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New Summer Guide Books for Families

I must seem like a pest sometimes at this time of year because if anybody within my radius sits down for a minute, like my son's baseball coach, I can't help but ask my favorite question: "So where are you taking the kids this summer?" It should have come as no surprise that the dedicated Little League dad was packing up the family and taking them on a baseball tour across the U.S.A. Traveling for a month from Boston to Baltimore to Chicago, they would tour the stadiums, cheer the home runs and consume a mountain of hot dogs with relish. It sounded great.

As theme vacations have grown in scope among families, so have the guides that zero in on weird hobbies or particular pastimes. Whether you've got kids who love to collect junk (who would have thought that there were more than one official directory for flea markets across the US?), or teens who are into the occult (Haunted Hotels: A Guide to American and Canadian Inns and their Ghosts), there seems to be a book to organize your vacation and offer advice. There's even a "Rock & Roll Traveler USA." For families who want to try a similar themed vacation, here are some ideas for family fun. All are available at the World's Biggest Book Store:

BALLPARK VACATIONS (Fodor's): This would be a perfect Father's Day present for my son's coach or any other baseball fanatic. Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel have subtitled their guide "Great Family Trips to Minor League and Classic Major League Baseball Parks Across America" and that's just what it offers. My one beef is that Toronto and Montreal aren't included (though Vancouver is) but it seems that almost every other stadium south of the border is profiled in detail-teams who play, how to get there, tips on where to sit and even what to eat. In researching the book, the Adams family drove 25,000 miles and caught 85 games in 44 states. Now that's a vacation! Non-baseball fans will appreciate the info on sights to see, where to shop, etc.

FAMILY ADVENTURES (Fodor's): More than 500 Great Trips for You and Your Kids of All Ages means high adventure as in rafting down the Tatshenshini River in the Yukon or two days of rock climbing for five-year-olds near Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Author Christine Loomis, travel editor of Family Life magazine, likes to check things out personally with any one of her three kids and the book gives appropriate ages for all trips. If you want to dig for dinosaur bones, participate in a cattle drive or whale watch in the Baja, this book fives family-friendly suggestions in both USA and Canada.

THE AMUSEMENT PARK GUIDE (Globe Pequot Press): Coast to coast thrills is what this guidebook promises. And in fact, the roller coaster fanatic author, Tim O'Brien, completed his master's degree by filming amusement rides at Sandusky Park in Ohio. There's a tiny section on Disney and only a small section on Canadian fun parks, but if you also love interesting roller coasters, there are enough offered here to keep any ride-happy family busy. More than 275 locations are described.

WHERE THE TRAINS ARE! (Prima Publishing): All aboard for train buffs. Author Heather Taylor started her research because of her train-crazy two-year-old. To keep him happy, the family started to explore model railroad exhibits, train museums, scenic train rides and even restaurants with a railway atmosphere. Train trips and train locations across Canada and the US are explored whether it's in the rugged Wild West or the Lake Erie Railroad near Buffalo.

CRUISE VACATIONS WITH KIDS (Prima Publishing): I know one family who only takes vacations on cruise ships. Every year, a different ship or a different waterway. "It's the only way I can truly relax," says the mom. "I know the kids are being taken care of and I don't have to do a thing." Perhaps this is why this guidebook has been called "the answer to a parent's prayer. Family travel expert Candyce Stapen wondered if she and her family would return from their first cruise "fat, bored and broke." But she was hooked. The book profiles family-friendly ships, eco-adventure cruises in such exotic places as the Galapagos, and cruise ship alternatives like the popular Delta Queen Steamboat Company. Because the book is organized by destination, there's a wealth of information for on-shore excursions as well.

HIKING THE ROCKIES WITH KIDS (Orca Book Publishers): Even if never intend to hike the high mountains with your kids, this is a fun book to read. Sixty-five hikes through Canadian parks, Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Hootenay-everything from a half-hour walk to treks of several days- offer maps, ideas, photos and just good stories such as the time when author Celia McLean's family had to spend the night in a pitch black forest sharing one mitten when they got lost. I particularly admired her tips on how to deal with a mauling bear.





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