Spruced up in Philly

Franklin Square gets tourist-friendly face-lift with a carousel, food vendors and mini-golf

The Smart Traveler

September 10, 2006


Avalon Travel / $16.95

Moon Metro's "Unfold the City" series has just made New York easier to navigate. In a book the size of a Zagat guide are 10 laminated maps that open to Manhattan's most-visited neighborhoods. An overleaf introduces each grid with a neighborhood profile, then opens to reveal the map, with keys to hotels, restaurants, shops, theaters and other landmarks. That accounts for almost half of the book's thickness. The remainder is a directory that describes major sights, hotels, restaurants and so forth. The street index is another useful touch. Clean design makes for easy navigation, and the sturdy stitched binding will stand up to many thumbings.



Copter with presidential pedigree

The presidential helicopter has landed, and you can get on board in Yorba Linda, Calif. A 6-ton Sikorsky is on display at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. The luxury chopper was a mobile Oval Office for presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford on hundreds of trips. It has its own helipad at the Nixon museum, which is about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. For details, visit nixon

library.org or call 714-993-5075.



Coleman's Garden Gazebo is, hands down, the classiest portable shelter on the market, ideal for elegant parties on the beach or as a screened-in room you can plop down anywhere. The six-sided structure is made of raised side-panels with mesh screening and polyester taffeta "window" arches. The ceiling rises in the center to a nearly 9-foot-high mesh-vented cupola. The Garden Gazebo measures 14 feet by 12 feet at its widest and is easy to assemble. Three zippered doors can be tied back for airy access. The Garden Gazebo weighs more than 50 pounds, and comes in a wheeled storage bag that fits in most car trunks. Garden Gazebo is $205 from Coleman; 800-835-3278; coleman.com.



Companions for adventures in travel

Any woman who has ever dreamed of escaping with her best girlfriend on vacation only to learn that her friend can't get away from work that week or find a sitter for the children should check out the Thelma and Louise Club (thelmandlouise.com), a Web site for women in search of like-minded female traveling companions.

Started in June, the British site already has nearly 1,300 members. Although browsing the site is free, full subscribers, at a cost of about $18 per year, can instant message and e-mail one another about coming trips.

Surprisingly, a lot of women with spouses sign up on the site.



The luxury of time -- and money

With security continuing to cause delays at British airports -- particularly for passengers heading to the United States -- hanging out in a plush airport lounge rather than trying to find a seat in a chaotic concourse may seem more a necessity than a luxury. There are now several private airport lounges open to the paying public. Two Web sites, simplylounges.co.uk and holidayextras.co.uk, allow travelers to reserve lounge space at 16 British airports, including England's two largest, Gatwick and Heathrow. Three hours of lounge time costs about $23-$25.


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