Banff to Jasper

By Matthew Link
June 4, 2005

Travelers of the Victorian age called the hundreds of snowcapped peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains "50 Switzerlands in One," and they couldn't have been more accurate. The Tetons are molehills next to the Canadian Rockies, with hundreds of peaks over 6,000 feet tall. They harbor the Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper national parks. The awesome phenomenon now attracts more than four million annual visitors, making the area's centerpiece, Banff, and the surrounding region the most popular tourist attraction in Canada. Once there, you'll find pure lakes made electric blue by glacial runoff "rock flour"; an array of wildlife such as elks, cougars, and grizzlies; and dreamlike mountain landscapes taken straight out of a Maxfield Parrish painting. This is truly one of the last huge, untarnished wildernesses, and thanks to the excellent exchange rate and low winter prices, it's all yours for a song.

You start in Calgary

The first place most visitors to the Canadian Rockies see is the city of Calgary, Alberta (population: nearly one million), just about an hour's drive from Banff. It's an oil-boom location, buttoned-down and conservative, but with lovely, lush river parks meandering through its corporate heart. Its most famous attraction is the enormous annual Stampede festival ( in summer, with rodeos, concerts, and lots of parties. Cheap flights to Calgary can be had from Air Canada's Jazz Airlines (888/247-2262,, a low-cost carrier flying from many American cities (even as far south as Atlanta and Dallas), while Jetsgo (866/448-5888, offers cheap flights from New York/Newark, and Horizon Air (800/252-7522, has well-priced service from the West Coast.

It's worth a day or two to poke around Calgary's clean streets and chic bars and restaurants, where prices are quite reasonable throughout the year. A must-stop, even if you're just passing through, is the Glenbow Museum (130 9th Ave. SE, 403/268-4100,; admission CAD$11/US$7.85), the largest in western Canada and housing thousands of impressive artifacts from Canada's "First Nation" native peoples. Also have a look at the impressive Olympic Park (88 Canada Olympic Rd. SW, 403/247-5452,, where the '88 winter games were held and top athletes still train. Self-guided tours are CAD$10/US$7.15. Duck in for an authentic Irish meal for under CAD$14/US$10 at the James Joyce Irish Pub (403/262-0708) on the pleasant pedestrian-only Stephen Avenue Walk in downtown, lined with cafZs and bookstores. Find budget digs at "Motel Village," near the intersection of Crowchild Trail and Highway 1, where the rates of Econo Lodge (800/553-2666), hovering around CAD$70/US$50 a room, are typical of any number of other privately owned, low-cost motels in the immediate area.

Then hop on to the famously scenic Trans-Canada Highway ( for the roughly one-hour ride to Banff, passing otherworldly mountains and jagged peaks.

Grizzly towns and buffalo nations

Banff's main street is dwarfed by towering mountains on all sides. A town before the national park around it was formed, wildlife still dominates here-one year a grizzly bear strolled through downtown!

Although you'll want to rush out into the wilderness, don't leave town without stopping by two important museums. The Whyte Museum (111 Bear St., 403/762-2291,; admission CAD$6/US$4.30) has outstanding paintings and historical displays on early exploration and tourism. The Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum (403/762-2388,; admission CAD$8/US$5.70) is housed in a log fort along the Bow River and presents collections of stuffed wildlife, life-size dioramas of Native American culture, and awesome quillwork and beadwork.

Most of Banff's cheaper lodgings can be found just at the entrance to town, strung along Banff Avenue. The very least expensive is the 100-plus-bed Global Village Backpackers (449 Banff Ave., 888/844-7875,, a "five-star hostel" that attracts a young, social crowd and includes an Internet lounge, game room, hot tub, and outdoor patio; its beds start at a mere CAD$23/US$16, and self-contained private apartments go for CAD$89/US$64. A more standard motel close by, the Red Carpet Inn (425 Banff Ave., 800/563-4609) offers doubles starting at CAD$75/US$54 and operates two restaurants, underground parking, and whirlpools.

But even at a higher price, Brewster's Mountain Lodge (208 Caribou St., 888/762-2900, is arguably the best value in town (around CAD$100/US$85), with its large rooms featuring pine furniture, and granite and tile bathrooms. And check out the Timberline Inn (off Hwy. 1 at Banff, 877/762-2281, on a scenic perch above the town, with panoramic views of the surrounding Bow Valley. Doubles start at CAD$88/US$63, and even if you don't stay there, have a meal at its panoramic Big Horn Steak House, where New York striploin steaks are just CAD$20/US$14, and most meals cost less than CAD$14/US$10.

The non-budget hotels are led by the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (403/762-2211,, called "the castle" by locals. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888 to attract rich travelers, it's a stunning piece of architecture framed by a green carpet of forests. You can wander about and poke through the rock-wall lobby and grounds free of charge. Nearby are the Banff Upper Hot Springs (403/762-1515,, where visitors can soak outdoors amid the scenery for just CAD$7.50/US$5.35.

Diamond in the rough outdoors

Banff Springs Hotel's sister, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (403/522-3511,, is another must-see. About a half-hour drive north of Banff, it's called the Diamond in the Wilderness and sits on the edge of the peacock-blue-colored lake, gazing up at the dramatic cliffs. Eating at the swanky hotel's bar under huge windows is a real treat and not too expensive-just CAD$13/US$9.30 for the chicken Caesar salad or CAD$11/US$7.85 for the tempura prawn satay. Afterward, rent a canoe and paddle on the lake for CAD$32/US$23. Or take the (free) three-hour round-trip hike from the hotel to Lake Agnes, a pristine alpine pond with stunning views and an old-fashioned log teahouse where you can munch on sandwiches (CAD$6/US$4.30) and sip tea (CAD$3/US$2.15) outside on the terrace.

Banff was regarded as a summer-only destination for years (the Banff Springs Hotel only opened year-round in 1969), but now with the nearby Ski Banff at Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise ski resorts (877/754-7080,, the area is busy in winter, too. Considerable renovations have taken place at each (Sunshine Village now has the fastest eight-person gondola in the world), and a three-day lift pass good for all three resorts is only CAD$186/US$132. The above Web site offers cheap packages as well.

The road to Jasper

A great many tourists turn around and head back to Calgary after Banff and Lake Louise, but this is a mistake. Banff is just the tip of the iceberg; the less-visited Jasper National Park to the north is arguably even more of an attraction than Banff National Park, with miles of hiking, tons of fishing, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor pursuits. The magnificent three-hour drive along the Columbia Icefield Parkway ( to Jasper takes you through the highest section of the Canadian Rockies. Be sure to stop to gaze at the ultra-green Peyto Lake and Bow Lake. The latter is site of the red-roofed, cabin-style Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (403/522-2167,, filled with fireplaces, historical photos, mounted animal heads, and live piano music. Dine on its large buffet breakfasts for CAD$15/US$11 or sandwich lunches, which cost even less. You can stay cheaper about halfway between Banff and Jasper at The Crossing Resort (403/761-7000,, where rooms start at CAD$55/US$39 in winter and CAD$95/US$68 in summer.

The highlight of the drive to Jasper is the Athabasca Glacier, one tongue of the huge Columbia Icefields. Stop by the visitor's center (877/423-7433) at the base of the glacier for free displays on geology and history, or opt for the special shuttle tours to the top of the ice from mid-April to mid-October for CAD$30/US$21.

Jasper, the friendly host Jasper is a quaint town that, like Banff, existed before its surrounding national park, with friendly folk who make visitors feel right at home. Stay at the historic (1929) brick Athabasca Hotel (510 Patricia St., 780/852-3386, in the center of town for CAD$59/US$42 in winter, CAD$109/US$78 in summer. Or e-mail the Jasper Home Accommodation Association (, which can set you up with stays in private homes and B&Bs for as little as CAD$35/US$25 per couple per night.

Jasper is wilder and emptier than Banff and Lake Louise, perfect for solitude. Be sure to make a trip out to Maligne Lake, undiscovered by Europeans until 1908 and home to a string of extraordinary mountain peaks. The 90-minute, CAD$35/US$25 boat trip (780/852-3370, to Spirit Island is worth the splurge. Another side trip is to the Miette Hot Springs (780/866-3939, in Fiddle Valley, where you can hike along the heavenly Sulphur Skyline without seeing another soul and then finish your day with a long soak in the clean, modern pools for CAD$6.25/US$4.50.

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4 Days, 3 Nights in Las Vegas For $500

If you're strong enough to spend four days in Sin City without ever going near a roulette wheel or slot machine, you and your companion can enjoy the entire experience for a total of under $500. And I mean "enjoy"- visiting a dizzying variety of shows, museums, events, panoramas, and both man-made and natural wonders. And savoring tasty meals that leave you full and content! We're going to assume a late-afternoon arrival and a decision to have dinner before you check in to your hotel: the spectacular Stratosphere Tower, whose midweek rates quite frequently go down to $35 a room per night. From the airport, my advice is that you begin with one of the bargain highlights of the itinerary: dinner at Ellis Island. Day one You won't find this casino featured in the travel guides, but its caf, serves the best meal deal in Las Vegas: a complete steak dinner for just $4.95. Though it's not on the menu, it's available 24 hours a day. Ellis Island is also a microbrewery, and homemade beers and root beer are just $1 if you buy them at the bar and carry them in (which you can do in most Las Vegas restaurants). Two steaks and two drinks: $12. 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Take a Strip Tour/Then Check In: Take a left on Flamingo, then head to the Strip and one of the most famous intersections in the world. To the left is Paris and its 460-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower, and Bellagio is across the street. To the right is the world-renowned Caesars Palace and the massive Colosseum, where Celine Dion plays nightly. Go right on the Strip. You'll pass the Mirage-catalyst for the "New Las Vegas" when it debuted in 1989-and the sprawling Venetian. Slightly beyond are the steel girders that will be the $2 billion megaresort Wynn Las Vegas (formerly Le Reve) when it opens in 2005. You've seen these places on TV and in the movies, now they flank you on either side. As you reach the north end of the Strip, the older resorts have more familiar names: Riviera, Stardust, Circus Circus, Sahara. You'll have no trouble locating your hotel. Just look up; the Stratosphere Tower looms ahead. Check in, freshen up, and relax. Strip tour: $0. 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Stratosphere Tower: Before beginning the evening, there are two things you need to do. First, call the Plaza Casino (702/386-2110) and make reservations for dinner at 6:30 on the final night of your trip at the Center Stage restaurant. And second, page through Showbiz magazine (available in your hotel room) to find the coupon for the Hard Rock Casino's "Six Pack," which is found in this periodical exclusively; you'll need it on Day Two. Now head to the Stratosphere's observation tower, clutching the funbook that's distributed to hotel guests. It includes a coupon for half off tower admission, which lowers the price to $4. Ride the high-speed, double-decker elevator to the 107th floor and spend an hour atop the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Of the two rides at the top, the High Roller (coaster) is a snore. But for adrenaline junkies, the Big Shot is an instant rush 1,000 feet up. It's $8 to ride. And why not do it twice, using the funbook coupon for a $1 re-ride? Kick back and have a cold drink in the lounge on the mezzanine overlooking the revolving Top of the World restaurant. Drinks run from $4.25 to $7, but the funbook has a two-for-one drink coupon. Finish the evening by taking in a free show in the Images Cabaret. Hang out, have a cocktail, and listen to some great music till it's time to call it a night. Tower, two rides, two re-rides, drinks: $41. Day two 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Breakfast: The trip to Hoover Dam begins at Tropicana and the Strip. Drive to the Tropicana, park in the casino's east lot, and walk next door to the San Remo for steak and eggs, served in the coffee shop for $4.95. There's also an excellent around-the-clock $4.95 prime rib if you're in the mood. Breakfast: $13. 10 a.m. to noon Tropicana/MGM Grand: Walk back to the Tropicana and head to one of two free-pull slot machines located off the walkways from MGM Grand and Excalibur. The free spin can yield dinners, show tickets, even a new car, but don't count on those. You'll probably win two good perks: a free souvenir deck of cards with the Tropicana logo and tickets for the Trop's Casino Legends Hall of Fame museum (plus a coupon for a two-for-one drink that you'll use later). The Hall of Fame displays 15,000 items from over 700 casinos (550 of which no longer exist), including matchbooks, a showgirl dressing room, videos of casino implosions, 13,000 gambling chips, and a fascinating look at the Nevada "Black Book" of excluded persons (mobsters and cheats). Regular admission is $6.95, but it's free with the coupon. Time your museum exit for 10:50 a.m., then hotfoot it upstairs to catch the 11 a.m. exotic-bird show in the Tropics Lounge. The birds are stunning and the show is free. Before going back to the car, use your coupon to grab a couple of drinks from the bar and take the overhead walkway to the MGM Grand. An escalator just inside takes you directly to the Grand's 5,345-square-foot, multilevel lion habitat. This is a 5-to-10-minute diversion; admission is free. Souvenir, museum, bird show, habitat, two drinks: $3. Noon to 12:45 p.m. Hard Rock: Head east on Tropicana, take a left on Paradise, and you'll run into the Hard Rock Casino. Rock-and-roll themed and packed with music-related displays and memorabilia, this prototype of the new breed of supertrendy Las Vegas casinos is worth a half-hour tour. Bring the coupon from Showbiz magazine to the Backstage Pass booth to get a great, free shot-glass souvenir. Tour and souvenir: $0. 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Liberace Museum: Get back on Tropicana and continue east for two-and-a-half miles to the Liberace Museum. Liberace was a one-man walking advertisement for the extravagance, flamboyance, and uninhibited tastelessness usually associated with his adopted city, and his museum reflects it all. The $12 admission is reduced by $2 when you present the coupon that appears in the freebie magazines. Museum admissions: $20. 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch: Continue east on Tropicana for several miles to the freeway (I-515) and head south. The dam is 30 minutes from here, which leaves time for another only-in-Las Vegas dining deal. Take exit 64 and drive toward the marquee of Sunset Station. There's plenty of good-value dining in the Sunset Station resort, but not as good as in the dining room at the Gold Rush, the little casino next door. Everything on the menu is a bargain, but the best play is the giant hamburger with fixings and fries for $1.99. Two burgers and drinks: $8. 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Hoover Dam: Get back on the highway and follow the signs to the dam. The sheer majesty of this construction marvel is worth the trip by itself, but there's also the tri-level visitor center featuring exhibits on the dam's history and engineering and a 25-minute movie chronicling the dam's construction. Since 9/11, visitors can no longer go into the dam on the traditional tour. However, a self-guided Discovery Tour has been substituted. Tickets are sold until 4:30 p.m., and the dam closes at 5. Getting there by 3 p.m. should allow you to see everything. Admission is $10 and includes the visitor center and access to the top of the dam. Parking is an additional $5. Total charges: $25. 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Aladdin Slot Tournament: Retrace your route back to the city and stop at the Aladdin, the second casino you encounter after turning right onto the Strip from Tropicana. You're going to play a slot tournament. Gamble? Well, yes, but there's a method to the madness. The entry fee for the Aladdin's mini-slot tourney is $25. You play a 15-minute round during which the $25 is the most you can lose. If you get lucky and score high, you can win cash prizes, including the grand prize: a free-pull on every dollar slot in the casino. But the real value is in the perks that come with the entry. For starters, you get $10 in free-play on a real machine. Play the $10 and cash out what's left. You also get $20 in food credits, $20 off two show tickets, and two free desserts at Starbucks. Cost: variable, depending on slot-play return-$16 is the average outlay ($25 maximum). 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Dinner and Show: After a long day of sightseeing and traveling, head to Aladdin's Spice Market Buffet, one of Las Vegas's top three, with abundant meats and fresh seafood, and sinful desserts. At $20 it's also pricey, but the $20 food credit chops it down to a bargain. The show, Society of Seven, is top-rate music/comic/variety, good for all ages and most tastes, and well priced at $35 before the discount. Time is a little tight here, since the show begins at 8 p.m. Send one person to get the show tickets, while the other gets a table in the buffet. Get your free dessert after the show, then head back to the Stratosphere. Stop at any casino if you aren't yet ready for bed. Dinner, show, and desserts (after credits): $70. Day three 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Breakfast: Breakfast buffets rank among the best bargains in Las Vegas, and the best in town is at the Palms. Drive south on the Strip to Flamingo and make a right. In addition to the usual breakfast fare, the Palms' Fantasy Market Buffet features cooked-to-order omelettes, eggs Benedict, knishes, fresh potato pancakes, and a complete Hawaiian breakfast of Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice-all for a buck less than the norm, $5.99. Then stroll around the ultracool Palms and head back to the Strip. Two buffets: $12. 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. South Strip Driving Tour: There are far too many casinos to visit in a single trip, but you can soak up the outside spectacle from your car. The intersection of the Strip and Tropicana Avenue may be the most visually stimulating street corner in the world. In the space of about a mile, there's a 4,000-room castle (Excalibur), a 5,000-room city-within-a-city (MGM Grand), the Manhattan skyline (New York-New York), a 30-story pyramid (Luxor), and a gold-tinted, glistening high-rise that literally sparkles beneath the desert sun (Mandalay Bay). Take a leisurely up-and-back drive from Bellagio to Mandalay Bay, checking out the world-famous facades. Remember, look but don't stop. South Strip tour: $0. 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Center Strip Walking Tour: Park in the big garage on the south side of Bellagio and go inside. Spend a half hour checking out this spectacular resort, including the colored-glass chandelier in the lobby, and the view of Paris's Eiffel Tower across the man-made lake. Next, cross Flamingo Avenue to Caesars Palace. There are three entertainment options here. The Race for Atlantis ride is a high-tech motion simulator, coordinating motion with sophisticated 3-D graphics and stereo-headset sound. At $10 per ticket, this one is worth a splurge, and $2-off coupons are ubiquitous in the freebie mags. The other two options are free: Festival of Fountains and Atlantis. The two run concurrently, every hour on the hour, so you'll be able to see only one-choose Atlantis. Not only is the sinking of the lost city by battling animatronic gods a superior production, it's also conveniently located next to the Atlantis ride. Cross the Strip and head to the front door of the Imperial Palace to the best souvenir of the trip-a free photo set inside a classic automobile. The photo is available instantaneously inside the casino, but it's better to pick it up later. Get your claim check and go to Harrah's. At Harrah's outdoor Carnaval Court, locate the show-ticket booth near the entrance to the casino and ask for discount tickets to the Mac King Comedy Magic Show (or get tickets by signing up as a first-time member of Harrah's slot club). Center Strip tour, Race for Atlantis ride (with coupon), Atlantis spectacle, souvenir photo: $16. 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Show and Margarita: Mac is the king of the city's new genre of bargain entertainment: afternoon shows, known as "nooners." The show's retail price is a low $16.65, but the discount voucher admits you for a one-drink minimum of $5.95. Catch the 1 p.m. performance for 60 of the most entertaining minutes of magic and comedy in Las Vegas. Following the show, duck into the neighboring Casino Royale for frozen margaritas at the bar; they're $1 and available 24 hours. Show and margaritas: $14. 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Venetian/Imperial Palace/Bellagio Fountains: The ultraposh Venetian is next door to Casino Royale. Be sure to see its lobby, with its gilded frescoes on the ceiling and geometric design on the flat-marble floor that creates an optical illusion of climbing stairs. If you need a snack to hold you until dinner, there's a value-priced food court upstairs in the Grand Canal Shoppes mall where you can lunch (next to canal and gondolas). Head back to the Imperial Palace to retrieve your photo at the slot-club booth. Since you're going inside, check out the Palace's long-running automobile collection too. Pick up a coupon from barkers out front to save the $6.95 fee. It's a five-minute walk from here back to Bellagio. Time your return for 4 p.m. to coincide with the fountain show's half-hour rotation. Watch the syncopated waters shoot 20 stories high from the rail bordering the lake, then retrieve your car. Venetian tour, snack, souvenir photo, auto collection, fountain show: $10. 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Downtown Tour: No Las Vegas trip would be complete without a trip downtown. Turn left out of Bellagio and follow the Strip four miles to Fremont Street. Park free in the Plaza garage and take the elevator down to the casino. Dinner is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza's Center Stage restaurant. This leaves about two hours to check out Glitter Gulch. Unlike the Strip, the downtown casinos are stacked side by side, so two hours goes a long way. Check out the Binion family's display of customized firearms at the Horseshoe, a chunk of the Berlin wall in the men's room at Main Street Station, and the world's largest piece of pure gold on public display at the Golden Nugget. Casino tour, two beers: $3. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Appetizer and Dinner: On the way back to the Plaza, stop at the Golden Gate for an appetizer: the city's most famous (and best) 99> shrimp cocktail, a Las Vegas tradition since 1959. The Center Stage is one of Las Vegas's classic "bargain gourmet" rooms, with great food, cheap prices, and a view that stares straight down Glitter Gulch. Full meals (nothing is a la carte; substitute the onion soup for the salad) start at $15. Dinner and two shrimp cocktails: $45. 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fitzgeralds Show and Fremont Street Experience: Be outside for the 8:30 showing of the Fremont Street Experience light show-a video projected on a canopy by two million lightbulbs and sound broadcast by more than 200 speakers. It's a six-minute presentation, which leaves plenty of time to get to Fitzgeralds for the 9 p.m. presentation of one of its full-fledged one-hour productions, where the price of admission is a one-drink minimum ($3). Note that two days a week there's a ticketed show ($12.95) in this time slot, so call ahead. Show and Experience: $6. Day four Tally Travelers, man your calculators! Total outlay in the itinerary is $325 for two people, all meals, drinks, shows, museums, slot tournament, and souvenirs. The room at the Strat will run about $100, the rental car about $60. The entire thing (minus air) is under $500.

Secret Bargains of Boston

During my time as a college and graduate student, struggling young professional, and long-term denizen of Beantown, I've learned that, indeed, in Boston the best things in life are free (or at least very reasonable). I pass along to you the top Boston secret bargains I've discovered-most free, and none more than $15. But first, for low-cost digs in Beantown, go to the historic Back Bay neighborhood. A good budget B&B called 463 Beacon Street (463 Beacon St., 617/536-1302, rents kitchenette-equipped doubles with shared bath starting at $69 a night. And then, tucked into a charming, tree-lined street, the 20-room Copley Inn (19 Garrison St., 617/236-0300, offers clean, quiet accommodations with doubles starting at $75 a night. And finally, the bargain MidTown Hotel (220 Huntington Ave., 800/343-1177, is located near Symphony Hall, music schools, and several subway (or "T") stations, and serves up double rooms starting at $79 a night. Chinese transportation secrets You can get to Boston for as little as $10 each way from New York City on Chinatown shuttles. Information:,, and Or you can fly cheaply on Southwest Airlines into Providence, then take the airport shuttle to Providence's railway station ($9), and the commuter rail line to Boston's South Station ($5.75). If you fly instead to Boston's costlier Logan Airport, take the T to many convenient points throughout the greater Boston area for a cool $1; a shuttle bus services the various airport terminals and takes you free to the T station. The Boston three-day Visitor Pass ($11) is your best value for a long-weekend visit. Information: Very fine art Founded in 1870, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave., 617/267-9300, boasts an impressive collection, ranging from the ancient world to American artists and more Monets than you can shake a water lily at. Avoid the $15 admission by going on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., when the contribution is voluntary. If you go to the MFA, you'll get $2 off (within two days of that MFA visit) the $10 admission to the celebrated Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 The Fenway, 617/566-1401,, with sculptures, tapestries, and paintings spanning 30 centuries, and all housed in a fifteenth-century, Venetian-style palazzo surrounding a lush courtyard of plants that bloom year-round. If you prefer more cutting-edge art, the 65-year-old but young-at-heart Institute of Contemporary Art (955 Boylston St., 617/266-5152, has introduced Boston to many important artists, including Picasso and Warhol. Best of all, it's free Thursdays after 5 p.m. ($7 admission otherwise). Get into Harvard for pennies At Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Institute of Politics (79 JFK St., 617/495-1360, offers sensational free lectures, timely, topical, and at times controversial, with speakers like Arianna Huffington, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Angela Davis; check the Web site or call. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (60 Garden St., Cambridge; 617/495-7461, sponsors free Observatory Nights for the general public on the third Thursday of every month, featuring a nontechnical lecture and telescope time from the observatory roof (weather permitting). Visit three famous Harvard museums-the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Fogg Art Museum-for free on Saturdays before noon. For information, call 617/495-9400 or log on to Go to Boston, see Chicago The much-heralded Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (617/747-4468, presents summer productions of Shakespeare's plays for free on Boston Common. At BosTix (two locations: Copley Square and Faneuil Hall;, obtain half-price, same-day tickets to performances all over town. Cheers! Late-night, beer-lovin' freeloaders can grab a brew at Sunset Grill & Tap (130 Brighton Ave., Allston; 617/254-1331), which offers more than 100 beers on tap, and enjoy a free buffet on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights starting at midnight. Harpoon Brewery (306 Northern Ave., 888/427-7666, offers complimentary tours and tastings Tuesday through Saturday. Do some good while chugging a brew at the Samuel Adams Brewery (30 Germania St., 617/368-5080,, which charges just $2 for a tour of the brewery (Thursday through Saturday; Wednesdays, too, in summer) and donates 100 percent of the money collected to a local charity. Boston put the "free" in "Freedom" Travel back in time to Revolutionary Boston by marching along the Freedom Trail (, a two-and-a-half-mile walking tour of 16 sites and structures of historical significance in and around downtown Boston. All but three of the sites are free to visit. Free, 90-minute tours led by knowledgeable, enthusiastic guides begin at the Visitor Center (15 State St., 617/242-5642). In addition to the Old North Church and the USS Constitution, many lesser-known, thought-provoking sites are located near the Freedom Trail, including the 1806 African Meeting House (46 Joy St., 617/725-0022,, the oldest black-church edifice standing in the United States; the New England Holocaust Memorial (Carmen Park on Congress St.,, featuring six luminous glass towers; and the Vilna Shul (18 Phillips St., 617/233-5001,, an historic synagogue. None charge admission. Flip, Sip, and slam Independent bookselling is alive and well at Brattle Book Shop (9 West St., 800/447-9595,, Boston's oldest and largest used bookstore, where you'll find rare, used, and out-of-print books at rock-bottom prices. Check out the $1 books by the thousands on the shelves outside. You can combine both page flipping and coffee sipping in one convenient venue at the Trident Booksellers and Cafe (338 Newbury St., 617/267-8688). It serves cheap food and wine till midnight, which is late for Boston. (Free) music to my ears The New England Conservatory of Music (290 Huntington Ave., 617/585-1100, offers high-quality concerts by faculty, students, and guest artists practically every day of the year, many of them free. If your tastes swing more to jazz, pop, or rock, boogie over to the Berklee College of Music (1140 Boylston St., 617/747-8820,, which features free performances in numerous venues. In Cambridge, the Longy School of Music (1 Follen St., 617/876-0956,, a world-class conservatory, offers more than 250 events and concerts annually, most free. Little known to visitors, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., 617/266-1492, sells rush tickets ($8) for concerts held from early October to the end of April, which normally cost up to $90. Buy them at the Cohen Wing entrance of Symphony Hall on Fridays beginning at 10 a.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning at 5 p.m. Cheap eats Part college town, part ethnic melting pot, Boston boasts diverse and inexpensive dining options-if you know where to find them. In spite of its fishy name, Anchovies (433 Columbus Ave., 617/266-5088) packs in a local crowd of loyal diners who can't seem to get enough of the heaping platters of delicious Italian specialties ($3.50 to $12). The Red Fez (1222 Washington St., 617/338-6060) prepares Middle Eastern and Mediterranean specialties at tasty prices ($4 to $18). Its late-night tapas menu is served till midnight. Johnny D's (17 Holland St., Somerville, 617/776-2004), located in nearby Davis Square (accessible by subway), serves half-price dinners (average $3 to $7) before 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Slumber Parties at Museums and Zoos

The Beluga whales darting through the deep inches from the sleeping bags proved to be the highlight of the overnight at SeaWorld Orlando, FL for Beth Aranda and Alexis, her 9-year-old daughter. "It was fantastic to lay there in front of the huge glass windows and watch the whales," says Aranda who along with Alexis found the melon-headed behemoths with the permanent smiles mesmerizing. "The kids' eyes were as big as saucers and so were the adults'," says Aranda who lives in Orlando. Running through the snow at night to the privy brought home pioneer practicalities for the Prakels of Versailles, Ohio. "It was dark, there was a foot of snow on the ground and the wind kept blowing the kerosene lamp out," says Christy Prakel. "Then, when we got to the outhouse we had to chip the ice off the seat." Christy Prakel, her husband Mike, and their children ages 6, 8, 10 and 12 time traveled to the 19th century at Conner Prairie, a living history museum, Fishers, IN. But instead of merely touring for an afternoon, they slept at the facility's 1886 farmhouse. As characters, they chopped wood, mucked stalls, and milked cows as well as baked graham biscuits and kiss pie, a custard concoction with a meringue topping. Come evening, the children played string games, the adults puzzled out riddles and everyone clapped when neighbors strummed Civil War songs on their dulcimers. These are the ultimate insider slumber parties and they are available at museums, science centers and zoos across the U.S. Great for busy parents and children, both of whom have limited free time, these experiences deliver an imaginative adventure that's close to home. Although many facilities offer overnights geared to scout and school groups, the organizations listed also feature sleep-overs just for families. The catch: some of these places schedule family sleepovers often and others run them only a few times each year. So plan ahead for these popular programs, most of which range from $40-$75 per participant. Camp-ins with more activities and fewer participants cost more. And remember, grandparents and grandkids are welcome at any of the family sleepovers. No matter what overnight you choose, interpreters, as part of the immersion learning, take you and your kids behind-the-scenes to do activities day visitors only dream about. You might make popsicles for the Polar bears at the SeaWorld parks; feed apples to rhinos at the Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia; or find out just how spooky the Egyptian mummies look on a flashlight tour of the Field Museum, Chicago. On a night-time walk at the Miami Metrozoo, Miami, FL, or at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, CA, you view lions, tigers and other nocturnal critters. When the sun goes down the critters morph from daytime dozers into keen-eyed prowlers. The Boston Children's Museum sweetens bedtime with storytellers and musicians. The sky's the limit (literally) at a planetarium sleep-over at the St. Louis Science Center where you bunk down under a giant dome twinkling with 9,000 stars. Camp-ins at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry always come with an IMAX movie, a hands-on workshop and a science show. You and your kids might whip up liquid nitrogen ice cream or form a high-bouncing superball from polymers. "Fabulous" is how Beth Aranda rates her Halloween Eve SeaWorld sleepover. "It beat my expectations. It was fun, educational and a great time for me and my daughter." For the Prakels their pioneer farmhouse weekend went beyond learning about pioneer life to transformation. Christy Prakel credits the experience with helping her family decide to move from Indianapolis to the small town of Versailles, Ohio, population 2000. "It helped us realize what's valuable," says Prakel. "A lot of things we spend our time on are frivolous. People in 1886 didn't need to be always going and doing something. At the farmhouse we were forced to be together as a family. We had snowball fights, we played parlor games and we enjoyed the sense of community. That's what we like about a small town." Like the Prakels, you may learn more than you think at these fun overnights. Candyce H. Stapen has written 24 family travel books, including National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family>

Summer Camp Vacations for Kids and Adults

You approached it through a forest, on a dirt road, beneath a canopy of leafy boughs. You slept there in a rustic cabin or a lean-to made of logs. You ate in a wooden mess hall, at long, communal tables; swam in a lake; sat around an open fire at night. And paid very little. Sleepaway camp. Was there ever a better vacation? A more treasured time of childhood? And can those joyful, vibrant, inexpensive holidays be re-experienced at a later time, as an adult? The answer is a limited yes. Provided you apply soon enough--say, by early spring, before the rolls are filled and closed--you can stay at one of nearly 50 widely scattered camps that operate for people of all ages, 18 to 80, in a setting almost identical to those cherished memories of youth. Audubon ecology camps In the undeveloped, wilderness settings of all four camps, you quickly forget all urban concerns, but enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort at the same time: dormitory rooms with air-conditioning and private bath in Minnesota, wood-frame dormitories and a restored 19th-century farmhouse on Hog Island in Maine, slightly more modern facilities and private rooms in Connecticut, and a long, wood-frame dormitory in Wisconsin. Hearty meals are served buffet style, three times a day. For the summer of 2004, Minnesota's North Woods camp offers five weeklong programs with an option of earning graduate credits. Some of the programs are "Lake Superior: From Duluth to Thunder Bay," "The Mammals of Badland," and "Boundary Water Canoe Area Field Studies." The all-inclusive price for the week is $750. The camp on Hog Island in Maine is open from June to August, and each week has a different focus: "Bird Studies for Teens," "Natural History of Maine Coast," "Naturalizing by Kayak," and "Field Ornithology" are examples. Prices a week's program, including room and board, range from $660 to $1125. The Wisconsin camp dedicates most of the summer to youth programs, but one week in July is adults-only. The six-day session "Wade into Ecology" is $695. There is also a family week at the end of June which is $475 for adults and $450 for children ages five to 15. There's not another cent to pay (except your transportation to the camp), nowhere at all to spend additional money, and no supplement for single persons traveling alone. Who attends the Audubon camps? Adults of all ages and backgrounds: an accountant from Atlanta alongside a professional educator from San Francisco, college students, firemen, and retired senior citizens. Their common tie: the urge for a vacation "with more substance to it than sitting on a beach," in the words of Philip Schaefer, Audubon's former director of camps and summer programs. Returning to nature, he adds, is an "emotional as well as a learning experience," and at the final campfire, "there isn't a dry eye." For extensive, colorful literature and application forms relating to these camps, call or e-mail the Audubon offices individually or go For Maine: 888/325-5261 or; Wisconsin: 877/777-8383 or; Minnesota: 888/404-7743 or Sierra Club "base camps" Most of the base camps are in California, Utah and Arizona, or the Sierra Mountains of California/Nevada; a few are in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, Virginia, Washington, New Jersey, Idaho, New York, and the Great Smoky Mountain Park of Tennessee/North Carolina. With a minor exception or two, charges are remarkably low, even though all inclusive: as little as $455 for some one-week stays, an average of about $1100, and some topping $3,000. That's because all campers pitch in to perform camp tasks, including cooking, supervised by the camp staff. Sample base camp stays planned for 2004: Acadia National Park and Mt. Desert Island in Maine, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada. Though the accent throughout is on fun--the sheer pleasure of removing oneself for a week or two to an untouched, untrammeled wilderness--participants (of all ages, and including families) have the added opportunity to "network" with other kindred sorts, the dedicated environmentalists of our nation. The full list of base camps appears in a larger directory of club outings bound each year into the January/February edition of Sierra, the club's magazine. For a copy, or for other specific information or longer leaflets on individual base camps, contact the Sierra Club Outing Department, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 (phone 415/977-5630, fax 415/977-5795, e-mail Since base camps are open only to Sierra members or "applicants for membership," you'll later need to include your membership application and fee ($25 introductory price, $39 regularly) with your reservation request. A full listing of Sierra Club outings can also be found online at Unitarian Camps Why do they invite people of all religious persuasions to make use of their summer camps? Certainly not to proselytize or seek converts--they don't believe in that. Rather, as it's been explained to me, because they seek to discover common bonds among all humankind, and common spiritual truths; because their creed is without dogma and broadly compatible with all other faiths. What better place to experience such unity, they theorize, than at a summer gathering, in a pleasant, unstressed, cooperative camp? Because some of the Unitarian/Universalist camps fill up by summer, you'd be well advised to apply quickly to one of the following: Star Island Religious and Educational Conference Center, New Hampshire: A rustic, rocky, sea-enclosed marsh connected to the mainland by a single telephone line, Star Island is one of the historic "Isles of Shoals" off the New England coast (reached by ferry from Portsmouth, N.H.). A naturalist's dream, a photographer's vision, it has been owned by the Unitarians since 1915, and used as an adult summer camp (swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, tennis, softball) open to all, but mainly patronized by Unitarian/Universalists. From mid-June to early September, singles, couples, and families can opt for "theme weeks" focused on the arts, natural history, international affairs, psychology, and the like. In 2004, these include "International Affairs", "Religion in an Age of Science" and "Life on a Star". They stay either in a wooden main building or a number of cottages (comfortable but not modern) at charges from $502 per adult per week for room and full board with a discount for children. (Star Island also operates six-day conferences at charges starting at $448 per adult). Add about $50 to $100 per person for program registration fees. Figure an extra $80 for the ferry and parking. Technically, campers are supposed to register in February for these summer programs, but usually they'll let people sign up until all the spots are full. Prior to summer, contact Star Island Corporation, 10 Vaughan Mall, Suite #8, Worth Plaza, Portsmouth, NH 03801 (phone 603/430-6272); thereafter, P.O. Box 178, Portsmouth, NH 03802 (phone 603/964-7252, e-mail De Benneville Pines Camp, near Angelus Oaks, California: Half an hour from the better-known town of Redland on the mid-Pacific coast, in a heavily wooded area laced with hiking trails, is De Benneville Pines Camp. Its Unitarian programs--usually open to all--consist primarily of a "family week" in August, a four-day "Women's Retreat" in May (with activities ranging from yoga to silk screening to belly dancing), a "Yoga/Meditation" week in September and a weekend "Folk Music Camp: Music in the Mountains" in November. Family week is devoted to classic summer recreations, with the Unitarian theme largely limited to evening campfire discussions of broad ethical themes. Accommodation is in cabins; meals, according to staff, are "honest-to-goodness homemade--i.e., bread done from scratch;" all inclusive weekly charges average $300 per adult for family weeks, much less for children (although there is a complicated price structure, aimed at allowing people of all economic backgrounds to attend). Contact De Benneville Pines, 41750 West Jenks Lake Road, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305 (phone or fax 909/794-1252, e-mail or online at Ferry Beach Center, on the coast of Maine: For its summer-long, ten-week program of adult activities, open to all without question, Ferry Beach makes use of 30 woodland acres on Saco Bay and adjoining sand dunes and pine groves, with access to bike paths and walking trails in a state park. Though participants are free to romp and relax, they can also attend weekend and week-long conferences from the end of June through the Labor Day weekend. Conference themes for the 2004 season: a four-day "Kayaking for beginners and intermediate paddlers" ($265) and a three-day "Spirit of West Africa: Drumming and Dance" ($300). Expect to pay about $550 per adult for a week's room, board, registration, and activities, slightly less for children, much less for those occupying tented campsites. Contact Ferry Beach Park Association, 5 Morris Ave., Saco, ME 04072 (phone 207/282-4489 or, for reservations 207/284-8612, fax 207/283-4465, e-mail or online at Rowe Camp, in the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts: A Unitarian children's camp for much of the summer, Rowe largely replaces the youngsters with adults during three warm-weather periods: for one week in June ("Men's Wisdom Council"), and the last two weeks of August ("Kindred Spirits" and "Women's Circles"); the third is a consciousness-raising program for females only, while the second attempts to free all participants--singles, couples, families--"from whatever confines their spirits." In all three, daily workshops deal with growth in the physical, emotional, spiritual, and political realms; and all is combined with swimming, dancing, canoeing, silk-screening, and picnics--a joyful, dynamic, but intensely spiritual atmosphere. Scattered wooden cabins and main lodges resemble the camps of your own youth. The program cost for a week ranges from $420 to $495 based on your family's yearly income (the more you make, the more you pay). If you're willing to work during your stay (helping with meals, changing sheets, carpentry), you can barter for a lower fee, and there are group discounts offered too. Contact Rowe Camp, Kings Highway Road, Box 273, Rowe, MA 01367 (phone 413/339-4954 fax 413/339-5728, e-mail or online at The classic "summer camp" for adults: Amuuse Camps for Singles. Also Unitarian-sponsored, Amuuse takes place over series of weeks from mid-June to mid-August at three campsites in the upper Midwest (in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio). Mornings are devoted to classes led by "experienced camper facilitators"-- in 2003, these included lessons in massage, dream interpretation, and improvisational comedy. Afternoons are left free for more traditional camp activities-- swimming, volleyball, golf, ping pong, hiking and crafts. On most evenings, participants meet to watch the sunset, after which the group disperses to a wide variety of scheduled social events-- coffeehouses, theme parties and dances, campfires and sing-a-longs. The fee is $450/person per week, inclusive of room, all meals, snacks and most activities. And get ready for "kitchen duty"-- all participants are expected to pitch in with chores-cooking, cleaning and organizing events. Contact Amuuse Camps for Singles, AMUUSE c/o Sharon Spinler, 336 Birchwood Court, Vernon Hills, IL 60061(phone 847/816-3356, e-mail Also online at YMCA camps On the slopes of Mount Davis (the highest peak in Pennsylvania), 90 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, the Deer Valley YMCA Camp has opened its doors each summer since 1957 to singles, couples, and families from June through August for its popular "Family Camp." Aquatic activities, such as sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, take center stage on the 125-acre Deer Valley Lake. Hiking and biking trails wind through the other 600 acres amidst tall pines and maples (FYI- it's the "Maple Capital of Pennsylvania"). Other available pastimes at this lakeside haven run the gamut from horse-back-riding (for an extra fee) to bacci ball to arts and crafts. A morning daycamp is scheduled for children only with family activities throughout the afternoon; nightly programs like karaoke and murder mysteries are adults-only. Accommodations consist of 36 heated, two-bedroom cabins with private baths (be forewarned: cold water only and no showers) and eight private rooms (but no baths) in the "Lakeview Lodge" for about $1,500 per family of four. Communal shower and bathhouses supplement the rustic amenities. Single adults and couples can arrange to share a cabin or vie for one of the few dorm-style rooms. There are also tent sites available for $20/night. Meals, served family-style, are all included in the room cost. In addition to the "Family Camp," Deer Valley sets aside a week in June and another in October for "Women's Week," a women-only retreat focused on gender issues, self-improvement, and fitness. Contact the Deer Valley Camp Office in September to reserve a space for the following summer. For more information or to make reservations, write Deer Valley YMCA Camp, 254 Deer Valley Drive, Fort Hill, PA 15540, call 800/YMCA-FUN (962-2386), or e-mail View their web site at The YMCA Camp Nawakwa (run by the Metropolitan Chicago YMCA), just 15 miles west of Minocqua, Wisconsin, has also offered an annual "family camp" from Memorial Day to Labor Day for singles, couples, and kid-toting parents, since the 1930s. On 170 acres of thick pine and birch forest, the camp is located on a Native American Reservation, nestled between two crystal-clear lakes, Big Crooked and Little Sugarbush (the camp staff claims you can spot bottom, 15 feet down). Opt for all, some, or none of the camp-organized activities, which range from running and rowing in the camp's triathlon, to crooning a tune in "songfest," to visiting a nearby Native American museum. Thirty-three "housekeeping" cabins, all heated and with kitchen facilities, spot the lakeshore, and sleep from four to six people. About a third are "full facility," with private baths; the others are more rustic (and, consequently, cost less), with only hot and cold-water sinks, but fully equipped bathhouses are nearby. Campers pay by the cabin, from $425 to $625 per family of four (rates depend on type of cabin and time). No meals are provided, but you can cook your own in any of the cabins and there's a town just 10 minutes away. The low rates of this back-to-nature camp make it a hot ticket-- reserve a cabin six months in advance just to be safe. For more information or to make reservations, contact YMCA Family Camp Nawakwa, 13400 Camp Nawakwa Lane, Lac-du-Flambeau, WI 54538 (in summer, phone 715/588-7422, or e-mail View the camp's Web site at The St. Paul YMCA chapter hosts another "family camp," Camp du Nord (once again, open to all), this one on the shores of Burntside Lake in Ely, Minnesota. Amidst a "wilderness" setting of wooded grounds, the wide-ranging activities are all optional. Storytelling, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, and fishing are among your choices. Du Nord is divided into three camp "villages," that are spread out along a mile of the lakefront property. Pitching your own tent is the cheapest way to go: from only $395/week for the site. If you'd prefer a something a little less rustic, there are 23 "housekeeping" cabins to choose from, and like Camp Nawakwa, you pay per cabin, not per person. Prices start at $800/week for a two-person bungalow without a bathroom and they go up from there, depending on occupancy and amenities (the most expensive sleeps 16 for $2,140/week). If you opt for meals, served buffet-style in the communal dining room, you'll tack on between $70 and $135 extra, depending on the meal plan you choose. But all cabins are equipped with kitchens and the nearest supermarket's only a half-hour away. If these prices don't fit you budget, ask about the sliding scale pricing option, which lets you pay 10 to 20% less, no questions asked. All rates are flexible, structured to allow poorer campers and families to vacation here. The registration process for this camp is a little complicated (it's a lottery system), so make sure you contact the office before December (when the drawing takes place) for the following summer. If you're too late for that deadline, check anyway for cancellations. For more information or to make reservations contact Camp du Nord, 3606 North Arm Road, Ely, Minnesota 55731, call Shirley at the Camp Office 651/645-2136 or the Wilderness Office 218/365-3681, or e-mail View its web site at Sports and adventure camps From the shores of Maine to the Delaware Water Gap, the 128-year old Appalachian Mountain Club organizes a vast spectrum of outdoor camping programs and workshops throughout the year. Founded on principles of eco-conscious camping, the club's "leave no trace" mantra prevails in all its outings. Many of the trips are based in the White Mountains and Mt. Cardigan of New Hampshire, the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, the Catskills in New York, and a myriad of rivers and basins throughout the Northeast. They cover pretty much all the outdoor basics (hiking, canoeing, biking, etc) and range from two-day hut-based workshops to 10-day guided hikes through rough mountain terrain. Programs offered in recent years include "Women of the woods," "The Taste of Tundra," "Outdoor Cooking and Baking," "Llama Trekking," "Tracking: The Art of Seeing," "Kayaking Coastal Maine," "Beginner Fly Fishing," and "Hiking and Yoga." Professional wilderness experts guide each trip. Outings cost from $72 day-trips to over $1,000 for longer adventures, but most weigh in under $100/day (some much less). The fee covers all lodging costs (the club provides camping gear and even some sleeping bags are available at no extra cost), instruction, guides and most meals. Because AMC is a non-profit organization, each club trip is run on a "break-even" basis, meaning the fee you pay just covers the administrative costs and your personal expenses. Appalachian Mountain Club members receive a 10% discount on all trips, so it's worth your while to sign up. Hundreds of trips are offered, so be sure to check out their web site or call for a catalogue for the whole enchilada. For more information, contact the Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy Street, Boston, MA 02108 (phone 617/523-0636, e-mail Smith College Adult Sports and Fitness Camp, for both men and women, is a highly active week of classroom instruction in fitness, nutrition, and stress management, alternating with active participation in yoga, cycling, hiking, swimming, climbing, tai-chi, canoeing, badminton, squash, tennis, and other forms of aerobics. The college's facilities for all this are among the best in the nation. One session for 2004 is scheduled from June 12 to 18. Sessions average 30 to 40 participants. A single fee of $1,125 (there is a discount if you register early) per person covers sports, instruction, and room and board (single or double rooms) from dinner Sunday through breakfast the following Friday. Contact Michelle Finley, Adult Sports and Fitness Camp, Scott Gymnasium, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063 (phone 413/585-3971, e-mail Or view the Web site at A vegetarian camp Between 150 and 160 campers fill the summertime retreat during its two-week run in August. Adults pay $450/week, teens $360, and kids, between $80 and $315 (book after the end of March and you can add $10 to these prices). To encourage diversity (one of the camp's founding principles) Camp Common Ground offers scholarships to about 35% of its attending families. Bunkbeds in 12 "rustic-style" cabins and 10 platform-tents house most of the campers; the rest bring their own tents. If you want a solid sleeping structure, be sure to make reservations early. Private cabins cost an additional $120 and shared cabins cost an additional $15 per bed. Very few of these accommodations come with private baths, so for the others, there are three communal bathhouses (men's, women's, and coed). Priority is given to returning families (about 60%) and the rest of the slots are filled on a first come-first served basis. For more information or to make reservations, contact Camp Common Ground, 159 Lost Road, St. George, VT 05495, phone 800/430-COOP (2667) or 802/482-3670, or e-mail View the Web site or register online at A political summer camp For information and applications, contact World Fellowship Center, c/o Andrew Davis & Andrea Walsh, P.O. Box 2280, Conway, NH 03818-2280 (phone 603/447-2280, fax 603/447-1820). You can also e-mail or go online to