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

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World’s Largest Outdoor Antiques Show: Brimfield Antique Show, Brimfield, MA

Brimfield BarnI spend more time than I should watching HGTV, and my current favorite show is Flea Market Flip. I’m captivated by the “before and after” transformations of the old pieces they find at antiques shows and flea markets. One of the markets regularly featured is the Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, Massachusetts. It’s supposedly the world’s largest outdoor antiques fair, so that was all the reason I needed to plan an outing.

Brimfield is a small town, with Route 20 (Main Street) running through it. The antiques show, which has run since 1959, is situated on both sides of this road along a one mile stretch. Technically, the show is multiple smaller markets, each with their own days and hours of operation. There are 21 show fields in all, and more than 3,000 dealers at full capacity. There are a handful of buildings, but most dealers are under tents.

Brimfield Grand Trunk Antiques

The best decision I made was to not bring the kids. Instead, I brought a friend who loves to shop as much as I do. There is a LOT of ground to cover, and my kids would have hated it. We tracked our walking, and logged close to four miles over two days. And this was the July show, which is the smallest in terms of number of exhibitors. There are three shows each year – May, July, and September.

It was an amazing smorgasbord of antique and vintage finds, as well as the random stuff you would find at anyone’s garage sale. At the end of the weekend, my loot consisted of vintage tourism postcards for my collection, earrings made from old keys, a scarf, and a decorative wall hanging made from old tin ceiling tiles.

Vintage postcards

There are “regulars” who know the layout well and know which dealers they like. But it seemed to me that most of us were newbies, taking it all in, and shopping with no real plan of attack. If you are new to it all, here are some of my suggestions:

Tips for Shopping the Brimfield Antiques & Collectibles Show

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Boston Museum of Science: World’s Largest Van de Graff Generator

Boston Museum of Science

Photo Credit: Museum of Science, Boston

Hooray for spring! This winter has not been especially kind, especially to Boston, which suffered a lot more snowfall than normal. But, as we found out on our trip this past summer, Boston has several indoor attractions which offer a fun day out of the house. One of them even has a “world’s largest!”

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Boston’s Museum of Science was high on our priority list, because it houses the world’s largest Van deGraff generator.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Of course, none of us knew why we should be excited about an electric generator, or anything about a Van de Graff generator in particular, but frankly, my search for “world’s largests” in Boston wasn’t very fruitful. (Although the Mapparium, a gigantic walk-through globe, was really cool!)

So in this case, we somewhat hesitantly planned to visit a generator, solely “for the love of the blog.”

Are we glad we did!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

You can see the generator at any time during your visit to the Science Center, but you’ll want to schedule the “Lightning” show in the Theater of Electricity into your day for a demonstration. During the 15-minute program, a staff member will explain its background and purpose, as well as how and why it works to generate currents. The added bonus is the sneaky lesson on electricity, and the PSA on how to avoid being struck by lightning.


Sparks fly between the generator’s two 22-foot columns.

When the generator is fired up, you have front-row seating to a lightning show. And, by the way, lightning is LOUD. Bright blue flashes of light shoot from one sphere to the other with staccato pop/whip sounds. At first, The Girl slapped her hands over her ears and cowered. But she came around quick; it was too exciting to miss any of it.

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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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The Mapparium in Boston, MA: Another Really BIG Globe!

Mary Baker Eddy Library

Mary Baker Eddy Library, home to The Mapparium

Last weekend, we returned to the annual MakerFaire, which is held in Queens. It also gave us a chance to see the Unisphere again; the world’s largest globe. Love it! And you know how I feel about Eartha up in Yarmouth, Maine.

Which got me to thinking about globes, and how I really should tell you about the Mapparium in Boston, MA.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Boston was hot the week we visited. We stopped by the Mapparium, a part of the Mary Baker Eddy Library, for some air-conditioned relief, and to see the indoor, 30-foot, walk-through globe.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

I have a thing for globes (see above). The tabletop version we have at home is used frequently, to show the kids where places are while we’re reading books about distant lands. Or…when I make them sit with me to {cough} watch House Hunters International on HGTV.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The Mapparium globe is constructed from 608 concave glass panels, which are illuminated from behind. Electric clocks ring the equator, giving comparative times around the world. You can only get inside by taking the short guided tour. The narration is accompanied by a simple light show and video.


Photo Credit: Mary Baker Eddy Library

You’ll enter on the elevated glass bridge through the Indian Ocean and exit through the South Pacific. The transparent sides allow you to see Antartica below your feet.

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World’s Largest Collection of Norman Rockwell Art, Stockbridge, MA

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell Museum

The word “museum” is subject to qualification when you’re traveling with young kids. Is it a place with hands-on, interactive exhibits, or static displays? Is there a restaurant on premise, and does it serve chicken nuggets? And if they do serve nuggets, are they shaped like dinosaurs??

Sometimes, a museum doesn’t quite meet my kid-friendly criteria. And yet, there is still that moment which justifies the visit.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

While in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts, we decided to check out the world’s largest public collection of Norman Rockwell’s works, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

I wasn’t too sure that this museum would interest the kids, but then I found out about two temporary exhibits which changed my mind. “Curious George Saves The Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey” and “Pop-Up! The Magical World of Movable Books,” are both on view through February 5th.

The Girl adores Curious George, and I figured The Boy would enjoy the artistry of the pop-up books.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

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Yankee Candle: World’s Largest Candle Store

“I don’t like shopping. I don’t like candles. I really don’t like shopping for candles.” So proclaimed my grumpy husband upon exiting the Yankee Candle flagship store. I was on a “retail therapy” high, so I didn’t let it bother me.

Yankee Candle

Deceivingly small from the outside. 90,000 sq ft of shopping goodness on the inside.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Earlier this month, we drove up to the world’s largest candle store to see the world’s largest candle. And, naturally, to part with some of our money. Matt needed the most coercion, especially since he would miss the Giants game, and would have to watch it later on the DVR.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

While in the Berkshires for a reunion, I picked up some travel brochures. The heavens parted, and a ray of sunlight shone down on the one for Yankee Candle. Though misty with joyful tears, my eyes focused on the words “world’s largest candle store,” and “world’s largest candle.” 90,000 square feet! 400,000 candles! 200 different scents!



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BIGGISH – Wally the Stegosaurus, Pittsfield, MA

Look who we ran into this weekend! This BIG stegosaurus sits in front of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. We were in the Berkshires for a reunion for the PR company where Matt and I both worked – and met – way back in the Jurassic Period.


Speaking of the Jurassic Period…this is Wally the Stegosaurus, so named because this creature’s brain was the size of a walnut. A life-size replica, he’s 26 feet long, 12 feet tall, and 7 feet wide.  Since he’s made of fiberglass, he only weighs 1,200 lbs, versus a real Stegosaurus weight of 6,000 lbs.

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World’s Largest Historic Naval Ship Exhibit, Fall River, MA

We’re not the most outdoorsy family. I think “glamping” (glamour camping) is my outer limit of roughing it. So guiding The Boy through Cub Scouts was a cunning exercise of dodging overnight camp outs for as long as possible. Until it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to get his Arrow of Light and move up to Boy Scouts without it.

Battleship Cove

Credit: BattleshipCove.com

So when his Pack scheduled an overnight trip to Battleship Cove which met the requirement, I quickly signed him up. Then nearly as quickly assigned Matt to the task of joining him. Hey, a little father-son getaway is a good thing every once in a while. Especially when the sleeping accommodations are simple canvas bunks stacked four high, with two feet clearance between each. Yep, time for some bonding with Dad.

So traumatized is Matt from the experience, he remains unable to bring the memories into his conscious state long enough to write a post. So I am interviewing him and The Boy to create a description.

Battleship Cove is the World’s Largest Historic Naval Ship Exhibit. They offer plentiful opportunities for the public to visit during regularly scheduled hours, as well as an excellent scouting program, Nautical Nights. This program includes classes on knot-tying, Morse Code and flag-folding, meals served in the battleship’s Officers’ Wardroom, and an overnight for up to 80 scouts sleeping in their bedrolls on the battleship’s main deck.

Cub Scout

Call me "Captain."

They also bring in story tellers, mainly veterans who regale campers with stories about the day-to-day operations of the vessels on which they served. The Boy still remembers the tales told by the war vet who spoke to his group, especially the story about the sailor who fell overboard!

A big part of the fun is getting up close to the 16″ guns, the 40MM mounts, the turrets and the superstructure. The kids can climb on the 40MM mounts, crank the handwheels, and explore every corner of the ships and subs.

These activities take place on the WWII battleship USS Massachusetts, affectionately known as Big Mamie. Now a National Historic Landmark, she holds the record as the heaviest ship ever launched in Quincy. She was delivered to the Boston Navy Yard in April 1942 and commissioned the following month. Other vessels open to exploration include the submarine Lionfish, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. destroyer, and a high-speed Soviet missile corvette.

And now, the hard-hitting “Go BIG” interview:

Q: Me to The Boy: What was your favorite part of your trip?

A: The Boy: I liked the food. We had breaded chicken and mashed potatoes. The old guns were cool. You could pretend to fire them.

Q: Me: What was your least favorite part?

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The Big E: World’s Largest Traveling Amusement Park

North American Midway

The North American Midway is the world's largest traveling amusement park

There is a treadmill in our house. It does—occasionally—get used for something other than a laundry rack. So finding Matt running on it last week was not as much shocking as it was…suspect. In hindsight, I realized he was preparing for the Craz-E burger, the culinary creation born at The Big E, or the Eastern States Exposition. It’s the state fair of Massachusetts and several other New England states, and it’s where you’ll find the world’s largest traveling amusement park, the North American Midway.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

The four of us went to The Big E this past weekend, and brought along our appetites. After a few days cooped up inside with incessant rain, the sun shone on a clear, cool autumn day, and we happily hit the road.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

With a name like the “Big” E, we had to go. We wouldn’t be living up to the Blogocratic Oath (no such thing) if we missed it.

I learned about the Craz-E burger while doing my research, and that pretty much sealed the deal. Matt has never met a burger he didn’t like. The more beef, the better. He’s been known to eat the triple patty Baconator at Wendy’s, but has stopped short at the quadruple BK Stacker at Burger King. He prefers food which could seal his arteries in under ten minutes.

Yes, his life insurance policy is up-to-date.

Worlds largest corn dog

I've read an unsubstantiated claim that this is the world's largest corn dog!

So when I reported that the Craz-E burger is a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two halves of a glazed doughnut, he got a glint in his eye I haven’t seen since our first date. “Lustful” is an apt description.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The Big E lives up to its name. It’s massive, and we walked miles that day. There’s a lot to do and see, and I’m sure we missed most of it. Of course we hit the expanse of midway rides. We also saw out first horse show, and visited some of the 4H pavilions. The Girl made friends with Doug the Llama.

We caught a hysterical show by Hilby, the Skinny German Juggle Boy. We’ve also—purely by chance–seen him at the Woodloch Resort and the Dutchess County Fair this year. So now we’re juggler groupies, I guess.

And of course, there’s the fair food, which never disappoints. Matt’s 1,500-calorie Craz-E burger held him over most of the afternoon, until it was time for the other specialty, the Big E Cream Puff, and its cousin, the E-Clair. We also made room for hot dogs, pierogi, samosas, and overpriced ($5.00!) milk shakes.

You’re dying to find out how the Craz-E burger tasted, aren’t you?

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