Where are you going this summer?
Busiest travel weekend of season finds Americans swarming to theme parks, national parks and Europe
July 4, 1997
Web posted at: 4:41 p.m. EDT (2041 GMT)
(CNN) -- From the Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade to Baltimore's Bicentennial birthday bash and grand fireworks displays across the nation, the United States is marking its 221st birthday.
Many Americans are celebrating by hitting the road. This weekend is expected to be the busiest of the summer travel season. It's estimated that more than 35 million people in the country will be traveling by plane, train, auto or bus.
Travel agents say this summer, many Americans are venturing overseas for vacation. Lower airfares and a stronger dollar, in part, are making travel across the Atlantic tempting.
"A lot of people are going to Europe," said Nancy Jaeger of Centre Travel. "And a lot of them, in addition to doing tours, are doing Europe on their own. ...[It's] very, very crowded in Europe this summer with Americans."
Theme park thrills
Within the U.S., theme parks are the most popular summer attraction, according to travel agents. This year, a host of new amusements are helping maintain that trend.
Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida offers a 15-acre safari called "Edge of Africa." If you're feeling a need for speed, Louisville, Kentucky may be the place to go. Kentucky Kingdom claims its "Chang" is the longest and fastest stand-up roller coaster anywhere. The more than 4,000-foot ride includes a loop that's 154-feet high.
Hollywood is climbing aboard the roller coaster train, with rides opened to coincide with the latest installment in the Caped Crusader movie series, "Batman & Robin." At Six Flags Over Georgia, the new "Batman the Ride" coaster has made its debut. And at Six Flags Over Texas, in Dallas/Fort Worth, "Mr. Freeze" is proving to be the hottest ride on the block. The coaster reaches speeds of 70 mph.
Natural wonders are also a popular attraction this summer.
"Families are going out to national parks -- and a number of national parks, not just one," said Jaeger. "They don't just fly to Jackson Hole and go up to Yellowstone.
"They're going to two or three national parks and doing a driving trip where they're going to fly out West and then rent a car or minivan and do a week or two."
About five million people are expected to visit the Grand Canyon in 1997.
Many of the nation's most popular parks have almost quadrupled their admissions fees to $20 per car, in part to discourage traffic.
Plan ahead, rest up
If you still haven't made your summer vacation plans, it's time to decide.
"Throughout the rest of July and August, there's [hotel] rooms available, but this is now a good time to start making plans," said David Johnson of the American Automobile Association. "Don't wait till the last minute because rooms book up fast in the summer ...."
For those planning a road trip, Johnson advised getting plenty of rest to stay alert.
"Don't push yourself," he said. "If you get tired, pull over to a rest stop, or if it's late in the evening, try to get a hotel room for the night."
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