Hemingway wannabes and fans have field day...


Hemingway wannabes and fans have field day in Key West

Ernest Hemingway aficionados in July will flock to the same place where the Nobel prize-winning novelist worked on "A Farewell to Arms" and a slew of short stories: the sultry Florida city of Key West, where Hemingway lived during most of the 1930s. The Hemingway Days Festival, now in its 13th year, is seven days of sun, fishing, drink and writing -- the same elements that sustained Hemingway.

The festival is home to the Hemingway Days Writers' Workshop & Conference, which sponsors a storytelling contest and short story contest. One of Key West's most popular attractions and the focal point of the festival remains Hemingway's two-story Spanish colonial home, with his furnishings kept intact.

The "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, the celebration's greatest attraction, draws contestants from around the nation who earnestly hone their beards and don turtleneck fishing sweaters, trying to look like the novelist in his later years. The contest is held at Hemingway's favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joe's Bar. The contest is free to watch.

The festival takes place July 18 to 24. For more information, including registration materials and how to arrange accommodations in Key West, call (305) 294-4440 or (800) 527-8539.

If your wanderlust is pulling you to Florida this summer but you don't want a Disney vacation, try Tallahassee. Centrally located in the panhandle, Florida's capital city promises myriad festivals and fairs that deliver more than oversized mice and long lines. A blues, bluegrass, country and jazz festival July 23, a Caribbean carnival Aug. 26 and 27, a Native-American heritage festival September 17 and 18, and a winter festival in December show Tallahassee's flavorful breadth and historic Southern panache. Call the Tallahassee Visitors Bureau, (800) 628-2866, for more information.

Companion for tarmac mavens

Florida heads the list of most frequently visited states, followed by California, Hawaii, New York, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Louisiana. More travel trivia: Americans spent more than $320 billion on travel and tours last year, with foreign visitors spending an additional $76 billion. Japanese visitors alone kicked in $10 billion. Where does the money get spent? According to the American Automobile Association, the most popular auto vacation destinations are: Orlando, Fla.; Branson, Mo.; Yellowstone National Park; San Diego, Calif.; Lancaster, Pa.; and Williamsburg, Va. These facts are taken from the Reader's Digest Travel Guide, a road atlas and vacation planner. It's a great companion for road scholars and tarmac mavens and available at bookstores or by calling (800) 234-9000.

Living it up in NYC costs less

Visitors to New York City who stay in hotels are getting some good news. The state plans to cut the 5-percent tax on hotel rooms that cost $100 or more a night. The tax will be rescinded Sept. 1. Currently, the total levy on $100 comes to $21.25. After the cut, the rate falls to 16 percent, comparable to rates in Cleveland, Seattle, and Chicago. Live it up. A night at the Waldorf will cost you less.

Big cruise ships banned from Galapagos Islands

If you plan on visiting the Galapagos Islands anytime soon, don't take a cruise ship. Ecuador has banned foreign cruise vessels with more than 30 passengers from visiting the islands, which lie 620 miles off the coast in the South Pacific. The move comes as part of a plan to preserve the islands' delicate ecosystem. Most tourists now fly into the Galapagos and arrange cruises once they arrive.

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