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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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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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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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World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab, Blanchester, OH

CrabWe missed this one when we went to Ohio over Memorial Day! This month’s guest post – about the world’s largest horseshoe crab — comes from Terri Weeks, a family travel writer in the Cincinnati area and mom of three. I love her family’s mission — to visit all 50 states by the time her kids graduate from high school! She blogs about their adventures at Travel 50 States With Kids.

And, all you Twilight fans, take note — this crab has a small cameo in the movie, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse! Terri was intrepid in her research; read on:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

I took my husband and three kids, along with my daughter’s friend and her mom, to the World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab, in Blanchester, OH, which is about 35 minutes northeast of Cincinnati, OH. It is owned and maintained by the Freedom Worship Baptist Church. It was originally built for the Baltimore Columbus Center Maritime Museum, then obtained by the Creation Museum and donated to the church.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Who doesn’t love roadside attractions? We fell in love with giant roadside attractions on a trip out west a few years ago. North Dakota boasts the world’s largest Holstein cow, sandhill crane, and buffalo, and we stopped at all of them.  So why not check out a horseshoe crab and see how it measured up? This giant was a mere 20-minute jaunt from my house, but I’d never seen it before.

World's Largest Horseshoe Crab

World's Largest Horseshoe Crab!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

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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 Rubber Stamp, Cleveland, OH

This is a story of love and loss. Well, it’s not really a story; more of an outline. And it’s about The Boy’s love for… his cell phone. And it is – very tenuously – connected to the world’s largest rubber stamp in Cleveland, OH. Still with me?

The Boy turned 12 over Memorial Day weekend, when we took a road trip to Cleveland, OH. We gave up the fight and got him his first cell phone. It was simple model. It was supposed to just be able to make calls and send texts, and yet he tricked it out to the point where I thought he could use it to launch a rocket.

It quickly became an appendage. And just as quickly, was broken after he sat on it while it was in his pocket. Such a sad boy.

The upside was that his hands were then free to take this trick photo “gripping” the world’s largest rubber stamp. (Remember that tenuous connection I mentioned earlier?)

Rubber stamp

Getting a grip on the world’s largest rubber stamp in Cleveland.

This is called Free Stamp, created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen in 1991. It’s installed in Willard Park outside Cleveland’s City Hall, and a block away from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s made of steel and aluminum, and painted with polyurethane enamel. It’s over 28 feet tall, and 49 feet long!

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