News for the Traveler

More than 100 Christmas trees -- some ornamental, others carrying out an ethnic heritage or displaying a theme and embellished with things like ornaments , lights, beads, straw figures, and musical instruments -- will fill the ground floor of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., Dec. 5-14 for the Seventh Annual Festival of Trees. All the trees are for sale, and have been decorated and donated by area garden clubs, businesses, artists, individuals, and corporations. Wreaths and other holiday greens provided by the Garden Clubs of Connecticut will also be available for purchase. All proceeds from the sale benefit the museum. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hartford museum is at 600 Main Street.

Williamsburg is a special place to visit at Christmastime. Virginia's 18 th-century Colonial capital is a superb display of early American history, for the town's residents live in the original and reconstructed houses, and tend shops where a variety of crafts are actively practiced. Tours of the private homes decorated for Christmas will be given Dec. 6 and 7. Williamsburg's Christmas celebration begins officially Dec. 14 with the Grand Illumination of the city. At sunset, costumed guards will fire muskets to signal the lighting of candles in the windows of the historic area buildings, and entertainment is followed by fireworks. Until Jan. 1, there are two weeks of candlelight concerts, special tours, parades, theater, strolling Christmas singers, and lavish holiday meals served in historic inns and taverns.

An addition to the Colonial homes available for overnight lodging in Williamsburg is the Nicholas-Tyler Office and Laundry. For many years, the office housed the Williamsburg Public Library, and the laundry once served as a kitchen for the Nicholas-Tyler house. Now each has two one-bedroom suites, furnished with antiques and handmade reproductions, antique Oriental rugs, and authentic Williamsburg reproductions of fabrics used for curtains and upholstered furniture.

The North American Canoe Tours has scheduled 12 trips through the Florida Everglades starting in January. The trips will leave once a week beginning on Sunday, Jan. 4, the last one beginning Sunday, March 22. Canoeists will launch their boats near Everglades City and will paddle through the only mangrove forest in the United States, as well as through backwater bays where water changes from fresh to brackish with the shifting of the tide, and where birds like white pelican and Louisiana heron flourish. The trip will end in Flamingo, the southernmost town in the continental United States.

The organization will provide all necessary food and equipment, including canoes, tents, and cooking gear. The cost is $395. Participants must be 16 years of age or older. Six to 10 people will be able to participate on each trip.

Women who visit copenhagen this winter can rent a fur to warm them against the chill of a cold Danish night. The Copenhagen Tourist Association can arrange minimum one-week rentals of fur coats for those who don't have room in their luggage to pack a heavy coat, and who have the money to splurge on such a luxury. The lowest cost for renting a fur is $130 a week, while the highest, for a sage fur, is $570.

The awesome sight of California gray whales surfacing, blowing, and sounding is what thousands of whale-watchers anticipate during December and January along the coast of San Diego. In winter these leviathans stretch out in a long, thin gray line spanning the coastal water of western North America from the Bering Sea to the warm lagoons of Baja California, where they annually breed and calve. The San Diego Natural History Museum has scheduled 28 two-hour whale-watching excursions in the waters off San Diego to watch the giants pass. From less than a mile off the coast, passengers aboard the Natural History Museum's whaleboats will get close-up views of the California gray whales. On rare occasions they may observe the whales mating or giving birth. Dr. Raymond Gilmore, an internationally renowned authority on the gray whale, will lead all trips, which are scheduled at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, Dec. 26-31, and on Saturdays and Sundays, Jan. 3- 25. The cost of the trips is $6 for adults and $4 for children 12 and under. Boats will depart from Seaforth Landing on Mission Bay. Reservations are recommended and can be made by writing to the San Diego Natural History Museum, PO Box 1390, San Diego, Calif. 92112.

Christmas at Mystic Seaport, the maritime museum in southeastern Connecticut, is a time of joy. Throughout December, garlands and wreaths of evergreens, cranberries, holly, and mistletoe bedeck the re-created 19th-century village area. The Seaport's formal exhibit buildings are decorated with greens and other natural materials by area garden clubs for the annual doorway decorating contest. Towering over the homes and shops are the masts for the great sailing ships -- topped by evergreen trees, an old nautical holiday tradition.

Providing a unique view of the Seaport are the annual Lantern Light Tours, one-hour escorted evening tours of selected ships and exhibit buildings, led by lantern-bearing costumed guides. Reservations for the tours, offered Dec. 12-23 , are available from the Seaport Public Affairs Office.

A traditional roast goose Christmas dinner with all the trimmings will be served at the Seamen's Inne from Dec. 12 to 23. Plum pudding and Christmas cookies are available at the Inne after the Lantern Light Tour nights.

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