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Narnia, Oz, Hogwarts, Neverland . . .

By Reid Bramblett
March 30, 2007
0705_m_fambooks
Michael Kraus
These rollicking tales will fire your pre-teen's imagination--and bring sensational travel destinations vividly to life.

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.

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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.

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