In 1983, Clark Griswold and his loony family set off on an ill-fated “Vacation” that charmed the world. Where were they headed? The infamous and illusive park named Walley World!
National Lampoon’s Vacation hit the screens, and fans around the world wondered exactly what you’re wondering… Is this Walley World (also known as Wally World Park and Wally World Theme Park) a real amusement park, perhaps somewhere in North America? There are a few different ways to answer this, however. The short answer is, yes, it actually is a real place! The long answer is, it’s not just a setting for the Griswold’s goofy destination, Wally (or, “Wally”) World locations are also actual places, though nothing like the original. Read on, and find out if the Griswolds were on the right track!
The 1983 National Lampoon’s Vacation Walley World
A cultural icon of 1980's American family life, the original film from 1983 features the Griswold family, who sets off from Illinois in the family Truckster (a ridiculously modified Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon) and meanders through the western United States in search of an amusement park in California that Clark Griswold is hell-bent on reaching.
As I’m sure you remember, their hopes were dashed when their harrowing and comical cross-country journey proves futile – Walley World was closed. Not to be outdone, the family manages to intimidate their way into the park and have the adventure they were hoping for, to ride the tall and twisty “Whipper Snapper”.
But where was this particular amusement park, then dubbed “Walley World” for the movie?
In keeping with the movie’s theme, the family does, in fact, end up in California after their hard-fought trek. Filming for this particular Walley World amusement park was actually completed in Valencia , California, at the still-operational Six Flags Magic Mountain. The “Whipper Snapper” was an actual coaster named “The Revolution”, a pioneer in coasters, boasting the first ever 360 degree loop. This coaster is still up and running today, after closing temporarily in 2014.
Fun Fact: The scene where Clark and Russ are running towards the entrance was actually shot in the parking lot at the Santa Anita Racetrack on a blisteringly hot day. That “Walley World” you see in the background during that long-shot scene is a well-done artistic painting of the illusive amusement park!
The Modern 2015 Vacation Walley World
In 2015, Vacation was revamped for modern audiences by introducing Clark Griswold’s son Rusty as a husband and father of two trying to keep his family together by taking that infamous “Vacation”. Much like the original, the family sets off in a ridiculous and temperamental vehicle for the long journey, and has countless mishaps along the way. But, where did they actually end up? For this version of “Walley World”, producers chose Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta instead of the classic California theme park location. Because Six Flags is a chain of similar theme parks, the movie didn’t lack for Vacation authenticity, especially after it was dressed up for the film, moose included!
Fun Fact: In the 2015 version of Vacation, Chevy Chase reprises his role as Clark Griswold, now a bed-and-breakfast inn owner, with the same adventurous, if not slightly detached and freewheeling attitude! The main characters are instead played by Ed Helms (who plays Clark Griswold's son Russell, now an adult with his own family), and Christina Applegate (Russell's wife).
Is Walley World Really A Walt Disney Park Reference?
The comparisons between the name of the Griswold’s dream destination and the ever-famous “Walt Disney World” may be valid in some ways, as the original filming location for Vacation was slated to be Disneyland.
However, according to IMDB, due to the restrictions of filming such a blockbuster (and the situational humor where the park was deserted), Disney did not agree to shut down their park for this particular film, pointing out that they’re open 365 days a year, which would make filming impossible to coincide with the plot.
In other ways, Walley World is quite dissimilar to a Disney park, as it’s primarily shown as a roller coaster amusement park. However, the Marty Moose vs. Mickey Mouse debate may never be answered!
So Where Are Actual “Walley” Or “Wally” Worlds Today?
Believe it or not, there are a couple Walley or Wally World locations around North America, though not at all like the moose-themed amusement parks that were made famous by the Vacation movie franchise. You probably won’t find the Griswolds at these locations, but, hey, they still look like fun!
Wally World Riverside Camping
Located in Loudonville, Ohio, Wally World (notice the different spelling!) is fittingly a family-friendly spot, an expansive campsite with lots of amenities sure to make anyone’s “vacation” a lot more successful and relaxing than the Griswold’s! With camping available directly on the Mohican River, a general store, mini-golf and a swimming pool, among other amenities, this Wally World is a great destination. And, open year-round, you won’t have to force your way in to have a good time!
Wally World/East Park Golf
Another family-friendly Wally World sits a far cry from California. You can find a Wally World of sorts in London , Ontario, Canada. With the “Wally World” area opened in 2004, their take on the famous location is actually a water park within the property with a sizable five-slide tower, a water climber for kids, a relaxing lazy river, and an exciting wave pool. Within the park itself you can also find mini-golf, a rock climbing wall, bumper cars and a video arcade. Perhaps the Griswold’s would’ve been better off heading north from Illinois to this park in Canada instead!
Travel To Walley World
Whichever Walley World you’d like to see - whether it’s a Six Flags revamped for a movie set, or an actual “Wally” World - any fan of the Vacation movies can find something to satisfy their wanderlust. In the end, get in that car, take a road trip, and find your Walley World destination, wherever it may be!
Useful Travel Resources for Any Trip!
Google Maps – Plan your trip anywhere with Google Maps. Also great for directions on the go!
RentalCars.com – Great site for comparing rental car prices
Skyscanner.net – Our favorite place to book cheap airline flights
Expedia.com – Book affordable accommodation or bundle flights and hotels
What's the one travel accessory we never travel without? RFID Protected Travel Money Belt
Suggested Reading: Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips