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BIG Finds at Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Ocean City, MD

Robert Wadlow

World’s tallest man!

You can find a lot of superlative stuff inside the 32 Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums around the world; each location has more than 300 exhibits and artifacts. We’ve never been inside one of these “odditoriums” before, but we finally took the plunge last week while in Ocean City, Maryland. We discovered that this beachy destination is very seasonal, so there wasn’t a lot to do yet in mid-April. The 2.25-mile Boardwalk was hopping, however, and Ripley’s is in a prime location at the southern end.

Robert Ripley, a cartoonist and adventurer, traveled to 201 countries over the course of his life, and collected a vast, eclectic collection of oddities. Many of these (originals and reproductions) are on display here, alongside newer pieces collected in recent decades.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the only place you’ll ever see an authentic concrete section of the Berlin Wall displayed near a model oil rig constructed of match sticks, and a mural of Rihanna depicted in Lite Bright pegs. A whole lot of weird. We liked it!

As you walk through different rooms, you’ll find the exhibits fit into themes, like animals, space, and human extremes. Of course, we had to take a photo with a statue of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man. Wadlow (1918-1940) reached a height of 8’, 11”, and weighed 440 lbs. His arm span was 9½ feet! Only 17 people have been recorded in medical history to reach the height of eight feet.

In another room, a replica of the world’s largest Great White Shark ever caught with a rod and reel was hanging from the ceiling, near an iron cage you could step into. It’s 16’, 8” long, 3,427 lbs, and was caught off the shores of Montauk, New York in 1986 by Donnie Braddick.

Great White Shark

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Dinosaur World, Plant City, FL: World’s Largest Dinosaur Attraction

Dinosaur World

Dinosaur World, Plant City, Florida

In the summer “Pro” column: school’s out, so we can take fun trips to BIG places. In the “Con” column: school’s out, and having two kids at home leaves little time to blog about it!

We’re just back from almost three weeks in central Florida, and we made tracks across that state, let me tell you. We’ll be sharing the details in future posts, but our trip included visits to: the world’s largest manmade penguin colony; the world’s largest LEGOLAND; the world’s largest Hard Rock Café; the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut mementos and historic spacecraft; and the world’s largest accredited sanctuary for big cats!

But our first stop was to Dinosaur World, the world’s largest dinosaur attraction. I’ve seen the giant T-Rex menacingly stalking the I-4 highway many times on the drive between Tampa and Orlando, and have always wanted to stop in.

I could not have picked a hotter day to visit. It was 173 degrees in the shade. This is what I looked — and felt — like:


The friendly Dilophosaurus, best known for appearing in the movie “Jurassic Park.”

Actually, this is just one of more than 150 life-sized dinosaurs you’ll see as you take the paved – and gloriously shaded – “Dinosaur Walk” through a forest setting. Fact-filled signs near each creature provide paleontology lessons along the way. The dinosaur models, up to eighty feet long, are made of fiberglass, steel, and concrete.


These Brachiosaurus can also be seen from the I-4 highway. Which could be startling at night if you’re not expecting them!

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World’s Largest Crocodile and Crab, Myrtle Beach, SC

I wanted to call this post “BIG Critters in Myrtle Beach,” or “GBOGH Meets Utan and Tommy,” but that wouldn’t work well for SEO now, would it? While we were on the South Carolina shore for spring break, we discovered the world’s largest crocodile at Alligator Adventure, and the world’s largest crab at the – wait for it – Giant Crab restaurant. Both water creatures; one real, one not-so-much!


Alligator Adventure

Alligator Adventure, Myrtle Beach, SC

Alligator Adventure Myrtle Beach, SC

Alligator Adventure, one of the world’s largest facilities for reptile life, is home to more than 1,000 alligators, as well as Utan, the “world’s largest Crocodile.” Utan, the largest crocodile to ever be exhibited in the U.S., is more than 20 feet long. He was born in 1964 (older than me, go figure) at a crocodile farm in Thailand. He’s a hybrid of two species – Siamese and Saltwater croc. He was transferred to Alligator Adventure in 2002.

Having personally met an alligator, I feel qualified to offer a little background on crocodiles. They average 18-21 feet in length, and can weigh up to 2,600 lbs. Crocodiles are known for their incredible jaw strength — they can exert over 5,000 lbs. per square inch, as compared to the great white shark, at 400 lbs. per square inch.

Utan was not being cooperative. He stayed under the murky water, for the most part. The relentless rain that day wasn’t making us very cheerful, either, so I can’t blame him.


Utan the Crocodile. Yeah, he’s down there.

The day wasn’t a total wash. We enjoyed a live animal show presented by a naturalist, and the kids got to pet a blue-tongued skink and an albino snake. Another high point was seeing a two -headed turtle in a tank inside the Hospital/Research station. There are marshes, swamps, and other habitat exhibits covering 15 acres, where you can also see Siberian tigers, lemurs, monkeys, and bats.


That’s a “skink”. Not to be confused with “skank,” which is what I accidentally called it. The Boy got quite the kick out of that.

Also, Alligator Adventure is located in the Barefoot Landing shopping and dining district, so there is a lot of other things to do and see, like a carousel and a magic shop. At River City Café, you can color all over the table and walls, and throw peanut shells on the floor. The Girl didn’t know where to start.

Giant Crab Restaurant, Myrtle Beach, SC

If you enjoy pancakes and/or seafood, you’ll be happy as a clam in Myrtle Beach, where every other storefront is a pancake house or seafood buffet. You can pick The Giant Crab out from the crowd, mainly because “Tommy,” the world’s largest crab, hangs over the front door.


Tommy, the Giant Crab!

(Editor’s note: Tommy is not to be confused with the world’s largest horseshoe crab in Blanchester, Ohio, who we met last year through Terri at Travel 50 States with Kids.)

The restaurant does an admirable job recreating a Fisherman’s Wharf Village via outdoor decor. One side of the building features a 40-foot waterfall; a lazy river wraps around the entire village; and there’s a 50-foot lighthouse. At 4.5 tons, Tommy is the jewel in the crown. Named for the restaurant’s owner, he’s 25 feet tall and 35 feet wide!

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Country Junction: World’s Largest General Store, Lehighton, PA

We’re back! Thanks for holding.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Country Junction

Country Junction

You know I’m an easy grader when I rate the places we visit. Too many years spent working in PR, looking for the best in places for a proper spin. I tried my hardest at Country Junction, the world’s largest general store, but I may have met my match. It’s a chain, but we went to the largest flagship location. I couldn’t get out of this place fast enough.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

I love the retail, you know that. Matt was even patient enough to visit the world’s largest candle store, and the world’s largest shoe store. These places lulled him into a false sense of security. Having been scarred at Country Junction, I’ve lost his trust.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Welllll…not much.

A “general store” makes me think of an old-timey emporium out in Walnut Grove where the Ingalls family would buy coffee, jerky, nails, and penny candy. This place began as a hardware store, then added lawn and garden products, then gift and home décor items. There’s furniture, seasonal décor, grocery, a candy counter, and a bakery.

Oh, and a fine selection of guns and ammo. And a display of taxidermied animals. The turkey would look nice over our fireplace.

Country Junction

The green lights add a lot to the display, I think.

The layout follows a yellow brick road (painted squares on the cement floor), and there are a few animatronics here and there to keep the kids from whining. And random dinosaur and Spartacus statues.


Hail! (Matt forgot to bring his gold chest plates on this trip.)

We didn’t purchase much, but we did try the fresh-baked apple dumplings in the bakery department, and they were quite good.

Here’s a few things we found among the merch:

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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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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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World’s Largest McDonald’s, Orlando, FL

McDonald'sI’m completely swamped by work since we got back from our Orlando trip, and I’m getting very little accomplished, thanks to this time of year which others cheekily call summer “vacation.” However, I’m under an intense deadline to post this one, because this McDonald’s won’t be the world’s largest very much longer. Several sources have advised me that a larger McDonald’s is being built for the Olympics in London, which begins in three weeks.

So technically, we did see this one while it was the world’s largest. And to be fair, it qualifies itself as “the world’s largest entertainment McDonald’s and PlayPlace,” which I assume relates to all the arcade games and other diversions which you won’t find in many other Mickey D’s.

Two Floors of Fun

When you enter the ground floor, you might be greeted/accosted by a person selling theme park tickets from the booth set up along the side wall. There are some games on this floor, and the “jungle room.” Do you remember the borderline creepy 1980’s TV commercials featuring the moon guy named “Mac Tonight” singing to the tune of Mack the Knife? Well, he’s here with his piano, and he’s a little dusty.

Mac Tonight

“When the clock strikes half past six, babe…” Sing it with me...

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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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World’s Largest Santa and other BIG Christmas Fun!

Let’s talk about Christmas! Primarily, let’s talk about what I want for Christmas {sheepish grin}. Then we’ll get to you.

I would like your vote! Go BIG or Go Home has made Christopher Elliott’s list of nominees for favorite travel bloggers! He’s a consumer travel advocate who publishes this annual list, and it would mean significant exposure for us. We’re included in a list of 25 blogs, from which 12 will make the cut for “Top 12 Favorite Travel Bloggers.” The final list will be posted this Friday. Thanks in advance for voting for Go BIG or Go Home!

Moving on…have you entered our giveaway yet for some fun stocking stuffers? You could win a $50 gift certificate to Appalachian Outdoors or a pair of BTB Sunglasses. Winners will be chosen tonight and announced tomorrow, so enter now!

On to the fun part! We like BIG expressions of holiday spirit, so we thought we would share a few with you.  Like…

The world’s largest Santa Claus! You can find this sizable St. Nick at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK. Our friend Erin writes about family fun in the 49th state at AK on the GO. She tells us that the 42-ft, 900 lb. fiberglass statue has stood in front of this attraction since 1983, although he was originally built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

The world's largest Santa lives in...where else? North Pole, Alaska!

There’s a live Santa here all year with whom you can share your wish list. You can also have a letter delivered from the Big Guy, see reindeer, shop and grab a snack. Erin says, “It’s pretty fun to visit, a little kitschy, but a worthwhile place to stop, especially since it’s the North Pole, for goodness sake!”

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