MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Famous for its 60-mile-long “Grand Strand” of beach and a whopping 100-plus golf courses, this Southern resort town has been at the top of AAA’s most-requested list practically since TripTiks were invented. You’ll remember your own childhood days at the beach as you stroll the 1.2-mile-long boardwalk. Stop at Plyler Park, where you can board the Skywheel on an air-conditioned gondola and soar 20 stories above the Atlantic Ocean. After a day outdoors, head to Broadway at the Beach, a 350-acre entertainment complex with more than 100 retail shops, dozens of restaurants and bars, and three movie theaters surrounding Lake Broadway. With its family-friendly vibe and year-round warm weather, you’ll feel right at home, whether you choose to stay in a vintage motel or a beachside vacation home.
In this mecca for country music lovers, visitors will discover free live music all summer long at outdoor venues and honky-tonks along Broadway, downtown’s main drag. Get your musical education on a guided tour of the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, and afterward, cut your own CD in the recording studio. Check out the exhibits featuring industry legends at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and then catch a live show at the new Grand Ole Opry just outside town. Pretend you’re in Athens, Greece, as you explore the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the famous Greek structure and statues built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897 that’s now home to an impressive art collection.
Both Disney and Universal will unveil major new attractions this fall, so this summer may be the perfect time to visit—especially for families with toddlers—before the influx of Star Wars and Harry Potter fans descend on Central Florida. Now open at LEGOLAND Florida is The LEGO Movie World, re-creating scenes from the movie along with new dining spaces and three new rides. Also just opened this spring is Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando, where kids can meet their favorite Muppets in an immersive new neighborhood complete with Mr. Hooper’s Store and the famous stoop at 123. The park also features age-appropriate water play areas, six new attractions and a plethora of parades. And here’s a tip for parents of toddlers: take the Auto Train to Orlando from Lorton, Virginia, to save time on the road and bypass some of the “are-we-there-yet” blues.
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this hip town is a perfect escape for active vacationers. Drive along the scenic 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, and stop to enjoy nature’s beauty while zip lining, whitewater rafting, hiking, waterfall hunting or fly-fishing. Work up an appetite outdoors, and then visit a local farm where you can take a guided foraging expedition through the hills. Try locally produced cheese along the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail. Tap into the bohemian spirit of Asheville at the River Arts District, former industrial warehouses that now house local crafters and art galleries. See how the other half lived during America’s Gilded Age with a visit to Biltmore, George Vanderbilt’s winter estate and now Asheville’s most popular tourist attraction.
CHARLESTON/HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, AND SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
This historic triangle of cities is separated by just a few hours’ driving, so we lumped it into one recommended road trip and encourage you to do the same. Combined, these three areas best Myrtle Beach as the #1 TripTik requested by members. Start in the northernmost point of the triangle, Charleston, where you can immerse yourself in the Lowcountry culinary scene by visiting City Market and trying local staples such as she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, and oysters. The abundance of American history in this city is best experienced on foot, so take a guided tour through the cobblestoned streets or ride a ferry to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. From Charleston, drive two hours southwest to Savannah. The pedestrian-friendly City Market is the heart of downtown, with art galleries, boutiques, renowned restaurants and a bustling nightlife. In the heat of an evening summer, get chills on a ghost tour, including a visit to the cemetery made famous by John Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A little over an hour’s drive away is Hilton Head, named 2018’s #1 Island in the U.S. by Conde-Nast Traveler. Park the car, and explore the island by bike or kayak. You may spot an American alligator sunning on a lagoon bank or a few of the more than 350 species of native birds, including the great blue heron.
NIAGARA FALLS (NEW YORK AND CANADA)
Whether you choose the U.S. side (about a 20-minute drive north of Buffalo, New York) or the Canadian side (90 minutes south of Toronto, Ontario), the three massive waterfalls that grace Niagara Falls State Park should be on every traveler’s list of places to visit. The Canadian side boasts the best panorama of all three waterfalls, particularly from the top of the Skylon Tower’s revolving restaurant and observation deck. At night, the falls are illuminated in a rainbow of light, and there are fireworks on select summer evenings. To get closest to the water without boarding a boat, stick to the American side and the wooden path called the Cave of the Winds, where you’ll be just 20 feet from the base of Bridal Veil Falls. One thing to help you decide which side of the falls to visit may be your documentation: you’ll need a passport to visit Canada.
This small town in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains draws visitors for its natural beauty, whitewater rafting and moonshine. Immerse yourself in tradition and culture at an authentic moonshine distillery or one of several microbreweries or wineries in the area. Nearby Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, and this summer the theme park will introduce its largest expansion to date: Wildwood Grove. The new section will feature six new rides, including a suspended roller coaster called The Dragonflier; a ride on the back of friendly “bears” on Black Bear Trail; and Treetop Tower, and a 40-foot-high swing ride for the truly adventurous. And talking about big structures: Visit the observatory at the top of the 407-foot-tall Gatlinburg Space Needle for amazing panoramic views of the Smokies. At the needle’s base is the 25,000-square-foot Arcadia, a haven for gaming enthusiasts that claims to have “almost every game you can think of” from old-school pinball games and foosball to laser tag and the latest Pac-Man Smash.
Take the first step by visiting AAA.com/RoadTrips, where you’ll find hundreds of predefined road trip recommendations—not only routes from city to city but also routes categorized by interest. For example, you can follow the Civil Rights Trail or the Florida Black Bear Scenic Route. The 180-mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground routing takes you from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Richmond, Virginia, past various American historic sites and the homes of nine U.S. presidents.