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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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Wanamaker Organ, Philadelphia, PA: The World’s Largest Organ

plaqueSince we’re on an historic preservation bent this month, we wanted to share Matt’s recent experience seeing – and hearing – the Wanamaker Grand Organ at Macy’s in Philadelphia. Built in 1911, the world’s largest operational pipe organ is still in excellent shape, thanks to its preservation group, the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ.

You may be wondering why Matt – not the biggest shopping fan – chose to spend his free time during a business trip in a twelve-floor department store.

Matt has grown up hearing his grandmother’s story about working at “Wanamaker’s,” (now Macy’s) when she was 18. To offer some context, Matt’s grandmother is now a sound 100 years old, so this was back in 1931! She was a seamstress by trade, and worked at the time for a hosiery company, demonstrating how to mend silk stockings.

Hearing her tell it, you realize that this was her first real adventure as a young woman in the big world beyond the small New York suburb she grew up in. Her eyes still light up when she recounts the grandeur of the Wanamaker Building. So Matt wanted to see it for himself, and share in her excitement.

So Matt wasn’t there to shop (not even a little something for his wife); he went straight to the organ. What you see from the central courtyard is only a partial view of the organ’s 28,500 pipes. The largest pipe is more than 32 feet long, and so wide that a Shetland Pony was once posed inside for publicity photos. The smallest pipe is only a quarter-inch in length.


The musicians sit in a massive console which has six ivory keyboards and 729 color-coded stop tablets. There are 168 piston buttons under the keyboards and 42 foot controls. The console weighs 2.5 tons, and the entire instrument weighs 287 tons!

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World’s Largest Tooth, Trenton, NJ

All I knew as we approached Trenton, NJ was that we should be looking for the world’s largest tooth, based on an address listed on RoadsideAmerica.com. As we approached, I saw signs for “Grounds for Sculpture,” and excitedly noticed several other over-sized artworks.

This 15-foot tall tooth isn’t on the “Grounds for Sculpture” proper, but it’s nearby. It actually sits unceremoniously on the side of the road, in front on the Congoleum warehouse. There was some trepidation as we parked, but we figured we would be okay on a weekend!


“Tooth” by Seward Johnson

That’s when The Boy struck with this zinger, delivered with a smirk: “We should go see if there’s any plaque with the artist’s name.” BAM!! Bless him; he inherited his mother’s wit.

Of course, there was a plaque. The piece is officially called “Tooth,” by Seward Johnson. It was made of aluminum in 1982, and is on loan from The Sculpture Foundation, Inc.

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BIG Balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation!

We had a BIG evening in the BIG Apple tonight! We had burgers at “Big Nick’s.” {meh} But the highlight of the day was going to watch the BIG parade balloons being inflated for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the world’s largest Thanksgiving parade, BTW)!


Doesn’t this smurf look like he’s leering at the kid?

We’ve never been to the actual parade as a family. Matt and I went once, waaaaay back “b.k.” Based on what we went through this evening trying to find public bathrooms suitable for the kids, the parade is off limits until they’re old enough to hold it for seven hours straight, or their bladders grow to adult size.

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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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A BIG Journey Through Australia

We start the month with a fun guest post from Ben West, who writes the Living Vicariously blog. This is exciting for me for several reasons. 1) It’s our first contribution from Australia, a country high on my bucket list for all its BIG roadside attractions. 2) It’s our first travelogue about an adventure on a motorcycle. 3) It’s an adventure being enjoyed by someone SO outside my demographic – a young, unmarried, carefree couple – which is why the name of his blog really resonates with me!

Ben is currently exploring his own country with his girlfriend Jette. Some of the BIG highlights of his trip include the world’s largest Tasmanian Devil! Here’s his report:

“Since I started to follow the Go BIG or Go Home blog, I have been noticing just how many big things we have here in Australia. Australia is a big place, so big that if all Australians had an argument and spread out evenly over the continent, every person would have 213 square miles to themselves — that’s only 4.6 people in every square mile.


Holbrook is a perfectly charming little town on the road from Sydney to Melbourne. It has bright cafes with reasonable prices, and parks full of play equipment where parents can air out their children. Holbrook not only has the sole set of traffic lights between Melbourne and Sydney, it also boasts a massive submarine sitting proudly right in the middle of town.


Holbrook is named after Commander Norman Holbrook, a decorated WWI veteran. Commander Holbrook spent the war hiding underwater and driving his Oberon class submarine around, occasionally popping up to shoot at the surprised baddies then disappear in a stream of bubbles. Lt. Holbrook won the Victoria Cross, our highest pat on the back for military people.

Jette was amazed to sight this big black submarine shell (sadly they took out all the bombs and fun stuff) almost 400 kilometers inland from Melbourne. Despite my best efforts, she would not climb aboard for a photo.

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BIG stuff in Philadelphia, PA

Claes Oldenburg

The world’s largest clothespin! The Girl couldn’t wait to get out of the car. The Boy thinks we’re crazy.

There are roadside attractions in Philadelphia, although most of them are best enjoyed on foot. The public outdoor art installations we saw in Philadelphia thoroughly charmed me, because there are quite a few BIG pieces!


Claes Oldenburg sculpture in Philadelphia, PA

I’ve become a fan of Swedish American sculptor Claes Oldenburg, best known for his public art installations worldwide which feature immense replicas of familiar objects. He thinks BIG!

Of course, our first order of business in Philadelphia was seeing Clothespin — the world’s largest clothespin — created by Oldenburg in 1976. It’s located in Centre Square Plaza on Market Street across from the City Hall, which happens to be the largest municipal building in the U.S. The 45-ft. tall clothespin was made from 10 tons of Cor-Ten and stainless steel.

The Paint Torch is Oldenburg’s most recent work in Philly, and was just installed on Cherry Street last year. This four-ton brush is five stories tall! It looks like an artist has jammed it at a 60 degree angle into the sidewalk, leaving a blob of paint on the ground. We didn’t get to see it at night, but the paint on the brush and the paint blob are lit from within by synchronized LEDs.

We also didn’t get to see the other oversized Oldenburg piece in Philadelphia — the 16-foot Split Button in Levy Park on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Next time!

Claes Oldenburg

The Paint Torch by Claes Oldenburg

The Board Game Art Park, Philadelphia, PA

We had no choice but to visit Municipal Services Building Plaza at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard on a rainy morning. But we still enjoyed visiting the Board Game Art Park, home to the multi-piece installation, “Your Move,” created in 1997 by artists Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropoulis, and Roger White.

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: World’s Largest Collection of Historical Aeronautical Artifacts

Smithsonian Air and Space MuseumI don’t write much about our life in a small town, but one effect of living here is an aversion to crowds. I don’t even drive to our dinky mall on weekends, lest I have to park more than three rows away from the entrance.

So alarm and dread resulted from the realization that the “perfect storm” awaited us at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A free museum in our nation’s capital. An overcast weekend. The week of Spring Break.

Perhaps I saw you there, too?

WHY did you go there, exactly?

There are so many wonderful, kid-friendly museums in Washington, DC, but I knew the one which would most interest my kids would be the Air and Space museum, home the world’s largest collection of historical aeronautical artifacts. For The Boy, it meant geeky science stuff. The Girl, ever fearless, would get more ammunition for her dreams of space flight.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Of course, it’s awesome, and truly amazing, that admission to this facility is free. There are additional experiences which cost extra, but these are still affordable, and totally worth it. As soon as we arrived, we bought our tickets for one of the three IMAX movies and one of the three planetarium shows which are shown on a frequent, rotating basis. We were glad later when we saw the long ticket line.

Both the IMAX movie – To Fly! — and the planetarium show – Cosmic Collisions – kept both kids entertained, but more than that, it was SO nice to sit!

I was correct in assuming that The Boy would want to try the virtual flight simulator. Matt went with him, and looked a little green upon exiting. “He’ll never be a pilot,” was all he was capable of uttering. Apparently, barrel rolls were part of the experience.

Air and Space Museum

Look up! It's a bird! ...No, wait...

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World’s Largest Four-Millimeter LED Screen, Philadelphia, PA

Illuminated screens play a far larger role in my family’s everyday life than I care to admit. So I was sure that the tip I got from Mara at Mother of All Trips would result in a memorable stop during our Philadelphia weekend getaway.

She suggested we visit the Comcast Center, for a look at the “Comcast Experience” wall.


This image is displayed on only the top half of the screen. The panels below aren't really panels, they're video replicas of the room's actual wood panels.

The 2,100-square foot HD video display wall is the world’s largest four-millimeter LED screen. For 18 hours a day, you can watch various short films; original programming created exclusively for this screen, which measures 83.3 feet wide and 25.4 feet high.

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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

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