Narnia, Oz, Hogwarts, Neverland . . .
Each one is fascinating, but just try booking a flight there. To fire your children's imagination about the real world--and bring sensational travel destinations vividly to life--check out these rollicking tales aimed squarely at the pre-teen crowd.
The Time Warp Trio
Brooklyn buddies Joe, Fred, and Sam are unwillingly zapped around time from ancient Egypt to Mayan Mexico to medieval Scotland to Renaissance Italy, finding themselves in hilarious adventures that appeal to kids and adults alike. Jon Scieszka's books have inspired a Discovery Kids Channel TV show, as well as a cool website, timewarptrio.com.
Magic Tree House
In Mary Pope Osborne's hugely popular series--37 books and counting--Jack and Annie travel around the world (Australia, Africa, Hawaii, the Amazon) and sometimes through time (to the original Olympics in Greece, San Francisco's 1906 earthquake). There are also Research Guides companion books for sale, with info on cultures, places, and eras.
The Bridges In . . .
Sisters Robin and Jo Bridge, who are serially left on their own in London, Edinburgh, and Paris, solve mysteries by hunting down clues scattered around each metropolis. Author Michele Sobel Spirn includes maps, guides to local slang, blurbs on attractions and fun neighborhoods, and other information to help families have their own adventures in the cities.
Teen Movie High Schools
NAPOLEON DYNAMITE Preston High School, 151 E. 200 South, Preston, Idaho. Check out the town's Napoleon Dynamite festival, July 27--28 (prestonidaho.org). GREASE Venice High School, 13000 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles. Used as the exterior of Sandy and Danny's Rydell High. FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF Glenbrook North High School, 2300 Shermer Rd., Northbrook, Ill. Director John Hughes studied there. BRING IT ON San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Dr., San Diego. Exteriors were filmed at the college, though scenes were shot at schools all over San Diego County. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL East High School, 840 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City, Utah. Inside is where Troy and Gabriella fall in love in the irresistible made-for-TV hit.
Traveling With Thomas
Kids of the right age will be thrilled at the chance to take a 25-minute ride aboard Thomas the Tank Engine, the main character in the enormously popular books, toys, and TV series. From early spring to early winter, Day Out With Thomas excursions rotate to different locations throughout North America--in Strasburg, Pa., Florida, upstate New York, and beyond. 866/468-7630, thomasandfriends.com, $16 adults and kids 2 and up.
America's Most Scenic Train Rides
Arizona: After watching a staged shoot-out in Williams, passengers board the Grand Canyon Railway for a two-hour ride to the canyon's rim--where they have four hours to explore before the return trip. 800/843-8724, thetrain.com, from $65, $30--$40 kids. Near Sedona, four-hour Verde Canyon Railroad excursions wind through an isolated red-rock canyon where bald eagles nest. 800/320-0718, verdecanyonrr.com, from $65, $35 kids. California: The Sierra Railroad's 1897-era train has appeared in more than 300 films, including High Noon and Unforgiven, and departs from Oakdale, about an hour east of San Francisco, on themed excursions such as the Wild West ride. Watch out: At one point, the train gets "attacked" by a pack of ornery outlaws. 800/866-1690, sierrarailroad.com, from $49, $25 kids. Colorado: The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, America's highest and longest narrow-gauge line, has been traversing the southern Rockies since 1880. Tours, which last six to eight hours, cross high trestles, edge along precipitous gorges, and chug through mountain tunnels. 888/286-2737, cumbrestoltec.com, from $62, $31 kids, including lunch. Massachusetts: Departing from Hyannis, the Cape Cod Central Railroad passes through woodlands and cranberry bogs on a two-hour trip. A one-hour boat add-on gives a peek of the Kennedy Compound. 888/797-7245, capetrain.com, from $18, $14 kids. Washington: On the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, a vintage 1920s steam locomotive heads off from Mineral, 80 miles from Seattle, on a 90-minute ride through deep woods and past waterfalls--with many opportunities to spot 14,410-foot-high Rainier (if the clouds cooperate). 360/569-2588, mrsr.com, $15, $12 kids. West Virginia: Deep in the Appalachians, the Cass Scenic Railroad is part of a state park that has a preserved lumber town at its center. The train switchbacks up 11 percent grades on the five-hour ride to Bald Knob, the state's second-highest point. Dinner trains feature bluegrass music or murder mysteries. 304/456-4300, cassrailroad.com, from $15, kids $10.
F-1 Plane Pal: One-stop shopping with a tic-tac-toe board, an activity book, a six-in-one crayon, minibinoculars, and other amusements (flight001.com, $28). Rubberneckers: Travel bingo available in the original car edition and a new version meant for planes--after divvying up the cards, players might have to spot the words duty free, an escalator, or someone turning on the overhead light (chroniclebooks.com, $13). Slips & Ladders: Magnetized tortoises and hares race in a twist on the classic fable--and boardgame (eeboo.com, $13). World Traveler: Aspiring stylists pick a setting--the beach, mountains, an exotic palace--and dress their model in whatever magnetic clothing suits their fancy (mudpuppy.com, $14).