The Washington Post
Sunday, September 3, 2000
Section: Travel
Edition: Final
Page: E02

WAY TO GO

TAMPA 101

You didn't read it here first: The Washington Redskins, whose season begins today, are heading to Super Bowl XXXV. So what are you waiting for? For the true believers (or the hopelessly brainwashed), here's a primer on getting to the big game, to be held Jan. 28 at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

GETTING THERE: United, Southwest and US Airways fly nonstop from the Washington area to Tampa. Departing Friday, Jan. 26, and returning Monday, Jan. 29, round-trip fares are running about $225 and up. Or paint the family Bronco crimson and gold and hit the highways, where you'll spend about 20 hours on the road.

TICKETS: Prepare your bank account for a big hit. Other than ticket brokers, the only way to get into the game, even four months before kickoff, is to buy a pricey package deal. Deals range from a four-night $2,250 package (based on double occupancy) from Benchwarmer Sports (800-322-6913, www.bench warmersports.com) to a four-night deluxe deal in a fancy hotel for $5,245 from Golden International (800-811-0332, www.goldensports.com). Most packages include tickets, accommodations, breakfasts, a rental car and passes to Tampa or Orlando amusement parks; air fare is extra.

WHERE TO STAY: A Fan Housing Bureau, which will try to match room-seekers' criteria (price, location) with accommodations, should be open by the end of September. For now, monitor www.superbowlxxxv.org for updates. Note: Many hotels will require a three- or four-day minimum stay and a full, nonrefundable payment at booking.

We spot-checked some downtown hotels and found that many are sold out, thanks to special contracts with the NFL. Some hotels, such as the Econo Lodge Midtown (813-254-3005), may have rooms available startingmid-October, once they've fulfilled contract obligations, but it may be risky to wait until then to find out. Don't panic: Thousands of hotel rooms are available in nearby cities, including Clearwater, St. Petersburg and even Orlando. The Comfort Inn Executive Center in Clearwater (727-573-1171), 25 minutes away from the stadium, has doubles for $129, with a three-night minimum. The Ramada Bayside Inn and Resort in Apollo Beach (813-641-2700; 30 minutes' drive) has rooms from $100, four-night minimum. Contact the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Association (800-44-TAMPA, www.thcva.com) for listings.

ALL WORK, NO PLAY: Event organizers need 2,000 volunteers, 18 years or older, for Super Bowl activities. You won't get to see the game itself from inside the stadium, but you will be part of the week-longaction. Applications are available at www.superbowlxxxv.org, or by sending a written request to Tampa Bay Super Bowl XXXV Task Force, Volunteer Opportunities, P.O. Box 172007, Tampa, Fla. 33672.

WHAT IF . . . the Redskins don't make it to the Super Bowl? If the unthinkable happens, dozens of events-- football-oriented and otherwise--are planned around town. And, heck, you'll still be in a sun-soaked urban resort while the rest of us are scraping rock salt off the car.

The largest official event is the NFL Experience, an interactive football theme park open Jan. 20-21 and Jan. 25-28 near the stadium. Tampa's Busch Gardens (3000 East Busch Blvd., 813-987-5082) is 335 acres of thrill-seeking fun. The Salvador Dali Museum (1000 Third St. South, St. Petersburg, 727-823-3767) is a trippy experience in and of itself. If you're seeking even more sensory overload, Orlando, with its UniversalDisneySeaWorld triumvirate, is just 70 miles away.

For guides to the region, contact Visit Florida, 888-7-FLA-USA, www.flausa.com.

INFORMATION: Tampa Bay Super Bowl XXXV Task Force, 813-318-0014, www.superbowlxxxv.org. The NFL's official site is www.superbowl.com.

--Elissa Leibowitz

WHAT'S THE DEAL

South by Southwest

* With Saga Holidays, mature travelers can explore the northern coast of Venezuela--and pick up a few dance moves--for just a tad more than a thousand dollars. The $1,099 deal includes: round-trip air from Dulles or Reagan National to Caracas via Miami (typical fare starts at $700); seven nights at the four-star Cumanagoto Hotel in Cumana; all breakfasts and dinners; tour of the historic town; Spanish language and dance lessons; and golf, scuba instruction and other sporting activities. Depart Nov. 11 or 25; book 30 days in advance. Travelers must be at least 50 years old, though the second member of the pair can be a youthful 40-plus. 800-921-9291, www.sagaholidays.com.

* Future Vacations is offering four days in Aruba during the holiday season for less than typical winter fares. The $577 deal includes: round-trip air from Reagan National to Aruba (usual fares start at $637); three nights of deluxe accommodations at the Aruba Sonesta Suites at Seaport Village (usually $212 a night); and all taxes. Book by Sept. 7; travel Mondays and Tuesdays, Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. The hotel is close to shopping in nearby downtown Oranjestad, and has a 40-acre private island for guests. 800-456-2323.

--Andrea Sachs

TRAV CHAT

And Another Thing . . .

Trends, threads and follow-ups from last week's online forum with the Travel section Flight Crew:

* The clicksters, cyberspace's ultimate Saint Bernards, came to the rescue of a Laurel grad- student couple trying to find a Thanksgiving weekend retreat within a four-hour drive--and receptive to their "two not medium dogs." Not to fear: We were inundated with lodging suggestions, book recommendations and a Web site--www. travelpets.com--that turned a plea for help into a wags-to-riches tale.

* Margarita Island, Venezuela: Tropical paradise or hellhole? The Wired Ones had mixed feelings on the place, though the term "bleak" was bandied about. Info: 202-342-2214, www.embavenez-us.org.

* If you're driving north but dreading that asphalt nightmare around New York City, check out the chat transcript for suggestions on how to avoid it. (You'll also discover how staff writer Gary Lee--who doesn't drive--manages to traverse the globe.)

* Can "morning people" have a good time in nightlife-rich New Orleans? Clicksters suggested restaurants and events that a morning person can enjoy in the Big Easy, but "Wash, DC" may have had the simplest solution: Take a nap.

Reminder: No chat tomorrow, in honor of Labor Day, but join us Sept.11 for another go-round.

Want to join us online? For details on how to participate, or to read transcripts of past chats, see the listing at right.

RIGHT CLICK

To shop from some of the world's best museum gift shops: www.museumshop.com

Whether you're searching for a gift or lamenting a purchase you didn't make on a previous visit, MuseumShop.com has thousands of objects for sale from some of the world's leading museums, including New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Prado and the Louvre. The site offers a fascinating assortment of art and decorative objects, from a Marie Antoinette brooch from Versailles to a Dead Sea Scrolls replica from the Israel Museum. You can shop by category (such as books, prints or children's) or museum--or use the gift finder, a feature that takes selected data (gender, age, price range and occasion) and returns a list of recommended merchandise. Got an existing museum membership discount? The site will accept it, but you must register with MuseumShop first (you'll receive $5 off your first purchase over $25 when you do).

--Ben Abramson



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