Grand Images

TRAVEL SMARTS

IMAX Theater reopens as Grand Canyon visitor center

July 18, 2004

The Grand Canyon IMAX Theater, which has wowed crowds for 20 years with 70-foot pan-oramic images of the landscape as it appeared throughout the centuries, has reopened as a new visitor center outside the park's South Rim entrance.

The owner of the IMAX theaters, which runs big-screen movies at tourist spots throughout North America, teamed with National Geographic to immerse arriving visitors in the sights, history and secrets of this geological wonder. The center uses interpretive displays, photo galleries, satellite images and a terrain model of the Grand Canyon created with satellite technology.

The renamed National Geographic Visitor Center, which reopened last month, sells park Express Passes, handles information and reservations, suggests itineraries and sells food and drinks. Located on Highway 64 in Tusayan, Ariz., a mile south of the South Rim entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, it also houses a branch of the Arizona Tourism Office and two National Geographic stores.

The pay station in the new center routes visitors through a park entry that bypasses heavy traffic lanes at the South Rim entrance. For more information, visit www.explorethecanyon.com.

IN PARIS, WILL WEARY FLIERS BE AMUSED?

Jugglers, jazz musicians and a phalanx of yellow-shirted airport escorts are just a few of the ways that Aeroports de Paris, the Parisian airport authority, hopes to distract passengers from the long lines and frayed nerves expected this summer as a result of the partial collapse of Charles de Gaulle International Airport's newest terminal building.

Terminal 2E was closed after the May 23 accident that took at least four lives, forcing the airport to shunt flights and about 20,000 passengers a day to its six other terminals. The shuffle has worked so far, but airport officials are worried about how they will fare during the summer crush.

"If you have a family of five living in three rooms and suddenly you have to live in two rooms, it's going to be tight," said Jerome Dutrieux, spokesman for the airport authority. He said an anticipated 15 percent increase in traffic during the summer along with the 15 percent loss in capacity because of the closed terminal will strain the airport's facilities, which are used by 170 airlines connecting Paris to 500 other cities.

Enter Operation Smile, the airport's low-cost answer to the expected stress. By turning its terminals into quasi-street fairs on the weekends, the airport authority hopes to distract passengers stuck in the various lines that have already begun to snake through the crowded buildings.

Balloon artists may make funny inflated dogs, for example, alongside a particularly long check-in line, or cartoonists may sketch caricatures of grumpy faces in the metal detector line. Passengers can have their faces painted or get henna tattoos. Magicians will also roam the airport making all sorts of things disappear, one hopes not your flight reservation.

For more information about the airport, visit the Web site www.adp.fr.

Waldorf building tours a hit

In June, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York began free tours on the first Saturday of the month. Demand was strong enough that the hotel has added additional tours.

The one-hour tour, which starts at 10:30 a.m., covers the Waldorf-Astoria and the Waldorf Towers, a separate hotel in the 28th through 42nd floors of the Waldorf Building. Stops include the main kitchen, which occupies nearly an entire floor and has a rotisserie oven big enough for 75 turkeys. Also on the tour is the pastry kitchen and, if they are not being used, the Grand Ballroom and the Presidential Suite -- which includes one of President Kennedy's rocking chairs.

To reserve, call 212-872-1275.

World's most attentive hotels

The top hotels for service, from Travel + Leisure magazine's reader survey on the world's best service:

1. Amandari, Bali, Indonesia

2. Londolozi Private Game Reserve, South Africa

3. Halekulani, Honolulu

4. La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo, Mexico

(tie) Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

6. Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay

7. The Peninsula, Bangkok

8. The Peninsula, Hong Kong

9. Amanpuri, Phuket, Thailand

10. The Peninsula, Chicago.

-- From wire reports

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