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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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Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ: World’s Largest Theme Park

Daffy Duck

My new favorite hobby: embarrassing my teenager.

We’re fans of the Six Flags theme parks, mainly because their “Go Big” ad campaign clearly shows a shared appreciation for BIG entertainment. Yet, I was skeptical when I heard this spring that Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ was going to be the world’s largest theme park.

However, based on the recent addition of the Safari Off Road Adventure, the acreage is now up to 510, larger than any other theme park. Also, this park is home to Kingda Ka, the world’s tallest roller coaster. Matt wasn’t told until we got there that his job would be to ride Kingda Ka and report on the experience.

We really enjoyed the Safari Off Road Adventure, a totally reworked version of the old Wild Safari drive-through attraction which was there for years. Now, you and about 25 others board an all-terrain vehicle, which mainly travels along a paved road, but also does some off-roading. The on-board video tells the story of the fictional Wilds family, who run the outpost and take care of the animals living there.

Because it’s a new attraction, I probably don’t need to tell you that the lines are going to be long.  You want to get there when it opens to minimize your wait. On the day we went, the Safari opened at 10:30 am for season pass holders, and 11:00 am for everyone else. We didn’t know that in advance, so we had to wait a half hour anyway. Also, the animals are generally most active in the morning.

Safari Off Road Adventure

The Safari park is home to 1,200 animals from six continents, and they’re separated into different themed areas, like Didgeridoo Pass, Afrikka, and the Wilde Plains. The guides provided a lot of interesting tidbits in their narration. I learned, for example, that ostriches have two sets of eyelids, and elephants weigh 100 lbs. when they’re born.

While you’re kept at a distance from the lions, you do get really close to other animals. At one point, a giraffe came over to say hello. The Girl didn’t know whether to giggle or shriek, so she did a little of both. The Boy perfected his ostrich face by pursing his lips and looking bothered. Collectively, everyone on board went “Awww!” when we passed a mama black bear playing with her cubs.

Giraffe

Everyone: put down your phones and just LOOK at the giraffe!

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Ron Jon Surf Shop, Ship Bottom, NJ: World’s Largest Surfboard

Ron Jon Surf Shop

Ron Jon Surf Shop, Long Beach Island, NJ

Who’s heading to the Jersey Shore this summer?! We should all do our part to support tourism in this area during its first season following Hurricane Sandy. (Jersey Strong!) We were there just a few months ago, while the re-building was still taking place. We discovered several Jersey Shore landmarks that weekend, including Lucy the Elephant in Margate, and the original Ron Jon Surf Shop – home to the world’s largest surfboard—in the town of Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island.

This is the original location of the Ron Jon surf shop, where the company’s first store opened in 1961. Today’s version is more than 8,000 square feet, with four levels of retail.

You’ll find everything you need for a beach vacation, or a beach bum lifestyle, including swimsuits and apparel, footwear, snorkel gear, beach bags and towels, sunglasses, sunscreen, sand toys, souvenirs, and an entire skateboard section. The Boy found a pair of “cool” flips flops, and The Girl pounced on a pink sundress with bohemian flair.

Ron Jon

In the middle of it all stands the world’s largest surf board – 24.8-feet long, and 55-inches wide.

surf board

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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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Lucy the Elephant, Margate, NJ: The World’s Largest Elephant

I suffer an incurable case of volunteerism. It’s a genetic link to my mom, whose hand is always raised to help. So, while visiting Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey was a treat because she’s such an iconic American roadside attraction, it also offered reaffirming satisfaction to see what sheer dedication can achieve. Lucy, the world’s largest elephant, only stands today because volunteers took action.

I Love Lucy

Lucy the Elephant, Margate, NJ

The United States may not have a long history, comparatively speaking, but it’s still worth preserving. In large part, the task of historic preservation falls on people who donate their time to the cause. Think about the small-town historical societies and the weather-worn historic sites in your area.

And then there are those retro roadside attractions, chock full of quirky charm, of which I’m completely enamored. Aquarama, Cypress Gardens, Cyclorama…we have lost so many. To me, they represent travel in a simpler time. Speed wasn’t a measure of entertainment, and authenticity wasn’t obscured by technology. The claim or status of a “world’s largest” meant a little attention; the potential to lure customers.

That’s how Lucy was born. James V. Lafferty, Jr., a real estate developer, commissioned an architect to build him an elephant-shaped building in 1881 to draw attention to the land he hoped to sell in South Atlantic City, now Margate.

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Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City – New Jersey’s Tallest Lighthouse

Absecon lighthousePoor Matt. He’s been doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” for the sake of the blog lately, like when we sent him out on a tightrope 70 feet in the air in November. Last month, we sent him up a circular staircase of 228 steps, to the top of Absecon Lighthouse, the third tallest lighthouse in America.

Well, someone has to do it.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

We spent a cold President’s Day weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey, WITH the kids. Despite those obstacles, we still had a great time, and found plenty to do. One of our stops was the Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States (topped only by the Cape Hatteras Lighhouse in North Carolina, and the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida).

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The lighthouse has been decommissioned since 1933, but it’s still lit every night, and open for tours daily.

Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City, NJ

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World’s Largest Tooth, Trenton, NJ

All I knew as we approached Trenton, NJ was that we should be looking for the world’s largest tooth, based on an address listed on RoadsideAmerica.com. As we approached, I saw signs for “Grounds for Sculpture,” and excitedly noticed several other over-sized artworks.

This 15-foot tall tooth isn’t on the “Grounds for Sculpture” proper, but it’s nearby. It actually sits unceremoniously on the side of the road, in front on the Congoleum warehouse. There was some trepidation as we parked, but we figured we would be okay on a weekend!

Tooth

“Tooth” by Seward Johnson

That’s when The Boy struck with this zinger, delivered with a smirk: “We should go see if there’s any plaque with the artist’s name.” BAM!! Bless him; he inherited his mother’s wit.

Of course, there was a plaque. The piece is officially called “Tooth,” by Seward Johnson. It was made of aluminum in 1982, and is on loan from The Sculpture Foundation, Inc.

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World’s Largest Light Bulb, Edison, NJ AND World’s Tallest Water Sphere, Union, NJ

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Sometimes a little persuasion (okay, bribery) is needed to convince the kids that a day trip to see one of these sites is worth their while.  When I planned a NJ day trip to see the World’s Largest Light Bulb and the World’s Tallest Water Sphere, I told The Girl we would stop at the IKEA in Elizabeth to get her “big girl” bed.  She was nearly three, and while we loved the containment her crib offered, it was time to “Go BIG.”

WHY did you go there, exactly?

World's Largest Light Bulb

Light bulb:

It was a doable day trip to the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park, and the photos of the light bulb intrigued me. A monumental replica of Edison’s first practical incandescent bulb, it’s nearly 14 feet of Pyrex glass segments. It sits on top of the 117-foot concrete Memorial Tower, which was built in 1937 by Edison’s employees. It’s an homage to both the light bulb and another key Edison invention, the phonograph.

Any grade schooler can attribute the invention of the light bulb to Edison, but did you know he also invented the phonograph, motion picture camera, dictaphone, mimeograph, storage battery and much, much more? I guess I missed that day of school. Visiting the adjoining museum set me straight.

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