Image: Hard Rock park
Mary Ann Chastain  /  AP file
Hard Rock Park, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., offers rides for the fearless set, like the Zeppelin coaster and a high-flying Just a Swingin' swing ride, along with attractions for less adventurous guests that offer small thrills without spinning or going upside-down.
By AP travel editor
updated 5/21/2008 12:47:12 PM ET 2008-05-21T16:47:12

If you're a parent or grandparent, chances are a kid has stumped you with a text message you couldn't decipher or a brand name you don't know.

Well, my fellow grown-ups, here's your chance for revenge. A trip to the new Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., an amusement park with a rock 'n' roll theme, will prove that the generation gap runs both ways.

"Who are the 'Knights of White Satan'?" my fourth-grader whispered, wide-eyed and awed, after we emerged from a groovy dark ride full of optical illusions, flickering candles and the smell of incense. The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" plays during the ride.

"It's night, like darkness," I corrected him. "Not knights with swords. And it's satin, not Satan."

"Oh," he said. He thought about it for a moment, then asked, "What's satin?"

OK, some ignorance cannot be explained by your birth date. But Hard Rock Park did make me keenly aware of my birth date. Our visit left me nostalgic for my teenage years, while giving me and my husband a chance to prove to the kids that we know something about pop culture that they don't. So what if it's pop culture from the last century? Even they think it's still cool.

After riding a roller coaster called Led Zeppelin - The Ride, my teenage son admitted: "I didn't know Led Zeppelin was a band! I thought it was a guy!"

His misconception was cleared up by a video you watch before you board. But my younger son had another question: "What's a zeppelin?"

All I could do was mutter "Oh the humanity," and head to the next ride, called Magic Mushroom Garden, where fortunately no one asked me to define "magic mushroom."

Though the kids did threaten to disown me when I too-loudly started singing along with "Crocodile Rock" as it played over the park's sound system.

"You're embarrassing us!" the younger one hissed.

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If they thought that was embarrassing, it's a good thing our visit took place before the park opened an eatery named for Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant." Because if they'd asked what to have for lunch, I might have belted out, "You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant, exceptin' Alice."

If you're on a budget, do not venture into any of the park's 12 gift shops. The merchandising geniuses at Hard Rock are way too good at packaging old bands for young kids, while at the same time appealing to the heart-swell felt by their parents every time we hear the first four notes of "Stairway to Heaven."

I thought about buying a Moody Blues shirt for a friend who is a longtime fan, but the shirt celebrated the ride, not the band, so I passed it up. I also talked my younger son out of buying an adult-sized T-shirt of the Rolling Stones' tongue-and-lip logo; a saleswoman helped us find a child-sized Led Zeppelin shirt instead.

My teenager bought a psychedelic "EAT ME" poster decorated with fuzzy neon-rainbow mushrooms. He listened politely as I rambled on about the "EAT ME" note in "Alice in Wonderland" and the Alice references in Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." Then he suggested I buy a novel the shop was selling called "Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty."

Next door was a salon that promised "Get Rocked" makeovers. The concept appealed to my inner goth girl, which I have been repressing for years. But the sample photo, with pink hair streaks and sparkly eye makeup, was a little too middle-school for my tastes, so I skipped it.

The park does a good job of offering rides for the fearless set, like the Zeppelin coaster and a high-flying Just a Swingin' swing ride, along with attractions for less adventurous guests (like me) that offer small thrills without spinning or going upside-down. Two relatively tame coasters, Eagles Life in The Fast Lane and the Shake Rattle 'n' Rollercoaster, got high marks from everyone in my family.

And we all agreed that Nights in White Satin —The Trip is one of our all-time favorite rides from any park, right up there with Disney's popular Soarin' Over California ride. (Walking across the bridge at the start of the Moody Blues ride made me dizzy, but it was an optical illusion; I shut my eyes, held the railing and was fine.)

For younger visitors, there's a carousel called All the King's Horses and a water-play area, Reggae River Falls. The fireworks choreographed to "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a nice way to wrap up your visit.

I posed beneath the park's "Lost in the 70's" sign and put a photo of it up on my Facebook page when I got home. The next day, I found a comment on the photo from my 25-year-old niece, a glam girl who prefers hip-hop and nightclubs to hippies and rock.

"COOOOOOOL! Where is that?" she wrote. "I wanna be lost in the 70s!"

Well, my dear, you can be. Next time I go to Hard Rock Park, I'll bring you along.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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