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Florida, Hawaii have best U.S. beaches

AMERICA'S BEST BEACHES. If you think life's a beach, this book's for you. Stephen P. Leatherman, considered the nation's foremost expert on beaches, has compiled his knowledge into one handy compendium called "America's Best Beaches," published by University Press of Florida and available for $17.95. Call 1-800-226-3822 or visit the Web at www.topbeaches.com.Leatherman, a beach ecologist who has visited virtually every patch of seaside sand in the United States, has ranked the country's beaches according to 50 criteria. His book shows the locations and describes in detail, region by region, the best swimming beaches, the best walking beaches, the best wilderness beaches, the best city beaches, the best sports beaches, the best surfing beaches, and best overall beaches and the best novelty beaches.

His picks for the country's top overall beaches in past years include: Kapalua Bay Beach, Hawaii; Bahia Hond State Recreation Area, Florida; Hapuna, Hawaii; Grayton Beach State Recreation Area, Florida; St. Andress State Recreation Area, Florida; Lanikai Beach, Hawaii; Hulopoe, Hawaii; and Kailua Beach Park, Hawaii.

BIBLE STORIES RE-ENACTED. Next year, to celebrate the millennium, biblical events will be theatrically re-enacted at their actual locations in the Holy Land. The unprecedented project known as Jerusalem 2000 will include an inspiring musical called "Jesus the Galilean" performed on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; "The Last Supper" with Jerusalem as a breathtaking backdrop; "Redeemed," the love story of Ruth portrayed on the wheat fields of Judea; "The Promise," a re-enactment of the Passion Play, which depicts the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; "Tabernacle in the Desert," which portrays the building of the Tabernacle according to the Almighty's instructions. Visitors may participate in the building of the structure and also observe a worship service held during the production. The Jerusalem Millennium Procession will wind through the streets to Mt. Zion. For information about these events and other aspects of travel to Israel, call the Israel Ministry of Tourism InfoCenter at 1-888-77-ISRAEL, or contact Jerusalem 2000 at 1-800-477-2306.

LINCOLN CENTER OUT-OF-DOORS. This free summertime festival will be Aug. 6-29 on the plazas of Lincoln Center and Damrosch Park in midtown Manhattan. Activities for kids include do-it-yourself day of dance, music, puppets and more. Special performances for children include the steel drums of Bakra Bata and Reggie Workman's "Adventures in Sound." Also on the menu is chamber music and performances by gospel, folk, rockabilly, blues and bluegrass artists. For details, call 212-875-5108 or visit the Web at www.lincolncenter.org.

HISTORIC HOTELS. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has added five hotels to the National Trust for Historic Hotels of America, making a grand total of 133. The new inductees are the Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites in Mendocino, Calif.; The Grande Colonial in La Jolla, Calif.; The Inn at Newport Beach, Newport, R.I.; The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Ark.; and the Asticou Inn, Northeast Harbor, Mt. Desert Island, Maine. To qualify, hotels must be at least 50 years old and have made an outstanding effort at historic preservation. Room rates at member hotels range from $65 to $15,000 (no, this is not a typo) per night. Reserve a room at any of the member hotels by calling 1-800-678-8946 or through your travel agent. Purchase a directory of member hotels by sending a $3 check or money order to the National Trust for Historic Hotels of America, 1785 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20036.

SINGAPORE WEB SITE. Travelers who want information on Singapore may find it on the Web at a href="http://www.singapore-usa.com" TARGET="_blank"www.singapore-usa.com. The site includes everything from advice on suitable clothing for the climate to time zone differences. The site has links to other Web sites.

BIKE ARLINGTON. This Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., offers a way for you to bypass the traffic, construction and road rage that can be typical of the area. How? Ride a bike. The city has an 86-mile system of trails and on-street routes that ranks with the best in the country. The 36 miles of off-street trails link up with 50 miles of on-street routes. Bikeway maps are available at area hotels and bicycle rental shops. For information about the map, call the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service at 1-800-677-6267, or visit the Web at www.stayarlington.com.

CACHE VALLEY VISITORS GUIDE. The publication lists tourist attractions, arts and cultural events, outdoor recreation, shopping and restaurants. It's available free by calling 1-435-752-2161 or by mailing a request to Bridgerland Travel Region, 160 N. Main, Logan, UT 84321.

CUSTOMS CHECK. U.S. Customs' regulations can be as confusing as the Tower of Babel. Check out the rules yourself by visiting the Web at www.customs.treas.gov. The United States waives duty to boost foreign industries, but the items can vary from country to country. For example, according to Travel Holiday magazine, cameras made in India are not subject to U.S. duty but cameras from Japan are. Golf balls from Israel are duty-free. So is silver flatware from South America. Diamonds are duty-free if they are loose, not set in rings or pendants. Decorative antiques more than 100 years old are also duty-free, but they must not violate the export rules of the foreign country where they came from.

THE BEST OF THE BEST. According to the writers and editors of the Robb Report, a luxury lifestyle magazine, the best in luxury travel includes:

Hotel: The Peninsula Hong Kong

Boutique Hotel: Hotel Bel-Air, Bel-Air, Calif.

Luxury resort: Bora-Bora, Lagoon Resort, Tahiti

Spas: The Oriental Spa, Bangkok, Thailand

Country Inn: Twin Farms, Barnard, Vt.

Cruise line: Silversea Cruises

Airline first class: British Airways

Executive club lounge: British Airways, Heathrow Airport, London

Golf resort: Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C.