A trip to Japan will offer a bird's-eye view of the country on an adventure organized by the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team. The tour revolves around the Iwadeyama Balloon Festival Nov. 1 to 7 at Sendai in northern Honshu. Participants can either join in-flight preparations or just go along on the daily rides. Sightseeing on the ground is also scheduled.
Cost: $3,990 per person, double occupancy, including lodging, sightseeing and daily breakfast and dinner. Air fare to Japan is extra.
Contact: U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team, telephone (800) 763-5987 or (610) 469-0782.
New Mexico: Ballooning
The Kodak International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is the highlight of "De Colores," a tour to New Mexico Oct. 6 to 11. Participants will attend the morning mass ascension in Albuquerque, a kaleidoscope of 800 colorful balloons, and an evening balloon show, with the opportunity to take a sunrise balloon ride. The Pyramid Hotel offers a window view of the fiesta.
The University of New Mexico's Maxwell Museum of Anthropology has been reserved for a dinner at which guests will be serenaded by a classical guitarist.
A cooking class hosted by professional chef Jane Butel, a visit to the Acoma Pueblo and a ride on the Sandia Tramway are also scheduled. A tour of Santa Fe will be followed by a traditional meal at a private home at the Nambe pueblo and a pottery demonstration at the Santa Clara pueblo.
Two vineyards, two picturesque mission churches, Puye Cliffs, Los Alamos and an evening with a storyteller will complete the package.
Cost: $800 per person, double occupancy, including land transportation, lodging (three nights in Albuquerque, two nights in Santa Fe), most meals and gratuities for guides. The tour does not include air fare to and from Albuquerque or the sunrise hot air balloon ride.
Contact: Christy Rojas, Aventura Artistica, 151 Sherry Lane, Del Mar, CA 92014; tel. (800) 808-7352.
California: Gold Country
Discover California gold history on a trip through the San Joaquin Valley and Gold Country. Guests will visit Bakersfield to see the Buck Owens Crystal Palace and the Kern County Museum and Pioneer Village. In Gold Country they will see the Railtown 1897 State Historical Park and the Columbia State Historical Park. Then it's off to Mammoth Lakes, Sonora and Lake Tahoe. The tour runs Sept. 18 to 24.
Cost: $580 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip bus transportation from Los Angeles, hotels, most meals and entrance fees.
Contact: Main Street Tours, 1751 W. Torrance Blvd., Suite N, Torrance, CA 90501; tel. (800) 300- 6246.
UCLA Extension is offering "Civilizations of Ancient Mexico," a 12-day archeological travel study tour that covers the pre-Columbian civilizations of central Mexico, Dec. 15 to 26.
Long before the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, central Mexico was home to civilizations that built metropolises and extensive ceremonial centers, the remains of which are located in the region's highland valleys. Led by Karl Taube, a professor of Mesoamerican art and religion, the tour includes visits to such ancient cities and sites as Teotihuacan, El Tajin, Filo-Bobos, Jalapa, Olmec and Totonac, Puebla, Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala, Chalcatzingo, Xochicalco and Tepoztlan.
Cost: $2,995 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, accommodations and meals. Not included: UCLA Extension enrollment fee of $260.
Contact: UCLA Extension Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, 10995 Le Conte Ave., Ste. 711, Los Angeles, CA 90024; tel. (310) 825-2272.
New York: Hudson River
The Hudson River Valley is the focus of four fall foliage walking tours offered by High Land Flings Footloose Holidays beginning Oct. 3. The two- to five-day tours trek landscapes painted by renowned artists and the estates of politicians and socialites such as the Vanderbilts, Livingstons and Roosevelts. One tour, "Autumn Grandscapes," which runs Oct. 3 to 8, also features walks in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.
Led by guides versed in the history, folklore, flora and fauna of the region, the walks offer a combination of outdoor activity and culture.
"Peak Fall Foliage Holiday Weekend," Oct. 8 to 11, features walks in the Catskills Forest Preserve.
"The Gunks in Gold," Oct. 15 to 17, offers walks and hikes in the sparkling quartzite landscape of the Shawangunk Mountains.
"The Hudson Valley's Gilded Age," Oct. 17 to 22, features river walks on the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ogden Mills and Vanderbilt estates.
Cost: from $425 to $1,050 per person, double occupancy, including lodging in historic inns and B&Bs; most meals; in-tour transport; pickup and drop-off service at designated airports, train and bus terminals; all taxes and gratuities. Air fare to New York is extra.
Contact: High Land Flings Footloose Holidays; telephone (800) 453-6665.
Texas: Big Bend