A Texas-size exhibit

TRAVEL SMARTS

April 01, 2001

Texas just might be taking this "everything's bigger" theme a little too seriously. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum: The Story of Texas opens April 21 in Austin. Right off the bat, you'll notice the name is big, but you haven't seen anything yet.

There's a 35-foot-tall bronze star outside the entrance. The lobby is four stories high and has a 40-foot-diameter mosaic covering its floor. Walk into the next room and behold the Grand Lobby, which sports a 50-foot-diameter granite map of Texas on the floor. Then there's the 60-foot digital Texas Timeline, the IMAX Theatre (400 seats), the Spirit Theater (200 seats), the full-scale indoor windmill and the parking garage, which has spaces for 476 vehicles.

More than 700 artifacts spread over three floors and 34,000 square feet detail the Lone Star State's past from before European exploration to recent times. Themes include Native Americans, the Alamo, westward expansion, immigration and the oil boom. Bullock, by the way, was a lieutenant governor of Texas.

For more information, call 512-936-8746 or go online to www.thestoryoftexas.com.

UNIVERSAL APPEAL IN CALIFORNIA

Not to be outdone by Disney's new California Adventure park, Universal Studios Hollywood is set to open two new attractions and an expanded CityWalk area, which features more than 60 offerings, including NASCAR virtual racing and a rock 'n' roll bowling alley.

Universal's Nickelodeon Blast Zone opens this week with popular animated characters from the network's shows. The Blast Zone will include a "Rugrats Magic Adventure" stage performance; "Nickelodeon splash," a water-play section complete with geysers and a 30-foot-tall rocket that spews 12,000 gallons of water an hour; and Wild Thornberry's Adventure Temple, where kids find themselves facing a giant orangu-tan that hurls exploding balls.

And later this month, Animal Planet Live is to open. Officials say its "humorous and interactive" show combines live animals with video segments on a giant screen.

For more information, call 800-864-8377 or go online to www. universalstudioshollywood.com. Family packages with accommodations begin at $198.

Airing some dirty linen

National Geographic Traveler magazine recently printed results from a hotel bedspread-washing survey done by a trade publication, and the results are not pretty.

Of the lodgings surveyed, 25 percent washed their bedspreads weekly, 26 percent monthly and 17 percent just twice a year. National Geographic Traveler's own informal poll found that many luxury hotels, including W and Ritz-Carlton, launder bedspreads after each guest's stay. A spokesman for Marriott (which owns Courtyards, Fairfield Inns, Residence Inns and Renaissance) told the magazine that washing varies from hotel to hotel.

Underwear on the go

Ex Officio, makers of travel clothing billed as versatile, wrinkle-free, stain-resistant and comfy, is about to introduce a product it says no good traveler should be without: travel underwear.

"We've been seeing a real demand for this," says company president Rick Hemmerling.

Apparently, travelers want undies that are quick-drying (for those wash-in-the-river camping days), anti-microbial, hydrophilic (absorbs moisture easily) and breathable.

The underwear, which will be available later this month, comes in boxer ($24) and brief ($18) styles for men and bikini ($16) and full-cut ($16) for women. For a catalog, call 800-644-7303 or order online at www.exofficio.com.

-- Tricia Bishop

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