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The BIG Stuff at Hershey’s

Chocolate WorldYou didn’t think I’d let the whole month of January go by without posting something BIG? Well, up until a few hours ago, I did. Work (you know, all the other writing I do) has been crazy-in-a-good-way this month.

But I can’t ignore the fact that the winter doldrums have set in, and so I want to offer a suggestion to anyone looking for a fun day trip or weekend getaway: Hershey, PA. True, the Hersheypark amusement park is still closed for the season, but there are other year-round attractions in town. My favorite of which is Chocolate World, home to the world’s largest selection of Herhsey’s products.

First, there are the attractions, like the Great American Chocolate Tour, a free ride with a free sample at the end. I can honestly say that I still have memories of this ride from a trip I took there as a five-year old. Hey, it’s the enduring power of chocolate. Of course, it’s been updated, and stars three singing mechanical dairy cows. That “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate” jingle will stick in your brain for days.

For a fee, you can also catch “Hershey’s Great Chocolate Factory Mystery,” a fun action adventure movie in the 4D theater, or the “Hershey’s Create Your Own Candy Bar” area, where you get to customize your own chocolate bar. (Hope you look better than me in a hair net.)

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World’s Largest Gingerbread Exhibit

So, the plan was to get up early Sunday for a 9:00am wheels-up for the New York Hall of Science in Queens, to see the GingerBread Lane exhibit. Except it was dark and rainy, and we just switched over to flannel sheets. Flannel sheets are quicksand on Sunday mornings. My feet didn’t touch slippers until 8:30, so our plans were slightly postponed.

Still, the drive was worth it. GingerBread Lane, a 1.5 ton, 300-square-foot village made entirely of edible gingerbread, royal icing and candy, is a contender for the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread exhibit. The final decree has not been made, but we had to go see it. It’s pretty amazing to look at, and smells deeeeelicious.


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BIG Finds in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

World Trade Center Baltimore

In front of the world’s tallest pentagonal building

Over Columbus Day weekend, we attended the Digital Family Summit in Baltimore. This annual kid-friendly conference is geared toward tweens and teens who are digital content creators, meaning they’re writing blogs or producing videos for the web. I thought it would be a great experience for The Boy, who took workshops in video game design and WordPress. I would recommend it if your kids are out there navigating their way through the world wide web.

Our hotel was an easy ten-minute walk to the Inner Harbor district, one of the top tourist destinations in “Charm City,” so we took advantage of our down time to do a little exploring for BIG stuff. We were also able to meet up with one of Matt’s high school friends, Kim, who lives nearby with her five kids.

It was one of those five kids who actually tipped us off to our first find. Upon learning what we blog about, 12-year old Danny said, “You know, the tallest pentagonal building in the world is here in the Inner Harbor.”

What?!? My crackerjack advance research techniques had obviously failed me, because that was news.

World Trade Center, Baltimore

The 405-foot tall building is actually the World Trade Center, and was designed by the firm founded by renowned architect I.M. Pei. You can take the elevators to the “Top of the World” observation level on the 27th floor for 360° views of the city. Now that I’ve actually done my homework, I’ve found out that it’s technically the world’s tallest “regular” pentagonal building, meaning that all sides are the same length. There is a taller irregular pentagonal building in Houston; the JPMorgan Chase building, which is 1,002-feet tall.

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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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PEZ Visitor Center, Orange, CT: World’s Largest PEZ Dispenser

PEZ Visitor Center

PEZ Visitor Center, Orange, CT

I remember my first PEZ dispenser; do you? It was Snoopy, my all-time favorite cartoon character. The Boy started a collection several years ago, and R2D2 was the star of that show. It’s since been passed down to The Girl, and she’s glammed up the group with Hello Kitty and a princess or two.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

The kids and I drove over to Orange, CT to visit the PEZ Visitor Center, home to the world’s largest PEZ dispenser, as well as the world’s largest public collection of PEZ memorabilia.

It was one of those late summer days, when camps have ended and the first day of school is still weeks away. We were bored.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

If you’ve nibbled on a pack of PEZ at any time over the past 30 years, it was made here at this manufacturing facility. The visitor center is a new addition, acting as part museum, part attraction.

As soon as we got out of the car, I smelled the sweet scent of cherry candy in the air. Once we entered, our eyes went straight to a wall covered by rows of PEZ dispensers, and a PEZ motorcycle hanging from the ceiling.Beyond the ticket window, you’re greeted by a giant, 12-foot tall PEZ dispenser, topped by a boy’s head with a blue baseball cap. Adorable.

Worlds Largest PEZ Dispenser

You’re free to explore this place on your own, and you’ll have to give and take. There are the decidedly kid-focused activities, like a create-your-own dispenser table, alongside the display cases of vintage memorabilia. There’s a fascinating historical time line across two walls which appeals those of us old enough to remember some of these earlier decades. Included here are bits of fun trivia.

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Our Top Three Valentine’s Day Candy Recommendations from the World’s Largest Candy Stores!

Dylan's Candy Bar

…as evidenced by the melted chocolate around her mouth.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day candy, chocolate isn’t the only kid on the block. If you want points for creativity, pass on the red heart-shaped box from Walgreens. I can also do without those chalky pastel message hearts, thank you.

Our travels have brought us to several BIG candy stores where the selection is vast, and the ideas are limitless. For inspiration, I recommend visiting one of the world’s largest candy stores from this list before buying sweets for your sweetie. I’ve also made a few suggestions on what to buy to commemorate Valentine’s Day, if you want to go a step beyond predictable!


b.a. Sweetie Candy Company, Inc.

While Sweeties Candy is the largest candy store in Arizona, its no-frills warehouse in Cleveland, Ohio bills itself as the “largest candy store in the U.S.A.,” offering the “largest selection of candy in the world.” Those are some pretty BIG claims, so we went to check it out last summer on our Cleveland road trip.

You’ll need at least an hour to cover the 20,000 square feet housing ten aisles of candy – over 3,500 different varieties, stocked floor to ceiling. You’ll find a lot of bulk candy on display in addition to small packages, and all the tools – molds, sprinkles, sugars — to make your own candy.


b.a. Sweetie Candy Company

There’s an entire wall dedicated to PEZ dispensers and hard-to-find candy flavors like chocolate and cola. I loved discovering brands I’ve never heard of before, like Pearson’s Nut Goodies, Chase Cherry Mash candy bars, and Annabelle’s Abba-Zaba Taffey.

Best Bet For Valentine’s Day – Head to the large Jelly Belly display, and mix a custom blend from the vast variety of colors; including all sorts of red and pink hues.

Jelly Belly

World’s largest jelly bean?

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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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Five Tips For Attending the San Gennaro Feast in New York City

San Gennaro Feast

Crowds at the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy

Well, it’s underway again – the Feast of San Gennaro in New York City, one of the world’s largest outdoor religious festivals. The 86th Annual Feast takes place in Little Italy through Sunday, September 23 on the streets of Little Italy in lower Manhattan.

The Figli Di San Gennaro is meant to celebrate the Patron Saint of Naples. A religious procession will take place next Wednesday (September 19th, my birthday!), during which the San Gennaro statue will be carried from its permanent home in the Most Precious Blood Church through the streets.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s really about the food.

Are you planning to go? Because we’ve been multiple times, and would like to share five tips for attending the San Gennaro Feast:

1. Don’t Go on a Full Stomach.

Obviously, you’re going there to eat. Last year, our family’s total consumption included:

Six fried ravioli

One rice ball

One slice bruschetta

One sausage and peppers sandwich

One deep-fried Oreo

One corn dog

One order of French fries

One gelato

Three small cannolis

…and six zeppole


Mmmmm…fried dough….

But NO pasta, interestingly enough!

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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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World’s Largest Potato, Orlando FL (for now)

It’s Tater Tuesday on the blog today! We’re celebrating our meet-up yesterday with the world’s largest potato in Orlando. As I mentioned last week, the six-ton potato is touring the U.S. on The Famous Idaho® Potato Truck to celebrate the Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary.

Idaho potato

Braving the wind to see the potato.

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