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

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Cruising on the Norwegian Breakaway With Kids

You can even take our “Go BIG or Go Home” mantra to the ocean, as I learned two weeks ago when I was invited on the inaugural two-day cruise of the Norwegian Breakaway, the largest ship to homeport in New York City. Even though I was sans kids (yes, an entire 48 hours to myself!), I went with the perspective of a parent. I explored the entertainment areas, restaurants, and guest rooms with kids in mind, so I could share with you the highlights of taking a Breakaway cruise with children. Which are:

The Aqua Park

The ship’s top decks feature the Aqua Park, which includes five multi-story water slides, including twin Free Fall slides. This is where you (and not me) stand up and have the floor drop from underneath, propelling you into a loop. There’s also a tamer, open-flume body slide which doesn’t cause your stomach to lurch up into your throat.

Water Slides

Daredevils’ Delight — the Water Slides on the Norwegian Breakaway

Another part of the Aqua Park is a three-story sports complex which includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and more. Adjacent to the Aqua Park is a fully-stocked indoor video arcade, as well.

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World’s Largest Ropes Course at Sea: Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Ship

What you’re looking at is yet another ropes course I will not be climbing. However, I must share it with you, because 1) it’s the world’s largest ropes course at sea; and 2) I’ve been watching other people try it for the past three days, from the deck of the brand new Norwegian Breakaway. Pinch me.

Zip line Norwegian Breakaway

This is just the zip line part, at the end of the course.

I’ll be telling you more about the Breakaway – the largest cruise ship to ever homeport in New York – next week when I get all my notes and video together. Just on these top decks, there are a range of kid-friendly entertainment options, including the first Aqua Park at sea with five full-size water slides and twin Free Fall slides, and a three-story sports complex that includes this ropes course, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and more.

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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!


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 which caught our attention over the past month:

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Another World Record Attempt!

Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Good: we were joined by 1,300 other people on the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park in the world record attempt today to form the world’s longest chorus line. Bad: we were about 300 people short of breaking the record.

chorus line

Not quite the world’s longest chorus line.

But we had FUN!! Not only did we score these awesome “I ♥NY” T-shirts, we got to dance to the tune from those “I Love New York” TV commercials from the 70’s. (Some of us are actually old enough to remember those.)

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We Broke Our Second World Record!

I’m becoming a little bit crazed about being part of group world record attempts. Remember last year, when we were part of the world’s longest Hokey Pokey line? Today, we participated in the world’s largest dental hygiene lesson! Sponsored by a local orthodontist, it took place at the Hudson Valley Renegades baseball stadium.


There was actually already a record in place – 250 people. Today, 374 people showed up on a sunny spring day, and sat on the field with our complimentary toothbrushes and floss.


The lesson was required to be 30 minutes long, but the orthodontist, “Dr. B,” and his staff made it fun.

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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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Canyon Climb: World’s Largest Suspended Indoor Ropes Challenge Course, Syracuse, NY

WonderWorks I wanted so badly to vindicate my Park City cowardice this summer, when I didn’t have the nerve to ride on the country’s longest alpine slide. Vindication will have to wait for another day.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Two weeks ago, we road tripped to Syracuse, NY, mainly for the grand opening of the WonderWorks attraction in the Destiny USA mall. WonderWorks, which we know from Orlando, has opened its first northern U.S location here, but with a twist. It contains the Canyon Climb Adventure Ropes Challenge Course, the world’s largest suspended indoor ropes course.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

I was SO sure I could face my fears, get harnessed up, and go out there, even just a short way. And if I couldn’t, I would just send the husband. And I knew that the rest of WonderWorks would be a treat for the kids.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Canyon Climb

If you’re into daredevil thrills and adrenaline rushes, you will love this course! What propels it above other courses is the fact that it’s suspended from the cavernous mall ceiling, leaving you walking across ropes and narrow beams with nothing between you and the ground, 70 feet below your feet. There are more than 80 different obstacles and activities, including swinging steps, lily pads, and a tremor bridge.

Ropes course

Do you SEE those little dots at the bottom? Those are the people on the ground floor, 70 feet below!

How many of these did I experience? Zero. But I did get harnessed up, and climbed the stairs to the first platform. But then, the beam looked so very narrow…just right for this fearless four year old who came out of nowhere and took off past me toward the other end.

We all attempted it, actually, and The Girl chickened out too. I’m proud to say that while The Boy — who loves his terra firma just like his momma — didn’t make it out past where the third floor ends, he did complete a small loop with quiet dignity and grace. In the end, Matt was our soldier. He didn’t complete the entire course (which can take up to an hour), but he did get out over the mall courtyard.

Canyon Climb

“Do it for the blog, son.”

This is Mr. Brave in action. He’s starting from the right side of the screen, slowly and carefully working toward the middle. Thirty seconds in, note the fearless guy on the left practically bounding across the plank bridge!


WonderWorks mixes the best elements of a children’s museum, science museum, and high-tech video arcade. When you arrive, everything is upside down, until you travel through an “Inversion Tunnel” into the main area with more than 100 hands-on exhibits.

Some of our favorite experiences included the Hurricane Shack, where you feel the effects of a Category One hurricane with 84 mph winds.


The Hurricane Shack at WonderWorks

The Boy and I “played” Mindball, which uses EEG biofeedback to move a metal ball either toward or away from you, depending on how calm your brain gets. Mr. Never-Worked-A-Day-in-His-Young-Life easily won this. I used my loss to guilt him into lying on the bed of 3,497 nails, an experiment to test the effect of pressure and force over area.

He also thought the EVA astronaut suit was cool, as well as the Mercury Capsule.

Mercury Capsule

Tight quarters!

The Girl enjoyed playing in the Bubble Lab, dancing to the colors of light in the Recollections area, and playing Virtual Air Hockey on a touch screen with Matt.

Air hockey

Paddle-free play!

My BIG adventure that day was my first game of “lazer” tag, played with a group in a blacklit maze (at an additional cost). Another thrill for me was the 4D extreme motion simulated thrill ride in the XD Theater, which is included in the price of admission.

See? I can handle thrills…as long as I’m buckled into a seat which never leaves the ground.

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):

For ropes course fans, this place is a must. For chickens, WonderWorks offers a heckuva lot, too!

Where We Stayed:

During our visit, we stayed at the Genesee Grand Hotel, which put us close to everything in the city, but in a quieter neighborhood. Recent renovations and some upscale amenities make this property very comfortable. And The Girl was quite taken by the koi pond in the lobby!

Koi Pond

Genesee Grand Hotel, Syracuse, NY

Hey YOU! Go BIG! 

WonderWorks at Destiny USA

9090 Destiny USA Drive, Syracuse, NY


Disclaimer: Our visit to Syraucse was hosted by Visit Syracuse. WonderWorks provided us with complimentary admission.


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BIG Balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation!

We had a BIG evening in the BIG Apple tonight! We had burgers at “Big Nick’s.” {meh} But the highlight of the day was going to watch the BIG parade balloons being inflated for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the world’s largest Thanksgiving parade, BTW)!


Doesn’t this smurf look like he’s leering at the kid?

We’ve never been to the actual parade as a family. Matt and I went once, waaaaay back “b.k.” Based on what we went through this evening trying to find public bathrooms suitable for the kids, the parade is off limits until they’re old enough to hold it for seven hours straight, or their bladders grow to adult size.

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The “Best of New York Week” Travel Blogger Link-Up!

Kelders Farm

At Kelder’s farm, Kerhonkson, NY

We’ve made our contribution to the Red Cross. We’ve brought diapers and supplies to the local collection point. We’ve waited patiently in line at the gas station, as shortages hit the mid-Hudson Valley. The effects of Superstorm Sandy are still raw, and for many, normalcy is far, far away. But I can’t keep from looking ahead, at the long-term fall-out from this devastating event.

With my background in tourism destination marketing, I wonder how this storm will affect incoming visitation to New York State. Tourism is one of the state’s largest economic engines.  Will potential visitors who are unfamiliar with the state’s geography think the entire state is out of commission, and make plans to go elsewhere?

After Hurricane Irene hit New York last year, I dedicated a post to all the BIG things to love in New York which we’ve visited for this blog, like the world’s largest toy store, the world’s largest indoor theater, the world’s largest collection of glass, and the world’s largest pancake griddle.

Corning Museum of Glass

At the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY

There are so many great travel stories to tell about New York State. So I’m asking my fellow travel bloggers to link here with me this week, to share their tales. The Adirondacks, the Finger Lakes, the Thousand Islands region, Niagara, and (most of) the Hudson Valley…all of these destinations escaped major harm, and are ready now to welcome visitors.

I was born in Queens, partially raised in Long Island (where many of my family members are now dealing with the storm’s after-effects), and have been a Hudson Valley resident for almost 20 years.  I’m proud to call New York home, and know we’ll bounce back, stronger than before.

If you have a blog post about a trip you enjoyed anywhere in New York State, please link up below. And please let others know this list is here, for anyone who wants to see the selection of amazing things to do and see in New York!

Because we ♥ New York, now more than ever.

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Five Tips For Attending the San Gennaro Feast in New York City

San Gennaro Feast

Crowds at the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy

Well, it’s underway again – the Feast of San Gennaro in New York City, one of the world’s largest outdoor religious festivals. The 86th Annual Feast takes place in Little Italy through Sunday, September 23 on the streets of Little Italy in lower Manhattan.

The Figli Di San Gennaro is meant to celebrate the Patron Saint of Naples. A religious procession will take place next Wednesday (September 19th, my birthday!), during which the San Gennaro statue will be carried from its permanent home in the Most Precious Blood Church through the streets.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s really about the food.

Are you planning to go? Because we’ve been multiple times, and would like to share five tips for attending the San Gennaro Feast:

1. Don’t Go on a Full Stomach.

Obviously, you’re going there to eat. Last year, our family’s total consumption included:

Six fried ravioli

One rice ball

One slice bruschetta

One sausage and peppers sandwich

One deep-fried Oreo

One corn dog

One order of French fries

One gelato

Three small cannolis

…and six zeppole


Mmmmm…fried dough….

But NO pasta, interestingly enough!

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