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Golden State fun

THE BALTIMORE SUN

New Disney park opens with a California theme

Disneyland is getting a new neighbor, and keeping it all in the family. Disney's California Adventure opens its gates this week, and the 55-acre park, next door to Disneyland in Anaheim, is the focal point of a $1.4 billion expansion at the Disney complex.

The park takes its theme from its name -- it's all about California. Areas inside the park will feature beach culture, the Hollywood scene, grizzly bears and mountain ranges, and a vineyard run by the Robert Mondavi Winery.

The usual rides will also be there, and with backdrops that fit their personalities. The Ferris wheel, for example, is in Paradise Pier's boardwalk area, along with the midway games.

The park will also have a hotel, the 750-room Grand Californian, located inside the gates, so guests can stay close by. For information or to book a package, go online to www.disneyland.com or call 714-781-4565.

MEADOWS, MOUNTAINS TO TAKE IN STRIDE

Country Walkers, a travel company specializing in adventure travel on foot, has added three new tours to its winter roster, and all of them will you leave you out in the cold.

The "Snowshoe Adventures 2001" tours pit guests against the winter elements, but in a highly civilized manner. The views are grand, the pace fits your ability, and the accommodations and cuisine are refined. Plenty of time will be spent out-of-doors, traipsing through the woods and mountains in snowshoes.

Canada's Rockies, Vermont's meadows and forests, and Italy's Dolomites are the scenic options. Trips range from two to eight days, and prices start at $1,998. For information, go to www. countrywalkers.com or call 800-464-9255.

Richmond hotel sees stars

Every year, high-end hotel owners and managers wait anxiously for their rating from the Mobil Travel Guide. Four stars? Five stars? Anything less, and they don't even make it into the book. This year, the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va., which has gotten four stars in each of the last five rating periods, got a surprise.

The venerable hotel, whose guests have included U.S. presidents and Elvis Presley, gained a star.

"For us, this is like winning the Super Bowl for the first time," says Prem Davadas, the hotel's managing director. The Jefferson is the only hotel this year to make the leap from four stars to five.

Mobil rates hotels based on quality in service, ambience and facilities. Five stars denotes the best of the best. The guide will be available in bookstores beginning Feb. 25. For information about the Jefferson, call 800-424-8014 or go to www.jefferson-hotel.com.

Entertainment goes on the road

Just in time for that long drive with the kids: A company named Survive the Drive offers rentable entertainment for cranky youngsters. Parents can rent TV / VCR combos, hand-held electronic games and Nintendo sets through the company's Philadelphia retail store or its Web site.

Survive the Drive ships the unit to you (it plugs into basic cigarette lighters), and you ship it back when you're done. A weekend TV / VCR rental costs $50 and shipping is about $15. Longer rentals are also available.

The store sells game kits, snack packs and other gear designed to get you and yours there with everyone's sanity intact. Call 800-573-6018, or browse online at www.survivethedrive.com.

-- Tricia Bishop

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