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

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Holiday in the Park® at Six Flags, the World’s Largest Theme Park

Holiday in the park at Six FlagsWe haven’t been to Six Flags Great Adventure, the world’s largest theme park, in more than two years. The introduction of the Holiday in the Park event brought us back to Jackson, New Jersey last week, because I love a good holiday light display (remember this one?). I wrote about our experience for the Family Vacation Critic blog, so if you’re looking for more details, head on over there.

Here, I’m sharing some photos and impressions from our visit. It’s running at five different Six Flags parks across the U.S. through January 3, but this is the first time it’s in New Jersey. I highly recommend it!

In addition to the great entertainment, including live shows, visits with Santa, and story times with Mrs. Claus, you’ll see 1,000,000+ lights, and it pays to time your visit so at least part of the time you’re there after dark.

Carousel

The Carousel at Dusk

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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

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Elf on the Road

Is anyone else bracing for the onslaught of “Elf on the Shelf” photos in their Facebook feeds? I’m all for holiday cheer, but I only have the energy to manufacture one fictional figment per season, and this one belongs to Santa. Still, this year I wanted to put a family travel spin on the Elf buzz. You know we’re always up for a little quirkiness around here, like our Halloween trick photos last year.

So, over the last few months, we’ve taken our still-unnamed Elf off the shelf, and on the road. He’s been to several states, and seen a lot. He tends toward mischief, though.

Elf on the shelf

For a little guy, he’s got a big appetite. At the giant fork in the road in Red Hook, NY. This is Matt’s elf from his childhood. Vintage!

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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.

Overview

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See you next month!

We’ve been quiet for the past week on GBOGH. It hasn’t felt right, since the Newtown tragedy, to cheekily post about our travel adventures. So, we’re taking a couple of weeks away from the blog to celebrate the holidays, and to spend time as a family.

You may still see us showing up on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Look for us is this space in early January, with posts on the world’s largest Pez dispenser, Van de Graaf generator, living history museum, and more! There’s plenty in the hopper!

January will also bring a guest post on the world’s largest turban; and our first site in India! Remember, we welcome guest posts, so if you’ve been somewhere BIG and would like to write for us, contact us.

Best wishes for the BIGGEST and happiest of holidays!

— Traci, Matt, The Boy and The Girl

Lights on the Lake

“Lights on the Lake” at Onondaga Lake Park, Liverpool, NY

 

 

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World’s Largest Group of Christmas Carolers, Westport, CT

On Wednesday night, 502 Christmas carolers in Westport, CT set a Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest group of singers caroling door-to-door!  We weren’t there, but two of our friends were! You may remember Fiona from her guest post on the world’s largest Rubik’s Cube. She and Libby got their official numbers to wear in the “One Voice” event:

One Voice

Ready to sing! Libby’s the “high-spirited” one on the right.

 

The caroling took place in Westport’s Compo Beach area Wednesday night, and raised more than $4,000 for a local charity.

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Pocono Raceway: A Stock Car Ride-Along Experience

Pocono Raceway

Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA

When I was approached by Cloud 9 Living to try one of the experiences they offer, I saw the words “stock car ride along” and immediately thought of Matt. He has suffered gallantly since the kids came along, curtailing his lead foot and following speed limits, but in his heart, he loves driving fast. Then I realized that the ride-along adventures are offered at the Pocono Raceway, the world’s largest solar-powered sports facility. It was a match made in GBOGH heaven, so we checked it out last weekend!

If you’re looking to give an original, unique gift this holiday season, you should take a look at what Cloud 9 Living offers. Besides the ride-alongs, they offer experiences throughout the U.S., like sky diving, learning to golf with a PGA pro, and chocolate-making classes (My personal favorite!). Cloud 9 is running a “9 Days of Christmas Contest”, where you can win your own experience, so it’s a good time to check it out.

After suiting up, Matt climbed through the window of #8. They clipped on a neck roll, positioned him in his seat, fastened his seat belt, then chained his neck roll and helmet to the back of his seat so his head was immobile. He couldn’t turn to see his driver, Bruce, but he did introduce himself. A transplant of Charlotte, NC, Bruce has been driving professionally for 20 years; the last nine at Pocono. Bruce didn’t give him much instruction, but he did tell him that if he felt nauseous at any point, he should give him the “thumbs down” sign, and he would slow down.

Stock car

Wait, where’s your life insurance policy paperwork?

Before he reached the end of the pit row, Bruce had the car in fourth gear. Matt felt the force pull him back. He didn’t realize until he felt sore later that he was clenching muscles in his shoulders and back. He didn’t feel scared, but at one point in turn two, he saw skid marks along the wall, and thought, “ouch.”

Don’t blink, but this is how fast he was going:

 

As Matt tells it: “The second Bruce takes his foot off the gas, you feel a difference. There’s only four speeds, and he really never even used the brakes. At the end of the third lap, he coasted and downshifted and cut the engine. He told me we were going approximately 165 miles per hour at top speed, which was when we drove the front straight away in front of the grandstand. We went slower during the turns.” (The track is a triangle, so there were three turns.)

This is what we got out of him as he was taking off his gear:

 

Bruce told Matt that the cars get checked after every six laps, particularly for tire wear. After Matt got out, they jacked up #8 on the left side, because Bruce said he “felt something,” which may have been nothing more than a pavement seam.

Matt’s ride-along experience was three laps, and lasted about ten minutes. You can also choose a six lap ride. Each lap is approx. 2.5 miles. I didn’t realize that some races are 500 miles; that’s a lot of time in a rattling car!

In our own car on the way home, I pointed out that the speed we were driving was only half of what he was driving on that track.

Matt thought it was “totally wicked,” but wished he would have been able to bring his phone along for the ride to take video. (He has a hard time separating from his technology.)

Since we were at the world’s largest solar powered sports facility, I should point out that we saw the 25 acres where the Pocono Raceway operates 40,000 photovoltaic modules, which will produce more than 72 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy over the next 20 years. The system offsets more than 3,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Not only do they generate enough power for the Raceway, but also for close to 1,000 homes in the area!

Disclaimer: Cloud 9 Living provided us with this experience free of charge, in exchange for our honest review.

Pocono Raceway

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We Have Winners!

A BIG thanks to everyone who entered our two “stocking stuffer” giveaways!  Special “props” to those of you who spilled your guts and told us who you’re least looking forward to seeing over the holidays. There now, don’t you feel better? I know I will…on December 26th.

I used Randomized.com to select the winners. Megan won the $50 Gift Certificate for Appalachian Outdoors, and Kerry won the BTB Sunglasses!

Thanks again, and stay tuned for more giveaways in the new year!

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World’s Largest Santa and other BIG Christmas Fun!

Let’s talk about Christmas! Primarily, let’s talk about what I want for Christmas {sheepish grin}. Then we’ll get to you.

I would like your vote! Go BIG or Go Home has made Christopher Elliott’s list of nominees for favorite travel bloggers! He’s a consumer travel advocate who publishes this annual list, and it would mean significant exposure for us. We’re included in a list of 25 blogs, from which 12 will make the cut for “Top 12 Favorite Travel Bloggers.” The final list will be posted this Friday. Thanks in advance for voting for Go BIG or Go Home!

Moving on…have you entered our giveaway yet for some fun stocking stuffers? You could win a $50 gift certificate to Appalachian Outdoors or a pair of BTB Sunglasses. Winners will be chosen tonight and announced tomorrow, so enter now!

On to the fun part! We like BIG expressions of holiday spirit, so we thought we would share a few with you.  Like…

The world’s largest Santa Claus! You can find this sizable St. Nick at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK. Our friend Erin writes about family fun in the 49th state at AK on the GO. She tells us that the 42-ft, 900 lb. fiberglass statue has stood in front of this attraction since 1983, although he was originally built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

The world's largest Santa lives in...where else? North Pole, Alaska!

There’s a live Santa here all year with whom you can share your wish list. You can also have a letter delivered from the Big Guy, see reindeer, shop and grab a snack. Erin says, “It’s pretty fun to visit, a little kitschy, but a worthwhile place to stop, especially since it’s the North Pole, for goodness sake!”

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What-To-Avoid Wednesday / Santa’s Enchanted Forest

When you’re looking for a “world’s largest” to visit, it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes you come across an experience which is overpriced, over-hyped, and an overall disappointment. Then again, that’s just your opinion. Your kids could love it, and you just have to suck it up and keep the cash flowing. (Selfless parenthood, blah blah blah.)

Santa's Enchanted Forest

Probably more "enchanting" at night, I'm guessing.

My friend Sandra was not feeling the warm-and-fuzzies for Santa’s Enchanted Forest, the world’s largest Christmas theme park in Miami, FL. Alas, her daughter found it delightful, so she may just find herself there again this December!

Her review is our first installment of our oh-so-cleverly-titled series, What-To-Avoid Wednesday!

Santa’s Enchanted Forest may be the world’s largest Christmas theme park, but is it worth the trip? That depends on what you’re expecting. If you’re looking for a magical place to stir your childhood dreams of Christmas with beautiful light displays, fancy rides, and food that will thrill your senses, go to Disney. If you love carnivals, rides which creak and give you whiplash, and enjoy being conned by carnies trying to fast talk you out of your money, then you’ve found the right place!

For a mere $24 per adult and $16 per child, you get to ride a handful of rides for free and continue to drain your wallet for the rest.  The food is standard carnival fare — elephant ears, pizza, corn on the cob, fries, cotton candy, deep fried just about anything, and mystery meat on a stick. Oh, and you can even get your picture taken on top of a huge, nearly five-foot high toilet! I must say, I was tempted…

(Editor’s note; But was it larger than the world’s largest toilet in Indiana?!)

Santa's Enchanted Forest

She's got a ticket to ride...

With that said, my five-year old loved it. She saw the beautiful Christmas lights and creative electric train displays, and did not notice the rickety wood holding them up or the rusty scaffolding in the background.  From her perspective, the guy balancing on chairs and the man climbing up a really high pole were amazing feats of strength. She didn’t mind the dirt, the grime, the other clientele, or the quality of the prizes.

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