Inside New York with an attitude
Finally, a guidebook to New York City with the personality of a New Yorker. Opinionated, mildly caustic and very stylish, "Avant Guide, New York City" captures the essence of trendy Big Apple.
Offered as an "insiders' guide for cosmopolitan travelers," the guidebook is a travel planner, highlighting the best of the city, and also a survival guide, offering realistic approaches for dealing with those who would prey upon out-of-towners.
In addition to standard guide fare -- where to eat, sleep and go sightseeing -- there are interviews with the city's business people and artists, along with advice on tourist traps to avoid.
Tips for bargain shoppers and protocol for getting reservations at hip restaurants give readers the kind of information that may make them feel like real New Yorkers.
The guide (Empire Press, $19.95) also offers a "New Yowahk" to regular-speak translation that lets you know ordering a pie will get you a pizza and that if you want cream cheese on your bagel, ask for a shmear. To order the guide, call 212-563-1003. And when you get to the city, go to Avant Guide's developing Web site for New York's current hot events: www.avantguide.com.
Black Canyon More than monument
What's 2,900 feet deep, 40 feet wide at its narrowest point and sees sunlight at its base for only an hour a day? It's the highlight of America's newest national park: the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River in Colorado. The Black Canyon became the 55th national park when it was upgraded in October from the national monument status it had held for 66 years.
More than 230,000 visitors a year come to see -- or climb -- the narrow canyon walls that drop almost vertically from many of the overlooks, take the moonlight ski tours, camp at one of 115 sites or just trek across the landscape, taking in the views.
The park is divided into southern and northern rims, the former open year-round with limited access in the winter and the latter open every day. Weekly entrance to the park is $7 a vehicle; year-round access is $15; and the overnight camping fee is $10. For more information, call 970-249-1914, Ext. 23, or go to www.nps.gov/blca.
An intelligent California map
Ever wonder what the California state reptile is? How about the world record for frog jumping? You can find the answers to those and other questions in the "Really Smart California Map," a state tourism publication developed in response to the more than 40,000 questions tourism officials receive annually from students. With all the trivia included, it's easy to overlook the map itself, which lists many of the state's parks, monuments and some commercial attractions. For those beyond school age, the trivia will make for fun cocktail party banter, and it might come in handy if you're a contestant on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." To order the free "Really Smart California Map," call 800-862-2542 or go to www.gocalif.ca.gov. The state reptile, by the way, is the desert tortoise, and the world record for frog jumping is 21 feet.
Cash in a flash
Finding francs just got easier. International travelers who need to exchange dollars for drachmas, or any other foreign currency, can now order the actual cash or travelers' checks over the Internet at www.foreignmoney.com before they even pack. International Currency Express specializes in retail foreign exchange and offers five ways to do it, including the Web, by phone, fax, e-mail and mail. Call 888-278-6628
Best places for a bite
Conde Nast Traveler readers have weighed in, ranking the food at 100 U.S. hotels. A score of one means poor provisions; a five denotes excellence. Here are the Top 10
1. Campton Place, San Francisco (4.39)
2. Prescott Hotel, San Francisco (4.38)
3. Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans (4.3)
4. Four Seasons, New York (4.23)
5. Four Seasons, Boston (4.15)
6. Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Atlanta (4.12)
7. Mayfair Regent, New York (4.03)
8. Ritz-Carlton, Chicago (4.02)
9. Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas (4)
10. Ritz-Carlton Huntington, Pasadena, Calif. (3.98)