Eve -- shines as a permanent spotlight on the heavens.

For more information, call 800-937-9582 or go to www.spaceneedle.com.

ROVING OFF THE ROAD IN LUXURY

The Equinox Resort in Manchester, Vt., caters to both sides of well-heeled SUV owners: the elegant sophisticate and the rough rider. The resort's Land Rover Driving School, open since 1997, teaches sport utility drivers to negotiate 80 acres of backwoods routes, at a price of $800 for eight hours of driving (that doesn't include lodging).

At night, intrepid drivers can hit the brakes and relax at the upscale inn (complete with spa), where they can sip sherry and swap tales of the road.

For those who like to rough it, the Equinox driving school offers "In-tents" weekend June 23-25. For $770 a person, families are led into the woods for camping and off-road driving.

If you get tired of driving and would like to shop, the Land Rover Gear Store is conveniently located just across from the Equinox.

For more information, call 800-362-4747 or go to www. equinoxresort.com.

Highway of blessings

Old Route 22 in Pennsylvania's Berks County is known by another name to locals: the Hex Highway. Travel it, and you'll find the county's heaviest concentration of barns decorated with interesting, and often misunderstood, folk art, called "hex signs."

For the record, there's nothing sinister about these hexes. Their purpose was to bless the barn. German painters of a century ago combined the geometric elements of quilting patterns to create the signs as good-luck symbols -- often with heart and tulip patterns. For a free guide to the 30-mile Hex Barn Art Tour, call the Berks County Visitors Bureau at 800-443-6610.

Trip ideas for the undecided

A new Web site, VacationCoach.com, offers getaway solutions for the truly indecisive. The site asks a few simple questions -- daily budget, when and for how long you want to go, what type of trip you're looking for -- and then it sorts through options to find those best suited to the user's needs. "Express requests" are free, though based on minimal information.

To fully build a personality "Passport," you have to become a member ($15), or, you can sign up and take advantage of the free 30-day trial that comes with joining.

Tricia Bishop

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