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Santa Barbara touting connections to ‘It’s Complicated’ and other films

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — If you liked the backdrop for “It’s Complicated,” the new comedy about love and divorce starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, you might enjoy a visit to Santa Barbara, where parts of the movie were set.

Santa Barbara’s Conference and Visitors Bureau has set up a dedicated Web site for fans of the film at

In addition to scenes filmed in residential areas of Montecito, about 5 miles from Santa Barbara, other scenes were shot in front of downtown landmarks including the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and historic El Paseo, California’s first shopping center, which dates to the 1920s.

Santa Barbara is also celebrating a century of filmmaking this year. An early silent movie studio called the Flying A opened there in 1910, and many movies have shot scenes in the area over the decades, from Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (1923) to “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) to “Sideways” (2004). For detailed information on local movie sites and history, visit

In addition, the city hosts the 25th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival Feb. 4-14, when Oscar contenders and other folks from the industry will gather for 10 days of screenings, tributes, panel discussions and parties. A special historic series featuring three shorts filmed in 1910 will be screened in honor of the city’s 100 years of movie-making. Tickets and passes are available from


Montreal’s midwinter party: High Lights Festival, Feb. 18-28

MONTREAL (AP) — Canada’s High Lights festival is a midwinter party that offers a way to experience four places in one.

The festival showcases a country, a city, and a region, while taking place in Montreal.

The event includes arts, wine-tasting, food and light shows, with activities for families too.

The featured country this year is Portugal and the featured city is New Orleans, while the Eastern Townships of southeastern Quebec — including Sherbrooke, Granby, Magog and Cowansville — comprise the highlighted region.

An all-night event, Nuit Blanche, will include more than 170 mostly free activities on the evening of Feb. 27, and on Feb. 20, a massive free outdoor multimedia spectacle will combine circus arts, pyrotechnics, acrobatics, music and projections.

The Sun Life Financial Performing Arts will showcase classical and contemporary music orchestras, theater and dance companies and Montreal museums. A new “Caliente” series of shows will offer Latin music, and Misia, a star of the Portuguese fado genre, will do two shows on Feb. 18 and 19. Another fado star, Ana Moura, will perform Feb. 27.

The SAQ Wine and Dine Experience will include 280 gourmet food and wine events, including cocktail parties, themed brunches, culinary tours, wine presentations and workshops. Twenty-one chefs from Portugal will take part, while chefs from New Orleans will include Michael Farrell from Le Meritage, Brian Landry from Galatoire’s, Donald Link from Cochon, Duke Locicero from Cafe Giovanni, Ian Schnoebelen from Iris, and Thomas Wolfe from Wolfe’s in the Warehouse.

Details at 888-477-9955 or


New Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opens in Charlotte, NC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has opened in Charlotte.

The museum describes itself as the only museum dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art in the southeastern United States.

The museum is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland who inherited and assembled a collection of more than 1,400 works.

The collection includes work by Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Jean Tinguely, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Le Corbusier, Sol LeWitt, Edgar Degas, Nicolas de Stael, Barbara Hepworth and Picasso.

Some artists in the collection were friends of the late Hans and Bessie Bechtler, who started the collection in the 1940s, and their son Andreas.

The museum building is a square terra cotta tile-covered box with a cantilevered fourth-floor gallery hanging over a plaza with a column in the middle. An interior atrium that creates a light-filled space inside.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern, which opened Jan. 2, is one of several cultural facilities on Charlotte’s South Tryon Street corridor, including the Knight Theater, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, and the Mint Museum Uptown (opening fall 2010).

The Bechtler is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors, college students and educators; $4 for youth (11 to 14) and free for children (up to 10). For museum details visit


New Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Veracruz

VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) — A Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium has opened in the Plaza Acuario in Veracruz.

The 10,000-square-foot museum is an interactive exhibit of weird wonders, including an 8-foot-tall horse made from chrome car bumpers, shrunken heads, matchstick art and freak animals.

Mexico also has Ripley’s attractions in Mexico City and Guadalajara. The Veracruz facility is located next to an aquarium and wax museum.

Ripley’s has a total of 30 Believe It or Not! museums in 12 countries. The 31st location is set to open in late January in Surfers Paradise, Australia.


Aspen Facebook group bashes reality show

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — It’s reality TV in Colorado’s most luxurious ski resort — but not everyone in Aspen is happy about a VH-1 reality show set in their town, according to the Denver Post.

VH-1’s “Secrets of Aspen” show stars characters living, partying and shopping in the ritzy mountain town. The first episode aired Jan. 3.

Some Aspen residents are disheartened by the show, saying it doesn’t represent the Aspen they call home.

A Facebook page for residents who don’t like the show has more than 2,000 members.

Kelly Lussan of Aspen created the Facebook group, called “Aspen Against VH1’s ‘Secrets of Aspen.'” She said she “puked a little” when she saw the trailer for the show.


Charleston, SC, offering deals for NC and GA ‘neighbors’

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — One South Carolina city is starting off the new year with some deals for its neighbors.

Running through the end of March, a number of Charleston hotels and attractions are offering special deals to folks from North Carolina and Georgia as well as South Carolina.

The program is called “Good Neighbors, Great Getaways.”

The specials are available to those who live in the three states and can show proof of residency.

Details at


Survey suggests New Yorkers a tad ignorant about hometown tourism

NEW YORK (AP) — Forty-one percent of New Yorkers incorrectly think that Top of the Rock is on top of the Empire State building, and only 28 percent know that the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History are on opposite sides of Central Park, according to a survey.

Fifty-eight percent of those who got the museum geography question wrong identified themselves as lifelong New Yorkers. The Metropolitan is on the east side of Central Park, at 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue, and the Natural History museum is on the west side, at 79th Street and Central Park West.

Only 16 percent of those surveyed knew the correct location of Top of the Rock, in the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, which is also home to NBC.

The location of the New York Transit Museum is better-known: 44 percent said correctly that it is in Brooklyn.

But only 18 percent of New Yorkers knew that the seven points on the Statue of Liberty’s crown represent the Seven Seas and Seven Continents.

Asked to pick two attractions from a list of 13 as the top spots they’d recommend to out-of-towners, 39 percent said they’d send visitors to the Statue of Liberty, 24 percent said the Empire State Building, 19 percent said the American Museum of Natural History. The Bronx Zoo and Rockefeller Center were each chosen by 18 percent.

The findings were from New York Pass or Fail Survey, a poll of New Yorkers about their hometown and its attractions.

The poll was sponsored by The New York Pass, an attraction discount card.

The survey was conducted by telephone in December among 300 adult residents of New York City, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.


Place a bet on the ice breaking in Alaska’s Tanana river

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaskans have been betting on when the ice on the Tanana River in the town of Nenana will break each spring since 1917, placing their wagers in red cans in grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers around the state.

The bets, at $2.50 apiece, can be placed between Feb. 1 and April 5. The 2009 total reached $283,723.

But non-residents can take part in the contest too, by mailing in their bets with a check or money order. For details and contact information, visit the Web site at

The Web site also includes detailed data from winning dates in past years for out-of-towners who care to study up. Your guess must include the hour and minute (Alaska time) of the ice break. Most years, the ice has broken in late April or early to mid-May.

A trip-wired tripod planted 2 feet into the ice officially records the time of the ice break. When the ice cracks, a wire connecting the tripod to a clock is triggered, stopping the clock.

Or if you prefer to place your bet in person and see some of that ice before it disappears with the coming of spring, visit Nenana March 6-8 for its Tripod Days festival. The event features a basketball tournament, Texas Hold ‘Em poker championships, a biscuit-and-gravy breakfast, donut eating contest and hula hoop contest.

While most visitors come to Alaska in the summer, winter offers unique experiences like a chance to see the Northern Lights, dog-sledding and snowmobiling, and Fairbanks’ annual World Ice Art Championships, held this year Feb. 20-March 28.

The state also hosts a variety of wacky events like Tripod Days as winter gives way to spring. The events include:

—The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival, which started 75 years ago as a way to welcome miners and trappers to town, featuring a fur auction, blanket toss, snowshoe-softball tournament, outhouse races, ice bowling, the Miners and Trappers Ball and the sprint-distance Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race, Feb. 26-March 7,

—The Cordova Iceworm Festival, in its 50th year, with an annual parade, survival suit races, a variety show and the coronation of Miss Iceworm, food fair and arts and crafts show, Feb. 5-7,

—Wrangell’s Tent City Festival, an annual celebration of the Gold Rush era in Alaska’s Inside Passage, with contests, Tent City theatrical performances, a fashion show, and dress ball, Feb. 5-7,

—Fairbanks’ Chatanika Days with outhouse races, a snowmobile tug-of-war, human bowling on ice, a bucksaw contest, a long-john contest, snowshoe races and live music, March 27-28,

For more winter events and festivals and to plan a trip to Alaska, go to


Favorite ski trails in New England

DUBLIN, N.H. (AP) — Yankee magazine invited Skiing magazine’s Eastern editor Ben Hewitt to list his favorite groomed trails in New England. Featured in Yankee magazine’s January-February issue, they are:

—Cannon Mountain’s Vista Way, in Franconia, N.H., on Bode Miller’s hometown hill.

—Stowe Mountain Resort’s Perry Merrill trail, in Stowe, Vt., wide but curvy, accessed by gondola.

—Tote Road, at Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, 3.5 miles of arcing turns.

—Okemo Mountain’s steep and curvaceous Tuckered Out trail, in Ludlow, Vt.

—Excalibur at Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine, described as taking “full advantage of Jordan Bowl’s 1,500 vertical feet.”


Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show, Feb. 18-21

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s Spring Flower & Garden Show is scheduled to take place Feb. 18-21 at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Thirty gardens created for the show will reflect its “Timeless Gardens” theme, looking at styles and motifs from the Roaring ’20s through the flower-power ’60s.

Over 150 vendors will also be on hand to sell garden tools, art works, flowers, seeds, jewelry and more.

Various hotels are offering deals for the show, including the Marriott Providence Downtown, with free parking, shuttle service and rates starting at $89; the Providence Biltmore with rates beginning at $119; Westin Providence with rates from $129; Hilton Providence with rates from $99; Hotel Providence with rates from $129; Radisson Hotel Providence Harbor with rates starting at $89; and Ramada Providence with rates beginning at $84.

Local restaurants are also featuring special menus at discounted rates including Geppetto’s Pizzeria, Walter’s Ristorante d’Italia and Local 121.

The show, which also offers lectures and seminars, describes itself as the largest flower show in New England with more than 30,000 attendees. Admission is free for children 6 and under. Adult tickets are $15 in advance or $17 at the door.

Details at