Seven ways to be a part of New York City:
1. Take tea (one of 108 varieties) at Alice's Tea Cup (102 W. 73rd St.; 212/799-3006).
2. Go for a whirl on a peppermint barstool at Dylan's Candy Bar (1011 Third Ave.; 646/735-0078), and sample some of the 5,000 sugar-coated treats from around the world.
3. Play in a 4,000-square-foot Barbie dollhouse, ride an indoor Ferris wheel, and score the Xbox at the world's biggest toy store, Toys 'R' Us Times Square (1514 Broadway; 646/366-8800).
4. When a street-cart frank just won't do, head downtown to Dawgs on Park (178 E. Seventh St.; 212/598- 0667) for an overstuffed chili dog.
5. Fashion flash: French kids' T-shirts with a cult following have arrived on Madison Avenue, at the first American Petit Bateau boutique (1094 Madison Ave.; 212/988-8884). Adults squeeze into teen sizes.
6. The ultimate White Way fantasy?Get your photo snapped at the Times Square Visitors Center (1560 Broadway; www.timessquarebid.org/visitor), and within five minutes, your 40-by-52-foot mug is displayed, for a New York minute, 30 stories above Broadway. Now, that's entertainment.
7. For more on New York, according to 126 savvy (and funny) Lab School eighth graders, check out Coring the Apple ($12; to order, call 212/645-1648).
- Niloufar Motamed
take a treetop walk
New this summer: a hawk's-eye view of northwestern Montana's Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park. At Big Mountain Resort, just outside the town of Whitefish (think Bonanza with galleries and brewpubs), you can stroll a mile-long boardwalk suspended in the trees. Ride a horse-drawn wagon into the forest, where, 30 feet up, naturalists help you spot red-tailed hawks, Western tanagers, black bears, and cougars. 406/862-2900; www.bigmtn.com; half-day outing $67 per person.
- Meg Lukens Noonan
The Great American Balloon Co. didn't dub its trip over Niagara Falls the "Flight of Angels" for nothing. The ride takes you 400 feet up for a heavenly look at the falls, the Niagara River, and the lights of Toronto. But don't worry about drifting over the border: the hot-air balloon is chained to the ground, and a winch reels you in when your 15 minutes are up. 716/278-0824; www.flightofangels.com; flights daily April to October, weather permitting; adults $18, children under 13 $9.
- Robert Maniaci
for odd's sake
Ever seen a dogigator (yep- half dog, half gator)?Check out the Unusual Collections and Mini-town Museum, or UCM (say it; you'll get the pun), an hour north of New Orleans. This old gas station is newly packed with mad memorabilia and owner John Preble's bayou-inspired art, such as his tornado town with scurrying Cajuns. 22275 Hwy. 36, Abita Springs, La.; 985/892-2624; www.ucmmuseum.com.
save our vacation!
The two of you love art, but the kids are strictly into soccer. Or maybe your children range from toddler to teen. What's a trip-challenged family to do?Call Children's Concierge, travel planners who mastermind clan-pleasing itineraries- with museum sculpture hunts and behind-the-scenes interviews- for Washington, D.C., and five other cities. Customized knapsack for each kid included. 877/888-5462; www.childrensconcierge.com; fees start at $120.
- Jane Margolies
Toss out those old, tattered maps in the glove compartment- Fodor's Road Guides USA are here. These exhaustively researched books ($18 each) cover the continental United States, offering smart listings on hotels, attractions, and events (such as Pennsylvania's spooky Civil War-era Gettysburg Ghost Conference, held in March), plus easy-to-read maps. Bonus: the hefty volumes, especially the California edition, can double as restaurant booster seats.
- H. Scott Jolley