Strike Up the Band

TRAVEL SMARTS

March 11, 2001

Ever wonder what happens to those giant parade floats after the parade is over? It used to be not much, until last year, when Virginia's American Celebration on Parade opened.

The 40,000-square-foot facility, across the street from the Shenandoah Caverns in Shenandoah Caverns, Va., is a display warehouse for retired (or just resting until the next call) parade paraphernalia. Floats from the Rose Parade, presidential inaugurals (including President Bush's) and beauty pageants line the aisles, along with giant, puppet-like characters fashioned after everything from dragons to Nickelodeon's Rugrats. Unlike a parade, though, the floats are stationary, so you can get a long, close look.

New this spring is a float built to honor Vice President Dick Cheney, a Western scene featuring Wyoming symbols such as the Grand Tetons, mountain streams, buffalo and a bronco rider. As part of a separate historical prop collection, the column, arch and pediment stage setting used at the recent inaugural ball will also be on display beginning next month. The admission fee ($17.50 for adults, $7 for kids) gets you into the caverns as well. For information, call 540-477-4300 or go to www.americancelebration onparade.com.

THEY WROTE THE BOOK ON SPAS

Most of us can relate to the TV commercial where a harried woman sinks blissfully into a tub full of bubbles, but really, is that enough to take away all your stress? If not, maybe it's spa time. A new book, "100 Best Spas of the World" by Bernard Burt and Pamela Price Lechtman (Globe Pequot Press, $19.95), can help you decide which spa is right for you.

Organized by continent, the book lists contact information and detailed descriptions for the spas its writers -- long-time spa aficionados -- have deemed the world's best. There's a section on "how to spa" for the novice (with advice about what to pack, what to leave at home and what to expect) along with a glossary of spa terms.

Even if you can't get away right now, the daydreaming the book inspires might be worth a few relaxing moments.

How to book a room

Reading is a good way to pass the time when you're traveling, but what if you forget to bring along a good book? If you're staying at a Country Inns & Suites, just visit the hotel's library. The chain has introduced its Book It and Return Program, a library-like setup that encourages guests to borrow books from the hotel and even take them when they leave.

For every book you return -- at any of the chain's hotels in the United States and Canada -- Country Inns will donate $5 to Laubach Literacy, a nonprofit group that teaches adults reading, writing and math skills. Up to $20,000 will be donated annually. The current featured title is Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie," a book about the author's relationship with his spiritual mentor. New books will be added periodically. For information, call 800-456-4000 or go to www.countryinns.com.

Alaska parks seek volunteers

Looking for a way to get some travel in and do some good for the environment? Check out the Alaska State Parks Volunteer Program. Positions -- including campground hosts, ranger assistants, history interpreters and trail crew members -- are available in more than 100 parks, and many earn college credit. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, in good health and able to provide their own transportation to and from the park.

Deadline for applications is April 1. The catalog, with position descriptions and applications, is available by calling 907-269-8708, or going online at www.alaskastateparks.org.

-- Tricia Bishop

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