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

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Reyer’s Shoe Store: The World’s Largest Shoe Store

Reyers Shoe StoreI need to stop looking at the brochure racks in hotel lobbies. I end up finding places we HAVE to visit on our trips which aren’t on our itinerary. These places usually involve retail, and they make Matt very nervous. Like our November detour to the world’s largest candle store in MA.

This time, it was the world’s largest shoe store, and I was able to convince him that it was on our way home from Pittsburgh. I wasn’t entirely truthful, but how could we NOT visit? I did it for YOU, dear readers. You’re here to read about world’s largest places, are you not? And so, we must make sacrifices.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

We headed north to Sharon, PA and spent an hour in Reyer’s Shoe Store. It was an add-on to our long weekend in Pittsburgh. Matt said he wouldn’t go unless I posted it on our Facebook page, and got at least 10 “likes.” We got 20 likes there, and another 17 on my personal account. Heh.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

The kids did actually need new shoes. Especially The Boy, who insists on growing. Rapidly. Matt needed sneakers. I needed nothing in the way of footwear, but that’s never stopped me before.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

At 36,000 square feet, Reyer’s Shoe Store is indeed BIG. The size doesn’t translate into the world’s largest selection, however. Although the brochure claims the store has over 100,000 pairs of shoes and boots, there was a lot of wide open floor space. The décor is a little timeworn, but The Girl was truly digging the pink shag carpet in the woman’s department.

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Carnegie Museum of Natural History: World’s Largest Collection of Jurassic Dinosaurs


Measuring up to 90 feet, the Diplodocus was one of the longest animals ever to walk the earth.

Dinos rule. The Girl knows this. She likes her animals fierce.  She also appreciates a take-no-prisoners approach in plant life — her favorite is the Venus Flytrap.  I’m not worried.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

As we found out on our recent road trip, Pittsburgh is dinosaur country. In 2004, a public art project called DinoMite Days commissioned artists to create 100 uniquely decorated fiberglass dinosaurs, which were installed throughout the city. We discovered several which remain on public display.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

For the real dinosaur deal however, we knew we had to go to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, home to the world’s largest collection of Jurassic dinosaurs.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Walking through the “Dinosaurs in Their Time” hall gave us quite an education. Now I know that the Jurassic period was the middle of the three stages in the Mesozoic era (and the others are the Triassic and Cretaceous periods. Look at me how smart.)

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Top Five Reasons To Attend the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show



SOMEONE had to pose with the half-naked performer with perfect teeth.

The Philadelphia International Flower Show, the world’s largest indoor flower show, opens TODAY – Sunday, March 4— and runs through March 11. We were fortunate enough to attend the “Preview Day” yesterday.

Held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, this annual show features a fun new theme each year. This year, it’s “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha.” We (and by “we,” I really mean “me”) were intrigued by the promise of waterfalls, waves, and volcanoes. Some of us (Matt) would have preferred being at the MAAC college basketball tournament in MA. Luckily, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the convention center, so at least he was able to caffeinate.

Because we’re coming to you live (or very nearly so), we’re departing from our usual format and instead providing this list of reasons why you MUST make it here for the Flower Show, before it’s over.

Top Five Reasons To Attend the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show

The Hawaii showcase area

Through sight, sound, and scent, this corner of the convention center space transports you. It begins at the main entrance, as you walk under a “wave,” a tunnel of curved screens playing audio and video of underwater scenes. You’ll occasionally catch a hammerhead shark passing overhead.

Flower Show

The exhibits to the right include a tall waterfall with a pool and tropical garden at the bottom; another display with a thatch roof hut where the hula dancing shows are held several times a day, and other walk-through trails under flower-covered trellises.

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Carnegie Science Center: World’s Largest Permanent Robotics Exhibit


Andy, the "RoboThespian"

I married a geek. Three years later, I gestated his miniature. So it’s not a stretch to say that the world’s largest robotics exhibit would be something of interest to these two. But here’s the thing. Even if you’re not a geek (or haven’t outed yourself yet), you’re still going to love roboworld™, the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibition,  at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

On our road trip to Pittsburgh, PA last week, the four of us spent the morning at the Carnegie Science Center. NOTE: A single morning was not enough time. I hated myself for having to rush the kids from exhibit to exhibit.

Bad Mommy: “No more Bernoulli Effect for you! Keep moving!”

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Did you know that there’s a $500 billion emerging robotics industry in southwestern Pennsylvania? Pittsburgh, then, was the natural location for roboworld, which opened in 2009. This $3.5 million exhibition occupies 6,000 square feet, with three distinct areas featuring robots sensing, thinking, and acting.


roboworld at the Carnegie Science Center

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The Science Center is four floors of pure geek revelry, but roboworld is on the second floor. You’re greeted by Andy, the life-sized RoboThespian™, who you can program to speak and move via touch screen.

Along one whole wall is a robot Hall of Fame showcasing robot replicas from popular movies and TV shows spanning several decades. The Boy was overjoyed to see C3-PO and R2-D2, while Matt and I related more HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and Robby from “Forbidden Planet”.

Star Wars

"Can I trade my sister for this?"

Practically every exhibit had some interactive component, so you could spend hours just in roboworld. (But you do want to leave time for the other exhibits, especially the model train village right next door).

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PHOTO FRIDAY: The BIG sandwich at Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh, PA

A week ago today, we road-tripped to Pittsburgh, PA for the long President’s Day weekend. We have much to share over the coming weeks about the BIG things there.

Our first meal was at the original location of Primanti Bros., a culinary institution which was recommended by pretty much everyone. It’s known for BIG sandwiches with a wide selection of fillings.

Matt, always up for a BIG artery-clogging challenge, ordered this hot sausage and cheese monstrosity:


The fluffy bread was the only "light" part of this 'wich!

When you order sandwiches with “the works,” you will get tomato, cole slaw, and – oh yes – French fries. ON the sandwich.

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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 — World’s Largest Shoe House, Hellam, PA

Shoe house

World's largest shoe house! (And possibly the world's ONLY shoe house.)

There was an old woman who visited a shoe. It was closed and her children didn’t know what to do.

Sorry. I’ll stop mangling nursery rhymes now.

This is the Haines Shoe House in Hellam, PA. We found it while visiting the “snack food corridor” of York, Lancaster, and Chester counties in Pennsylvania Dutch Country last month. Built in 1948, it’s 25 feet high and 48 feet long.

It’s actually a house with several interior rooms, although it’s now operating as a museum of sorts. Guided tours are offered, but unfortunately, not when we were there!

By the way, the rest of this family  getaway along the “sweet and salty trail” was really entertaining! Several snack food companies, like Snyder’s of Hanover, UTZ, Herr’s and Turkey Hill Dairy are headquartered here, and offer free public tours.

I wrote a two-part series for FamilyVacationCritic.com about our trip; check it out for more details if you’re interested in planning a trip!

Pennsylvania’s Snack Food Corridor: The Sweet Side

Pennsylvania’s Snack Food Corridor: The Salty Side

world's largest shoe

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The Turkey Hill Experience, Columbia, PA

This big, beautiful bovine isn’t the world’s largest, and she doesn’t even have a name. But we still love her, because she welcomed us to the Turkey Hill Experience in Colombia, PA!


They’re not excited at ALL.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going?
Heading to Pennsylvania Dutch Country was a “last hurrah” getaway before school started. I told the kids, “we’re going to learn how ice cream and potato chips are made, and then we get to eat them.” Not a tough sell.

WHY did you go there, exactly?
The Turkey Hill Experience was the last stop on a three-day tour of the “snack food corridor” connecting York, Lancaster, and Chester counties. We toured potato chip and pretzel factories, visited chocolate makers, and searched for whoopie pies. Both York and Lancaster counties have their own “sweet and salty” tour itineraries listing all the companies offering public tours and/or outlet shopping. We visited nine of them!

Even after gorging ourselves on all that, there was still room for ice cream!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

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PHOTO FRIDAY – World’s Largest Crayon, Easton, PA

I hear you gasp. Yes, the photo quality is…well…not great. But it’s scanned from a 35mm print taken five years ago and unearthed from an old scrapbook, so cut me some slack.


Meet "Big Blue." the world's largest crayon

This week, my baby started middle school, so this “Photo Friday” is about The Boy and our visit to The Crayola Experience™ in 2006 to see the world’s largest crayon.

He was just a sprite back then, and The Girl wasn’t even in our realm of contemplation. (Two kids? Crazy talk!)

Crayola factory

When we were three.

The Crayola Experience in Easton, PA is not the real crayon manufacturing plant. It’s more like a children’s activity and discovery center, with plenty of hands-on activities. The world’s largest crayon is actually in the gift shop.  Fifteen feet long and 16 inches in circumference, “Big Blue” was created in 2003 to reflect America’s favorite color. It weighs 1,500 lbs, and is the equivalent of 123,000 blue crayons.

The gift shop, by the way, is awesome! I remember it the most, mainly because it offered such an extensive range of Crayola products you just can’t find in the stores. “Santa” had a field day stocking up in advance of Christmas that year!

It should be noted that we were in PA last week, and I floated the idea of returning to the Crayola Experience to get an updated photo. The Boy, now 11, wanted none of it. Sigh. He’s actually starting to outgrow certain travel destinations and attractions. I guess Sesame Place is also out!

See Photo Friday posts from other bloggers on DeliciousBaby.com.

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One Last Hurrah….

We’re headed to Pennsylvania this weekend for one last getaway before school starts next week. As giddy as I am for the return to school days (cue angelic harp music), I’m sad that our traveling will be curtailed for the next several months. The Boy begins middle school, so it’s even tougher on him now to miss days and make up all the work.

So we’re going out with a bang and a BIG cow (or two)! The focus of our trip is the new Turkey Hill Experience in Lancaster County, an interactive, museum-ish tour that the ice cream company opened this summer. The kids will get to milk some (not real) cows, and we’ll all get to stuff our faces with ice cream.

Turkey Hill

Credit: TurkeyHillExperience.com

Speaking of face-stuffing, we’re also going to visit several other food factories in the area. York, Lancaster, and Chester counties are full of them; the area is known as the “snack food corridor.” So, Points Plus be (temporarily) damned, here’s the calorific countdown for the next several days:

Revonah Pretzel Bakery, Inc.

Snyder’s of Hanover



Martin’s Chips

Wolfgang Candy

Turkey Hill Experience

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery

Wilbur Chocolate Co.

Hey, on an unrelated but exciting note, have you seen us profiled on SecondAct.com? Please take a look at our Florida trip on the “My Vacation” page! Our photos of Splitsville and the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, the Mirror Lake Shuffleboard Club in St. Pete, and the Sea Screamer speedboat in Clearwater live on in this article on our road trip over the holidays. We were thrilled to be included, despite the fact that it’s a site for “Boomers.” I guess at 41, I’m encroaching on that phase, huh?

Speed boat

Remember our freezefest on the world's largest speed boat?


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