Also, I use the Chowhound boards extensively as well - they are most helpful in larger metro areas (like DC), but you can probably find help with any area across the country on those boards as well.
I'm very jealous of your road trip - hope to make something similar myself someday, as soon as I can figure out how to make enough money whilst traveling to keep up with my expenditures on the road! Have a blast!
If you decide to skip Lawrence, you can head straight into downtown Kansas City (Missouri side) and travel to the Power & Light district. There you can visit either McFadden's (get the Cali BLT) or Raglan Road (one of only two in the US - get Fish and Chips). If you make it to Power & Light, give me a call and I will be glad to meet you for lunch. ;) If you are interested in some excellent Kansas City BBQ, let me know, I can recommend several amazing places.
There isn't much around Holiday World (the area is slowly building up) and if you are not going to visit the water park side of HW (rated as one of the top water parks in the nation), then you can finish in a half day (check out my comments in this thread for a touring plan). Just make sure to ride The Raven, The Legend, The Voyage, and Pilgrims Plunge. Everything else is fairly standard midway fare. Oh, and drink plenty of free soda. As for eating in the park, I don't remember anything that stood out, it was pretty average grub. If you are planning to stay overnight in Santa Clause, then stay in Jasper as there are more options. I stayed at the Baymont right near HW, and while the place was nice, there is little or nothing to do (and only a Denny's nearby) other than go to the park.
When in Williamsburg, splurge and eat at The Whaling Company. It is not far from the park and offers great food and atmosphere. Check out this thread for a discussion of restaurants near BGW. And this one for BGW touring plan suggestions.
Been a few years since I have been into Washington DC proper, but whenever I visit, I try to stop at Union Station and go to America. The food is excellent, and someone in your family must try A Trio of Classic Roadside Sliders. These mini burgers are AMAZING.
It has been a while since I last passed through Pigeon Forge, so I leave it to others to help there, although there is an old thread where I provided a still-relevant DW touring plan if you are interested.
And when you get to Orlando, well, there are plenty of choices, but if you did not eat at Raglan Road in Kansas City, make sure to eat at the Downtown Disney location.
And avoid the T-Rex Cafe at all costs (the one we have here in Kansas was the first in the nation - imagine that). Feel free to explore the attached store and view the cool animatronics and theming, but don't waste your money on the Rainforest Cafe-caliber food.
That's all I have for now....
Have a great trip!
And as you know, Disneyland and Disney World are not that same thing :)
But a man can only do so much!
A couple of local favorites and chains: - Skyline or Gold Star Chili: Cincy Style chili, coney's, etc - Montgomery Inn: Award winning ribs, and lots of other great food. Several locations through out Cincy. - Don't miss the Cincy Zoo if you have time.
Enjoy your trip!!
When you pass through St. Louis there are several restaurants that I would suggest.
Sweetie Pies (Manchester Rd.) great soul-food and featured on Food Network. The employees treat you like family.
Crown Candy Company (St. Louis Ave.)- IMO Best old school diner/local place to eat. The Malts are almost as big as your head. And, I LOVE the BLT there is a ton of bacon on them.
Blueberry Hill (Delmar Blvd.) - great burgers, and fun place to go.
And for dessert... Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is a must. They are on Chippewa.
Robert, on a side note. I work at the Saint Louis Science Center if you want to stop in for a while, I could get you tickets to the Omnimax or any paid venue and take care of your parking.
While you are in the Cincy area, you must make a stop at EnterTRAINment Junction up in Westchester. It houses the worlds largest model train layout, and even for non-railroad enthusiasts, I must say it is very impressive. I had the opportunity to work on designs for the seasonal attractions they offer there from a funhouse in the summer to a haunted house in the fall to a Christmas show. Very cool place.
If you like barbeque, you should try out some NC style BBQ while youre driving from Durham to TN..Make a stop in Lexington, NC and there will be many a dive to choose from.
There is yet another interesting restaurant in Spartanburg, SC while youre driving down I-26. It is called the Beacon Drive-In...and I must say ordering your food is an experience in itself...VERY greasy, heart-attack-on-a-plate if you will, but fun none the less. All you other Carolinians out there might know the place.
If I can think of anything else I will let you know. Sounds like itll be an awesome trip.
Also, the St. Louis Zoo is among the best in the nation, and as it is free (except for parking) you should stop in and see the Penguin Exhibit. It is phenomenal.
I was at the Cincy Zoo yesterday. Nice place, although there is a bit of construction going on.
A month long cross country trip isn't crazy. I wish I could do it myself. A month long cross country trip in a Prius? Now that my friend is crazy. I'll be around at Kings Island this year, perhaps I'll see you on the midway.
My wife's family lives in Cincinnati, and my parents are in Orlando (Celebration). So we won't need hotels in those area. (We'll also be staying with friends in Denver, DC, Durham and Austin.)
I'm trying to stay away from the "Roadfood"-type greasy spoons, in favor of healthier local-food places.
It's amazing how short 33 days seems when you start planning a trip like this. We had to cut out James' beloved Worlds of Fun, in Kansas City. We really planned the family destinations first - Cincinnati and Orlando, with the trip to D.C. in the middle. From there, we filled in the theme parks that stood along the way.
Keep the suggestions coming!
If you are there in the evening, the Smoky Mountain Brewery is pretty good, and the Old Mill is a nice family style restaurant, but get there early to avoid waiting in line.
One final thing is the Aquarium of the Smokies. Fantastic place! We prefer to go at about 7pm, when there is no crowd. It's open pretty late, so that gives you plenty of time to see it all.
Of course, the opening of Diamondback is going to draw large crowds and throw off the plan that's been working for me for years, so feel free to take my suggestions lightly.
Let's say you were going to spend two days at Kings Island? Leave Diamondback out of the first one -- or if you're only going to be there one day, save Diamondback until the end of the day. You don't really want to be waiting in line when you could be riding other things without lines in the morning!
Here's what I'd suggest:
1) Go right to Rivertown, in the back of the park, and ride The Beast. If you hurry, the line will be short or non-existent. There's also something special about being on that first train on a fresh summer morning.
2) After this, ride Backlot Stunt Coaster (formerly Italian Job). It's close by and usually not worth waiting in a long line for.
3) Next, ride Vortex. Lines in the morning aren't too bad, but they tend to build up by nightfall. You should still be able to get on and off fairly quickly. (Enjoying the ride in between, of course!).
4) After this, duck under the Racer and ride Firehawk. Since it's still fairly new, there might be somewhat of a wait. They don't allow any sort of carry-on item at ALL past the ride entrance, so make sure that you have someone to hold any loose items or quarters for the nearby lockers. The line for Firehawk will vary, depending on whether or not they're running both trains.
5) Since Flight of Fear is right next door, ride that next. If it's sweltering outside, this will provide a nice break. The large room with the queue is a pretty nifty optical illusion -- it took me years to see the obvious!
6) After Flight of Fear, head back out to Coney Mall, through Oktoberfest, and into Action Zone. Ride Delirium -- the line usually doesn't take too long because they take 50 people at a time.
7) Next up is Drop Tower (formerly Drop Zone), right across the pavilion.
8) Head toward Days of Thunder and the adjacent restrooms, and you'll see the entrances for Son of Beast and Flight Deck (formerly Top Gun). Ride Son of Beast.
9) Depending on the crowd, you should probably be able to still almost walk on Flight Deck. It's a short, but fun ride that may turn people away because of the long walk to get to it!
10) Next up is Invertigo (formerly Face/Off). The line tends to go slowly due to the nature of the coaster only allowing one train at a time.
11) By this time, everyone is most likely famished and about to collapse. (= Granted you got there right at the park's opening, lunch would fall somewhere around 8, 9, or 10. The indoor Festhaus and the nearby Stunt Crew Grill are both nice places to eat and take a break.
12) Then, of course, if you're ready for Diamondback, go ahead!
13) Now, I know I skipped quite a few rides that may have been of interest...
If the weather is nice and you're up for getting wet, Congo Falls (Action Zone) and Whitewater Canyon (Rivertown) are always fun.
The Crypt (formerly Tomb Raider) *used* to be fun until they removed all the theming both in the queue and in the ride itself. If you enjoy being flipped in circles in a bare concrete building, go right ahead. ...but I don't think it's worth waiting for.
Adventure Express is a neatly themed little coaster, but for being such a little coaster, it sure is rough! I usually skip this one.
I haven't been on The Racer in years, but if you're at Kings Island I suppose you can't go without riding the classic that ushered in the Second Golden Age of the roller coaster. (= I'd suggest sitting towards the middle of the train because, from what I can remember, the front and back are both really rough.
Scooby Doo's Haunted Castle is great. Don't forget it's there!
Then, of course, be sure to make a quick trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower and take a ride on the train before leaving.
So, thus concludes my two cents about Kings Island. Feel free to take or disregard any of the things I've suggested, for they reflect my personal opinion and probably don't fit everyone. I can't wait to see these pictures! Have fun on the trip.
As for features, I'd love to hear what Kings Island is like in terms of cleanliness, ride selection, etc. compared to other parks. This is the only true amusement park I've been to!
My family and I stumbled onto this restaurant a couple years ago at the suggestion of a manager at a chain restaurant where we ate, and ever since then it has been a must-hit every time we've gone to Kings Island (or through the Mason/Cincinatti area).
Hope you have a great trip!
Seriously, though, you should check out Dutch Wonderland in PA. http://www.dutchwonderland.com/index.php
It's Dwayne's favorite childhood amusement park (except for Disney World, of course.)
We're driving cross country this summer too, so if we end up going before you and find some good places to eat, I'll let you know!!
When you're in Austin, be sure to visit the new history museum (downtown). And have some great barbque at The County Line. Just south of Austin, in Gruene, step back in time at Gruene Hall (dance hall) and float the river.
Personally, I'm partial to a restaurant named Rustico in Alexandria, which we discovered in EPCOT of all places, when executive chef Frank Morales prepared a brewers dinner that knocked our socks off. His restaurant features over 500 different beers and an exclusive chef's table that will have you in culinary and brewing heaven!!
BTW, if you plan on visiting the Air and Space Museum on the Mall, don't forget that you can see even more at the Udvar Hazi Air and Space Museum, which houses an even larger collection of air and spacecraft (including the Enterprise Space Shuttle). I've lived in the DC area my entire life, so if you need any special hints, parking spaces, tips, or ways around the horrendous traffic (trust me, it's even worse than LA) just let me know.
Each night, right after sunset, it is TRULY one of the coolest things you'll ever see. There will be hundreds of people there (and there's absolutely nothing to worry about, they're insectivores).
(Biologist by day, theme park enthusiast every summer)
2. ethos- on orange ave. just north of downtown on a lake front strip of antique shops is ethos. not your momma's vegan restaurant. Try the "Sheeps pie" for home comfort pasta dishes soups and deserts all while watching the lake.
Places to go-
Silver Springs- natures theme park (best afternoon to be had in Florida)Pirates Dinner Adventure- Much more elaborate sets and costumes (And music) then any other dinner show in orlando. Some VERY skilled circus performers and a lot of audience participation make this your best bet for this type of entertainment. and its been around a while and is an old favorite of locals who go year after year.
First I want reiterate checking out Guy Fieri’s Diner, Drive-In’s and Dives for local flavor. Most of his restaurants he highlights, even the burger joints, make the meals from scratch with fresh ingredients. If you go the Food Network site, click the link “Go Where Guy Went” it will give you a list of all the places he visited from the first season. There is also a book.
When in Denver check out the Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita’s. While the food isn’t great (though they do make a mean sopapilla) your theme park sensibilities will get a kick out of the atmosphere. They have a huge waterfall in the middle with diving demos and walkthroughs for the kids. They made fun of it on South Park and the locals with kids all love the place.
While not the best Chili in the US, when in Cincinnati you are almost obligated to eat at Skyline Chili.
As a DC Metro area resident I can assure you there is not a lot of good cuisine in the Downtown Area. The best is in Annapolis and Baltimore. However if you are site seeing at the museums, and need a meal, there are two food courts that are decent. The Old Post Office Pavilion (make sure to do the free tower tour. 2nd best view in DC and I worked there when I was part of the NPS) and the Ronald Regan Building (a little better food than the post office). Of course the best local flavor in DC is Ben’s Chili Bowl. Get a half smoke. Even Obama ate there on inauguration day. Also The Hards Times Cafe or anything else on King Street in Northern Virgina.
If you make it to Baltimore I recommend the Lexington Market that has been there since the city’s founding (though only go there during the day, it can a little seedy in the evening). In Little Italy the best place is Amici’s. Great causal dining for a reasonable price, not usual for this area. And you can always get a good meal in Fell’s Point.
In Annapolis most of the food is great. On Main Street the best Japanese food I have ever had is at Joss’s Café. For a killer desert try the Annapolis Ice Cream Company (all homemade) or get a HUGE yummy Milk Shake at Chick ‘n Ruth’s. For an off-the-beaten-path fish meal take the “country” drive to Cantler’s.
In Williamsburg try the converted gas station Pierce’s Pit BBQ, close to the Great Wolf Lodge. It is a local joint that the tourists are starting to discover. They make a mean pulled pork sandwich. In the historic area they have three good but expensive taverns. However the fourth, Chowning’s Tavern, is a bit more reasonable, kid friendly and there is no reservation system. Just show up. In the park, you have to eat at the classic Das Festhaus (though the food has been declining lately) in Oktoberfest or Trapper’s Smoke House in New France. Both of these joints get a 9 on your own website.
In the Great Smokey Area, I agree with a previous post about the Smoky Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg. I eat there almost every time I visit. I cannot really make other food recommendations but can recommend one attraction to visit. In Gatlinburg one of the best walkthroughs in the country is Ripley's Haunted Adventure. It was voted #9 on DAFE.org member’s survey.
Finally, when on Highway 10, take the detour to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in South Eastern New Mexico. Get there early to get the biggest bang for your buck. It is totally worth it. There is a decent cafeteria in the Park but DON’T eat in White’s City. Ask a Park Ranger this question, “Where would you eat if I wanted a good meal in Carlsbad?” They technically cannot make recommendations so asking them this question gets around that. That is good advice for any National Park.
Have a real good time.
We lived in Denver for four years before moving to Pasadena, so we're familiar with what's there (should have clarified that in the post), and Laurie's lived in Cincinnati, too. But we're eager and thankful for all these wonderful suggestions for the rest of our route. (And, frankly, it's been a while since we lived in Denver or Cincy, so we've loved hearing about anything new.)
Laurie's adamant against the Skyline Chili, FWIW. I've never had it, 'cause she refuses to go. Perhaps I'll try to sneak a chili dog when we're at Kings Island. I can't imagine we'll get out of town without a stop at Graeter's, though. She and the kids always get that. (I don't do dairy much anymore.)
Oh and check out the two newer museums on the National Mall. The International Spy Museum and the Newseum. While they are private and charge unlike the Smithsonian, they are interactive and a lot fun. And it is worth it the drive to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space like another person wrote. Because it is a Smith., it is free but there is a $12.00 parking fee.
Cannot wait to read your posts. :)
BTW - when you visit parks, do you register with their PA departments as "media"?
Lotsa good suggestions on this thread. Some observations...Parking for the Udvar-Hazy center is $15.00 (at least that's what I paid a few weeks ago). But I agree that it's a good supplement to the NASM downtown. Hard Times Cafe's in the DC area have good chili in several styles, and make a mean Frito Chili Pie-like dish.
City Barbeque, in the Cincy area, is pretty darn tasty and is served in a rustic atmosphere -- but if your wife is from the area, you should already know about it. The sampler platter is my favorite. Avoid the gumbo.
Skyline "Chili" is more like moussaka sauce than chili -- think meat sauce with cinnamon and allspice in it. It's better than it sounds... Have the "5-way."
We did a similar trip in 2006, going from Tampa - Orlando - Williamsburg - Atlanta, hitting both Busch Gardens', Sea World Orlando and Six Flags over Georgia. If we were to do it again, we'd skip Atlanta and do Carowinds off of I-77. That would be well off your planned route. I recommend carrying a laptop with GPS and good mapping software, and using it to monitor your route and location. The rig saved us a few hours in avoiding a several-mile traffic backup on I-95 by showing us a nearby alternate route.
Have fun, good luck, and may the winds blow favorably for you during your trip (especially climbing the Rockies on I-70!).