Go BIG or Go Home
What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

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PHOTO FRIDAY — Holy Macaroni!

The Girl was really using her noodle when she found this sculpture outside Faneuil Hall in Boston during our August visit!

Macaroni and cheese

Yes, in fact we DO love it. It’s one of her main food groups.

The enormous elbow was created as part of a 2010 Kraft public art project, the Homestyle Tour, to promote a new variety of macaroni and cheese. Identical sculptures — 20 feet long x 9 feet high — showed up in a number of other cities as well, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

One of our favorite road trip travel blogs — Roadside Wonders — was way ahead of us in finding these magnified macaronis!

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The Wienermobile, Bootmobile, and other BIG Things on Wheels This Year!

Of course, you are all familiar with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, that icon of American pop culture history. Personally, I think it’s adorable. Not only is this BIG hot dog on the road this summer and fall, but other BIG things as well, including the L.L. Bean Bootmobile, the world’s largest potato, and the Butterfinger van. I know you’re intrigued, so read on!

L.L. Bean Bootmobile

When we went to Maine two years ago for my college (cough)-tieth reunion, we stopped at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. The Boy hammed it up for the camera, posing under the 15-foot boot as if he would be smooshed.

This year, the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and taking its 13-foot Bootmobile around the northeast (ME, MA, NY, VA) and the midwest (IL). We found out that we are going to MISS it when it’s in NYC, because that’s the week we’ll be in Florida. We are DISTRAUGHT. (And by “we,” you know I just mean “me.”)

LL Bean

The L.L. Bean Bootmobile

Hopefully, you’ll be able to catch it, and report back to me with photos. Track it on its website or the L.L. Bean Facebook page.

Upcoming appearance dates for the L.L. Bean Bootmobile:

6/16-6/17 – Boston, MA

6/22-6/23 – McLean, VA

6/29-6/30 – New York, NY

7/4-7/7 – Freeport, ME

The World’s Largest Potato

This is fun! The world’s largest potato is touring the U.S. to celebrate the Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary. The Famous Idaho® Potato Truck is traveling coast to coast in 2012, stopping in large cities, supermarket parking lots, and at special events. Currently, the truck is on the East Coast, and although we missed the New Jersey appearances, it’s likely we’ll be able to catch it in Orlando on the 25th!

Idaho potato

The world's largest potato, on tour!

On the flatbed sits the super-sized spud — a 12,000-pound russet potato, equal to 32,346 medium-sized potatoes. Of course, it’s not a real potato. This replica is 1,102 times heavier than the largest potato ever grown, which weighed 11 pounds.

The website and Facebook page provide dates and locations for the immediate future, but it’s constantly updated as they get permits for showing up at places with a six-ton potato.

Butterfinger BARmageddon News Network (BBNN) van

BUTTERFINGER® candy bars…mmmmmm. The company’s new promotion is playing up the end of the world, counting down the days to the Mayan prophecy predicted for December 21, 2012. The Butterfinger BARmageddon News Network (BBNN) van is on a nationwide tour to collect evidence that the end is year, like crop circles and UFO sighting locations.


The BARmageddon van

I wish they would have invited me along, because the BBNN news van is stopping at the country’s  kitschiest roadside attractions and unexplained mystery sites, including Roswell, the Petrified Forest in AZ., the Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK., and the world’s largest basket in Newark, OH.

You can watch the footage of their interviews and stories here. If you spot the van, say “hi” and try a sample of Butterfinger Bites.

Upcoming appearance dates for the BARmageddon News Network van:

6/17 – Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK
6/22 – Dallas, TX
6/29 – Roswell, NM
6/30 – Albuquerque, NM
7/1 – Grand Canyon, AZ
7/3-7/4 – Las Vegas, NV
7/7 – Los Angeles, CA
7/11-7/15 – San Diego, CA

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

I didn’t realize that there are currently eight active Wienermobiles, with each assigned to cover a different part of the U.S.  The first Wienermobile was created in 1936 by Oscar’ Mayer’s nephew, Carl Mayer. The design has changed over the years, but the main component, a hot dog on wheels, is still part of its charm.


The Wienermobile. Photo credit: All rights reserved by kb.ultra

Drivers of the Wienermobiles are known as Hotdoggers. Unfortunately, I do not qualify for the position, which is only open to college seniors. You can keep up to date with Wienermobile appearances on Facebook, Twitter, and the Hotdogger blog. Regrettably, the company did not respond to my requests for upcoming appearance dates or photos.

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BIG Finds at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA

Franklin InstituteDinosaurs are becoming a “thing” for us. Makes sense…they’re BIG after all! Last year, we went to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC for its temporary exhibit, “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs.” This spring, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is presenting a similar program, “Giant Mysterious Dinosaurs,” through April 15.

I now know more about the Jurassic era than I ever thought I would. Or ever really wanted to…

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Visiting Philly earlier this month, we were drawn to The Franklin Institute for this dinosaur exhibit, as well as the giant walk-through heart. In the end, another unexpected BIG thing turned out to be the highlight of our visit.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

We would have loved this place more if we had: A) less whiny children; and B) a few more hours to cover all three floors of science and technology exhibits. We missed out on the planetarium, IMAX theater and 4D flight simulator.

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PHOTO FRIDAY – Dino Trio, Pittsburgh, PA

“Dino Trio.” Sounds like a smooth crooner group from the ‘50’s. “Singing live tonight at the Starlight Lounge…it’s the Dino Trio!”

Last week, on our post about the Jurassic dinosaur collection at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I mentioned DinoMite Days, a 2004 public art project which resulted in 100 uniquely decorated dinosaurs, made of fiberglass and weighing 200 lbs each. They were temporarily installed throughout the city, but most have since been sold to private collectors.

However, several can still be found on public display. We found these BIG beauties in front the “Wintergarden” building at PPG Place!

DinoMite Days Pittsburgh

They are, from left to right:

Philiposaurus. Artist: Gary Mesa Gaido

Ketchupsaurus. Artist: Kristina Martinez

Mr. Dig. Artist: Glennis McClellan

Read the rest of this entry »

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We Get Around

In our quest to indoctrinate the world with the “Go BIG” message (MWAH HA HA!), we have ventured off in a few different directions of late. For “Show and Tell” today, may we present:


The first exciting development we’d like to share with you is that Matt and I are the new – and only – travel app reviewers for appSmitten.com! This site hand-selects the best apps in several categories (food, kids, health, news, education, etc.), then sends you weekly or daily recommendations via email to help keep you organized, entertained, productive, etc.

Our first reviews describe the brand new app for the iPhone and iPad, the Travel Channel Layover Guide With Anthony Bourdain, and a handy Android app, Packing List. Stop by and check us out on appSmitten! (Disclaimer: we receive a small commission each time someone we refer to the site signs up to receive the e-mail service.)

Kelley’s Break Room

Kelley’s Break Room is a really funny humor blog I’ve been following for a while. I was tickled – and a bit like “who, me?” – that she considered me humorous enough to write a guest post last week! In my oh-so-compelling post, 5 Ways to Create a Family Vacation You Can Actually Afford, I offer some ideas to incorporate fun into cheap (sorry, “budget-friendly”) family travel. While bringing the funny. I hope I succeeded; what do you think?

The Azumano Travel Show

The Azumano Travel Show, a radio program on AM860 radio in Portland, OR, interviewed me last week about our strange compulsion to visit BIG roadside attractions! The best question they asked me: “If you could build a world’s largest, what would it be?” Hint: My answer involved food. Naturally.

You can listen to the five-minute program right on their website. Mom says I sounded “professional.”

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My 7 Links

Have you heard about the “7 Links” meme going around among travel bloggers? It’s a Tripbase project to share some of our previous posts, with the benefit of hindsight. If you’re new to Go BIG or Go Home, I’m about to highlight the seven posts you should read to get caught up on all this quirky insanity.

I was nominated by the lovely ladies at Road Trips for Families, who share my compulsion for quirky travel, with no qualms about forcing their kids to visit retro roadside attractions.

So, here I go:

Most beautiful post:

Montreal Botanic Garden

The Alpine Garden

There’s not much tear-jerky, emotional “beauty” going on here. I’m saving that for the moment I cast eyes on the world’s largest ball of twine…sigh. But in terms of physical beauty, it doesn’t get prettier than Montreal’s botanic garden. It’s the world’s second largest botanic garden, with many smaller themed gardens within. This post described the day we played explorer in the Alpine, Chinese, and Aquatic gardens, rode the tram, ate lunch al fresco, and enjoyed a low-fi visit on a perfectly sunny and cool day.

Most popular post:

When I look at this blog’s traffic, I always get a giggle when I see what posts are getting the most visits. That’s because two of the most popular posts are about the world’s largest toilet and world’s largest Rubik’s Cube. Both were guest posts, because I send my minions out for all the “choice” assignments. And I’m guessing the term “world’s largest toilet” is an “SEO” bonanza.

World's Largest Toilet

Because I know you want to see it again.

Most controversial post:

There was quite a heated exchange of comments following this guest post about the world’s largest candy store. This was also the first time an attraction scored a lowly “2” on our ten-point scale, where 1 equals “snoozefest,” and 10 equals “add to your bucket list.” Our guest reviewer Tom thought Daffin’s Candy Store was sorely lacking appeal, although he did give props to the taffy selection. Candy afficionados weighed in to defend this long-standing institution.

Most helpful post:

With our aforementioned scoring system, we try to steer you toward – or away from – each of the BIG places we visit, so you don’t waste your time. But this recent post went a step further, describing great, affordable places for families to eat on the road instead of traditional restaurants. We visited the world’s largest Wegmans supermarket, which has an amazingly extensive food bar and seating area. Other road warrior family bloggers offered their suggestions, as well.

A post whose success surprised me:

Second to the About Us page, the single page which gets the most traffic on this blog is about our short walk along the world’s longest continuous sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, FL. I need a professional SEO analyst to tell me why this post, which appeared over a year ago, still attracts so much traffic. Any takers?

The source of most visits to this page is via Google, so I guess there are hundreds of people every month searching for info on the “world’s longest sidewalk?!” It wasn’t even that great a story. Our walk was cut short because 1) It was 210 degrees that day; and 2) The Girl got sunscreen in her eye, a drama which rendered her unable to stand upright on her own two feet.

A post which didn’t get the attention it deserved:

I would like more eyes to see these posts on the world’s largest collection of glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, and the world’s largest light bulb at the Thomas Edison Center. Because we’re not JUST about BIG toilets, ya know! These were visits to places with educational value, where my kids experienced “hands-on” science and history. And we have fun video clips on both posts, so there’s that!

The post I am most proud of:

I get nostalgic for historic sites which are still open to the public, keeping their story alive. The Mirror Lake Shuffleboard Club in St. Petersburg, FL is not only the world’s largest shuffleboard club, but also the nation’s oldest. We were fortunate to have a “behind-the-scenes” tour from the president of the club, which works to not only preserve it as a historic site, but also promote the sport. Shuffleboard Friday nights are now popular events for local families, who come for a night a wholesome fun. We learned to play shuffleboard the right way. I’m ready to go pro.

Recently, the city of St. Petersburg accepted bids from restaurants to come in and take over the 1923 Art Deco clubhouse. I would hate to see this charming spot taken over by a capital venture, especially when there’s no lack of restaurants in St. Pete! The locals have been vocally opposed, so hopefully there will be a positive resolution.


So much fun...such a wonderful place.

The bloggers I’m nominating for the next round are equally enamored of offbeat road trips; some with kids in tow, some without. They’re all really groovy!

Tina at Ploho on the Road

Dana at Feasting on Americana

Carly at Bloggin’ America

Elizabeth at Livin’ to Drive

Tanya at Driving and Dining

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A Hugh Mongous Update!

Mama always said, “don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Actually, my mama said “don’t wear that safety pin as an earring.” I did it anyway (I was 13), and boy, was that a nasty infection. Anyway, last week I did some “online research” about the BIG roadside attractions we discovered on our Virginia Beach vacation.

And the info I dug up about Hugh Mongous, the giant gorilla? Wrong.

water park

Hugh is older than I thought!


I got the real scoop yesterday from the nice folks at Ocean Breeze Waterpark, who scanned and emailed me what was a yellowed backgrounder page, typewritten in the 80’s. From the looks of the font, I can tell their info is authentic!

So, for the record, Hugh Mongous is, in fact, the 45-foot tall, 11,000 lb. mascot standing in front of the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. He’s actually been here since 1977, when the park was called Jungle Falls Waterslides. The original sculpture was created in 1977 out of Styrofoam, wood, and urethane by sculptor Demetrios Mavroudis. The work was commissioned by the publisher of New Dominion Lifestyle magazine, and was hoisted to the top of the magazine’s office building in downtown Richmond, VA, as a promotion. He only lasted up there for two days until city officials declared it a violation of several codes. The water park purchased him for $5,000, and moved Hugh to his current home. He WAS damaged by fire in 1989 and restored.

I feel compelled to set the record straight, because we had a wonderful day at the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. THIS is why:

water park

And this is why:

water park


But, this…this made it ALL worthwhile.


Disclaimer: Ocean Breeze Waterpark hosted our visit.

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A BIG Anniversary Celebration and a BIG Giveaway!

Rubiks Cube

Still one of our most popular posts!

It’s been a BIG year! The Go BIG or Go Home family travel blog has reached its first anniversary of chronicling what happens when our small-town family visits the “world’s largest…” whatever! To celebrate, we have a BIG giveaway prize!

The year began with reports from the world’s largest light bulb in NJ, and the world’s largest rotating globe in ME. Sometimes we were cultural and high class, with visits to one of the world’s largest botanic gardens, and the largest Buddha in the western hemisphere. But we know what the masses REALLY want, so we also ran reports of the world’s largest Rubik’s Cube and the world’s largest toilet!

Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has followed our posts from the beginning, and those loyal fans who contribute to the conversation with fun comments! Thanks to everyone who has shared their photos of BIG things they’ve spotted on the road! We love to see these on our Facebook page. We especially appreciate everyone who has contributed a guest post, sharing stories of BIG things in places our family hasn’t reached yet.

And now, the fun part! We’re giving away A PAIR OF TWO pre-paid, 3-day adult Go City Cards for the city of your choice, courtesy of Smart Destinations!

Smart Destinations is the premier provider of unlimited sightseeing and attraction admission passes in 15 major North American travel destinations. Smart Destinations’ Go City Cards and Explorer Passes offer pre-paid access to over 425 museums, attractions, and tours for one low fixed price. Smart Destinations products not only allow travelers to save money while seeing the sights but also allow them to skip the lines.

Go City Cards save visitors up to 55% off the cost of regular admission to top attractions and things to do in 11 major destinations including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Oahu, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Go City Card offers unlimited admissions to most of the popular attractions in each city for a pre-selected number of days, as well as local dining and shopping discounts.

Do you have plans to visit any of these cities in the next year? You can enter to win the Go City Cards in three different ways. 1) If you haven’t done so before, you can sign up to receive our e-mail notifications when new posts go live. All new e-mail addresses we receive from today through next Friday (7/22/11) will be entered into the drawing. Sign up in the box in the upper right column of this page. 2) Post a photo of a BIG attraction you’ve visited on the Go BIG facebook page. 3) Tell us in the comments below what your favorite Go BIG post has been so far.

Our winner will be notified on or before Wednesday, July 27th, and will be asked to provide a mailing address anywhere in the world. The prize will be mailed directly to them from Smart Destinations, Inc.

Good luck!


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BIG Balloons

Fireworks are great and all that, but the highlight of our holiday weekend was watching a group of 12 hot air balloons lift off during the 2011 Dutchess County Balloon Festival. It’s one of our favorite annual events here in New York’s Hudson Valley, where we’ve lived for over 10 years. What made it really special this year was watching it from the span of the Walkway Over the Hudson, which is the World’s Longest Elevated Pedestrian Bridge.

We’ve now been up there several times and have described it here on the blog.  While it’s the span — 6,767 feet, or 1.25 miles – which breaks the world record, it’s the height which gets to me. The span ascends 212 feet above the water at midpoint. This was the first time I went up there and didn’t get weak-kneed. Open heights are NOT my thing. But the perspective of watching the balloons lift off from below us, rise to our level and then float higher, was amazing.

Overcoming my fear of heights — and getting up at 4:30am for the 6:00am launch — was worth it for this view.

Hot air balloons


And this one, facing away from the sunrise, was nice too.



Sigh. I love living in the Hudson Valley!





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Go BIG or Go Home Road Trip; Day One

December 26, 2010

paint can

Can we get back in the warm car now?!

It was an Armageddon-like scene: packing the car with clothing and food, setting out in the dark of night, and racing against time to get out of state. We were escaping the blizzard, of course, which would have put an end to our Go BIG or Go Home road trip to FL.

We made it out just in time, as the northeast got socked in. Our miserly (cheap) decision to drive to FL rather than drive worked to our advantage, as the airports closed or canceled the flights we would have been taking.

The satisfying, if deceptive, thing about the southbound drive is that you get through the smaller states relatively fast, giving you a false sense of advancement. We were checking off BIG stops quickly…and then we hit VA, NC, and SC. That’s when your skin starts to crawl.

Keeping it interesting was the snowfall in the south, which is both a novelty for the locals and an emergency situation, as roads become treacherous from lack of plows and lack of seasoned winter drivers.


We're not even getting out of the car this time...

Used to much worse, we shrugged our shoulders at the dusting. With front wheel drive, we looked quizzically at the cars which spun off the roads. And we were just plain irritated upon finding out that the Cracker Barrel in Jonesville, NC wouldn’t be open for dinner because the employees couldn’t make it in for work due to the two inches of snow. Matt’s mouth was set for chicken-fried…something.

Despite the surreal weather situations bringing down the worlds around us, we managed to see three BIG attractions on Day 1 of the Go BIG or Go Home Road Trip:

The huge Benjamin Moore paint can in Shippensburg, PA; a huge storage tank pained blue, standing in front of a paint store. It’s IMMENSE. There’s not much more to look at or do there, so we stopped, jumped out and took the photos. It was fuh-reezing that morning, so a quick stop was all we were willing to tolerate anyway. Even The Girl, who will brave freezing temps to play in the playground, yelled “yee-OWW,” and jumped back in the car asap.


World's Largest Apple!

We were all so disenchanted with the weather that Matt was the only one willing to exit the car to get a photo of the large Coke bottle in Hagerstown, MD, which is perched on the roof of a bottling company a minute from I-81. I don’t think the kids even looked up from watching Bolt on the DVD player.

We had to drive off the highway several miles to see the world’s largest apple in Winchester, VA. It’s in front of an upscale gift shop which called my name so loudly I almost succumbed. (“Christmas décor, 50% off.”) Again, we were too cold to linger, so we took a few photos and drove around the town to enjoy the historic architecture.

Then we began to notice more large apples in front of other businesses, painted in different themes. We discovered three more, plus the world’s largest apple storage facility. Call it a hunch, but I think the town has a history as an apple producer.

apple apple apple
Tomorrow: Day Two!


Love the fine print on this sign. Classic "C.Y.A."

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