Royal Palm Crown is1st black-owned resort
A long time in coming, the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort is opening next month as the first black-owned hotel on Miami Beach and the first luxury resort in the nation totally developed and owned by blacks.
"It's mind-boggling," said R. Donahue Peebles, president of Peebles Atlantic Development Corp. and majority owner of the new 422-room beachfront facility, which combines two vintage hotels, Royal Palm and Shorecrest Towers, in the trendy South Beach district.
Connected by a glass-enclosed walkway, each hotel has a restaurant and swimming pool. The hotels, built in 1939, have been refurbished with "cutting edge design and furnishings," Peebles said, and two new towers and a poolside veranda added.
Standard room rates will range from $300 to $700 per night; the three "presidential suites" run $2,000-plus.
Undaunted by the tourism slowdown that hit Florida after Sept. 11, the developer notes that "the market was soft in 1996 when I conceived this hotel. It's designed to weather that kind of storm." Besides, he said, the oceanfront South Beach hotels "have recovered 90 percent of last year's business."
Royal Palm Crowne Plaza has $5 million in prebookings, including the NAACP convention in 2003. Peebles anticipates 70 percent occupancy to start.
Vermont Mardi Grasoffers discount skiing
New Orleans it's not. But Burlington, Vt., has its own "cold mountain" version of Mardi Gras merriment, which includes skiing at a discount, something New Orleans does not provide.
The New England town's Mardi Gras kicks off Feb. 8 with a masquerade ball and the crowning of a king and queen, followed by a Saturday afternoon parade and block party. Some 200,000 strands of beads will be tossed from 40 floats in the seventh annual parade, after which revelers can dance in the streets to funk, rock and soul music.
Revelers who ski can pick up a $10 ski-lift discount coupon at the Magic Hat Brewing Company's Artifactory Store in South Burlington. Snowboarding and cross-country skiing will also be available at nearby Smugglers' Notch.
Call (800) 451-8752 or go to www. magichat.net on the Web.
Berlin museum reopens after renovations
Berlin's Alte Nationalgalerie, or Old National Gallery, has reopened on Museum Island, part of the city's 10-year plan to restore the five museums on the world's largest museum complex.
The red sandstone gallery, which resembles a Greek temple, showcases one of the world's most diverse collections of 19th-century art, according to Kirsten Schmidt, spokeswoman for Berlin Tourismus Marketing. Included are the works of French Impressionists Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Cezanne and the sculptures of Rodin.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Museum Island on the River Spree dates back to 1824. The elaborate modernization program is an effort to rebuild tourism and overcome the effects of World War II and the division of East and West, Schmidt said.
Princess Cruises expands kids activities
Princess Cruises has expanded its programs for children, adding science and wildlife activities, spa services for teen-agers and more age groups. The program is free except for spa services, priced from $10.
The line began testing the program on six of its ships and plans to expand it to the rest of the fleet by May 1, spokeswoman Denise Seomin said. Staff from the California Science Center in Los Angeles will offer stargazing, reef-habitat studies and other hands-on activities, depending on the destination. The National Wildlife Federation is providing materials on conservation.
The Teen Spa program has the usual facials and manicures but also offers face paint, henna tattoos and body and hair glitter. Also new is a schedule of free activities in port; formerly, kid-sitting charges were levied during port stays.
In another change, Princess is allowing younger infants aboard. It has lowered its age limit for passengers to 6 months, except for some cruises in Asia, South America, Africa and India, for which the minimum is now 1 year.
Get your motor runnin'with motorcycle rentals
Here's a ticket to hog heaven that you can find right in the airport: motorcycles for rent.
EagleRider Motorcycle Rental, which rents Harley-Davidsons in more than 20 cities including Los Angeles, its headquarters, and in Spain, says its new motorcycle rental outlet at Palm Springs International Airport is the only one at any U.S. airport.
These are not cheap thrills. Renting a full-size motorcycle costs $166.88 per day, or $136.57 during the current special, through Thursday. That rate includes CDW insurance (about $20), airport fees and sales taxes. Smaller bikes go for $50 to $75 per day, plus taxes and insurance. You can also rent bikes one way, with drop-off fees that start at $100 in California, said company co-owner Don Herborn. Contact (760) 251-5990, www.eaglerider.com.
Landmark restaurantin Philadelphia closes
Add one more casualty to the list of popular tourist attractions that have succumbed to the travel slump in the wake of the Sept.11 terrorist attacks.
In the ripple effect of the terrorism, Philadelphia's Old Original Bookbinders restaurant has closed. The century-old eatery once fed the rich and famous whose portraits lined the walls. Diners numbered presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to the elder George Bush. Other luminaries included Diamond Jim Brady, Tennessee Williams, Irving Berlin, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor. They came to dine and be seen.
Origin of the restaurant is in dispute. Its last owners say it first opened as an oyster saloon in 1865, while others trace it to restaurateur Samuel Bookbinder in 1893. Whatever its founding, however, Bookbinders had begun to decline in recent years as tastes and lifestyles changed.
Annual pancake raceset for Feb. 12
The Winter Olympics may be booked solid, but tourists can still witness an epic international competition: the 52-year-old International Pancake Race that pits the town of Liberal, Kan., against Olney, England, each year on Fat Tuesday.
On Feb. 12, female racers in skirts, aprons and scarves dash 415 yards with skillet and pancake in hand. They must flip the pancake twice at the beginning and end of the course. In Olney, women race the same length from the town pump to the church steps. The Olney race traces back to 1445, when, legend has it, a woman making pancakes when the church bells tolled for the shriving service raced through the streets to the church with her skillet.
Liberal's fastest racer gets to make a trans-Atlantic call to Olney to determine the international winner. She also gets roses and a trophy.
The race is the culmination of Liberal's pancake festival that begins the weekend before with pancake flipping and eating contests, a parade, songfest, Miss Liberal Scholarship pageant, a shriving service and a pancake breakfast.
Call (620) 624-6423 or go to www. pancakeday.com on the Web.