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5 Unforgettable Family Vacations

Ever wonder what was so special about that seemingly ordinary kid dancing onstage at the "Festival of the Lion King" show? Or the one on the float in the Sesame Place parade? Simple. They're the children of VIPs: Very Informed Parents. Here's the low-down on how to rock your next getaway with extra experiences that make a big impact.

Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Why go: 1,500 animals from 250 species. And some give autographs. Disney's Animal Kingdom is the largest critter-based theme park in the world, with something for everyone, like camp Minnie-Mickey for the tykes and Dinoland USA for the elementary set. You'll find Broadway-worthy musicals and a daily parade, too.

Snag this bonus: Leading the audience in making animal calls or dancing onstage at the "Festival of the Lion King" show. Get there at least 15 minutes early and sit on one of the front four floor benches. Four leaders are chosen to help their quarter of the theater show "wild" enthusiasm at key moments in the show. Or choose aisle seats on the floor: An additional 20 or so young children are selected from those seats to circle dancers on stilts and play African hand instruments during the finale. You won't get picked if you're in the upper seats, as performers don't want to lead kids up and down stairs in the dark.

More info: steady walkers and up; bonus free with admission; 407-939-7675,

Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA

Why go: If you have a toddler or a preschooler, this place is hard to top. The manageable theme park features mesmerizing shows, a massive climbing play structure, water attractions, and mini-rides built with the littlest daredevils in mind. The parade is always the highlight as it bebops down the main drag with dancers and music -- and fur -- galore.

Snag this bonus: Your child, sitting pretty in a float. Two daily parades offer the downplayed opportunity for kids to ride on floats or walk alongside the professional dancers and characters. Check for locations for the first-come, first-served sign-up. If the first parade's quota of participants is filled, ask when to come back for a chance at the second.

And this one, too: Hobnobbing with the furry red guy himself, onstage in "Elmo's World Live." Arrive for the show at least 20 minutes early, sit close to the stage, and your youngster could be picked to dance along with Dorothy and don an adorable biblike getup onstage with Elmo later in the show, a la Sesame Street's Elmo's World segment. A mom with a baby is also chosen, normally from the front left, to act in the signature baby slot.

More info: all ages; bonuses free with admission; sesameplace.com

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