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Kids can Travel to be Pirates, Princesses or Astronauts

No wonder that parents are preoccupied this week in trying to turn their Hallowe’en trick and treaters into swashbuckling pirates, space people or astronauts ruling the galaxy and the most sensitive princess ever to sleep on a pea. Normally, the kids are insistent that they look “real.” I remember one of mine at the age of three disdainfully rejecting the large brass curtain rings I’d found to use as pirate’s earrings. He wanted real gold hoops and real gold treasure too. My sentiments exactly.

As ghosts and goblins, and yes, pirates, princesses and space explorers roam the streets, I couldn’t help thinking how great it would be to be these characters for just one night—like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Well, I’m happy to report that there are places families can travel to where the offspring (and their parents) can really learn to train as an astronaut, wear an authentic Caribbean pirate’s costume or drift off to dreamland in a Sleeping Beauty castle.

COSMODŌME, LAVAL QUEBEC: If you have a junior Luke or Lucy Skywalker, wanting to explore the universe, then race to the Cosmodōme just north of Montreal. Kids come here from all over the continent to “train” as astronauts and space explorers. As Canada’s first interactive facility devoted to Space Science, the building houses the Space Science Centre Museum and the country’s only Space Camp for kids nine to 14 (and sometimes their parents).

If you want to do an overnight under an reflective space blanket and play by day on lifelike simulators like a real astronaut, there are numberous possibilities. Youngsters nine to 15 can attend a week-long session of Space Camp (at $675 per week including meals and training), or parents and kids can enjoy together programs ranging from half a day to a weekend session. Following a workshop on a subject like rocket propulsion, families can pick up moon rocks while bouncing up and down without gravity or re-enter the earth’s atmosphere while revolving around upside down or repair a meltdown. Space Camp also has a full-scale replica of the Endeavour space shuttle which is used to simulate real space missions including lift-off. “For a split second,” said one mom who was surprised by the noise of the shuttle rockets firing up, “I wondered if we were really taking off into space.” The next half-day program ($15 for kids, $20 for adults) takes place 1 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 27, the next one-day program ($28 for kids, $38 for adults) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 11, and the next two-day camps in March 2000. But reserve ahead as they fill up fast. The all-kids Space Camp sessions run all summer. For information, call 450-978-3516 or 1-800-565-CAMP.

Any age will enjoy a visit to the Space Science Centre museum located in the same building. Start by viewing “Reach for the Stars” on a 360 screen, a multimedia show that transports the audience on a tilting, moving platform from astronomy’s beginnings to the next space frontier. Then head into the museum to see rockets from Japan, Europe and Russia, an authentic space suit from astronaut Jim Irwin, exhibits on satellites and the solar system (including a glowing yellow Saturne surrounded by misty gases) and a real Moon rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 15 astronauts. The museum is unique from other Space Centres on the continent (there are four in the U.S. ) in that this one concentrates on the Space Program from the point of view of countries other than the U.S. The whole facility is brilliantly lit with overhead spots and twinkle lights that resemble stars. Call 450-978-3600.

PIRATES WEEK FESTIVAL, GRAND CAYMAN, BRITISH WEST INDIES: Every October, pirates take over Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean. They arrive on a cannon-firing Spanish galleon, submarines and dive boats and then lay siege to the capital of George Town, siezing the governor and leading him away in shackles. Thankfully, these swashbuckling characters are simply dressed-up citizens having a good time. The days of merry-making, this year from Oct. 22 to 31, includes special children’s activities such as face painting, magic shows, costume contests and teen street dances. Finally, on the last evening, fireworks light up the harbour and the pirates depart. For family packages from Signature Vacations, Air Canada Vacations and World of Vacations ranging from the moderately priced Sleep Inn (located on beautiful Seven Mile Beach) to the grand Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort & Villas with Camp Hyatt for ages three to 12, call your travel agent or the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism 1-800-263-5805. Charter flights fly Toronto to George Town from November through April.

GERMANY: On the Fairy Tale Road in Germany’s Reinhardswald region is the famous twin-turreted Dornroschenschloss Sababurg, or the Sleeping Beauty’s castle of Grimm Brothers fame. The 600-year-old castle is also a hotel. You can sleep in the tower or in a new modern wing overlooking Europe’s oldest animal park. Part of the castle is still in ruins; it is here in the garden that re-enactments of the tale take place during the summer. For rates and more information, call the German National Tourist Office 416-968-1570.





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