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The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers. 


Winter is no time to hibernate when there are so many reasons to get out of bed. Sure it may be cold, but things are heating up at these home-grown events across the country (and one just next door in Canada).

The Sonoma Valley Olive Festival, December 1, 2007 to February 18, 2008 -- Sonoma CA

Almost three months of festivities dedicated to the humble olive? Absolutely. This is the seventh year of the Olive Festival, which celebrates the significance of the often under-appreciated fruit that has played a key role in the Sonoma Valley for over 100 years. Featuring more than 35 entertaining, edible and educational events, the festival is a must for food, wine and pampering connoisseurs. Visitors can select olive-related activities including sampling olive oils, enjoying a soothing olive oil scrub at a local spa and eating a delicious dish from an olive-inspired menu. Take an olive curing workshop, watch a cooking demonstration, dive into an olive Martini or take in a local art exhibition. The center stage for festival events is at the historic Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma. The festival begins with the traditional Blessing of the Olives at the Mission on December 1 with free music and refreshments. Later that day have a free olive oil tasting at The Olive Press (www.theolivepress.com) and learn how freshly harvested olives are made into oil. Then, for a fee of $20, move on to the Figone Olive Oil Company (www.figoneoliveoil.com) for an olive oil and fod pairing presentation with some of California's premier olive oil makers and chefs. Round out you day with a Raindance Spa (www.raindancespa.com) Olive Oil Body Ritual. This 100 minutes of indulgence uses olive oil and salts to exfoliate your skin, followed by a moisturizing olive oil application and a full body aromatherapy olive oil massage for $240. Afterwards, dine at LaSalette Restaurant (tel. 707/938-1927; www.lasalette-restaurant.com) and enjoy its three course $25.95 Olive Festival tasting menu consisting of an olive, fruit and cheese plate; pork tenderloin stuffed with olives, figs and almonds; and extra virgin olive oil ice cream with a rosemary scented strawberry chutney. And that is just the first day of the festival. Visit www.sonomavalley.com/OliveFestival/default.asp for a full schedule of events.

The New York Anime Festival, December 6 to 9, 2007 -- New York City

The cult of anime hits New York City in festival form in what is set to be an annual event showcasing the best of cutting-edge anime, manga and Japanese pop culture. For the uninitiated, anime is the style of Japanese comic book and video cartoon animation in which the main characters have large doe-like eyes. Anime dominates bookshelves and magazine racks in Japan, with comic books or manga one of the most popular forms of entertainment for adults as well as for children. The three-day festival (plus one day conference) is at New York's Jacob Javitz Center and features U.S. and world premieres; screenings; a New York-Tokyo Video Game room; professional panels; a masquerade costume contest; the ICv2 conference of "Anime and Manga: Inside the Otaku Generation"; merchandise; autographs; exhibits, concerts; performances and a chance to interact with other anime aficionados. Premieres include scenes from the upcoming Appleseed: Ex Machina; Black Blood Brothers; CATBLUE Dynamite; Devil May Cry 4; SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers; and Tsubasa and xxxHOLiC: The Movie. Individual day passes are $30 and weekend passes are $55. Both are available online. Visit www.nyanimefestival.com/en-us/index.cfm for more program information.

Oregon Truffle Festival, January 25 to 27, 2008 -- Eugene OR

If you can't make it over to France or Italy for your truffle fix, set your sights on Eugene, Oregon in the Willamette Valley -- the center of truffle cultivation outside of Europe. Although the Oregon Truffle Festival is generally marketed towards truffle farmers or those interested in the industry, the event is an attractive option for anyone who loves truffles, and you can attend individual events or purchase a package covering the entire event. The 2008 Grand Truffle Dinner is considered the festival highlight and features five of the Pacific Northwest's most celebrated chefs: Caprial and John Pence of Caprial's Bistro in Portland, John Sundstrom of Lark in Seattle, Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland, and Daniel Mattern, Executive Chef at clarklewis in Portland. The semi-formal dinner is priced at $150 per person. For $425 per person, you can attend the Grand Truffle Dinner plus the opening reception followed by a multiple course Truffle Dinner at one of the festival restaurants; a winery lunch; a Truffle cooking demonstration; a Truffle hunting foray; a Truffle dog demonstration; Sunday breakfast; and admission to the OregonTruffle Marketplace (a $20 value) which features artisan foods, truffle tasting, a lecture series, a commemorative wine glass and wine tastings featuring six of Oregon's premier wineries. For the truffle professional there is also a two-day Truffle Growers' Forum, an opportunity for truffle farmers to meet and learn from each other and engage with the world's truffle experts. Visit www.oregontrufflefestival.com for more information and to pre-purchase tickets and packages.

Winterlude 2008, Weekends from February 1 to 17, 2008 -- Ottawa Canada

Some people may say that you're crazy for visiting Canada in February. But winter is a magical time north of the border and for a snow-filled fantasy weekend, you can't go past the nation's capital and its Winterlude Festival or Bal de Neige (www.capcan.ca/). Next year marks the 30th anniversary of North America's greatest winter celebration with three chilly yet jam-packed weekends of activities that encourage you to get outdoors, even when it's freezing. There are epic ice carvings; the world's largest ice-skating rink; Snowflake Kingdom, a playground made entirely of snow; the National Snow Sculpture competition; sleigh rides; and performances and music at the Snowbowl on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Nearly everything at Winterlude is free and it is geared for children and adults alike. So pull on your hats, scarves and gloves and enjoy winter at its coldest and finest in Ottawa.

Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, February 22 to March 2, 2008 -- Anchorage AK

Sticking to the "cold and icy" theme, what began in 1935 as a three-day sports tournament featuring skiing, hockey, basketball, boxing and a children's sled dog race has stood the test of time and the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous (www.furrondy.net) remains as popular an event today as when it was established. The cornerstone event is the World Championship Sled Dog Race which brings teams of sled dogs and mushers to Anchorage from all over the world. Other key events include the Blanket Toss, an ancient Native Alaskan tradition; the Official Rondy Fur Auction; the World Championship Dog Weight Pull; the Rondy Carnival; the Grand Parade; the uniquely Alaskan Original Men's Snowshoe Softball; and the Grand Prix Auto Race, one of the oldest street races in North America. There's also a photo contest, snow sculptures, night skating, fireworks, theater, performances, the Frostbite Footrace, outhouse races, a Multi-Tribal Gathering, reindeer races and a charity ball. Most events are free.