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

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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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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.


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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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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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: World’s Largest Collection of Rock Music Memorabilia

Rock and Roll Hall of FameWhere we went, and who was coerced into going:

Last weekend, we took a road trip to Cleveland. At the top of our itinerary was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which holds the world’s largest collection of rock music memorabilia.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

I’m the one at the Hard Rock Café looking at each artifact in the display cases, reading the back story on each item. I’m fascinated, especially by the costumes. The immense collection at the “Rock Hall,” as it’s affectionately called by locals, puts those displays to shame.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Before you even get inside, there’s an exhibit of guitars all painted in different themes. The kids loved hamming it up.

Rock Hall

Also in the front courtyard was Johnny Cash’s 1979 tour bus. The interior was a delightful tribute to the decade, complete with powder puff blue velour upholstery.

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Where We’re Headed, 2012 Edition

See, the problem with taking frequent family road trips is that it gets to be a part of you, and you end up needing to hit the road as frequently as possible. We didn’t travel anywhere this month. It’s killing me.

However, staying put gave me the opportunity to plan out our next several adventures. Travel planning is almost as fun as the travel itself; without all the back seat fight refereeing. (“Stop singing in your brother’s ear. Let your sister pick the DVD. Give him back the pretzels. Did you just take her last sip? LET’S ALL PLAY THE QUIET GAME!!”)

In a few short weeks, the Go BIG family is wheels up! Here’s what the next few months look like:

FebruaryPittsburgh, PA

The world’s largest permanent robotics exhibition – “roboworld” – at the Carnegie Science Center

The world’s largest collection of Jurassic dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History


Credit: Joshua Franzos for Carnegie Museum of Natural History

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PHOTO FRIDAY – Easter edition

So, I was going to color Easter eggs with a “Go BIG or Go Home” message, similar to what I did with the Christmas cookies and the Jack O’Lanterns. I would like partial credit for the idea. The wrinkle in that plan is that the eggs would be colored on Thursday, and they would have to stay fresh until Sunday.

I’m happy and relieved to have found something MUCH better to share with you for our Easter post! A really BIG basket! This is the Lorain Easter Basket in Ohio.

Many thanks to Dominique King for sharing her photo with us! Dominique is the blogger behind Midwest Guest. A travel writer at heart, Midwest Guest allows her to share stories about the often underappreciated Heartland region of the U.S.

Dominque reports that Lorain’s big Easter Basket draws scores of visitors to the park on Ohio’s Lake Erie shore each spring to take photos of their families in their Easter finery. City parks employee David Shukait created the 7-foot-tall concrete sculpture, and the City of Lorain installed it as part of a public works project in 1941.

See more photos and get more info on her blog today.

Happy Easter!!


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