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GET MORE OUT OF SIGHTSEEING BY RIDING A SEGWAY

Q: Can I rent or sightsee on a Segway in the Sarasota, Tampa and Miami areas?

A: The battery-powered Segway Human Transporter is ideal for touring new areas and fragile environments.

"If you are walking, you get tired before you get tired of sightseeing. In a bus, you are in a bus, not outside experiencing the scenery," says Klee Kleber, Segway LLC's vice president of marketing. "With a Segway, you are covering a lot of territory without getting tired but are still integrated with the environment."

Segways can reach up to 12.5 mph, but most tour companies lock the speed at 6 mph, since riding one requires balance and practice. For that reason, Kleber recommends that rather than going solo, you should sign up for a tour, so you don't spend more time fiddling with the controls than looking around.

In Florida, Segway tours are gaining notice in such areas as Sarasota, Naples, Orlando, Amelia Island, Key Biscayne and St. Petersburg. And at Epcot, visitors can tour the theme park by Segway.

Florida Ever-Glides (941-363-9556, www.floridaever-glides.com) offers daily morning and afternoon Segway tours in downtown Sarasota and the city's bayfront at Island Park. Cost is $59 per person for the 2 1/2 -hour outing, including snack and drink. In Miami, Electric Rentals (305-532-6700, www.electricrentals.com) has an hour-long guided ride of South Beach's art-deco district ($39). Whimsical Wheels (727-896-3640) organizes two-hour excursions in St. Petersburg, about 25 miles southwest of Tampa. The $50 tours come in three different experience levels. Reservations for all tours are strongly recommended.

For general info on Segways or rentals, contact the company at 866-4SEGWAY, www.segway.com.

Q: I'm trying to find a Spanish immersion course in Mexico, Central America or South America. I'm looking for a program with solid academics and good prices with touristy things nearby.

A: Reading, speaking and dreaming in Spanish is the best way to learn the language, and fast. "You are going down to a country where the native language is Spanish and all of the sources of information are in that target language -- the newspapers, radio, signs, people," says Dana Garrison, co-founder of the Institute for Spanish Language Studies (ISLS). "After two weeks, you will know more than if you spent a semester at a community college."

Garrison, whose organization specializes in study abroad programs, says the best immersion trips include a home stay with a local family, four to six hours of daily instruction and a faculty that bans English in the classroom.

Most Latin American countries have Spanish-language schools or institutes for visitors, and Garrison says most are upstanding. As a precaution, he says, look for schools accredited by a local university, an American college, a governmental agency or a nonprofit organization.

As for location, pick a place as if you were planning a vacation. If you seek culture and night life, consider Buenos Aires; Quito, Ecuador; or Santiago, Chile. For beaches and rain forest, Costa Rica or Belize. And for countryside, where immersion is the greatest, Garrison recommends Arenal, Costa Rica, which has an active volcano, hot springs, forest canopy tours and more. The Adventure Education Center (800-237-2730, www.adventurespanishschool.com) has a program there, among other Costa Rican locales; a standard week with home stay costs $390, and a deluxe program with home or school stay and adventure tours is $975 for two weeks.

For a more urban setting, Latin Immersion has courses in Santiago and Buenos Aires, as well as a combo package: Four weeks with home stay and two daily meals costs $1,380. Info: (866) 577-8693, www.latinimmersion.com.

For other ideas, especially in Mexico, Panama and Ecuador, contact ISLS, (800) 765-0025, www.isls.com. Another good source is Spanish Abroad: 888-722-7623, www.spanishabroad.com.

Q. We will be in Anchorage in early July for a little more than a day as a layover. Any suggestions for that short a time?

A. Anchorage is vast -- about the size of Delaware -- but with the midnight sun (21 hours 36 minutes of sunlight, to be exact), you can squeeze a lot into a day.

"There's too much to see in one day," says Erika Siegel of the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau. "With such a long list of things to do, you should pick your top two or three and focus on those." Or simply select a category -- arts, history, active, nature -- and run with it.

If you fancy native culture, the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum of Art and History last year offered a reduced summer joint ticket and a free shuttle between institutions (check in April for 2005 info). Art galleries hold First Friday Art Shows during the warm months, and live concerts and salmon sculptures, part of the months-long Wild Salmon on Parade event, fill the streets.

For more outdoorsy pursuits, start the morning hiking and picking berries at Flattop Mountain in nearby Chugach State Park, then fish for dinner at Ship Creek and cap off the night with a round of golf at the Anchorage Golf Course. Another popular day-long outing is a glacier/wildlife/whale-watching cruise. Backcountry Safari (877-812-2159, www.alaskakayak.com), for example, offers a Kenai Fjords cruise for $199, including transportation from Anchorage.

If you'd prefer some hand-holding, the city's tourism office lists one-day group tours, such as a Denali National Park excursion that includes a look at Mount McKinley, and a potpourri tour that encompasses the Musk Ox Farm, the Iditarod museum and a scenic ride through the Chugach Range. Info: Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, (907) 276-4118, www.anchorage.net.

Washington Post

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