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Unless you're heading to Nome or northern Montana on vacation, chances are you'll experience heat and humidity in extremis this summer. The H & H twins can be debilitating -- deadly, if left unchecked.

So, while you're out pursuing seasonal fun -- sunning, swimming, softball, sightseeing and the like -- remember to slow down, hydrate frequently with water and "sports drinks," eat salty snacks, and apply tepid water to your face, neck and extremities.

And, when the mercury soars, chill in an air-conditioned spot -- like a museum.

Here are some outstanding summer exhibits at the nation's premiere family museums.

Atlanta

The Children's Museum of Atlanta has the worthwhile "Under the Big Top" exhibit. Through interactive displays on diet, exercise and self-image, it encourages kids to take care of themselves -- all valuable lessons for old kids too. (275 Center Olympic Park Dr. NW; tel. 404/659-5437; www.imagineit-cma.org; Open daily)

Baltimore

Port Discovery Museum has been voted one of the top 5 kids' museums in the country. See why. Imagination and technology team up to enlighten and entertain in "Robots," where kids learn about science through hands-on activities. (35 Market Place; tel. 410/727-8120; www.portdiscovery.org; Open daily)

Denver

The Children's Museum of Denver has 11 "Playscapes" in which kids from not-yet crawling through 8 years learn while engaging in creative play. In "The Assembly Plant," 4- to 8-year-olds learn to problem-solve as they build objects from castoff materials. (2121 Children's Museum Dr.; tel. 303/433-7444; www.cmdenver.org; Open daily)

Honolulu

The Hawaii Children's Museum inspires kids from toddlerhood to age 8 to employ all their senses to learn about the world and also gain an appreciation of Hawaii's multiculturalism. "Fantastic You!" demystifies the workings of the body for little ones. (111 Ohe St.; tel. 808/524-5437; www.discoverycenterhawaii.org; Closed Monday)

Miami

The Miami Children's Museum appeals to kids with several interactive learning areas. In "Pet Central," find the ideal family pet and learn about critter care. Bank is a colorful walk-through where children can design their own money while learning the principles of earning, spending and saving. (Wonder if it's too late for me.) (980 MacArthur Causeway; tel. 305/373-5477; www.miamichildrensmuseum.org; Open daily)

New York

The Children's Museum of Manhattan caters to tykes from birth to age 10 in five learning areas. In the "City Splash" summer program, kids learn about water's properties (what propels boats, how pumps and waterwheels operate, painting with watercolors) the old-fashioned way -- by getting their hands wet. (212 W. 83rd St; tel. 212/721-1223; www.cmom.org; Closed Monday)

Philadelphia

The Franklin Institute Science Museum presents its summer headliner, "Real Pirates," with artifacts from the Wydah, a pirate ship discovered in 1984 off Cape Cod. Earmark a day or more to walk through a model heart, cover all the exhibits and catch an event in the IMAX or Franklin theater, or Planetarium. Tickets required for "Pirates." (222 N. 20th St.; tel. 215/448-1200; www2.fi.edu; Open daily)

Washington, D.C.

The Museum of Natural History has a permanent "Butterflies & Plants"exhibit chronicling the evolution of these gossamer-winged creatures who began life in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Note: The temperature is kept around 80 degrees for the butterflies -- far cooler than most D.C. sizzlers. (The rest of the museum is well-cooled.) Timed tickets are required. (10th Street NW and Constitution Avenue.; tel. 202/633-1000; www.butterflies.si.edu; Open daily)

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