Great Britain: Getting Better All the Time

Great Britain continues to enhance its tourism product with a host of new developments and improvements to existing attractions and services. Following is a sampling.

  • Madame Tussaud's Wax Exhibition has opened "Time 100," an exhibition of wax figures representing this century's most influential figures. The exhibition was created in conjunction with Time magazine's 100 People of the Century Project, in which the magazine chooses the most influential people of the 20th century in five categories: Artists and Entertainers, Leaders and Revolutionaries, Builders and Titans, Scientists and Thinkers and Heroes and Inspirations.
  • The new exhibit includes Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Beatles, Martin Luther King, Charlie Chaplin and Nelson Mandela.

  • The Tower of London is undergoing an $18 million improvement project that includes a new visitor center, a riverside walkway, improved access and new landscaping. The 900-year-old Tower, a World Heritage Site located on the banks of the Thames River, receives about 2.5 million visitors a year.
  • Under the project, the lower parts of the Tower Hill Vaults, which are all that remain of a seven-story tea warehouse destroyed by World War II bombs, will be transformed into a central reception area with an education and interpretation area and streamlined ticketing facilities. A tunnel leading to the Tower from the Tower Underground station will be renovated and new pathways constructed to overlook the moat. A concrete bridge spanning the Tower's medieval causeway will be replaced by a replica of a 15th century timber bridge, designed to recreate the atmosphere of this ancient fortress. Finally, the Tower's Wharf area will be enhanced with a new riverside walk and the North Thames River Path will be extended to the water's edge.

  • "From the Bomb to the Beatles," is a major new exhibition to run through May 29, 2000 at the Imperial War Museum. The exhibition details changes in Britain between 1945 and 1965, from the end of World War II to the "swinging '60s."
  • It includes works of art by Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi and Peter Blake; '60s-era dresses worn by model Jean Shrimpton; one of John Lennon's Beatles suits; a sapphire ring once owned by Elvis Presley and a diamond bracelet once owned by Marilyn Monroe. The exhibition will feature such special events as a war-time fashion show.

  • The Great British Heritage Pass, providing access to more than 600 historic houses, castles and gardens throughout Britain, has added Leeds Castle to its roster of properties. Located in Madison, Kent, the castle was a Norman fortress, a royal residence to six of England's medieval queens, a palace of King Henry VIII's, and finally, a private home. It is now home to a collection of medieval furnishings, paintings and tapestries.
  • The Great British Heritage Pass is available for seven days for $48, 15 days for $70 or one month for $93. It can be purchased in the U.S. before travel to Great Britain.

  • The London White Card, a discount admission pass to several of the city's attractions, has changed its name to the GoSee Card. It offers unlimited free entry to both permanent and temporary exhibitions at 17 of London's major museums and art galleries.
  • Recent new members for the card include Shakespeare's Globe Exhibition, the new BFI London IMAX Cinema and Queen's House, part of the National Maritime Museum. Other members include Apseley House, the Barbican Art Gallery, the Hayward Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, the Museum of London, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image.

    Prices for the card start at $33 for a three-day card and $54 for a seven-day card. Family cards for two adults and two children are available at $66 for three days and $107 for seven days. The card can be purchased at any of the participating attractions as well as in the U.S. before a trip to London.

  • The Camelot Project, now under development in Cornwall, will be an international center which will record, celebrate and study 1,500 years of literature, music and art dealing with the legendary King Arthur.
  • Work on the center, a project of the newly formed Arthurian Heritage Trust and the British Library, is going on in the medieval Worthyvale Manor at Slaughterbridge, 225 miles southwest of London. A sixth century inscribed stone near the town marks the site of King Arthur's final battle, five miles from Tintagel where the ruins of what is known as King Arthur's castle stand. Organizers expect to have compiled by the spring of 2000, a catalogue of texts, images and music, all available in an interactive format. The attraction is aimed at both academics and the public.

  • The first of four new river passenger services has been launched in London. The Central London Fast Ferry uses two new vessels to provide a link, every 40 minutes, between six Thames River piers. On weekdays the route takes passengers from Canary Wharf in the Docklands to Embankment and Festival piers in the heart of the city. On Saturdays and Sundays the service runs from London Bridge City to Embankment every 20 minutes. Starting in 2000, the ferries will also dock at new piers at the Waterloo Millennium Wheel, Blackfriars and the Tower of London.
  • London's Dulwich Picture Gallery, founded in 1811, will reopen in May of 2000 after a major renovation. England's oldest public art gallery, the Dulwich houses a collection of European Old Masters, including major works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo and Canaletto. In addition to restoration work on the original gallery, a new building has been added which houses a lecture theater, more exhibition space and a cafe.
  • The Jane Austen Center has opened in Bath, the Georgian city 104 miles west of London where the author lived from 1801 to 1806. Located in the heart of the city at 40 Gay St., the center is dedicated to Austen's life and the Bath of her day when the city was one of Europe's most fashionable social centers. There are exhibits on Austen's life and family, a formal Georgian town garden, a period shopfront, a video and costumes from BBC television's production of Austen's "Persuasion" in which Bath figures prominently. A shop at the center features Austen-related books and gifts.
  • Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery has mounted an unusual exhibition, "Art Treasures in the North," which features treasures collected by wealthy North of England families while making grand tours of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibition, to run through March 5, 2000, includes paintings by Canaletto, Batoni and Guardi; furniture, watercolors, jewelry and a variety of antiquities. It also contains the travelers' diaries and letters.
  • A collection of 14 dresses once worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, will be included in the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection at London's Kensington Palace State Apartments during a special exhibit to run through March 31, 2000.
  • The exhibition is one of the largest collections of dresses made for the princess and includes designs by Zandra Rhodes, Bruce Oldfield and Victor Edelstein. It includes the blue velvet gown worn by Diana to a state dinner at the White House where she danced with actor John Travolta.

  • London's new Royal Opera House will open next month in Covent Garden with a special program featuring Placido Domingo, the Royal Ballet, Royal Opera and Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. The new Opera House, 20 years in the making, is a state-of-the-art facility that will be the home of the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera.
  • It includes permanent exhibition space, a 170-seat rooftop restaurant with terraces overlooking Covent Garden, bars, shops and regularly scheduled backstage tours (three times a day to start in January 2000). Free lunchtime concerts will be featured on Mondays.

  • The high society glamour of life in 1930s London is showcased at the newly opened Eltham Palace in southeast London. The boyhood home of King Henry VIII, the palace is a mix of medieval magnificence and art deco opulence. The structure's 15th century Grand Hall survives and adjoining it is a house built in 1936 by millionaire Stephen Courtauld. Designers have recreated the interiors at Eltham Palace so that visitors can see what it looked like in its heyday.
  • British Tourism Authority Offices in the U.S. can be reached at the following locations.
  • 551 Fifth Ave., Suite 701, New York 10176-0799; (212) 986-2266, fax (212) 986-1188.
  • 625 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1510, Chicago 60611; (312) 787-0464, fax (312) 787-9641.
  • The BTA Information Line is (800) 462-2748.
  • To obtain the British Heritage Pass, call BritRail Travel, (888) 274-8724 or Marketing Challenges International, (800) 869-8184.
  • To obtain the GoSee Card, call Marketing Challenges International, (800) 869-8184; www.london-gosee.com.
  • For tickets to the Millennium Dome call Globaltickets, (800) 223-6108.
  • Major Great Britain Web sites are as follows.

  • British Tourist Authority: www.travelbritain.org
  • Scottish Tourist Board: www.holiday.scotland.net.
  • Wales Tourist Board: www.tourism.wales.gov.uk.
  • Northern Ireland Tourist Board: www.ni-tourism.com.
  • London Tourist Board: www.londontown.com.
  • Theatre Information: www.whatsonstage.com.
  • Millennium Dome: www.dome2000.co.uk/trade.
  • Millennium 2000 Activities and Celebrations: www.millennium.gov.uk.
  • The Millennium Experience Visitor Centre, Greenwich: www.mx2000.co.uk.
  • London's "String of Pearls" Festival: www.stringofpearls.org.uk.
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