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World’s Largest Toy Museum: Branson, Missouri

World's Largest Toy Museum

World’s Largest Toy Museum

You would think a place called the World’s Largest Toy Museum would be a magical place for kids. Well, if you’re a 45-year-old kid, then yes…I loved this Branson attraction. But I’m pretty sure my own kids wouldn’t be so thrilled. Because while there are more than one million toys in this museum, most of them are on display behind glass. No hands-on, interactive stuff here.

Bottom line: perfect place to stroll down Memory Lane, but leave the strollers at home.

The “world’s largest” title recognizes the density of toys per square foot, since the Smithsonian actually has a larger number of toys. There are 10,000 dolls just in the area called “Doll Land.” And let me tell you, some are super creepy. I never liked those eyelids that open and shut willy-nilly, especially after dark.

dolls

Clowns don’t bother me. These chill me to the bone.

The museum opened in 2001, and features an amazingly vast collection that owners Tom and Wendy Beck continue to acquire. What you see in the museum is only part of their collection; there’s even more in a warehouse, waiting to be rotated and displayed. There are no guided tours, although you will be greeted and given a brief introduction to the collections after you purchase tickets.

Part of the wonder of this place is in seeing antique toys from the 1800’s. There’s a set of dolls that was made before the U.S. Constitution was even signed. If you’re into certain categories of vintage toys, such as Barbies, Disney, or space toys, this page on the museum’s website provides an overview of just some of the themed collections you’ll find there. Of course, there are even more: board games, dolls, instruments, robots, fire engines, tractors, even Cracker Jack prizes and McDonald’s Happy Meals trinkets.

board games

Can you find BOTH Clue games?

There are entire walls of curated collections: Star Wars figurines, scout memorabilia, Cabbage Patch kids, PEZ dispensers, sock monkeys, ventriloquist dummies (also creepy), G.I. Joe figurines, and Raggedy Ann dolls.

Robots

Cool, right?!

There’s also a vast range of sizes. There’s space for larger items such as bicycles, arcade games, and old Coca Cola dispenser machines. There’s an actual 1959 Rolls Royce sitting in the front of the museum, which was explained to us as a “toy,” but for “big boys.”

Even though the collections were very well curated into themes, the signage was sorely lacking. Only a minority of the items have any kind of provenance or name cards describing what the item is and the year it was made. If you’re of a certain age – say, in your mid-40’s – you’ll be able to estimate the age of the toys, since you probably played with them.

So many happy flashes of memory rushed back to me here. I felt a compulsion to reach out and touch the Fisher Price school that I spent hours with as a toddler. And again when I saw the same Snoopy piggy bank that held my loose change. And yet again walking past the lunch boxes and spying the Holly Hobby thermos I used to open to find Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.

And yes, I had these Donny and Marie dolls. In real life, they wore these exact costumes on their variety show in 1976 {pauses to unsuccessfully search for a YouTube clip}.

Donny and Marie

She’s a little bit country…

Other times, you’re left guessing. I had to do an online search for this brand of juke box to find out it was made in the mid-1960’s:

Juke box

Wish it worked!

So, next time you’re in Branson, take some time to relive your youth. Just don’t take your kids.

Hey YOU! Go BIG!
World’s Largest Toy Museum
3609 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616
417-332-1499

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The BIG Times, June/July 2013

A round-up of BIG news highlights across the globe, and other BIG finds we want to share!

NEWS OF THE LARGE

News which caught our attention over the past month:

The standing world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Superman was broken on June 5, by a group of 566 people! Sears organized the event at its corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. It tied in with this month’s release of the movie “Man of Steel,” in which the character Clark Kent’s father Jonathan works at a Sears.

Photo Credit: Guinnessworldrecords.com

Photo Credit: Guinnessworldrecords.com

Save the Date! The AutoFair, the “World’s Largest Automotive Extravaganza” returns to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, September 19-22. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The AutoFair will also feature a collector car auction.

FROM OUR FRIENDS AND READERS

I love that I got an email from the people behind the World’s Largest Wind Chime and the World’s Largest Golf Tee just to say “hello,” and let me know all the BIG things going on in little Casey, Illinois!

wind chimes

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The BIG Times, May 2013

A round-up of BIG news highlights across the globe, and other BIG finds we want to share!

A FUN FIND!

I got to do something last week that I’ve wanted to do ever since moving to the Hudson Valley: tour Bannerman’s Castle on Pollopel Island in the middle of the Hudson River. In the early 1900’s, Frank Bannerman was the world’s largest buyer of surplus military equipment, and he built this castle to store it in! Public tours have started for the season. You can take a boat to the island, walk the trails, and enjoy amazing views of the castle, Bannerman residence, and the river.

Bannerman Castle

Bannerman Castle, on Pollopel Island in the Hudson River

NEWS OF THE LARGE

News which caught our attention over the past month:

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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.

PEZ

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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PHOTO FRIDAY: Big Fun Toy Store, Cleveland, OH

I included the Big Fun toy store on our Cleveland itinerary for its name, obviously.

Big Fun

It’s not the world’s largest toy store (that would be the Toys R’ Us in Times Square), but it lives up to its name by giving you a really enjoyable trip down memory lane!  Big Fun, which has been around for almost 20 years, has two locations. We went to the one in the Coventry neighborhood. Both are stuffed to the brim – literally from floor to ceiling – with an amazing array of toys, collectibles, novelties and gag gifts.

Cleveland

Their own description says it best: “a cathedral of counter-culture, a warehouse of nerdabilia and nostalgia.”

toy store

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Kalahari Resort: Largest Indoor Water Park in the United States

Kalahari Resort, Sandusky, OH

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Let’s be clear; going to a water park is not my favorite way to spend a day. For the kids, however, it’s better than Christmas3. Therefore, a day at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH — the largest indoor water park in the country — is akin to spending Christmas3 at the North Pole, with Santa himself handing out the gifts.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Of course, it’s not about what I like to do, is it? And since we were visiting Cleveland, making a side trip to Sandusky — one hour west — was easy. This lakefront town is home to Cedar Point, one of the country’s largest theme parks with 17 roller coasters, many of them record-breakers.

Our destination, however, was the Kalahari. There are two Kalahari resort properties; the other is in Wisconsin. The Sandusky location not only contains the largest indoor water park, but also a smaller outdoor water park, which is circled by a zip line and ropes course overhead.

Yep, it’s BIG. The entire indoor park is 173,000 square feet, which is three times the size of a football field. The pools hold more than 1.3 million gallons of water. This is all in addition to the resort’s 77,000-square-foot outdoor waterpark, 884 guest rooms and 192 condos, the Spa Kalahari, shops, an indoor mini-glow golf course, indoor playground, the largest arcade in the Midwest, a fitness center, three eateries, and a 215,000-square-foot convention center.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

With water slides galore, a lazy river, a huge wave pool, and more, the kids were in their glory. We spent most of our time in the 12,000-square-foot wave pool, where I was relieved to find that The Girl could stand and manage without me. We’re still waiting for that liberating moment when she learns to swim, so we don’t always have to be in the water with her.

Wave pool

Our favorite spot

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Willis Tower: Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere

Willis Tower

Willis Tower, Chicago

I’m sorta amazed by people who don’t have a fear of heights, like I do. How do they not get jelly knees and queasy stomachs being that far from terra firma? In this case, 1,353 feet above said terra, to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (That’s 412 meters, for all our metric friends).

Our guest post this month comes from Nicole Wiltrout, a freelance writer living in Columbus, IN. Nicole writes about adventures at home and away with her husband and two young sons at Arrows Sent Forth. She also shared this report on the world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis last year.

Nicole is far braver than I am. Her report:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

My husband and I, along with our youngest son, spent a weekend in Chicago. This included a trip to the SkyDeck at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) on a Saturday afternoon.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

My family typically visits Chicago a couple of times each year. This particular trip was to do some research for a blogging project with Expedia. I wanted to visit a few major Chicago attractions that I had either never been to or hadn’t visited in a while. I’ve heard a lot about the SkyDeck but had never done it on previous trips to the city.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The SkyDeck would be particularly interesting to fans of Go BIG or Go Home because it’s a chance to go to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll ride an elevator 103 stories up and step out on a glass sky ledge that extends four feet off the side of the building.

SkyDeck Willis Tower

No way. No how. Never.


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Greater Cleveland Aquarium: World’s Longest Underwater “Sea Tube”

Cleveland Aquarium

Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Over Memorial Day, we drove to Cleveland, and remarkably, only had to separate the kids once during the drive. The invisible line I painted down the middle of the back seat lasted nearly 8 hours before it was infiltrated. I consider that time frame a good ROI on the invisible paint.

We were pleasantly surprised by all there is to do in Cleveland. We visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of course, and the delightfully quirky world’s largest rubber stamp. Another stop on our itinerary was the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, a new attraction and home to the World’s Longest Underwater “Sea Tube.”

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The Sea Tube is the main attraction in this aquarium, which itself is relatively small (the world’s largest aquarium is in Atlanta, GA).  There is only one floor of exhibits, and it took us less than two hours to make our way through the themed galleries, including: Ohio Lakes & Rivers; Exotic Freshwater; Florida Keys; Tropical Reef, and Weird & Wonderful.

For young children, the manageable size is a definite advantage. Many of the tanks were positioned low to the ground, as well, so little ones get a great view. I can imagine they go through a lot of window cleaner with all those wee noses pressed up against the glass!

Cleveland aquarium

Bet they purchase their Windex at Costco!

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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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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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