mod in milan
Amid the sleek boutiques on Milan's Via della Spiga sits a new mecca for children's clothing made of cashmere and baby alpaca, flocked velvet and silk brocade. This is Pinco Pallino (freely translatable as "whoosiemajibbit"), a near-perfect blend of fantasy and fashion. Design duo Imelde and Stefano Cavalleri scour the world for exotic fabrics to make the garments, and rove freely in literature and the arts for inspiration. Their creations, in sizes for kids ranging from tots to preteens, are displayed in a store that is just as whimsical: spiral chandeliers hung with hundreds of brilliant Murano glass trinkets, and mosaic floors that Stefano calls a tribute to the cathedrals of Ravenna. Pinco Pallino, 42 Via della Spiga; 39-2/781-931.
Get a taste of Australian ranch life at Millamolong, a 12,000-acre working farm. Owned by Australia's polo-playing Ashton family, this homestead four hours by car from Sydney gives kids and adults a chance to milk a cow, dig up potatoes, and watch sheep being sheared. Not interested in getting your hands dirty?Swim or fish in the nearby Belubula River, roam with the kangaroos, search for wallabies, learn to ride polo ponies, or play a game of tennis. Managers Pru and Murray McMillan, an engaging young Australian couple who have run resorts on New Guinea and in Botswana, do most of the work themselves, from cooking homey food to waiting on tables. While families can go rustic and bunk down in the seven-room farmhouse, their best bet is to book one of the two-bedroom suites with a veranda in the main homestead. Millamolong, Mandurama; 61-2/6367-5241, fax 61-2/6367-5120; doubles from $96 (rates start at $34 for children), including all meals and activities (horseback riding is extra).
—Marion von Adlerstein
Layovers en famille can be hazardous to everyone's sanity — unless there's a place for the kids to blow off steam. Enter play areas, the latest trend in big-city hubs. Most are unsupervised, but they're free and open 24 hours a day.
• BOSTON The Children's Museum runs the new Kidport at Logan's Terminal C. There's a mini airplane with interactive cockpit, a conveyor-belt slide, and a window display with activity panels for learning all about the airfield.
• CHICAGO In O'Hare's Terminal 2, kids can weigh baggage, join a cargo treasure hunt, refuel a play airplane, and talk to kid pilots from the mock control tower.
• PITTSBURGH Head to Concourse C in Pittsburgh International's Airside Terminal and you'll find a play airport where aspiring agents set up shop behind a pint-size ticket counter. Too bad they can't upgrade you.
• FRANKFURT A dual-level space shuttle, a tunnel-slide, and an outdoor terrace with runway views welcome restless kids at Frankfurt am Main's Terminal 1.
• MADRID At both the domestic and international terminals of Barajas International, kids can crawl through a maze, burrow in a ball pit, and climb into a plane, helicopter, and bus.
Whether this is your first family trip to London or the umpteenth, pick up Kids' London: The Best of the Capital's Activities for Children (Ward Lock, $20), published in association with the London Transport Museum. Francesca Collin details kid-friendly museums, parks, restaurants, and indoor activities (remember the rain) and gives numbers to call in case of a medical emergency. Flyleaf maps make it simple to get around—even by tube.
—Mario R. Mercado
good green fun
Take a look at the world through the eyes of a bee at the new Everett Children's Adventure Garden (718/817-8700), where kids go nose-to-nose with nature. They can also learn how to build a bird's nest or pollinate a flower at the eight-acre indoor-outdoor museum, opening in May at the New York Botanical Garden. Visitors wander through a wonderland of ecosystem galleries, mazes, and wetland trails. Just don't let 'em ride the topiary caterpillars.
Turtles and monkeys and mice, oh my! Handmade leather backpacks from Sandy Vohr's Leather Zoo are wacky — but practical — accessories for on-the-go travelers, both young and old. (They come as fanny packs, too.) Choose among seven different animals. Prices range from $44 to $76; 518/377-2910.
• SACRAMENTO Ever wanted to ride the tail of Halley's comet?Take a simulated mission, offered on the third Wednesday of every month, at the Discovery Museum's new Challenger Learning Center (916/485-8836).
• WASHINGTON, D.C. The force will be waiting at the National Air & Space Museum's Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, on view through October (800/529-2440 for tickets). Scope out Luke Skywalker's original lightsaber and Hoth gear, and take an audio tour narrated by Darth Vader.
• FORT WORTH Calling young pilots. Steer a mock Boeing 727 through cyberspace and wing paper planes into a wind tunnel at the exhibition Flight: Where Adventures Take Off, on display through September at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History (888/255-9300).
• ST. LOUIS Learn the latest on cloning at the St. Louis Science Center's new DNA Zone gallery (800/456-7572), where you can zip and unzip a DNA strand and scale a double helix.
A mammoth movie screen, unlimited popcorn, a warm southern California evening — and a pool full of inner tubes. Must be Dive-In Movie Night, free for guests at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, just outside San Diego. Summer weekends bring parents and kids together beside — and in — the swimming pool for family flicks, from Babe to Father of the Bride. And while hot dogs and Cracker Jacks keep the kids happy, grown-ups can dine on seviche marinara and shrimp Caesar salad from the poolside Astra Bar & Grill. Throw in a mango margarita or two, and it'll be much easier to float through Home Alone yet one more time. Loews Coronado Bay Resort, 4000 Coronado Bay Rd.; 619/424-4000; rooms from $235.
Does a triceratops snore in its sleep?Do the ancient Egyptians dance in the dead of night?Find out during one of the family overnights at Chicago's Field Museum, which run through the year and vary in theme — you might be dozing with dinos or dreaming among the butterflies. Bring along a flashlight for the late-night scavenger hunt. Before lights out, there are healthful snacks and performances as guests (ages 6 to 12, with an adult) duck into their sleeping bags. Field Museum, 1200 S. Roosevelt Rd., at Lake Shore Dr.; 312/322-8854; $45 a person, sleeping bags and flashlights not included.
love that locomotion
"Are we there yet?" is the last question you're likely to hear aboard the Florida Fun Train. Shuttling vacationers between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale four days a week, this multicolored locomotive is the perfect diversion for kids who've moved beyond Thomas the Tank Engine. Double-decker entertainment cars with clowns and magicians, a virtual-reality video arcade, and a 1950's diner keep everyone happily chugging along for the four-hour ride. Parents can take a break at the Tiki bar or relax in the glass-domed guest car. Florida Fun Train, 888/386-8722; one-way fare is $70 for adults, $50 for kids 2-12 (free if under 2).
formes: changing shape
Those who believe style to be one of the unavoidable sacrifices of pregnancy, take heart — or rather, take Formes, a fashion-forward Parisian line of maternity wear. The spring collection features shantung silk suits and fluid crepe sundresses, all ingeniously equipped with hidden panels and fasteners to accommodate growing girth. With shops in nine countries — including France, England, and Canada — Formes's arrival really is a blessed event. Formes, 5 Rue du Vieux-Colombier, Paris, 33-1/45-49-09-80; 28 Henrietta St., London, 44-171/240-4777; 92 Laurier Ouest, Montreal, 514/273-4543; mail order, 44-171/820-3456; prices range from $57 to $320.