Summertime for many means piling into the family truckster for the family vacation, a chance to share lots of quality time, ooh and ahh (however briefly) over the sights on America's highways and byways and add to the scrapbook.
As Clark W. Griswold ï¿½the beleaguered family man played by Chevy Chase in the 1983 road trip classic, "National Lampoon's Vacation" ï¿½ can tell you, it can be a long way down the holiday road, and more multigenerational families are hitting that holiday road together than ever before.
Still, if shining like a beacon at the end of the road is your family's version of Walley World, it's a family bucket list (mis)adventure worth any bump along the way.
"I think a road trip to just about anywhere can lead to special memories that families will always remember," said singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, co-owner of theme park Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. "And if you find some good food along the way, all the better!"
So get your Griswold on and gas up, but remember this rule for the road: Buy your theme park tickets in advance. It could save you some money and ensure that the park will actually be open during your visit.
Park mascot: Marty Moose
Blonde bombshell: Christy Brinkley
Rollercoaster worth forcing your way onto: Revolution, the world's first giant looping rollercoaster and/or Colossus ï¿½ one of the world's most enormous wooden roller coasters, with six drops, 14 hills and more than 4,325 feet of track. Both are at Los Angeles, California's Six Flags Magic Mountain, www.SixFlags.com/MagicMountain, and take note: your last chance to ride Colossus is Aug. 16, after which the "granddaddy of all roller coasters" is coming down.
Picnic: Hamburger Helper (just the Helper served with real tomato ketchup) at Cousin Eddie's.
Don't miss moment: Riding coasters with the SWAT team.
If you have only seconds to see a major attraction along the way: Grand Canyon, www.NPS.gov/grca/index.htm.
Overnighting on the "holiday road" ï¿½ Guesthouse International Hotel, www.GuesthouseCalifornia.com, Norwalk, California. Known as the Saddleback Inn when the Griswold family checked in several decades ago, it is located near Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios. Contrary to what Clark and The Girl in the Ferrari would have you believe, bathing suits are required.
Theme park: Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, www.Disneyworld.disney.go.com,
Park mascot: Mickey Mouse
Blonde bombshell: Cinderella
Ride worth forcing your way onto: The 180-foot tall Space Mountain, which plunges you into the inky black of the galaxy. This ride, with its drops, dips and dark, remains a classic.
Picnic: Dine at the Beast's Castle in the Be Our Guest restaurant for an alternative to burgers and fries: Croque-Monsieur, veggie quiche, slow-braised pork. There's "grey stuff" for dessert and a chance to get a picture taken with Beast, all in gorgeous surroundings.
Don't miss moment: Seeing Cinderella's Castle illuminated with millions of colored lights once the sun sets over the park; it truly is magical.
If you have only seconds to see a major attraction along the way: Bok Tower Gardens, www.BokTowerGardens.org, Lake Wales, timed to hear its 60-bell Singing Tower carillon concerts at 1 and 3 p.m. daily.
Overnighting on the "holiday road": Omni Hotel Resort ChampionsGate, www.OmniHotels.com, puts you within a 30-minute drive of Magic Kingdom, LEGOLAND, Universal Studios and the shops, restaurants and attractions of downtown Orlando ï¿½ but out of the fray of the parks. It is a lushly landscaped oasis with a lazy river undulating beneath shading palm trees, waterslide, formal pool and cabanas with WiFi and flat screen TVs, Mokara Spa, championship golf, Camp Omni kids' program and teen space and activities.
Theme park: Dollywood & Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, www.Dollywood.com
Park mascot: No mascot per se; but there's no mistaking who the face of this eponymously named park is.
Blonde bombshell: The Divine Miss P., of course.
Ride worth forcing your way onto: FireChaser Express, the nation's first dual-launch forward and backward coaster. It soar 12 stories above the park and encounters a surprise explosion that sends the coaster back into the station traveling in the opposite direction.
Picnic: The 12-pound, 30-inch round cheese or pepperoni pie at LumberJack's Pizza is big enough for 8 to 10 hungry diners. Bonus: If two people polish off one in a single sitting, each receives a Gold Season Pass to return to Dollywood as many times as they like.
Don't miss moment: Seeing any of Dollywood's excellent original productions, like "My People!" and "Heartsong."
If you have only seconds to see a major attraction along the way: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, www.NPS.gov/grsm/index.htm, the most visited in the country ï¿½ and admission is free.
Overnighting on the "holiday road": Dollywood Cabins, www.Dollywood.com, offer a variety of amenity-laden accommodations, for two to 32. Rates start at $99/night. Along the way: The upscale Holiday Inn World's Fair Park Hotel, www.HolidayInnWFP.com. Home to the world's largest Rubik's Cube, it's comfy with gorgeous lobby and Windows on the Park restaurant and puts guests in (free) shuttle distance of downtown Knoxville attractions. Valid through Aug. 28: Urban Wilderness Adventure package (from $164/night) with deluxe overnight accommodations, bicycle rentals, canoeing or paddleboarding excursion and welcome amenity.
Theme park: Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana, www.HolidayWorld.com
Park mascot: Holidog
Blonde bombshell: Kitty Claws, a black cat in bright orange tutu, who lives in the Halloween area.
Ride worth forcing your way onto: The Voyage. Named by TIME Magazine as the No. 1 wooden coaster in the nation, it provides more "air time" than any other wooden roller coaster in the world. Hang on!
Picnic: Dine pilgrim-style at Plymouth Rock Cafe in the Thanksgiving area: turkey, dressing, green beans, sweet potato casserole and, for dessert, pecan or pumpkin chess pie.
Don't miss moment: Joining Santa at his Storytime Theater to hear a Christmas story and sing a carol or two. Photos ops, too.
If you have only seconds to see a major attraction along the way: Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, www.NPS.gov/libo/index.htm, in Lincoln City, Indiana.
A place to stay on the "holiday road": A Christmas Cabin at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort, www.LakeRudolph.com, with free shuttle service to and from Holiday World and lots of other family-friendly amenities. Along the way: Leavenworth Inn, www.LeavenworthInn.com, an upscale country inn overlooking the Ohio River. Valid through Aug. 31, 2014: Sizzling Summer Special: $165 for 2 nights, Thurs.-Sun., subject to availability, and includes a delicious breakfast.
Author, travel and lifestyle writer, and travel goods expert Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there's just too much to see and do in the world. She can be reached at KathyWitt24@gmail.com or KathyWitt.com.