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

Archive for Free to see

We’re BIG on Branson!

A recent travel writing trip brought me to Branson, Missouri, a beautiful Ozark Mountain town just north of Arkansas. There are many sides to Branson; there’s the historic downtown, the lakes and outdoor recreation, and the lively entertainment strip along Highway 76. Branson is best known for this stretch of theaters, attractions, and restaurants. It’s bright, fun, busy…and dotted with lots of BIG roadside attractions! My rental car made a lot of stops…here are my favorite Branson roadside attractions:

The BIG Chair

It finally happened! One of my “Go BIG” dreams—other than seeing the world’s largest ball of twine—was to sit in a BIG chair. Got it done in Branson! This hand-crafted, 15-foot chair sits in the parking lot of Miss Julie’s Old Time Photos on Highway 76. Thanks to Eric who works there for agreeing to leave his post and snap this shot for me!

Big chair in Branson

Read the rest of this entry »


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 »

Comments (2)

World’s Largest Termite, and other BIG Things in Providence, Rhode Island

This long, cold, snowy winter we’re enjoying barely tolerating here in the Hudson Valley hasn’t been kind to our travel plans, beginning way back in November, when a storm prevented us from driving to Gatlinburg, TN for Thanksgiving. Another storm was forecast for President’s Day weekend earlier this month, when we were scheduled to drive to Providence, RI. The Girl insisted we go anyway, whining, “Weather has ruined all our trips!”

Okay, so we were committed to getting there. And then The Boy sprained his ankle, and was outfitted with a boot. My eye began to twitch.

But hey, flexibility is what family travel is all about, so we rolled with it. We were snowed in at the Hampton Inn for an entire afternoon. We couldn’t do much walking. But the important thing was WE GOT OUT of town, winter be damned.

And discovered some great BIG attractions in Rhode Island’s capital city.

Because we love roadside attractions, our first photo op stop was “Nibbles Woodaway,” also known as the Big Blue Bug. At two tons, he’s the world’s largest termite, and has sat on top of an extermination business building since 1980. He’s nine feet tall and 58 feet long, and is occasionally dressed in smart seasonal accessories.


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

World’s Largest Peach, Gaffney, South Carolina

It’s summer, which in my book means road trips! And when I think about road trips, I naturally think about quirky roadside attractions (and now I’m starting to sound like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”).

Water towers are especially fun – and very noticeable from the road — when they’re painted to look like something else. We saw the world’s tallest water tower in New Jersey, but it didn’t have half the charm of the “Peachoid” in South Carolina, the world’s largest peach.

In this month’s guest post, Kelly Rae Smith, Editor of Explore Travel Guide, tells us all about it:

Where is it and how did you find it?

The Peachoid has been a part of my landscape my whole life. You see, I grew up less than an hour from this peach-shaped water tower. Four-stories tall, it sits on the side of the road on Interstate 85 in Gaffney, South Carolina (Cherokee County) where it captures the attention of every passerby. I’m from Anderson, SC, and so any time I’ve traveled to Spartanburg or Charlotte, or indeed to Gaffney, I have the pleasure of beholding this incoherent piece of fruit.


World’s Largest Peach, Gaffney, SC

Why did you go there, exactly?

I finally decided to pull over and get this particular picture in 2010 because my friend edits a newspaper in Scotland, and this was taken for her “Where in the World” section. Scottish readers had to guess where this pic was taken. Surprisingly, many answered the call with exact highway instructions!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1) Trackback / Pingback (1)

World’s Biggest Bookstore and World’s Longest Street, Toronto, Ontario

Two debatable world records didn’t keep me from checking out a “world’s largest” and a “world’s longest” while I was in Toronto last month for the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference!

Yonge Street

Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Yonge Street

Until 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Yonge (pronounced “Young”) Street as the world’s longest street, because at the time, Yonge Street proper was considered part of Highway 11. The entire length of that configuration is nearly 1,200 miles end-to-end, beginning at Queen’s Quay in downtown Toronto to Rainy River, near the Minnesota and Ontario border. The world record for longest motorable road is now held by the Pan-American Highway.

I still took a stroll up Yonge Street, about a mile from the intersections of Wellington Street and Edward Street. It was such a lively thoroughfare in this section of the city, with great shopping and dining. Along the way, I resisted the pull of the tractor beams drawing me toward the Eaton Centre, Toronto’s largest mall. I had a bookstore to see.

Yonge Street

On a mission to find the “WBB.”

World’s Biggest Bookstore

It’s becoming a habit for us to visit world’s largests which are in peril of losing their title, or being lost forever. Last year, we visited the World’s Largest McDonald’s in Orlando, knowing that it would soon be oversized by a new London restaurant. In this case, the lease on the building housing the World’s Biggest Bookstore is set to expire at the end of 2013. Indigo Books and Music, the Canadian national chain which owns the “WBB,” has said it doesn’t plan to renew the lease.

World's Biggest Bookstore

Found it!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7) Trackbacks / Pingbacks (2)

Ron Jon Surf Shop, Ship Bottom, NJ: World’s Largest Surfboard

Ron Jon Surf Shop

Ron Jon Surf Shop, Long Beach Island, NJ

Who’s heading to the Jersey Shore this summer?! We should all do our part to support tourism in this area during its first season following Hurricane Sandy. (Jersey Strong!) We were there just a few months ago, while the re-building was still taking place. We discovered several Jersey Shore landmarks that weekend, including Lucy the Elephant in Margate, and the original Ron Jon Surf Shop – home to the world’s largest surfboard—in the town of Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island.

This is the original location of the Ron Jon surf shop, where the company’s first store opened in 1961. Today’s version is more than 8,000 square feet, with four levels of retail.

You’ll find everything you need for a beach vacation, or a beach bum lifestyle, including swimsuits and apparel, footwear, snorkel gear, beach bags and towels, sunglasses, sunscreen, sand toys, souvenirs, and an entire skateboard section. The Boy found a pair of “cool” flips flops, and The Girl pounced on a pink sundress with bohemian flair.

Ron Jon

In the middle of it all stands the world’s largest surf board – 24.8-feet long, and 55-inches wide.

surf board

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5) Trackback / Pingback (1)

PHOTO FRIDAY / Sighted and Shared!

One of the best things about travel blogging is the community among fellow bloggers. I especially love when another blogger will let me know about a BIG thing they’ve see in their travels; even more so when they share their photos with me!

For Photo Friday today, I wanted to show you some. First, Annie at Practical Adventurology recently attended Carnaval de Nice in France, one the world’s largest pre-Lent celebrations. It’s been taking place since 1873, but is now known for the spectacular, immense floats. These figures were about six stories tall!

Carnaval de Nice

Carnaval de Nice

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »