TRAVEL TIPS

A 19th-century Thanksgiving. Old Sturbridge Village celebrates with all the 1830 harvest trimmings Nov. 19-27. Mingling with the costumed interpreters, visitors will step back in time to discover another era's traditions. On Thanksgiving Day, there will be afternoon services at the Center Meetinghouse. Winter hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an entrance fee of $12 for adults, $5 for children aged 6-15, and no charge for children under 6. Old Sturbridge Village is closed on Mondays from Nov. 28 through March 27. For more details, call (508) 347-3362.

Try diving in Tonga. The island kingdom of Tonga is becoming a vacation ``hot spot,'' with its lakalaka dancing, enormous ground-oven feasts, friendly people, and lush tropical setting. Now, Tropical Adventures offers the first packaged diving trips that allow vacationers to explore the sea life surrounding the 45-island chain, combining stays on the main island of Tongatapu, the island of Vava'u, and the dive-boat trimaran, MV Witchitit. Costs for 9- to 16-day tours vary from $1,795 to $3,100, including round-trip air fare from the US West Coast. One option is for a complete dive tour on the MV Witchitit. Passports are required. English is widely spoken in this British Commonwealth country. For more information about rates and schedules, phone Tropical Adventures at its toll-free number, 800-247-3483.

American Youth Hostels skiing. The Metropolitan New York Council is sponsoring downhill and cross-country day excursions every weekend from January through March for $20 per person. Ski areas to be visited this season include Hunter Mountain (downhill) and Hyer Meadows (cross-country), Windham (DH), and White Birches (XC), Belleayre Mountain (DH and XC), Butternut Mountain (DH and XC), and James Baird State Park (XC). A chartered bus will leave Manhattan at 6:30 a.m. and return the same day. For details and reservations, write American Youth Hostels, 75 Spring St., New York, NY 10012, or call (212) 431-7100. Reservations are necessary.

Directory of northern California inns. Bed & breakfast inns have become a booming industry in the last decade. But levels of comfort, safety, and cleanliness can vary. This new 48-page directory aims to recommend only the best of the lot - in the northern California area, at least. The term B&B can refer either to a small inn or to a private home that takes paying guests: This directory lists the small-inn variety. All have been inspected and approved by a committee of innkeepers. The listings are by county, giving the name, address, phone number, and description of the B&B. Rates are not listed. For a copy, send $1 to Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Northern California (BBINC), PO Box 7150, Chico, CA 95927, or phone 800-284-INNS.

Fly to the ski slopes. Air Canada has put together some appealing ski tours, billed as ``SkiTreks,'' to get folks from almost anywhere in the US to Canadian slopes. Resort destinations include Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, and Nakiska. For example, seven-night packages that include accommodations, breakfasts, and ski passes at Nakiska start at $342, plus discounted air fare from one of eight US ``gateways.'' For additional information, contact a travel agent or phone Air Canada at 800-4-CANADA. Delta Air Lines is offering discounted fares as part of ski packages in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Calgary. For information on the Delta packages, contact a travel agent, or phone Advance Reservations Inc., at 800-453-4565. And eight major resorts in the Ski New England group have developed a variety of all-inclusive fly/drive/ski packages, ranging from two to seven days; an average five-day package starts at $400. Among the cities connecting to New England are Cleveland, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Tampa, and Miami. For information on Ski New England's packages or for reservations, phone 800-245-1800.

Gold rush in Philadelphia. Right now, you can discover gold at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute. An appealing exhibit lets you step into a full-scale reproduction of a gold mine to learn how the pros get it out of the ground. ``Gold,'' as the exhibition is named, was developed by Cit'e des Sciences et de l'Industrie, La Villette in Paris. The display follows the precious metal from its discovery through the smelting process and industrial uses. Its artistic value is demonstrated by cases of gold jewelry and artifacts. The show also illustrates how the metal affects the world economy. ``Gold'' continues in Philadelphia through Jan. 6 and then moves on to 11 other US cities. The Franklin Institute is at 20th Street and the Parkway. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for children 4 though 11, and $3.50 for seniors. For information, call (215) 448-1200.

Walkabouts in New Zealand. Nature lovers are discovering that New Zealand may be one of the most idyllic hiking environments in the world. Pacific Exploration Company specializes in 19- to 23-day trips through the country's national parks. Tours are organized with active travelers of all ages in mind, requiring only a moderate amount of hiking. A variety of escorted itineraries are offered, as well as the option to design an independent tour. A 23-day escorted tour - which includes all land arrangements within New Zealand, a five-day trek on Milford Track, a four-day walking safari with a Maori guide, day hikes in Mt. Cook National Park, trips to volcanoes in Tongariro National Park, and an excursion to the Waitomo Caves - starts at $2,775, plus air fare. For information, contact a travel agent or Pacific Exploration Co., Box 3042, Santa Barbara, CA 93130, or phone (805) 687-7282.

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