Let's go on an adventure with Jody Victor!

The Star Wars franchise has captured the imaginations of people around the world since “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope” was released in 1977. For decades fans have made journeys to these sometimes not-so-faraway places to see where their favorite film was shot.

Many of the films in the franchise feature impressive landscapes of many types, many of which aren’t as alien as some might think. George Lucas’ original three films are well known for focusing on a particular kind of landscape in each film.

The igloo exterior of Luke’s house was filmed about 300 kilometers away on the dried-up salt lake of Chott El Jerid. The igloo is still there, reachable with a decent car at the GPS coordinates 33°50’34.42″N, 7°46’44.48″E. The surrounding craters are man-made, to create the illusion that the underground house is next to it. The igloo from the 1977 movie was dismantled, but again rebuilt for “Attack of the Clones,” and later restored by a fan. Nearby is La Grande Dune, site of the Dune Sea. About 30 minutes from the igloo is the set of Mos Espa, the spaceport town where Anakin was discovered as a young slave.

Endor, the forest moon home of the furry Ewoks, was filmed among California’s giant redwoods. Most of the well-known scenes were shot on private land owned by a lumber company. Since the cast and crew worked on “Return of the Jedi” in 1982, heavy logging has left most of the landscape unrecognizable. But driving through the parks still gives a feel for the set, especially along the Avenue of the Giants highway. In Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park and the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, plates were filmed for some chase scenes.

Exteriors of the ice world Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back” were shot in the tiny village of Finse, Norway. The cast and crew stayed at the Finse 1222 Hotel, where snowstorm scenes were shot from the back door. But the main battlefield scenes were shot on the nearby glacier. In March and April, skies are normally clear and there’s still plenty of snow. Guides in Finse can help with hikes to see the exact locations.

The new “Rogue One” Star Wars film adds to the list of impressive location shoots. Iceland’s other-worldy landscape is fast becoming the go-to destination for sci-fi movies, and “Rogue One” joins the club.

The black sand beach of Reynisfjara, a wild stretch of North Atlantic coastline close to the small town of Vik and Iceland’s southernmost tip, stands in for the stormy planet of Eadu. We stay on “Rogue One’s” Eadu for another visit to Iceland, this time Krafla, an active volcano in the country’s remote northeast. A source of geothermal energy, Krafla’s seething crater and nearby Lake Mývatn have also made an appearance in “Game of Thrones.”

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Meteorologists from the Weather Channel define a White Christmas a December 25th when there is at least 1 inch of snow on the ground on. They are careful to point out the snow fall need not happen on the 25th.

For Ohio it looks nearly the whole state, excepting the very Northeastern edge, has about a 50% chance of seeing snow on Christmas day in 2016. Their historical data indicates that the northern half of the state typically has a 40-50% chance of a White Christmas, while the southern part of the state usually only sees a White Christmas about 33% of the time.

Not surprisingly, the Rocky Mountain region of the United States historically has the best chance of a White Christmas and that is no different this year. However, according to The Weather Channel’s data, many mid eastern states that whose odds typically fair better shouldn’t expect a White Christmas this year.

Regardless of weather, it is always a good idea to bundle up, pack warm clothes even if you don’t want to wear them in the car or at your destination, check the weather and give yourself plenty of extra driving time whether it is traffic or weather that may slow you down.

Wishing you safe journeys and happy holidays!

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The Rockefeller Christmas tree is an American tradition and a must see for Christmas decoration thrill-seekers and the tree lighting has become an internationally recognized event singling the beginning of season in which we celebrate light, love, and giving.

As has been the tradition since 1931, enthusiasts submit entries from which the Rockefeller Christmas tree is chosen. The winner is usually an older Norway Spruce that’s at least 75 feet tall and 45 feet in diameter. Some 34 trees have come from New York state.

Angie and Graig Eichler of Oneonta, New York, donated this year’s tree. The tree is a Norway Spruce which weighs about 14 tons, is 94 feet tall and came right from the Elchler’s back yard. This impressive specimen will be the 84th Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Each of these massive trees has required a construction crew and cranes to erect and must be decorated via cherry picker.

Though this year things went a little differently, The Elchler’s didn’t apply to donate it. Instead, Erik Pauze, Rockefeller Center’s head gardener, knocked on their front door last spring while traveling upstate looking for the perfect 2016 tree.

While the lighting ceremony happened on Wednesday, November 30th the Rockefeller Christmas Tree will be on display through January, 7th 2017. For the 10th year in a row the retired tree will be turned into lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity.

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Travel conditions could be trickier than usual Wednesday due to a winter storm moving through the Midwest and Northeast. The storm is sending rain and snow across the Upper Midwest and will end up in the Northeast by early Thanksgiving morning (National Weather Service).

Snowfall ended in many places, like Minneapolis, Wednesday morning, but will continue most of the day across places like Wisconsin and northern Michigan (National Weather Service). As the storm moves farther to the east, areas of light snow and freezing rain will likely cause a few travel disruptions across the interior Northeast by Wednesday night into Thursday.

The wintry weather will expand from northern Pennsylvania and New York on Wednesday night, and into parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire on Thursday (AccuWeather). Snow and ice accumulations are expected to be relatively light but could still make for hazardous road conditions during the busy Thanksgiving travel week (National Weather Service).

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is expected to proceed under cloudy, cool and damp conditions.

Elsewhere Wednesday, rain and thunderstorms could cause a few travel problems from Texas to the Ohio Valley. The heaviest rain should be in Louisiana and Arkansas. None of the thunderstorms are expected to reach severe levels.

A separate storm will bring rain to the Pacific Northwest coast and high-elevation snow to the Cascades and northern Rockies. In elevations above 3,500 feet, 3 to 7 inches of snow is possible, the weather service predicted.

Be safe in your travels and have a happy Thanksgiving!

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The Wanda Reign on the Bund has created itself as the first “seven-star” hotel in Shanghai. The exterior is made of glass and steel designed by Foster and Partners and Heather Wick Studio. The lobby is Art Deco inspired with jade inlaid floors and a wall sized original painting by renowned Shangai artist Shi Qi. Other commissioned artworks are nestled among the hotel’s 10 meter high marble pillars.

The hotel took three years to build and cost over $500 million dollars. The hotel sits along with other super high end hotels and hospitality options along the famous Bund waterfront of the Huangpu River. Its peers included the Peninsula, Waldorf Astoria, the Shangri-La and Grand Hyatt.

In less than six months the Wanda Reign has become the new home of China’s traveling elite. And appropriately so as it is owned by Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man. It is the 51st hotel in his Wanda Hotels and Resorts group.

A must see for high-end hotel lovers!

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