Image: LAX
David Mcnew  /  Getty Images file
The large, iconic LAX letters that welcome travelers to Los Angeles International Airport will be lit solid green for 60 minutes before Earth Hour, and then be turned off completely for the event.
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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/25/2009 9:50:06 AM ET 2009-03-25T13:50:06

Saturday would be a great time to be an astronaut with a window seat in a rocket ship circling the earth.

That way you’d be able to watch as the lights go out in more than 2,000 cities around the world during Earth Hour, a coordinated event that aims to draw attention to climate change and global warming.

Lights are scheduled to go out at hundreds of popular tourist landmarks and buildings worldwide, including New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, Moscow and Nairobi.

Organized by the World Wildlife Fund and supported by a host of powerful names — from celebrities Kevin Bacon and Donny and Marie Osmond to global figures Archbishop Desmond Tutu and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — the rolling electric turnoff will take place from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time, beginning in Fiji and following time zones around the globe.

The idea came about two years ago in Sydney, Australia, when more than 2.2 million people turned out their lights at the same time. Last year, lights were flicked off in about 400 cities.

What will go dark?
The list of participating cities, landmarks and businesses is long — and getting longer — as Earth Hour approaches.

In Paris, known historically as the City of Light, the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame will go dark.

In New York City, the lights will dim at Broadway theaters, Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the United Nations Headquarters.

Lights will go off at the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Acropolis in Athens, Niagara Falls, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Chicago’s Sears Tower. In Boston, the signature CITGO sign in Kenmore Square is scheduled to be switched off, as are the lights at the Prudential Center and the John Hancock Tower. In Nashville they’ll be turning off lights at the giant Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center and at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

Los Angeles structures participating in the event include the Capitol Records Tower, the Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel, the Getty Museum and the Griffith Park Observatory.

In London, City Hall and the London Eye will blink off, as will the lights at many of the city’s hotels. For example, London’s 12 upscale Radisson Edwardian Hotels, which sit on some of the city’s busiest streets, will turn off public lights and encourage guests to turn off the lights in their rooms.

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Some Fairmont Hotels are marking Earth Hour with special programming. Toronto’s signature Fairmont Royal York will illuminate its indoor pool area with more than 100 floating candles and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will light up its famed lakeshore with ice luminaries and invite guests to gather around a fire for an old-fashioned storytelling session under the stars.

Airports join in
Several airports also plan to participate in the eco-friendly event. But don’t be alarmed — there is no plan to put anyone in harm’s way by turning off important runway or tower lights.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, which participated in the event last year, will turn off many of the indoor and outdoor signs, some lights in the terminals and many of the moving walkways.

At Los Angeles International Airport, the focus will be on the iconic 100-foot tall colorful light pylons that illuminate the airport entrance and serve as a backdrop for many film and TV scenes. The pylons will be lit solid green for 60 minutes before Earth Hour and then be turned off completely for the event.

Vegas ... without the glitz
Las Vegas, reputed to be so well-lit that it’s visible from space, may turn out to be the most dramatic place to be during this year’s Earth Hour.

In downtown Vegas, 5,000 green, glow-in-the-dark necklaces will be handed out to visitors. Then the giant overhead screen that usually displays an eye-popping laser light show will be used to air a video about Earth Hour and then lead the crowd in a countdown to lights out on the street.

Casinos’ interior lights will stay on and slot machines will stay plugged in, but the marquees and bright lights that illuminate nearly all the casinos and buildings on the Strip will go dark for the full hour.

“This is big,” says Jacqueline Peterson, spokesperson for Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns eight casinos in Las Vegas. “Historically, the lights on the Strip may have been dimmed for a minute or so when Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and other Rat Pack celebrities died, but the lights on the Strip have never been turned off for a full hour.”

Another big gesture will be turning off the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Erik Pappa, spokesman for Clark County, Nevada, which encompasses the Las Vegas Strip, says he can’t remember when or if that sign has ever been turned off, but says officials agreed to cut power as part of the overall Earth Hour effort.

It may seem counter-intuitive, Pappa said, but, “we figured if you want to make a statement about the importance of our environment, there’s no more important place to do it than in Las Vegas.”

Harriet Baskas writes msnbc.com's popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog, a contributor to National Public Radio and a columnist for USATODAY.com.

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