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Fixer-upper weekend in Cape MayThe Chalfonte Hotel...


Fixer-upper weekend in Cape May

The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, N.J., begins its 119th year by being closed to customers and open to friends. Arriving with screwdrivers, hammers and nails tucked into their weekend beach bags, the Chalfonte's first guests will no doubt find problems with their rooms . . . and be asked to fix them.

For the past 19 years, visitors have offered 10 hours of work in exchange for a simple seaside retreat and down-home cooking. An accountant helped paint the hotel's porches, students have restored plaster moldings, and a marketing specialist discovered knack for refinishing furniture. Considered one of the 'u Chalfonte's more quirky traditions, "Work Weekends" are traditionally scheduled in the fall and spring. Participants arrive anytime on Friday and stay through Sunday afternoon, working roughly six hours Saturday and four hours Sunday. Breaks include going to the beach, shopping and strolls through the impressive historic district of Victorian Cape May, the nation's oldest seaside resort.

A rambling historic structure without heat, telephones, television air-conditioning, the Chalfonte has never undergone a major renovation. Instead, innovative preservation programs such as the Work Weekends have allowed the hotel to survive. Participants prepare the Chalfonte for its Memorial Day opening by scraping and painting, darning linens and mending gingerbread, shutters or furniture.

Lured by the Chalfonte's offbeat charm and inspired to assist in the preservation of a landmark, participants often return. Soup is on in the kitchen all night Friday, as friends and familiar faces begin to arrive. All meals, beginning with Friday dinner, are included. A donation of $20 per person is requested to defray the cost of meals.

Spring Work Weekends began this weekend, and continue through June 2. Fall Work Weekends are scheduled for the weekends of Oct. 13 and 20. For information regarding the Chalfonte, call (609) 884-8409. People who have visited Cranberry World in Plymouth, Mass. may be thrilled to learn that there is now a Cranberry World West in Henderson, Nev., built next to Ocean Spray's new $50 million processing plant. This Cranberry World, however, features a Las Vegas-type "Cran-Cran Girl," as well as drink samples and a gift shop that even sells cranberry mustard.

Saturday-night special

From now until June 4, Summerfield Suites is offering a freSaturday-night stay to guests who spend Friday night at its hotels. A one-bedroom suite in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, for example, costs $149, a two-bedroom $189. Prices in San Jose, Calif., are $150 and $180, respectively. Rates include Continental breakfast from a buffet of fruit, juice, coffee, breads and cereals. The company has 19 hotels nationwide. For information, call (800) 833-4353.

Sardinian switch

Officials in Sardinia are planning the switch of switches. They're ready to turn the Mediterranean island of Asinara into a vacation resort. The island, just off the northeast coast of Sardinia, has held some of the country's most dangerous criminals, many convicted of Mafia-related crimes.

Disney snow job

Picture this: A freak winter storm in Orlando dumps tons of snow over the western side of Walt Disney World, where a ski resort is built overnight (hey, these guys can do anything). But then soaring temperatures start melting the ice and snow, turning it all into . . . slush? Nope. Turning it all into Disney's latest theme park, the 66-acre, $85 million water adventure called Blizzard Beach.

The melting ski resort called Mount Gushmore features moguls, slalom courses, toboggan- and water sled-runs and the 120-foot high Summit Plummet, billed as the tallest, fastest water slide yet. And there's Teamboat Springs, a family white-water raft ride, a wave pool, Tike's Peak for children. To get back to the top of the mountain, you ride the Chair Lift, each chair of which is shaded by a beach umbrella. Tickets are $22.50 for adults; $17 for children.

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