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A Review of Slide the City: What to Know


Slide the City

By now, you’ve probably seen it on the news. The looooong green and blue water slide, a BIG version of the “Slip n’ Slide” you might have had in your front lawn as a kid. Slide the City is making the rounds through the U.S. and Canada, setting up its slide through sloping city streets everywhere. It even broke the world record for “Longest distance traveled on a slip and slide in one hour” this summer in Fort Worth, Texas.

Enthralled with the idea, we bought “early bird” tickets for the July event in Stamford, CT. It’s a pricey investment, even when you get the early purchase discount. You can choose your price based on one ride, three rides, or unlimited rides.

What we didn’t know at the time was that the slide’s length depends on the location, and what the localities will allow. The slide can range in length from approximately 600 to 1,000 feet. This was one of the shorter versions.

Bottom line: this was a fun ride! Our kids laughed the entire way down. It was worth trying once.


Slide the City

Happy kids!

However, here’s what you should know about Slide the City:

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The Go BIG “B” List

Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” “The Sweetest Thing” by U2. What do these tunes have in common? They were all “B” side hits. For those of you who remember records (those vinyl discs that music was stored on back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), you’ll recall that the popular songs were on the “A” side, and the secondary tracks were relegated to the “B” side.

We’ve had some “B” sides in our travels, too, so I’m giving them their due in today’s post. In our (okay, my) overzealous quest to seek out BIG attractions, we sometimes visited places solely because of their size. Some have been less than a BIG hit with the kids. Still, I contend that there’s something interesting in all of these large sites, and not just because of their size!

World’s Longest Bridge Tunnel

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, also known as the Lucius J, Kellam Bridge Tunnel, connects the eastern tip of Virginia at Fisherman’s Island to Virginia Beach.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

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BIG Views of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Binoculars and Camera

It’s one of the world’s largest waterfalls, though technically Niagara Falls is a set of three: Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, and American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the U.S. side. To make the most of your visit, there are several ways to view Niagara Falls – you can ride a boat to their base, peer down at them from a tower 700+ feet overhead, or even take a peek from a tunnel behind them.

We took the kids to Niagara Falls, Ontario, and seeing them from different vantage points was important. The Teen has become a budding photographer, so great views were an overriding priority. So, these were our locations of choice:

At the Bottom of the Falls: The Hornblower Niagara ride

It’s one of the most popular things to do in Niagara Falls for a reason. Riding in a boat ride along the bottom of falls is a thrilling adventure for all ages! You’re close enough to get drenched by the powerful spray, and it feels as if you could reach out and touch the rainbows arching through the mist. If you’re on the American side, you take the Maid of the Mist. If you’re on the Canadian side, you take the Hornblower cruise, operated by Niagara Parks.

Hornblower cruise

Hornblower Cruise, Niagara Falls

Our 700-passenger catamaran traveled from the dock on the Niagara Great Gorge past the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and into the midpoint of Horseshoe Falls. We didn’t get completely soaked—much to The Girl’s dismay—because we chose a relatively dry spot in back of the bottom deck, and we made use of the complimentary souvenir ponchos. Read the rest of this entry »

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A World Record Christmas Light Display

Christmas lightsWe don’t have to travel far to see a BIG Christmas lights display. Right here in the Hudson Valley, the Gay family of Union Vale, NY puts on an incredible show every year in their front lawn. It’s not just any lawn, and it’s not just any light display.

The ERDAJT light display (the name includes the initials of the family’s three kids) began on a much smaller scale in 1995, and has grown to now include 392,887 lights. They are strung up on trees, fences, poles, and suspended in air. Big lights, small lights, blinkers, solids, strobes, colored and white. Any kind of light you could ever imagine. The newest elements include: three “Leaping Light” trees towering 50 feet high, each with 15 channels and 7,000 lights.

Last year, the family earned a Guinness World Record for the most lights on a residential property. Most are LED’s, so the estimated electric cost is only about $350. They use some 2,000 extension cords, or about eight miles worth.

And what’s more, they pulse and blink in different areas to the beat of music, which is piped through a radio channel, so you can listen in your car! The soundtrack they created includes 181 songs, a mix of holiday classics and rock.

Holiday light display

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The Big Duck, Flanders, NY

Big DuckEvery once in a while, I get a hankering to go see a quirky roadside attraction; and it doesn’t even need to be the world’s largest. Two weeks ago, we took a day trip to visit the Big Duck in Flanders, NY. Technically, the real reason was to visit family on Long Island. My aunt lured us with an offer of homemade lasagna, so it promised to be a banner day.

My aunt’s cooking is worth the 100-mile trip. Heck, I would drive 500 miles for her stuffed artichokes. Copious amounts of breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil…what were we talking about? Right…the big duck.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, there were about 150 duck farms in Riverhead, NY, on the eastern end of Long Island. The farms were known for their succulent Peking ducks, and even though the number of farms has decreased dramatically as land values have increased, you can still find Long Island duckling on menus in fine restaurants.

In 1931, Riverhead duck farmer Martin Maurer had a vision to create a shop — in the shape of a duck — to sell Peking ducks and duck eggs. He hired Broadway set designers, the Collins Brothers, to create it. The result was the Big Duck, measuring 30 feet from beak to tail, and 20 feet from the base to the top of its head. Its original eyes were a pair of Model T taillights which glowed at night.

The Big Duck was a trend-setter, as one of the first examples of roadside architecture representing and promoting a product or service. This is now commonly known as “duck architecture;” and “ducks” refer to these sculpturally-designed forms.

The Big Duck

The Big Duck sits in a Long Island park near the Hamptons

The Big Duck, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally located in Riverhead, but was moved three times in preservation efforts, which reminds me of the admirable actions taken on behalf of Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ. The Big Duck – which I really think needs a name, kind of like “Lucy” – now sits on Big Duck Ranch overlooking Reeves Bay in Flanders, NY. It’s a public park operated by Suffolk County, so its future is secure.

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Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, New Orleans, Louisiana


Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. Photo credit: New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation

My brother Mike gets the award for the most comments made on GBOGH posts…seriously, I sent him a plaque. So it was only a matter of time before I cajoled him into writing a guest post. After all, he’s a dad now, and has started traveling with his two adorable kids.

The irony here is his choice of subjects: the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans, which, at 23,000 square feet, is the largest free-standing insect museum in the United States. He’s cursed with my family’s OCD/germaphobe gene, so…insects. Hmmm. Of course, his kids loved it, and that’s why he doubled up on antibacterial products and soldiered on. His report:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Having enjoyed a great deal of spontaneous, child-less travel for many years prior to the birth of our children, we were struggling to find any opportunity for travel with the entire family that wouldn’t leave us feeling completely disenchanted about future travel altogether. New Orleans somehow presented that opportunity to us.

Flights were inexpensive, flight time was limited to one hour, and we had a condo available at no cost. We knew that even if this first trip with children quickly melted down, we had invested very little. Plus, at only an hour flight away, we could realistically threaten packing up and heading home if everyone wasn’t behaving.

One very bright spot in an otherwise limited selection of children-friendly options in New Orleans was the Audubon Insectarium. My 3-year old daughter and almost 2-year old son said they wanted to see bugs, and we were all too happy to oblige them, as it was September in New Orleans, and it was 147 degrees (Seriously. Go back and check the records.).

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Two reasons: 1) We had heard multiple, very positive reviews (and it lived up to expectations); 2) a travel blogger who writes about BIG things, and will remain nameless, may have suggested that the New Orleans Audubon Insectarium is the country’s largest and therefore worth a visit.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

I knew we were going to love this place when we were met out front by an insectarium employee running insect races around an official Bug Track. Each child picked an insect that was released and wildly cheered on. Good stuff.

VW bug

This VW Bug was set up in the middle of the impressive beetle display. We turned around and my son had found his way to the driver’s seat and was on his way. Not to be left behind, his sister quickly joined him on his quick “drive” around New Orleans.

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Cruising on the Norwegian Breakaway With Kids

You can even take our “Go BIG or Go Home” mantra to the ocean, as I learned two weeks ago when I was invited on the inaugural two-day cruise of the Norwegian Breakaway, the largest ship to homeport in New York City. Even though I was sans kids (yes, an entire 48 hours to myself!), I went with the perspective of a parent. I explored the entertainment areas, restaurants, and guest rooms with kids in mind, so I could share with you the highlights of taking a Breakaway cruise with children. Which are:

The Aqua Park

The ship’s top decks feature the Aqua Park, which includes five multi-story water slides, including twin Free Fall slides. This is where you (and not me) stand up and have the floor drop from underneath, propelling you into a loop. There’s also a tamer, open-flume body slide which doesn’t cause your stomach to lurch up into your throat.

Water Slides

Daredevils’ Delight — the Water Slides on the Norwegian Breakaway

Another part of the Aqua Park is a three-story sports complex which includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and more. Adjacent to the Aqua Park is a fully-stocked indoor video arcade, as well.

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Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City – New Jersey’s Tallest Lighthouse

Absecon lighthousePoor Matt. He’s been doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” for the sake of the blog lately, like when we sent him out on a tightrope 70 feet in the air in November. Last month, we sent him up a circular staircase of 228 steps, to the top of Absecon Lighthouse, the third tallest lighthouse in America.

Well, someone has to do it.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

We spent a cold President’s Day weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey, WITH the kids. Despite those obstacles, we still had a great time, and found plenty to do. One of our stops was the Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States (topped only by the Cape Hatteras Lighhouse in North Carolina, and the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida).

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The lighthouse has been decommissioned since 1933, but it’s still lit every night, and open for tours daily.


Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City, NJ

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Halloween: Trick Photos, Day Two!

We received so many responses to our invitation to share “trick” photos in honor of Halloween that we decided to post them over two days. We thought we were the only clever ones out there, but we were wrong. For these imaginative photographers, holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is amateur hour!

I don’t really know how she did it, but Sonja from To Europe With Kids managed to make it look like her kids are falling off a cliff at the Grand Canyon. Let me be clear: I wouldn’t be this close to the edge without a double dose of valium.

Grand Canyon

Adrienne  from Albany Kid is getting some help from her daughter in holding up the Washington Monument in DC. Well, someone’s gotta do it.

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Halloween: These Tricks are Treats!

We’re celebrating Halloween more indoors than out this year, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Our treat for you is a showcase of “trick” photos – not just ours, but a fun selection of images submitted from fellow traveling families from all over the world! Since putting out the call for photos last week, we’ve received a lot of imaginative shots. We’ll spread them out over two days, so check back tomorrow for more!

Here’s our contribution! While we loved the Board Game Art Park in Philadelphia, PA, Matt nearly set off a nasty chain of events.


Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, the editor of FamilyTravel.com, sent us this one to show off her super strength. She and her sister-in-law Betsy are holding up this stone arch in Kentucky!

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