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

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The Go BIG “B” List

Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” “The Sweetest Thing” by U2. What do these tunes have in common? They were all “B” side hits. For those of you who remember records (those vinyl discs that music was stored on back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), you’ll recall that the popular songs were on the “A” side, and the secondary tracks were relegated to the “B” side.

We’ve had some “B” sides in our travels, too, so I’m giving them their due in today’s post. In our (okay, my) overzealous quest to seek out BIG attractions, we sometimes visited places solely because of their size. Some have been less than a BIG hit with the kids. Still, I contend that there’s something interesting in all of these large sites, and not just because of their size!

World’s Longest Bridge Tunnel

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, also known as the Lucius J, Kellam Bridge Tunnel, connects the eastern tip of Virginia at Fisherman’s Island to Virginia Beach.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

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How to Experience Colonial Williamsburg With Kids

Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse

Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse

The world’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg, has lured us to Virginia twice before. We now know two things with certainty. A) There’s not a lot of shade on a hot day. B) Despite that, there is a lot of entertaining and educational fun to be had by all ages.

If you’re planning a trip this summer, there are a few highlights I would strongly recommend to maximize your experience, especially if you’re only there for one day. It’s best to have a plan of attack at a place this big — Colonial Williamsburg includes more than 400 restored or reconstructed original buildings, museums, lodging, and restaurants, retail stores and gardens.

Start your day at the Visitor Center. The map includes a weekly program guide, with kid-friendly programs highlighted. If you haven’t done so before your trip, make reservations for on-site meals, and purchase additional passes for special programs or tours not included in the general pass. You can even rent costumes for everyone in your family to wear so you can blend in with the colonists.

Walking through the streets is partly about watching, and also about participating. You can stop by the blacksmith shop or the bindery to observe these artisans in their trades, march along with the Fife and Drum crew, or stop into the Courthouse to hear a case before the judge. Make sure you hit the Kids Corner at the Gateway, where they taught our kids games like Whirligig.

Colonial Williamsburg kids

A lot tougher than it looks!

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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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World’s Largest Santa and other BIG Christmas Fun!

Let’s talk about Christmas! Primarily, let’s talk about what I want for Christmas {sheepish grin}. Then we’ll get to you.

I would like your vote! Go BIG or Go Home has made Christopher Elliott’s list of nominees for favorite travel bloggers! He’s a consumer travel advocate who publishes this annual list, and it would mean significant exposure for us. We’re included in a list of 25 blogs, from which 12 will make the cut for “Top 12 Favorite Travel Bloggers.” The final list will be posted this Friday. Thanks in advance for voting for Go BIG or Go Home!

Moving on…have you entered our giveaway yet for some fun stocking stuffers? You could win a $50 gift certificate to Appalachian Outdoors or a pair of BTB Sunglasses. Winners will be chosen tonight and announced tomorrow, so enter now!

On to the fun part! We like BIG expressions of holiday spirit, so we thought we would share a few with you.  Like…

The world’s largest Santa Claus! You can find this sizable St. Nick at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK. Our friend Erin writes about family fun in the 49th state at AK on the GO. She tells us that the 42-ft, 900 lb. fiberglass statue has stood in front of this attraction since 1983, although he was originally built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

The world's largest Santa lives in...where else? North Pole, Alaska!

There’s a live Santa here all year with whom you can share your wish list. You can also have a letter delivered from the Big Guy, see reindeer, shop and grab a snack. Erin says, “It’s pretty fun to visit, a little kitschy, but a worthwhile place to stop, especially since it’s the North Pole, for goodness sake!”

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A Hugh Mongous Update!

Mama always said, “don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Actually, my mama said “don’t wear that safety pin as an earring.” I did it anyway (I was 13), and boy, was that a nasty infection. Anyway, last week I did some “online research” about the BIG roadside attractions we discovered on our Virginia Beach vacation.

And the info I dug up about Hugh Mongous, the giant gorilla? Wrong.

water park

Hugh is older than I thought!


I got the real scoop yesterday from the nice folks at Ocean Breeze Waterpark, who scanned and emailed me what was a yellowed backgrounder page, typewritten in the 80’s. From the looks of the font, I can tell their info is authentic!

So, for the record, Hugh Mongous is, in fact, the 45-foot tall, 11,000 lb. mascot standing in front of the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. He’s actually been here since 1977, when the park was called Jungle Falls Waterslides. The original sculpture was created in 1977 out of Styrofoam, wood, and urethane by sculptor Demetrios Mavroudis. The work was commissioned by the publisher of New Dominion Lifestyle magazine, and was hoisted to the top of the magazine’s office building in downtown Richmond, VA, as a promotion. He only lasted up there for two days until city officials declared it a violation of several codes. The water park purchased him for $5,000, and moved Hugh to his current home. He WAS damaged by fire in 1989 and restored.

I feel compelled to set the record straight, because we had a wonderful day at the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. THIS is why:

water park

And this is why:

water park


But, this…this made it ALL worthwhile.


Disclaimer: Ocean Breeze Waterpark hosted our visit.

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Virginia Beach: World’s Longest Stretch of Pleasure Beach


Shark week

BIG teeth at the Virginia Aquarium (in honor of Shark Week)!

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Over Memorial Day week, we drove down to Virginia Beach, VA and Williamsburg, VA. We were game for a road trip, and The Boy got to miss four days of school. He starts middle school next month (hold me), and I figured this may be the last opportunity to pull him out of school for such a long stretch!

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Virginia Beach holds a Guinness World Record as the “world’s longest stretch of pleasure beach.” The 35-mile coastline is comprised of the Virginia Beach resort area, the Chesapeake Bay beach, and Sandbridge beach (our favorite spot!)

It’s always convenient when a beach vacation fits with our BIG theme!  Plus, we were on the hunt for several BIG attractions I had read about, including a giant gorilla, a 30-foot statue of Neptune, and an oversized sea serpent!

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Beyond the beautiful beaches, there were several attractions and activities we all enjoyed, especially the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, and the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. I’ve already written broader descriptions of Virginia Beach for other family travel sites. If you would like info on family–friendly attractions, activities, and dining in Virginia Beach, please visit FamilyVacationCritic.com and FamilyTravelNetwork.com

But I know what you REALLY want to know more about – Hugh Mongous, the giant gorilla; Neptune, the King of the Sea; and Isabel, the sea serpent!

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World’s Largest Wegmans, and other great places to eat on the road!

WegmansSupermarket shopping isn’t high on my list of favorite things to do. But if we’re planning a road trip, I’ll always check to see if there’s a Wegmans on the route. It’s difficult to explain my love for Wegmans, which burns more fervently because there isn’t one anywhere near us. The chain is based in upstate New York, with additional stores in NJ, PA, VA, and — soon — in MD and MA.

I’ve dragged the family to the locations in Bridgewater, NJ, Pittsford, NY, Scranton, PA, and Harrisburg, PA. At first, they wondered why I would veer off a trip itinerary to visit a supermarket. Little did they know that the itineraries were based around these stops! The most recent addition to our Wegmans passport was in Fredericksburg, VA. It’s the largest store in terms of square footage, and therefore, the world’s largest Wegmans!

If you’ve been to Wegmans, you know why I love it. There’s a huge selection and a high-quality store brand, pleasing décor, friendly staff, etc. What puts Wegmans over the top is the cold and hot food bars within the store, connected to a dedicated eat-in section. There are always hundreds of selections of prepared dishes, served from themed stations (e.g. Asian, vegetarian, salad) and counters (e.g. pizza, subs). Add these to the more traditional deli counter which also offers pre-packaged entrees and sides, and it’s a smorgasbord.


It’s a good thing I don’t live near a Wegmans. We would be poor and I would never cook again.

Wegmans takes priority on our road trip itineraries because it’s a great place for a family to eat while traveling. It’s inexpensive and casual. Everyone can get what they want, and there are always healthy options. (Meaning, I slip some carrots and grapes from the salad bar into the kids’ boxes when they’re not looking.) The dining section is well-decorated; many steps above a cafeteria. Even better, the stores we have visited have fun tables for kids, and even offer movie nights. In Pittsford, we had dinner on a Friday night. Shrek was playing in the front of the room, and the bar in the back was serving wine to the parents! Everyone was VERY happy.

Some stores like Pittsford also have a separate eatery called The Food Bar. You place an order at the counter for hamburgers, fish fry, etc.  There’s also The Pub in two locations, Malvern and Collegeville, with full table service and menu, and no tipping allowed.


Preparing to write this post made me think about other affordable, non-restaurant alternatives for traveling families. So I put the question out to other family travel bloggers, “Where do you eat on the road instead of restaurants?” The answers mainly fell into three categories: farmer’s markets; specialty supermarkets; and food trucks/street food.


Courtesy of Wandering Educators

Mara at The Mother of All Trips plans ahead to stop at farmer’s markets. “Along the New York State Thruway and the PA Turnpike they even have them at some of the rest stops in the summer. I picked up fresh cherries and blueberry bread at one that we ate for breakfast the next morning.” A great tip — she finds local food sources at LocalHarvest.org.

Heather, the Texas Destination Guroo at Trekaroo.com, likes the Avila Valley Barn in Avila Beach, CA for a tasty baked treat, ice cream, or fruits and veggies, and even a petting zoo. She also recommends the farmer’s market on Thursday nights in San Luis Obispo, CA. “It’s crowded, but there are five blocks of street vendors, farm stands, outside barbecue stands, and other restaurant vendors.”

As for specialty supermarkets, Whole Foods got a mention for its great deli selection. I can attest; I’ve spent my fair share in their prepared foods aisle. Lora at Cascadia Kids likes Trader Joe’s, mainly for picking up healthy treats to-go. “I’m pretty big on the protein-while-traveling, so we focus on the trail mixes, nutrition bars and hard cheeses.”

Keryn at Walkingon Travels loves the food trucks in Seattle, especially the city’s wealth of taco trucks. “El Camion is our favorite. It tends to park near Home Depot locations. My almost 2-year-old son can’t get enough of their carnitas (pork) burritos with black beans. I figure anything he will eat is worth the stop.” Even better, music blasts from the truck, so they can dance a little salsa!


Chicago's Chinatown, courtesy of Wandering Educators

Jessica at Wandering Educators loves ethnic grocery stores, particularly those within Asian communities, where she can pull together a meal of seaweed salad, sushi, dumplings, cold noodle salad, and grilled meat. She never forgets the treats. “We LOVE shrimp crisps, as well as those hello panda biscuits with chocolate inside, and Pocky! Don’t forget the bubble tea, calpis, or any of the amazing flavored beverages in the cooler.”

I appreciate all the input, ladies! So, where do YOU like to eat on the road?

Fredericksburg Things To Do on raveable

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PHOTO FRIDAY: Isabel the Sea Serpent, Sandbridge Beach, VA

We’ve been visiting Virginia this week, and I will have some great intel to share with you over the next few weeks! But for Photo Friday, I chose this image of Isabel, a 60-foot long sea serpent crafted from driftwood, with coconut shell eyes.

Sea serpent

She lies in the front yard of a rental home right on Sandbridge Beach, which is about 15 minutes south of Virginia Beach. A local sculptor, Scott Dilatush, created her in 1999.

When we found her, it was somewhat serendipitous that we discovered a public access path to the beach just to the left of her yard. And a (free) street parking space. The four of us had a glorious day on that beautiful, uncrowded beach, wading over the sandbars, looking for shells, flying kites, building the requisite sandcastle, etc. I’ll remember it for a long time.

Sandbridge Beach

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PRIZE GIVEAWAY To Celebrate Summer Road Trips!

This photo makes me happy! Not too hard to figure out why, since it’s a warm, sunny beach. Virginia Beach, to be precise, and our home for the next five days! To be followed by a few more days in Williamsburg…AND the weather forecast looks AMAZING!

Virginia Beach, we're on our way!

It’s time for another GBOGH Road Trip! Please follow along for frequent updates on our Facebook page or on Twitter, hashtag #GBOGHRoadTrip.

On our itinerary:

World’s largest Wegmans supermarket in Fredericksburg, VA

World’s longest stretch of pleasure beach, Virginia Beach

The world’s largest living history museum (Colonial Williamsburg)

We’ll also be tracking down a giant gorilla, a giant statue of Neptune, and a giant sea serpent.

And … still up for discussion …the world’s tallest dive coaster at Busch Gardens. Early polls suggest that 0 out of 4 GBOGH family members are actually willing to ride this coaster, because of our shared “chicken” gene. To be continued…

In the meantime, we’re celebrating summer and the start of “Road Trip Season” with a fun GIVEAWAY!

Hullabaloo, an award-winning kid’s music duo, has just released their eighth album, Road Trip. There are 13 family car travel-inspired songs with traces of twang, funk, rock, folk and blues. Such an entertaining break from sappy children’s music! We test drove the CD on our trip to Rochester, and I cracked up when I heard the lyrics to the title song, which mentions the world’s largest ball of twine!

I have two copies to give away to residents of the U.S. or Canada! Want to enter to win? Just sign up to receive our e-mail notifications (see upper right hand corner). If you’re already a subscriber, just comment below and give me your funniest family road trip story, or share your road trip plans for this summer!

Two winners will be chosen — one randomly, and one based on how much I like your road trip memory!  You’ll be notified on Monday, June 6th, and will be asked to provide a mailing address.

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Where We’re Headed!

Sometimes I enjoy planning our travel more than actually traveling. Mainly, because I’m usually alone, in a quiet place, reading and putting together our itinerary. I get my (temporary) fill of omnipotence without any complaints from the smaller people in our household about 1) being shortchanged of pool time, or 2) the unavailability of rectangular chicken nuggets.


Credit: Rochester Lilac Festival

And, by the way, I prefer the old school method of looking through glossy travel guides, as opposed to navigating through flash-ridden websites. Don’t look for my picture next to the definition of “early adopter.”

Our Go BIG plans for this spring and summer are coming together nicely! Now if only the price of gas would stop its precipitous climb.

These are the adventures we’ve planned so far:


World’s largest indoor theater – Radio City Music Hall, NYC

World’s largest hot dog stand – Nathan’s Famous, Brooklyn


World’s largest collection of lilacs – Rochester, NY

World’s largest collection of electronic games – Rochester, NY

Frying pan used to make world’s largest pancake– Penn Yan, NY

World’s longest pleasure beach – Virginia Beach, VA

World’s largest gorilla – Virginia Beach, VA

World’s largest living history museum – Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach. Credit: CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com


World’s largest regional theme park company – Six Flags (Queensbury, NY location)

World’s largest Uncle Sam – Lake George, NY


World’s largest cowboy boots – San Antonio, TX

We need something for July! Suggestions?

What do you think? If you know of any other BIG things in these areas, please comment and give us the scoop!


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