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by Marvin McDaniel

With summer vacation just around the corner, it's time to start planning where your family will go and what you will do.

Continental and Northwest airlines have announced special fares for family travelers with round-trip tickets for parents and children as low as $198 and $138, respectively. Other airlines are likely to match.

Here is a quick look at what's new at three popular destinations:


In the Orlando area, Disney opened its newest attraction, Animal Kingdom, April 22. This 500-acre park is the fourth at the Walt Disney World Resort, which also offers more than a dozen hotels, three water parks and a complex of golf courses, tennis courts and the Disney Institute a new complex devoted to family education with classes in everything from rock-climbing to fine arts.

Animal Kingdom is the newest and most modern zoo in the country with animal attractions and entertainment areas patterned after Disney's hit movies about animals.

The park's centerpiece is the 145-foot Tree of Life, which features a hand-carved trunk- with a spiraling relief of 325 animal forms, representing the diversity of life.

Animal Kingdom and all the Disney parks and hotels are connected by a network of buses, ferries and the trademark monorail. Guests at Disney hotels enjoy the added convenience of a room key that doubles as a charge card for almost any purchase throughout the resort.

In the Tampa Bay area, baseball is the newest attraction. The American League's Devil Rays have moved into downtown St. Petersburg, transforming the city almost overnight. Dozens of new restaurants and nightclubs run from Tropicana Field to the bayfront, home of the St. Petersburg Pier. With the Devil Rays off to the best start in the history of expansion teams, every night is a party in downtown St. Pete.

Across the bay, Tampa's Busch Gardens offers The Edge of Africa, a new addition to this award-winning park that takes visitors up close to the animals in simulated habitats. The Edge of Africa was the first exhibit to take guests to the underwater world of hippos.

Busch Garden's newest attraction is Akbar's Adventure, a motion-simulator tour of Egypt.


Cultural tourism is the Golden State's latest claim to fame with its three top cities teaming up to offer new museums and live performances. One-of-a-kind art exhibits in San Francisco's Fillmore District celebrate a century of African-American Music, with hundreds of live performances in clubs, concert halls and open-air bandstands.

The Museum of Modern Art features sculptures by Sargent Johnson, an African-American modernist, and a special exhibit of the architectural works of A.G. Rizzoli.

Los Angeles offers one of the newest art museums in the world, the Getty Center, plus more than 50 live theater performances over the summer

In San Diego, travelers who want to trace Jewish Heritage can explore the Skirball Cultural Center and Museum of Tolerance, and the original Temple Beth Israel in San Diego's Heritage Park.


Outside of London, children of all ages will enjoy Legoland, a theme park that's become one of Europe's top attractions.

Legoland offers 150 acres of gardens, cityscapes and castles constructed solely from Legos.

The park also features a canoe ride with motorized frogs and pirates, and even a waterfall. Tours, which depart from London, also drive by Windsor Castle.

In Scandinavia, Finland and Denmark lure families with spa and children's programs, plus attractions like Denmark's Roskilde, a 1,000-year-old village with locals dressed in period costume, displaying life in a Viking village.

(Marvin McDaniel, CTC, is president of Carlson Wagonlit Travel/Carlson Travel Network.)

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