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Window Seat or Aisle Seat: Road Trips to the Relive the ’80s

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Star Wars, Pac-Man, Prince, Dirty Dancing, and Miracle on Ice…what’s not to love about the 1980s? But how do you introduce today’s kids to yesterday’s best? How about a road trip back in time? Family Travel expert Kerri Zane ups the ante with her recent Window Seat or Aisle Seat adventure to the best ’80s landmarks across the country. Follow along on a cross-country road-trip adventure that children of the ’80s can’t miss.

A road trip is a road trip is a road trip. But if you really want to go the extra mile for yourself and your family, treat yourself to a jaunt down memory lane with an iconic ’80s-inspired spin around the U.S.  Tease your hair, pack in your extra-large shoulder pads, plug in some Guns n’ Roses, Duran Duran or (my fav) Journey and hit the road. Here are 11 classic 1980’s-style road stops to take you back to your glory days.

1. For a ’80s-themed road trip with your family you’ve got to drive through Sonoma County and tour Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory. Mrs. Grossman practically invented the sticker craze.  You can tour the facilities, which begins with a five-minute video on the history of the company followed by demonstrations and intimate looks at the process involved in making stickers. Also on display is the Incredible Laserweb, the only one in the world. The tour lasts 90 minutes and tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for youth under 12. Guests can call 800-429-4549 for reservations and more information.

2. Just west of Yuma, Arizona lies the Imperial Sand Dunes where the Return of the Jedi did its location filming. The scenes on Jabba the Hut’s sail barge only accounted for minutes of the final movie, but took about 14 days and $4 million to film. During the off-season, you can pull right up for photos ops; permits are required during the off-roading season when as many as 200,000 people descend on the area to play with their sand toys. Of course Jabba wasn’t the only celebrity to visit the Dunes. They have a long history as a film location, going back to the earliest days of Hollywood.  Check out the Film in Yuma website for more information.

3. No ’80s-style road trip would be complete without a send up to the Olympics. And with the Stanley Cup such a coveted competition the hockey arena in Lake Placid, New York, is a great stop along your road trip. It is the venue where the US Olympic team beat the Russians (Soviets) on February 22, 1980, en route to a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. The “Miracle on Ice” is probably the greatest sports upset of all time and certainly set the tone for a more upbeat feeling for Americans in the 1980s. It’s free to tour the hockey arena, and there’s a Miracle on Ice museum that costs $7 per person.

4. The ’80s would not have been as iconic without the multi-talented, Prince. Minneapolis is his hometown and First Avenue, is the club where he shot parts of “Purple Rain.” It is still one of the top concert spots in the nation. So grab your raspberry beret and hit it.

5. Nothing is more quintessentially Reagan era, than Ronald Reagan, of course. So why not take your children to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.  Although the exhibits cover Ronald Reagan’s entire life (birth to death), most of it focuses on his presidency from 1981-1989.  Guests can touch a piece of the Berlin Wall, explore a White House Oval Office and even tour through President Reagan’s actual Air Force One!!!  Using green screen technology, you can act in a movie with Ronald Reagan or call a Chicago Cubs baseball game! And, of course, the Museum Store offers tons of varieties of jelly bellies for sale. Visit the website for more information or buy tickets in advance. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 am-5 pm (only closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)

6. Opened in 1982 EPCOT Center (as it used to be called) was the perfect crystallization of 80’s ideals and aspirations.  It has changed a lot, but many of those original concepts and ideals can still be found there!  You know you can’t go wrong taking your children to Walt Disney World in Florida.

7. There could hardly be a more iconic movie than Dirty Dancing circa 1987 (even though it was a throwback to the ’60s!). Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey made us swoon with their sultry dance moves. The movie was filmed at Virginia’s Mountain Lake Lodge. If you’re a fan you’re sure to recognize lots of scene locations from the movie when you visit. The Lodge offers several Dirty Dancing Weekends with packages that include room, meals, a showing of the movie, guided tour of scene locations, dances, dance lessons., etc. Package rates vary with type of room but they seem to be around the $329 range double occupancy.

8. We’ve all seen Tom Cruise as the big hair band leader, Stacee Jaxx, in the 1987 send-up film Rock of Ages. The movie is an adaptation of the 2006 rock jukebox Broadway musical featuring the best songs of the ’80s set at the famed Bourbon Room of Sunset Strip. Now the show can be seen nightly at The Venetian. It’s the perfect reason to take your family to visit Las Vegas.

9. In 1966 Waterville Valley Resort ­opened as a planned ski area in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Most of the hotels and shopping areas were built between 1975 and 1989.  In 1990 the master developer went bankrupt – and development ended.  So today the Town Square, ski lodges, and main hotels are all vintage 1980 in their design and mojo. There is lots to do there during the summer months including golf, tennis, boating and a super cool skateboard camp for kids.

10. In New York, you can take one of Gray Line’s new Yankee Stadium Guided Tours. It offers Yankee fans, baseball enthusiasts, and tourists alike the opportunity for a behind the scenes look at one of baseball’s greatest landmarks. What qualifies this for an ’80s road trip? Well, John Montefusco, a Yankee player from 1983 – 1986, Tommy John 1986 – 1989, or Dennis Rasmussen 1984 – 1987 will be your tour guide, sharing personal stories and anecdotes about their career. The hour-long tour takes you through The New York Yankees Museum, Monument Park, The Home Dugout and The Home Clubhouse. Tours depart from the Hard Rock Café Yankee Stadium (1 E. 161st Street, Bronx, NY, Gate 6) at 9:20 am, 10:20 am and 11:20 am on Saturdays, Sundays and select Fridays through September 15th. The complete tour schedule and tickets are available online, with tickets priced at $79 for adults and $39 for children.

11. If you choose not to do all the driving but still want to have a totally 80’s experience, has a great place for you and your family to enjoy in Arrowhead Lake, Pennsylvania.  The home can accommodate 14 people and includes a game room to put others to shame.  It’ll keep everyone busy with a 27” HDTV, Air hockey table, Golden Tee Arcade game & Multi Arcade game with 48 of the best games from the 80’s – Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Frogger & More! When you’ve had your fill of games drive 10 minutes to Jack Frost and Big Boulder or 30 minutes to The Crossings Outlet with 100+ stores, waterparks, Mount Airy Casino, Mohegan Sun Casino, Pocono Downs NASCAR Raceway, horseback riding, Big Pocono State Park, or just take a hike. The community includes heated pools (open in summer only), lakes, beaches, play grounds, tennis and basketball courts.

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By Kerri Zane for Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at