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Miscellany Monday, and ANOTHER Giveaway!

VERY exciting goings-on here lately at GBOGH HQ!  (Hi, I’m Traci, and I’m an acronym-aholic.)

First, we were delighted to be included in the Go Green Travel Green website’s list of Best Travel Writing of 2010!! Our post about the Walkway Over the Hudson,  the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, was included.  Having given new life to an unused railroad bridge, The Walkway is an inspirational example of recycling on a gargantuan scale.

Second, we’re thrilled that Alltop® has now included our blog within its Travel category. Alltop is a “start page” which categorizes feeds and filters the top news on the subjects of your choice. We’re expecting a lot more eyeballs will find their way here!

Alltop. Seriously?! I got in?

And now, for the really exciting news! We’re giving away a copy of a children’s book which is just hitting stores TODAY!

Quick back story: The Boy is a voracious reader, so I’m always on the lookout for books he may like. On Facebook, I happened upon the page for popular children’s author Dan Gutman. (The “My Weird School’ series and more).  I found out that he was releasing a book about a cross-country road trip, with kids visiting quirky roadside attractions, and I was hooked.

I contacted Dan, and asked if he would consider offering a book to our readers. He graciously said “yes,” and added that he thinks this blog is “cool!” (Wait, a few more !!!!!!!. There, that’s better.)

Here’s an intriguing video and synopsis of his new book, The Genius Files:

In eight days, Coke and Pepsi McDonald are going to turn thirteen. Before then, they’ll jump off a cliff, get trapped in the locked basement of their burning school, get chased cross-country by murderous lunatics, left for dead in the pit of a sand dune, thrown into a giant vat of Spam, and also visit the largest ball of twine in the world. Read all about it in “The Genius Files” brand new from Dan Gutman.

Did you see the world’s largest ball of twine?! You know that’s on my bucket list, right?

Want to enter to win a copy of The Genius Files? Just sign up to receive our e-mail notifications (see upper right hand corner). If you’re already a subscriber, just comment below and give me the name of your favorite book from your childhood (I call Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret).

A winner will be chosen randomly and will be notified next Tuesday (2/1/11), and will be asked to provide a mailing address.  The prize will be mailed directly to them from the author, so the winner must reside in the U.S.

Or, if you want to make sure you get a copy, get yourself to a bookstore and add this treasure to your collection!

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Top Five Family Road Trip Mistakes

Okay, the holidays are over, and it’s time to get back in the blogging saddle. The Go BIG or Go Home Road Trip (2010 Holiday Edition) is over, and we’re back into our routines. Routines which, sadly, include shoveling snow and administering Children’s Sudafed.

Home!

I did learn a few things from our 1,900-mile automotive journey from New York to Florida, and back again. Namely, that TSA patdowns must surely have gotten a bad rap, relative to sitting in a car for 24 hours with two kids.

We did not have a terrible experience on the road. We did not have a wonderful experience. We made errors in judgment regarding which routes would be faster, which prevented me from seeing the world’s largest peanut. I must carry the burden of that loss forever. So that you may never experience similar anguish, I must share with you our:

Top Five Family Road Trip Mistakes

1. Assume that it’s cheap to drive.

For the four of us, driving to FL was more affordable than flying during the holidays, when airfares skyrocket in line with demand. But while it was cheaper, it was not cheap. Our expenses for the four travel days, including gas, meals, and accommodations, totaled $903.42!

By the way…taking the train? Almost as expensive as flying!

2. Underestimate how long the drive will take.

Google Maps says it will take 10 hours from Point A to Point B. Your GPS unit says it will only take nine hours , 50 minutes. Don’t be fooled. It will take 12 hours. You will have to stop for gas and potty breaks, at the very least. You will want to stretch your legs, breathe fresh air, and untangle the two angry children wrestling in the back seat because one of them crossed the invisible center borderline.

3. Start out without hotel reservations.

This is one mistake we didn’t make, happily! You may consider leaving your overnight lodging up to chance, depending on how far you get. That’s risky when you’re traveling with kids, and want some assurance of a clean, safe place to stay. Also,  if bad weather forces people off the road, hotels may get overbooked. Find a hotel near where you think you’ll end up, make a reservation, and make note of their cancellation policy.

4. Eschew electronics.

If your family doesn’t own a T.V. , kudos.  On the road, you will need to plug the kids in eventually, or all of you will go crazy. (Yes, I am clairvoyant.) Part of the fun in travel is to have experiences they don’t get at home, so why not  entertainment too? PIXAR movies, in particular, appeal to children of all age groups, and keep the peace.

5. Set out with absolutely no idea where your next meal will be.

I-95

Enter to Win This!

This could lead to disaster if you have young children who get cranky when they’re hungry. We have some of those, and the snacks I packed didn’t always cut it. It was important to have some idea of where and when we were stopping for meals. While we were on I-95, this guidebook became an invaluable resource:  Drive I-95, by Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips-Posner.

I actually downloaded the PDF version to my laptop; how “eco”! On the first day of our return trip, it helped me avoid trouble when lunchtime was approaching, and I realized that we wouldn’t make it to the Applebee’s off Exit 6 in Georgia. My first clue was The Girl’s fervent demand, “When are we eating lunch?!” One look at the map, and we found a Wendy’s off Exit 373 in Florida. Close call, but nothing four chicken nuggets couldn’t help.

I find it remarkable that the authors have visited every single exit along I-95 from Maine to Miami! In addition to listing restaurants, they provide exit-by-exit info on lodging, gas stations, attractions close to the highway, campgrounds, mechanics, and much more.

And I’m happy to add that we have a copy to give away!! Because we all love Go BIG or Go Home giveaways, don’t we?

Want to enter? Just sign up to receive our e-mail notifications (see upper right hand corner). Alternatively, you can comment below and tell me which of the road trip mistakes listed above you’ve made, and what happened as a result. The juicier the story, the better!

A winner will be chosen randomly, and a winner will be notified next Tuesday (1/8/10). The winner will be asked to provide a mailing address within the U.S. or Canada.

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World’s Largest and Deepest Freshwater Spring, Wakulla Springs, FL

FIRST, an announcement that Linda B. is the winner of our latest giveaway, a copy of Walt Disney World Extreme Vacation Guide for Kids by Kathleen Reilly. CONGRATS!!

This morning, the outdoor thermometer read a whopping 2° F. That’s why I especially enjoy this month’s guest post about a warm, sunny place. My friend Rebecca Roberts lives in Tallahassee, FL, which is close to Wakulla Springs, the world’s largest and deepest freshwater spring. We met way back in elementary school, when we both lived in the Middle East. She still lives in a warm climate, while I’m stuck in this frozen tundra.

I lived in Tallahassee for three years, just out of college, and unemployed. My parents graciously opened their home to me, then charged me rent! (Something about a valuable life lesson, blah blah.) So, I’ve been to Wakulla Springs myself, and even got to ride on the glass-bottom boat, which isn’t always running, depending on the weather and water quality.

Wakulla Springs

GOR. GEOUS.

What left the biggest impression on me? The signs warning that alligators are attracted to pets and small children. Yikes.

But Becca the Brave didn’t let the threat of harm prevent her from providing this report from the field:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Becca and her boys!

This August for our last “field trip” before the start of school, I took my sons, Will (8) and Sam (5) to Wakulla Springs.

WHY did you go there, exactly?
We had all been there before as a family and on a kindergarten field trip, but it is one of those day trip destinations from Tallahassee that we try to do at least once a year.

Okay, what was so cool about it?
We went to the springs to go on the 45 minute boat tour and take a dip in the freezing cold spring. The water is 70 degrees year round and on a 98 degree day in August it will take your breath away. Wakulla Springs is very unique to the area and a cool trip for the day. We packed a picnic lunch, our swimsuits and made a day of it. The boat tour is a must-do. On every visit we have had a tour guide that is both entertaining and knowledgeable about the surroundings. The boat winds down the river, which is lined with Cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. We saw various birds, alligators, turtles, snakes (ugh!), fish, and we even saw two manatees on this trip.

Alligator

I leave the death-defying reporting to my guest bloggers.

A little background info about the place:
Wakulla Springs is located on the Florida Panhandle near Tallahassee. On average, more than 250 million gallons of water flow from Wakulla Springs forming a nine mile river that reaches the Gulf of Mexico.  If the water is clear you can see the fossilized remains of a mastodon resting on the bottom in about 80 feet of water. There are miles of caves and tunnels under the water.

And, this is where I would start worrying about that alligator warning sign…

Wakulla Springs is a state park, so it is available to anyone that would like to visit, and it is open 365 days a year. The springs also has a lodge and restaurant that has been open since 1937, and it still appears as it did back then.

FUN FACT…… Scenes from the movies ”The Creature From The Black Lagoon” and “Tarzan” were filmed at Wakulla Springs!

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):

9. Wakulla Spring is a must-do if visiting the “Big Bend” area, and we typically bring visitors from out of state because it is so unique.

Hey YOU! Go BIG!:

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
Friends of Wakulla Springs

550 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs, FL 32327. (850) 926-0700

Turtles

Sunbathing sounds really good right about now.

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MISCELLANY MONDAY

First, a friendly reminder that there are only THREE days left to enter our giveaway drawing for a copy of Walt Disney World Extreme Vacation Guide for Kids by Kathleen Reilly.  We included this fun prize in our post last week about the world’s largest Disney store in Times Square!

Cobra Bubbles

Cobra Bubbles! Credit: Fotolog.com

You can find more information about entering your name here. We’re asking for a name of an obscure Disney character.  Fiona likes Roquefort the mouse from The Aristocats. Linda loves Bruno , the dog from Cinderella. Personally, I like Cobra Bubbles from Lilo & Stitch; such a conflicted, multi-faceted character! If you need a list of Disney characters, this one is pretty complete!

We were flattered to be interviewed last week for the Sharing Travel Experiences website about Go BIG or Go Home! Spreading the gospel about BIG things…is this my calling? 😉  You can read the whole article here.

And, because this blog is just so cool, it is also featured on TravelBlogs.com this week! I’m not generally inclined to say “Hooya!,” but it seems appropriate in this case.

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World’s Largest Disney Store, New York, NY

 

Disney castle

You are now entering...the Princess Zone!

IT’S DISNEY GIVEAWAY DAY! But first, the post…

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

There’s a reason the sale of psuedoephedrine-laced cough medication is regulated. It can make you do crazy things. Case in point: suffering from a sinus infection, and self-medicating with Advil Cold & Sinus, I made the decision to drag everyone into NYC recently to check out the brand new Disney store…in Times Square…one week after it opened. I took leave of my senses, and I’m blaming it on pharmacology.

It’s the world’s largest Disney store, but as I found out from a “Cast Member,” it’s not as big as the “World of Disney” store in Orlando. They are different companies, so the distinction is made.

Bonus: After our expedition, nourishment was in order, so we ended up at Applebee’s. Turns out, the Times Square location is the world’s largest Applebee’s!

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Actually, we were going to the upper west side anyway, because The Girl and I had tickets for Angelina Ballerina, the Musical. The Girl imagines herself to be a dainty ballerina type. Taller, louder, and more in-your-face than all the other three-year olds in Miss Tanya’s “Combo” dance class, she obviously has an active imagination.

The boys went to check out the Quidditch World Cup, then came to pick us up after the show. When I said to Matt, “let’s go down to Times Square,” he acquiesced, knowing I was on medication and fearing the unknown.

We found free, on-street parking on 45th street–a sign that it was meant to be. We entered, squeezed our way through throngs of people, and applied the Death Grip to The Girl’s hand so she wouldn’t get lost.

Disney store

A Jessie doll? Why yes, I would be interested in purchasing that. How did you know?

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Any Disney fan will lose their mind in this place. There are two floors with floor-to-ceiling merchandise; everything from toys to apparel. The displays are so endearing, the décor so magical, the staff so friendly…all the necessary elements to separate you from your money.

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Contest Winner!

world's largest peanut

During our road trip, we have our sites set on the world's largest peanut in GA!

Our sincere thanks to everyone who offered suggestions for our BIG, NY to FL road trip next month! That was our most popular post yet, and I enjoyed reading about the type of places you like to see, and even more telling, where you like to eat!

The winner of our contest is JUDY!  She’ll receive a set of the first three books in the Wright on Time series by Lisa Cottrell-Bentley. This series of children’s chapter books are about an RV-living family who travels the USA.

While I’m confident that everyone who posted suggestions did so purely because they love to share travel tips, I know offering a contest can sometime help facilitate the sharing.  🙂  SO, be on the lookout, because next week, we have another fun contest giveaway! Can’t tell you what the prize is yet, but here’s a clue: rhymes with “bisney.”

Need a reminder to check back next week? Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Help Plan the “Go BIG” Road Trip and (Maybe) Win a Prize!

I-95

Source: www.i95highway.com

There are three reasons why we’re driving from New York to Florida next month. The first is to see my family, in particular my new nephew. The second is that airfares are astronomical. (They would have to be in order to get me in a car with The Girl for 24 hours). And third, I’m hankering for a road trip adventure, with the opportunity to let the kids see some fun, maybe even educational stuff during their winter school break. I like to do what I can to keep their brains from turning to mush, since I put in so much time and effort in enriching those little sponges. If they forget to thank me when they’re grown, I do plan to remind them.

Here’s where you come in. I’m looking for recommendations on where to stop during our road trip. Particularly, I’m looking for “world’s largest” roadside attractions or other sites. For example, I’m considering the world’s largest model railroad museum in Flemington, NJ.

We’re also looking for great family-friendly places to eat, like diners, where we have half a chance of finding vegetables on the menu.

Our route for most of the trip will be I-95, with some time on I-295 around the capital and I-75 in Florida. We’re willing to veer off course up to 30 miles for a really great stop.

What’s in it for you? Well, our gratitude and a big fat online shout-out, for one. Also, everyone who provides a recommendation in the comments section below will be entered in our latest giveaway contest!

We’re offering a set of the first three books in the Wright on Time series by Lisa Cottrell-Bentley. This series of children’s chapter books are about an RV-living family who travels the USA. Each book is set in a different state with a different fun and educational theme! In addition to authoring the series, Lisa is a prolific blogger, whose sites include Do Life Right. She’s also a homeschooling mom to two daughters, who recently traveled cross-country by train and visited the world’s largest ball of twine…how COOL is that?!

Wright on Time books

The prize set includes Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming!

We’re not a homeschooling family, but the reason Lisa’s books resonate with me is that travel is one of the richest educational experiences we can offer our children. There are exciting lessons to be learned at sites like the world’s largest rotating globe, or the world’s largest light bulb at the Edison Center. There are so many opportunities to extend classroom learning when you travel, even to seemingly quirky attractions.

Never fear, there’s a second way to enter the contest. Just sign up to receive our e-mail notifications when new posts go live. All new e-mail addresses we receive from today through next Wednesday (11/24) will also be entered into the drawing. Sign up in the box in the upper right column.

Winner will be notified next Wednesday (11/24), and will be asked to provide a mailing address.  The prize will be mailed directly to them from the author, so the winner must reside in the U.S.

Thanks for your recommendations! Let’s hit the road!

 

Largest ball of twine

Lisa in front of the world's largest ball of twine. I'm so stinkin' jealous!

 

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MISCELLANY MONDAY

And a chocolate winner!!

Thanks to everyone who entered our first “Go BIG” contest / giveaway! In honor of Halloween, we’re giving away a supply of the new Butterfinger Snackerz. All I can say is… it’s a good thing Nestlé didn’t send them to me to mail to the winner. She would have received a nice bag of empty wrappers.

Our winner was chosen randomly from the list of our new e-mail subscribers since last Tuesday. And by “randomly,” I mean I showed the list to The Girl, who can’t read yet, and said, “pick one.” Her little pointer finger went to Cindy B.  Congrats, Cindy!

A couple of world records were broken in the past three days; all food-related. Matt, who can’t function in the morning until his coffee IV drip is flowing, is especially fond of this one:

The World’s Largest Cup of Coffee, created by GourmetGiftBaskets.com. This cup holds 2,010 gallons, or enough for 32,160 normal cups. About a week’s supply for Matt.

Worlds largest cup of coffee

They set this record on Friday, then set a new record for the World’s Largest Cup of Iced Coffee on Saturday!

I like this one, too. A Mexico City borough made the World’s Biggest Enchilada yesterday! It’s 230-feet long, and almost 1 1/2-tons! Qué rico! Actually looks pretty tasty, too.

 

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World’s Largest Jack O’Lantern Displays

HALLOWEEN EDITION WITH GIVEAWAY OF BIG CHOCOLATELY GOODNESS!

I know I’m starting to sound like a scaredy cat. I assure you it’s mostly just a fear of heights. And spiders. And 200 TV channels all airing reality shows at the same time.

Keene Pumpkin Festival

Keene Pumpkin Festival. Photo Credit: J.W. Ocker via OddThingsIveSeen.com

Given my delicate nature, Halloween tends to not be my favorite holiday. But Jack O’Lantern festivals are just my cup of tea. They’re more about fun and artistry, and less about fright and gore.

There are two events this year vying for the world record for the most Jack O’Lanterns lit at one event.

The Keene Pumpkin Festival in NH is the largest and oldest. The world record for the number of Jack O’Lanterns lit at one event was broken here eight times, until a 2006 event in Boston topped it. Still, last year’s 29,762 pumpkins was a record for this festival, and the world record may be broken again this year! The 20th anniversary of the Keene Pumpkin Festival takes place on Main Street in Keene this Saturday, October 16.

In this corner, the challenger! The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival in IL, is preparing to take its own shot at the world record this year. The whole community participates, creating and donating their own carved creations. They anticipate lighting 32,000 Jack O’Lanterns to take the title! This event takes place October 20-23 in Highwood, IL.

Highwood Pumpkin Festival

Highwood Pumpkin Festival. Photo Credit: Marcia Burke, City of Highwood

Full disclosure: we have not been to either of these events. But we have been to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, NY for five years in a row. There are over 4,000 Jack O’ lanterns on display here; nothing to sneeze at! And since this event is my personal, “hometown” favorite, I’m going to give them a plug.  The level of artistry and creativity at the Blaze is notably above par. The Jack O’Lanterns cover the grounds of a 17th-century historic site; hanging from tree limbs, perched on rooftops, and incorporated in themed vignettes. You’ll see an undersea aquarium, a field of detailed Celtic knots, a den of dinos, a beehive, pirate ship, and a group of mummies with a pyramid. Amazing.

If you would like more information about these and other Jack O’Lantern festivals, I recently wrote this article for WomansDay.com about ten different events across the country.

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