Part two of our three-part series was written by Ivan Guerrero. Thanks for all your hard work, Ivan!
With summer officially underway, many of you have probably started making vacation plans for the next couple of months. You may be planning a cruise, or visiting a foreign country, or if you’re anything like me, going on a road trip! There is just no greater adventure than getting behind the wheel of a Studebaker and seeing America. Just ask Kermit and Fozzie.
As a Muppet fan, I have always wanted to do a cross-country, Muppet road trip. Sure, I’ve visited a number of Muppet sites and attractions separately, but it is the ultimate testament for any fan to do a Muppet pilgrimage, from East to West Coast. Being the obsessive-compulsive planner that I am, I have even mapped out a route for the proposed trip. Will I actually do it? Maybe I will one day. I thought I’d take a moment and share my itinerary with you, just in case you’d like to plan your own “Great Muppet Road Trip”.
Sit back and get comfortable, we’re about to travel by map!
View Muppet Road Trip: Middle America in a larger map
Location: 100 Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA 19047
Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes (from New York)
Driving South to Pennsylvania is the definitive theme park devoted to the the Sesame gang. Although you can find Sesame Street attractions in both Sea World and Busch Gardens, neither can match the size and scope of Sesame Place. The park features live shows, parades, rides and water attractions. You can even have breakfast with the characters before the park opens — just make sure Grover isn’t your waiter!
Jim Henson statue
Location: Adele H. Stamp Student Union Bldg, College Park, MD 20740
Travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Situated within the University of Maryland campus is a statue of one its most famous alumnus. The memorial features life-size bronze sculptures of both Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog. Pop inside the Stamp Union Building and you’ll even spot a large mutant turtle (the college mascot) painted to look like Kermit. Maybe Rico Rodriguez knew what he was talking about after all.
Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of American History
Location: 1400 Constitution Avenue, Northwest Washington, DC 20560
Travel time: 10 Minutes
While I enjoyed that Oscar the Grouch cameo in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” I would have gone gaga if the museum’s current collection of Muppets actually came to life. On display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, in addition to Oscar and several Sesame Street props, is the original Kermit the frog puppet and 10 other characters from the show “Sam and Friends.”
Sesame Street Forest of Fun
Location: Busch Gardens, 1 Busch Gardens Boulevard Williamsburg, VA 23185
Travel time: 2 hours 32 minutes
What’s that you say? Sesame Place didn’t have enough rides for you? Well, you’re in for a treat because Busch Gardens in Virginia has a Sesame Street themed, uh, forest. Forest of Fun features a Bert and Ernie boat ride, a Grover roller coaster, an Elmo “drop” ride, and even a 4-D movie: “Lights, Camera, Imagination!” You haven’t experienced imagination, until you see it in 4D!
Exterior of the C.O.V.N.E.T. facility
Location: Ideal Cement Company, 6411 Ideal Cement Rd, Castle Hayne, NC 28429
Travel time: 5 hours 47 minutes
Continuing your journey down the East Coast, you will come across the Ideal Cement plant, an abandoned factory that ceased operations back in 1982. The plant was used to film a Ninja Turtles movie and an episode of the reality show, “FEAR”. Muppet fans know it as C.O.V.N.E.T., the top-secret national security facility cleverly disguised as a cement factory. Make sure you bring a rubber ducky filled with invisibility spray before you enter.
Exterior of the Muppet boarding house
Location: 264 N 7th. St, Wilmington, NC 28401
Travel time: 23 minutes
The Muppet boarding house has undergone some serious renovation work since we last saw it in “Muppets from Space”. I’m guessing Pepe was able to con Gonzo into building more than just a Jacuzzi. While the exterior façade looks very different from the one we saw in the film (it was abandoned at the time), there are still many familiar traces of the original house. I’m sure that someone does live here now, so please don’t start a U.F.O. mob on the front yard.
The Center for Puppetry Arts
Location: 1404 Spring Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30309
Travel time: 6 hours 49 minutes
This is a long drive, but it’s definitely worth it! The Center for Puppetry Arts owns one of the largest collections of retired Muppets in the world. While only a handful of them are currently on display (including characters from Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, Dog City, The Muppet Show, and more), they will be launching a Jim Henson wing in 2014. It is expected to house anywhere between 500 to 700 puppets, props and Henson memorabilia. This is the only place where you will find permanent displays of large characters, like a Skeksis from the “Dark Crystal.”
My favorite part of the exhibit is the Big Bird costume by the entrance. The minute I saw it, I quickly regressed back into childhood. You will too, trust me.
Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios, 351 South Studio Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Travel time: 7 hours
From the dazzling, re-mastered 3-D effects, to the animatronic Statler and Waldorf, to the Muppet Theater itself, this is the closest we will ever come to experiencing a real, live Muppet Show. While a similar attraction exists at Disney California Adventure (more on that in part 3!), the Orlando one is the original.
Make sure you look around the Muppet Studio Store, which was designed to look like the Happiness Hotel from “The Great Muppet Caper.” The exterior queue is equally fun. You’ll find a large Muppet fountain, a Kermit hot-air balloon, and loads of Muppet parody posters.
While at Disney Hollywood Studios, also check out the faux Grauman’s Chinese Theater, (where you will find Jim Henson and Kermit’s handprints immortalized in cement) and the Studio Backlot Tour (which houses Beauregard’s taxi from Muppet Caper.)
Captain Smollet and Long John Silver costumes
Location: Planet Hollywood, 1506 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Travel time: 12 minutes
Looking for a place to dine while at Walt Disney World? Look no further than Planet Hollywood in Lake Buenta Vista’s Downtown Disney district. As with all other branches of Planet Hollywood, this restaurant doubles as a prop and costume museum for movies. At the gift shop, make sure you scope out the costumes worn by Kermit the Frog and Tim Curry in “Muppet Treasure Island”.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun
Location: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, 10165 N Mckinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612
Travel time: 1 hour 12 minutes
If your kids (or your inner child) simply cannot get enough Sesame Street theme park fun on this trip, then drive down to Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. They’ve devoted a portion of the park to celebrate “the spirit of Africa” using Sesame Street Muppets. Hang out with jungle explorers’ Bert and Ernie, sail with Zoe-patra down the Nile River, or stomp through Oscar’s favorite swamp. This is Sesame Street with a wilderness twist! I wonder if they’ve got a Horatio the Elephant poaching show?
Birthplace of the Frog: An Exhibit of Jim Henson’s Delta Boyhood
Location: 415 South East Deer Creek Dr., Leland, MS 38756
Travel time: 13 hours 15 minutes
Leland, Mississippi is known as the birthplace of Kermit Frog. Jim Henson spent much of his childhood here and to commemorate this, the city has built a free admission museum. The small exhibit is packed with photos, collectibles, and a few actual Muppets –including characters from “The Song of the Cloud Forest.”
The unclaimed Hoggle
Location: Unclaimed Baggage Center, 509 West Willow Street, Scottsboro, AL 35768
Travel time: 6 hours 39 minutes
In the movie “Labyrinth”, Junk City is a bizarre region filled with thousands of lost, forgotten or discarded possessions. In the real world, that place can be found in Scottsboro, Alabama. The Unclaimed Baggage Center is a retail store known for reselling lost or unclaimed airline luggage items. Each day, there are over 7,000 new items added to the store inventory. The store has also had a couple of noteworthy finds — including ancient bronze art from Nigeria, a full suit of 19th century armor, and even the original puppet/costume of Labyrinth’s Hoggle. Many of these items are now housed in a mini-museum on the store grounds… at the center of the Labyrinth!
Location: Morrow, OH 45152
Travel time: 7 hours 20 minutes
As you continue your journey up North, you will hopefully find your way to a little town called Morrow, in the state of Ohio. A little thing about Morrow that you maybe didn’t know is that it’s probably the hardest place that you’ll ever try to go. You cannot go to Morrow today and leave tomorrow night, ’cause the road that goes to Morrow is a seven-hour ride. If you had gone to Morrow yesterday now don’t you see, you could have gone to Morrow and today you would be free.
Kermit the Frog puppet
Location: The Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI, 48202
Travel time: 4 hours 20 minutes
If you’re lucky, on this trip you should have spotted at least five different Kermit the Frog puppets. There are two at the Smithsonian, one at the Center for Puppetry Arts, one more at the Leland Jim Henson museum, and the final Kermit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Created in 1969, this Kermit puppet was personally donated by Jim Henson to the museum back when there were hardly any Kermits available for public viewing. That’s probably why it isn’t regularly on display. Make sure you call ahead and ask about the frog before visiting!
Big Bird statue
Location: C S Mott Children’s Hospital, 1540 East Hospital Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Travel time: 50 minutes
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor is home to a very odd-looking six-year-old covered in yellow feathers. No, he doesn’t have the bird flu! The Big Bird statue on display here has been a beloved staple of this hospital since he was donated to the children’s “wing.” He has become such an iconic fixture; visitors are even accustomed to saying “meet me at Big Bird!”
Location: Studebaker National Museum, 201 Chapin Street, South Bend, IN
Travel time: 3 hours
The highlight of any Muppet road trip has to be a visit to see Fozzie Bear’s natural habitat, a Studebaker! The automobile housed at this museum was one of two cars used during the filming of “The Muppet Movie.”
One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure
Location: Adler Planetarium & Museum, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Travel time: 2 hours
You may not want to live on the moon, but I’m sure you’d like to drop in for a visit. Stop by the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago and check out the film, “One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.” It features an imaginary trip to the moon with Big Bird, Elmo, and Chinese Muppet, Hu Hu Zhu. The film premiered here back in 2008 and continues to draw space enthusiasts young and old.
Sesame Street Bay of Play
Location: SeaWorld San Antonio, 10500 SeaWorld Drive San Antonio, TX 78251
Travel time: 19 hours 45 minutes
And Bay of Play makes four. Four! Four Sesame parks that we’ve visited on this road trip! AH AH AH AH AH! SeaWorld San Antonio has dedicated this portion of the park to an ocean themed version of Sesame Street. Where else can little tots ride a wave with Abby Cadabby or climb aboard a reef-themed Ferris wheel with Big Bird? Wait, there’s a Sesame Street Bay of Play in San Diego, too? Darnit.
Location: Kermit, Texas 79745
Travel time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Kermit, Texas was actually named after Kermit Roosevelt, the second son of President Theodore Roosevelt. However, this city was also the kick-off site for Kermit the Frog’s World Tour — a cross-country event meant to celebrate our favorite amphibian’s 50th anniversary. To commemorate the event, the city renamed a street and park after Kermit, and also painted his mug on a large water tower. While the world tour was unfortunately cut short (only after the first three stops!), I’m hoping Kermit will return to Kermit for his 60th birthday in 2015.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Location: 1000 U.S. 36, Estes Park, CO
Travel time: 12 hours 45 minutes
A cross-country road trip would not be complete without a camping stop, and there’s no better place to do it than the scenic backdrop in “John Denver and the Muppets on Rocky Mountain Holiday”. Make sure you “pitch” your tent, practice your Grizzly, and watch out for giant man-eating chickens!
Exterior of the Pechoolo Casino
Location: Bonanza Casino, 4720 North Virginia Street, Reno, NV 89506
Travel time: 15 hours 15 minutes
In “The Muppets,” Kermit traveled to Nevada and found Fozzie at the Pechoolo Casino playing with a sleazy Muppet-tribute band called The Moopets. In real life, the Bonanza Casino doubled for the exterior shots of the Pechoolo. Swing by for the free continental breakfast, rooms with HBO, and free parking for cars, not RVs — at least, that what the Moopets told me.
Whew! I hope you survived our road trip across America. Do you realize that we drove for approximately 120 hours? It’s a good thing we only traveled by map.
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by Ivan Guerrero