Q We are thinking about New York City for Thanksgiving. Are there any interesting restaurants that will be serving on Thanksgiving Day?
A Many restaurants shut down on Thanksgiving, but we're talking about New York, so more than a handful will remain open to serve special Thanksgiving menus. Choices include:
* Caffe Bondi (212-691-8136, www.bondi-ny.com) on West 20th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, offers an "If the Pilgrims Had Come From Sicily" menu, with seatings at 1, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Adults $39, children under 12 $20.
* The Plaza Hotel (212-546-5200, www.fairmont.com), on Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, offers two choices: a three-course dinner in the Oak Room served from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for $75 a person, or a brunch buffet at the Palm Court for $85 a person from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and $110 per person from noon to 6 p.m.
* Chelsea Bistro (212-727-2026), on West 23rd Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, offers a traditional Thanksgiving menu with a couple of French dishes, with two-hour-long seatings between noon and 9:30 p.m. Adults $45, children under 10 $22.50.
* Gus' Place (212-645-8511), a Greek restaurant at 149 Waverly Pl. in the Village, offers several different prix-fixe menus, including traditional, fish and vegetarian options. Price is usually about $38 per person.
My husband and I are traveling to Sydney next year and are thinking of going to Cairns to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. Is there a better place for snorkeling? Are there any reasonable hotels in Cairns? Is it better to fly or drive there from Sydney?
The Great Barrier Reef is the premier snorkeling place in Australia, and Cairns is the only major city with easy access to the reef. But it's a long haul from Sydney: There are more than 1,800 miles between the two, the equivalent of driving from D.C. to New Mexico. So unless you've got a couple of weeks to burn, you'll want to fly. A round-trip flight between Sydney and Cairns runs about $320. Cairns has many reasonably priced hotels, but the town is not right on the beach.
Instead of going as far north as Cairns, another option is to fly from Sydney to the Whitsunday Islands area. This group of 74 islands features great snorkeling and nice resorts. Brampton Island Resort (800-225-9849, www.poresorts.com), for example, is a boat ride from the mainland town of MacKay, which has a domestic airport and offers rooms starting at about $118 per person per night, including all meals and most activities. If you want to save money, stay on the mainland at Airlie Beach and make day trips to the islands. Fantasea Cruises (fax 011-61-7-4946-5520, www.fantasea.com.au) offers snorkeling and diving trips from Shute Harbour near Airlie Beach. Info: Australian Tourist Commission, 800-333-4305, www.australia.com.
I would love to visit Venice for the Biennale, the art exhibit held in odd years. When is it in 2003? Are tickets necessary? Are there package tours?
Mary Jane Gill
La Biennale di Venezia is a series of exhibitions and performances in several disciplines, including visual arts, dance, theater, music, cinema and architecture. Dance, theater, music and cinema events were held earlier this year, while the architecture exhibition, titled "Next -- The Future of World Architecture," continues through Nov. 3. The exhibit, held at the Arsenale hall, contains more than 110 projects; admission is about $15.
You are referring, however, to the organization's visual arts exhibit, which is held in odd-numbered years. The 50th International Exhibition of Art will open June 15, 2003, and continue through October. Curator for the show is Francesco Bonami of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Although details have not yet been set, more than 60 countries are expected to participate. The event will be centered on the Arsenale, but exhibits will also take place at the Corderie, a 15th-century structure near the Arsenale, and in the Castello Gardens. Admission will cost about $15.
Several universities and tour operators offer packages to the Biennale, including the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (215-717-6098, www.uarts.edu/cs/travel_ua.html) and Terry Tours Art Adventures (415-380-8871, www.terrytours.com). But it wouldn't be difficult to go it alone. Information: fax 011-39-41-523-6374, www.labiennale.org.
Several readers have their own picks for preferred tour operators to the Canadian Rockies (Travel Q&A, Sept. 22). Jim Collins of Rockville said the company that runs the Rocky Mountaineer train also offers package tours. "My wife and I went on a fabulous bus/train tour of the Canadian Rockies, including Banff and Lake Louise," Collins said. A nine-day package starts at $1,599 per person double. Contact Rocky Mountaineer Railtours, 800-665-7245, www.rockymountaineer.com.
"Another excellent source for trips to Banff/Lake Louise is Uncommon Journeys (800-323-5893, www.uncommonjourneys.com)," said Shirley Chickering of Ellicott City. A nine-day tour costs $1,995 per person double.
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost .com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).