Above the couch in my home office, I've posted a map of the United States, into which I've pushed nearly 100 pins - each representing a stop on one of the five cross-country roadtrips I've taken with my family over the past decade.
Yeah, I like driving. So I definitely feel the frustration that many of you are feeling right now, waiting at home for this global Covid-19 crisis to end. I've been passing the time filming our "Social Distancing Kitchen" videos for you, teaching how to make some favorite theme park food at home. But I've also found myself just browsing Google Maps, looking for places to go - once we can - and remembering some of the wonderful places I've already been.
May I bring you along on my virtual roadtrips?
For the next couple of weeks, I will be posting daily articles using Google Maps and our Theme Park Insider videos to invite you to explore popular theme parks from your own home, while they are closed. I'll also be sharing some of my thoughts about these parks, as well as my roadtrips and international travels. I'll start in my native Southern California before moving on to the American Midwest, then down the Atlantic coast to Central Florida. After that, we'll head over the ocean for stops in Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific coast of Asia.
While I welcome comments on each post about the destinations we're visiting online, I also would like to invite you to share your own past roadtrip experiences on our Discussion Forum. It's never too late for a trip report!
First up: SeaWorld San Diego
Please click and explore the Google Map above. Fair warning, though, the Google Street View inside SeaWorld is ancient, so you're getting the bonus of virtual time travel by following it through the park. Want to see what SeaWorld San Diego was like before Manta, much less Electric Eel and the new Emperor? Here ya go.
Driving to SeaWorld from my home in Pasadena can take anywhere from slight over two hours to fuhgeddaboutit. My worst Southern California traffic story comes from my attempt to cover the opening of the old Blue Horizons show at SeaWorld San Diego. I left five hours before the press preview, figuring I would enjoy a little extra time in the park before the show. Four and a half hours later, I had made it only to San Clemente - 70 miles down the road and another 50 miles from SeaWorld - as a series of accidents pretty much shut down every freeway in the LA area.
Right now, though, the road around Southern California are as clear as the skies... and in a good way, for a change. Rain clearing the air and no polluting cars on the road to foul it again has shown us why so many people fell in love with California and moved here in the first place. It's truly gorgeous around here now.
If only we had someplace to go.
SeaWorld San Diego is refocusing as a more thrill-driven park, with Emperor, California's first Bolliger & Mabillard dive coaster ready to open when the park returns. But my favorite existing coaster at the park is the whippy Mack Rides launch coaster, Manta.
I also enjoy the unique experience of the Premier Rides Sky Rocket II, Electric Eel.
But I think that my most rare credit from this park might be the Skyline Skywarp Horizon, Tidal Twister, given its spotty uptime record.
If you want to enjoy one of the park's animal show, here's Orca Encounter.
Getting back on the 5, let's head back north up to Legoland California.
My kids are grown now, so I am happy that running Theme Park Insider provides me a socially welcomed excuse to visit the delightful park. Here's the Street View.
The new attraction that was supposed to open at Legoland California this month was the west coast installation of The Lego Movie World. Here is its anchor attraction, the Masters of Flight flying theater ride (recorded at Legoland Florida).
Over the past couple of years, I've enjoyed covering the opening of other park attractions, including Lego City Deep Sea Adventure submarine ride.
And Ninjago The Ride, a motion-activated interactive dark ride.
What's your favorite part of Legoland California?
Theme Park Insider's Virtual Roadtrip:
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Now open, or date announced:
Still waiting on these: