The Fun File
Who says kids are hard to please? These 14 destinations are worth the trip—and might just entertain you, too.
Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, La.
If you've ever harbored dreams of starring in the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, or just want to know how participants construct such elaborate floats, check out Mardi Gras World. The museum showcases the best floats from past years (a giant sea dragon! a 15-foot Cleopatra bust!) and houses a workshop where workers glue and hammer together next year's creations. Even locals can't resist romping among the Mardi Gras masterpieces. "I took my brother there during his recent visit, and we had more fun than two adults should—playing dress up in the costumes, then taking photos beside our favorite floats," said Melissa Combs of New Orleans. "We laughed like we were kids!" (233 Newton Street, 800/362-8213, mardigrasworld.com, $17, kids $10) PHOTO
Hoover Dam, Nevada/Arizona Border
The Hoover Dam is colossal...and cool. The dam, completed in 1936 and 726 feet tall, is composed of enough concrete to pave a 16-foot-wide highway from San Francisco to New York City. "It's really a fascinating tour, and the enormity of the structure is awesome," said Sally Ridenour of Salem, Ore. But she especially liked the dam's tongue-in-cheek mementos: "The souvenir t-shirts are great—I WENT ON THE DAM TOUR AT HOOVER DAM." (30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on U.S. Hwy. 93, 702/494-2517, www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam, tour $30, children under 8 not allowed on the tour.) PHOTO
Zorb Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Where some people see a hillside, others see a thrill ride. The popular New Zealand activity of Zorbing—in which you tumble down a slope while inside a plastic bubble—has arrived in the U.S., at Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Before you start, there's a two-page waiver to sign, five different courses to pick from, and two Zorb options: You can sit strapped into a seat or flip head over heels in a ball filled with water. ("It's like white-water rafting without the rocks," says CEO Craig Horrocks.) The 12-foot spheres reach speeds of up to 35 mph; the view is a blur of trees, sky, and your limbs, punctuated by the occasional scream of "Awesome!" (865/428-2422, zorb.com, from $37 per ride.) PHOTO
Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island, Mich.
Following the American forces' unexpected success in capturing British outposts during the American Revolution, the British moved Fort Mackinac, brick by brick, from the Michigan mainland to Mackinac Island. It remained in British hands until 1796. The fort closed in 1895; today it stands as a public monument to its long history as a military outpost. Carol Feider of Midland, Mich., says: "Mackinac Island is a total tourist trap, and I love it. Renting a bike and riding around the island. Touring the fort and watching the guides shoot the cannon. Taking the horse-and-buggy ride. And, of course, buying fudge." (231/436-4100, mackinacparks.com, adults $10, kids 5-7 $6.25) PHOTO
Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, Key West, Fla.
Sword swallowing plus chainsaw juggling plus a dog on a tightrope equals the perfect sunset stroll? Clearly Key West's nightly ritual offers more than just another pretty photo op. Streets fill up with performers like Jace and Jean the Juggling Machine, Bible Bill, and local legend Will Soto, who's been juggling and tightrope walking in Mallory Square for 20 years. "It is such a wonderful tourist trap, but the sights are well worth it," wrote Patti Porco of Chantilly, Va. "The sunsets are always something special to watch, but the fun is in watching the street performers as well as their audiences, who both entertain while you wait." (305/292-7700, sunsetcelebration.org) PHOTO