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March 18, 2007|Jane Engle; Mary E. Forgione; Rosemary McClure; Susan Lendroth

Higher education

Get ready for a sky-high class in geology. The new Top of the Sierra Interpretive Center was set to open this weekend at Mammoth Mountain resort in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. The center, at 11,053 feet in elevation, is at the final stop of the Panorama Gondola. Breathless visitors learn about the region's volcanic history through interactive displays, including one that records the seismic strength of their stomps. The less cerebral can thrill to a 180-degree views of peaks, rivers and rock formations through floor-to-ceiling windows. And anyone not queasy from the altitude can grab lunch in a new 70-seat cafe. The ride: adults $20; 13 to 18, $15; 7 to 12 and seniors, $10; 6 and younger and 80 and older, free. The gondola is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. (800) 626-6684,

-- Jane Engle

Ticket to ride

What's in the goodie bag at this 1-year-old's birthday party? The Union Station FlyAway bus service marks its first year with an offer good through March 31: Use public transit (Metrolink train, Metro bus, taxi etc.) to Union Station and get a free ride on the 35- to 45-minute shuttle to LAX. Shuttles leave on the hour and half hour from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., and every hour on the hour from 1 to 5 a.m. Normally, tickets cost $3 one-way, $6 round-trip for adults. Info: (866) 435-9529;

-- Mary E. Forgione

Tag, you're it

Conjure up a little black magic the next time you travel with 'Tude Tags, cheeky luggage tags designed to set your bags apart from the sea of black suitcases that tumble onto airport baggage carousels daily. The sturdy 8-inch tags, embroidered with smart-alecky sayings like "Don't Even," "Wrong One" and "My Clothes -- Won't Fit U" are manufactured by the Palm Desert, Calif., business It's in the Bag and sell for $10 each. Personalized tags -- and luggage straps -- are also available. Embroidery on the tags is done by workers at the Foundation for the Retarded of the Desert. Tags and straps can be purchased at the shop at 72363 Highway 111, Suite C, Palm Desert, CA 92260; by phone, (888) 261-8211 or online at

-- Rosemary McClure

And action!

For indie film lovers here's a chance to make a very low-budget splash starring you. Hollywood TV Star Fantasy Camp, which simulates being a TV show actor, promises five nights in a posh Hollywood hotel, meals with industry insiders, call sheets, wardrobe, hair and makeup, cast chair, scenes with a known actor (no, we don't know who) and an awards ceremony. Price is $12,733 per person, and you walk away with a DVD. Camp starts May 24. Call (310) 529-6337 or go to

-- M.E.F.

Clash of the titans

When the Monitor engaged the Confederate ship Virginia (originally named Merrimack) in 1862 during the Civil War, it marked a turning point in naval warfare: the first battle of two ironclads. This month, on the 145th anniversary of that clash, the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., opened the $30-million USS Monitor Center. The new wing displays artifacts from the wreck site of the Monitor, which sank several months after engaging the Virginia. Visitors can walk on a full-scale replica of the Monitor and experience the battle in a circular theater with swivel seats. Artifacts include the Monitor's propeller, steam engine, gun turret and, the most poignant, its red signal lantern, the last thing the ship's crew saw when the Monitor sank. Info: (757) 596-2222,

-- Susan Lendroth

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