I have been thinking about our family travel plans for next summer. Next summer may be our last time to travel as a whole family of 5 since one will be heading off into the world and then we are moving back East. I stumbled onto the idea of building a trip around a theme. Themes do not have to be complicated and not just the prevue of tour companies. After some quick research I started thinking about the different themes that could work for our family.
What is a themed vacation or a themed trip? Well it is something the tour industry has been doing for years. Think guided bus tour to follow the Romantic Road in Germany or storm chasing tours on the great plains of the United States. They are a series of destinations or activities all centered around a central idea.
What are the themes I came up with? First I thought about a space exploration theme. Visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX and then the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. After that driving to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The final stop on this would be the Marshall Space flight Center in Huntsville, AL.
At the Johnson Space Center you can visit the Starship Gallery which is home to the majority of the artifacts. See and walk inside the massive Skylab Trainer Module where astronauts first trained for life in space. See multiple flown spacecraft including Gemini V, Faith 7 and Apollo 17. Touch one of the few moon rocks on earth available to the public inside the Lunar Vault.
At Independence Plaza, you can see the historic shuttle carrier aircraft NASA 905 with the high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence mounted on top. You can tour this international landmark at your own pace. They suggest allowing about an hour and a half to explore this exhibit celebrating the Space Shuttle Program.
The NASA Tram Tour takes you behind-the-scenes at NASA Johnson Space Center. You will tour Rocket Park. Check the information screens in the tram-loading area to see what other NASA locations you will tour that day. The tram tour visits working government facilities which are subject to availability and can temporarily close to visitors without notice, but is totally worth the effort to see the places space exploration history was made.
At the Stennis Space Center, you can take a bus tour of the test complex from the Infinity Science Center. Bus tours are included in your ticket price to the INFINITY Science Center. Tours last approximately forty minutes and offer a behind-the-scenes look at America’s largest rocket engine test facility, one of the most unique scientific complexes on Earth.
Kennedy Space Center has to be on the bucket list for any space flight enthusiast. The is where the Giant leap left from. Kennedy really is America’s Space Port. Like most NASA Space flight centers you can take a bus tour and get as close as possible to the launch complexes where Saturn and Shuttle launched from and where the SLS will take us to mars in the not so far future. The other must do is the Astronaut Memorial, the 42½-foot-high-by-50-foot-wide black granite monument is emblazoned with the names of each of the 24 astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice, including the crews of Apollo 1, STS-51L/Challenger and STS-107/Columbia, as well as seven other astronauts who died in jet and commercial plane crashes. Their names are reflected by the shining granite as if to be projected into the heavens.
My final stop on this trip would be the George Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. This is where Dr. Von Braun and his team of scientist from Germany developed American Space Craft from Explorer I to the Saturn V, they all came from “The Rocket City”. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is the official visitor center for the Marshall Space Flight Center. Take the bus tour! You will learn things about the space program you would never guess. Also take time to visit the U.S. space and Rocket Center itself. As you walk under the massive Saturn V, the Saturn I and the Space Shuttle Display you really get the true sense of what we have achieved in space flight.
The second trip I came up with is a Bar-Be-Que tour of the South. I am going to start this one in the Atlanta, Ga area. I am starting at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. I took some co-workers that were all from New England here for lunch one time, and well they licked the sauce out of the cups before we left.
After Fat Matt’s we are heading just up the road to East Ellijay, Ga to COL Poole’s GA BBQ and the Pig Hill of Fame. I’ll let you read the story of COL Poole’s on their web site, but the place is almost a required stop on the road to the White House and defiantly on the road to the GA Governs Mansion.
“The Pig Hill of Fame”
Rib and Loin BBQ in Chattanooga, TN is the example of true southern pulled pork. Rib and Loin has been serving up Chattanooga delicious barbecue since 1989. They serve smoked beef brisket, pork shoulder, chicken breasts, and barbecued ribs from their pit. All of that can be served and piled high on their famous stuffed barbecue potatoes.
No BBQ of the South would be complete without a stop at Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, Al. Home of a Champion of Memphis is May BBQ cook off. Big Bob Gibson’s is famous for its BBQ chicken with white BBQ Sauce. This really is something special, the white sauce is really unique.
These are just two ideas I came up with as I am working on travel for next year. The real take away from this is that a theme can help set the tone for a vacation and help get everyone on the trip excited about the trip. With just a little effort in planning a theme trip can be the trip of a lifetime for a family or a group of friends.