American showcase

TRAVEL SMARTS

October 28, 2001

America's 50 Places of a Lifetime," a guide from National Geographic Traveler, is on newsstands this month. The issue showcases 50 of the country's greatest locations through the words of notables including former President Jimmy Carter (on Arctic Alaska), Olympic track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee (the Gateway Arch in St. Louis), ABC-TV's Cokie Roberts (Washington), Sun columnist Tom Horton (Chesapeake Bay) and the latter half of entertainers Penn & Teller, who writes about Las Vegas:

"You will bathe in the glitz, gluttony and lust. ... But when you get back on your plane, you will not be bringing home the bacon. You will have been taken, and will love us for it."

The locations featured were chosen by the magazine's editors, writers and photographers and divided into five categories: Urban Spaces (Seattle and Miami among them), Wild Places (Death Valley, Okefenokee Swamp), Paradise Found (the Adirondacks, San Juan Islands), Country Unbound (coastal Oregon, the Rockies) and National Wonders (Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore). A bonus category, An American Classic, pays tribute to "Small Town, USA" in an essay by Bill Bryson. -- Tricia Bishop

Brotherly love for visitors

Philadelphia is set to open the Independence Visitor Center next month, a $38 million clearinghouse for all things Philly. Set on the corner of Sixth and Market streets, the 50,000-square-foot site features information about more than 500 of the city's attractions, exhibits and events. The center will also serve as a concierge service with details about hotels, restaurants and shopping.

On permanent display inside the center, thanks to the National Park Service, will be depictions of the creation of the United States, the evolution of the American democratic government, Ben Franklin's many achievements, 18th-century Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell.

The Visitor Center is scheduled to open Nov. 20. For more information, go online to www. independencevisitorcenter.com or call 215-925-6101. -- T.B.

Heavenly sights to see from Guam

In the early hours of Nov. 19, Guam's skies are expected to be streaked with gold. The Leonid meteor storm, made up of streams left over from Comet Temple-Tuttle, which was last seen in 1999, is expected to appear above the island, and astronomer Tom Van Flandern of the Meta Research astronomy group is leading an expedition there to see it.

"The island of Guam optimizes clear-sky probabilities and accessibility, and also offers a beautiful tropical setting," he says. "This is an excellent time to visit."

The trip (Nov. 14-20) costs $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the accommodations and flights chosen. For more information, go to www.metaresearch.org or call Perry Travel (the company arranging the trip for Meta Research) at 800-371-9361. -- T.B.

Dial travel information in Nebraska

Nebraska implemented a free statewide telephone system earlier this month that gives travelers up-to-date travel details and road conditions when they dial 511 and choose from a list of recorded categories.

Plans for the service include the creation of a system to which information about hotels, restaurants and other destinations could be added.

Some states (North and South Dakota and Minnesota) have established regional 511 networks, but Nebraska's is the first statewide system. -- T.B.

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