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World’s Largest Termite, and other BIG Things in Providence, Rhode Island

This long, cold, snowy winter we’re enjoying barely tolerating here in the Hudson Valley hasn’t been kind to our travel plans, beginning way back in November, when a storm prevented us from driving to Gatlinburg, TN for Thanksgiving. Another storm was forecast for President’s Day weekend earlier this month, when we were scheduled to drive to Providence, RI. The Girl insisted we go anyway, whining, “Weather has ruined all our trips!”

Okay, so we were committed to getting there. And then The Boy sprained his ankle, and was outfitted with a boot. My eye began to twitch.

But hey, flexibility is what family travel is all about, so we rolled with it. We were snowed in at the Hampton Inn for an entire afternoon. We couldn’t do much walking. But the important thing was WE GOT OUT of town, winter be damned.

And discovered some great BIG attractions in Rhode Island’s capital city.

Because we love roadside attractions, our first photo op stop was “Nibbles Woodaway,” also known as the Big Blue Bug. At two tons, he’s the world’s largest termite, and has sat on top of an extermination business building since 1980. He’s nine feet tall and 58 feet long, and is occasionally dressed in smart seasonal accessories.


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The Big Duck, Flanders, NY

Big DuckEvery once in a while, I get a hankering to go see a quirky roadside attraction; and it doesn’t even need to be the world’s largest. Two weeks ago, we took a day trip to visit the Big Duck in Flanders, NY. Technically, the real reason was to visit family on Long Island. My aunt lured us with an offer of homemade lasagna, so it promised to be a banner day.

My aunt’s cooking is worth the 100-mile trip. Heck, I would drive 500 miles for her stuffed artichokes. Copious amounts of breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil…what were we talking about? Right…the big duck.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, there were about 150 duck farms in Riverhead, NY, on the eastern end of Long Island. The farms were known for their succulent Peking ducks, and even though the number of farms has decreased dramatically as land values have increased, you can still find Long Island duckling on menus in fine restaurants.

In 1931, Riverhead duck farmer Martin Maurer had a vision to create a shop — in the shape of a duck — to sell Peking ducks and duck eggs. He hired Broadway set designers, the Collins Brothers, to create it. The result was the Big Duck, measuring 30 feet from beak to tail, and 20 feet from the base to the top of its head. Its original eyes were a pair of Model T taillights which glowed at night.

The Big Duck was a trend-setter, as one of the first examples of roadside architecture representing and promoting a product or service. This is now commonly known as “duck architecture;” and “ducks” refer to these sculpturally-designed forms.

The Big Duck

The Big Duck sits in a Long Island park near the Hamptons

The Big Duck, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally located in Riverhead, but was moved three times in preservation efforts, which reminds me of the admirable actions taken on behalf of Lucy the Elephant in Margate, NJ. The Big Duck – which I really think needs a name, kind of like “Lucy” – now sits on Big Duck Ranch overlooking Reeves Bay in Flanders, NY. It’s a public park operated by Suffolk County, so its future is secure.

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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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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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Route 6: Longest Contiguous Highway in the United States

Stay on Route 6Sure, I hear the call of the open road every once in a while. It usually gets drowned out by other calls, like, “Mom, what’s for dinner?,” and “Mom, where’s my Princess Aurora dress…you know, the one that lights up?”

So it was with great envy that I learned that writer Malerie Y. Cohen, who I met at the ASJA conference this spring, took an extended road trip by herself. What’s more, she drove the longest continuous highway in the country. Her book, Stay on Route 6; Your Guide To all 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental US Route 6, provides both narrative and information on the points of interest she discovered.

Weeks alone with just my thoughts, enjoying the scenery. Pinch me.

We invited Malerie to share her story:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

I drove solo for 1 1/2 months (six weeks) across the country; 3,652 miles from Provincetown, MA to Long Beach, CA completely on US Route 6 – the longest contiguous highway in the United States. Why solo? No one can stand my snoring.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

As a travel writer, I was eager to follow one route complete across the USA and write a guidebook to this historic road. Initially, I typed “Longest Road In the USA” into Google, and up popped “US Route 6” as second only to US Route 20. Route 6 was truncated in 1964 – it now officially ends in Bishop, CA and is currently 3,205 miles long. But it was once the longest American highway, and is still the longest CONTIGUOUS highway, as Route 20 breaks up through Yellowstone National Park.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

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The Wienermobile, Bootmobile, and other BIG Things on Wheels This Year!

Of course, you are all familiar with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, that icon of American pop culture history. Personally, I think it’s adorable. Not only is this BIG hot dog on the road this summer and fall, but other BIG things as well, including the L.L. Bean Bootmobile, the world’s largest potato, and the Butterfinger van. I know you’re intrigued, so read on!

L.L. Bean Bootmobile

When we went to Maine two years ago for my college (cough)-tieth reunion, we stopped at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. The Boy hammed it up for the camera, posing under the 15-foot boot as if he would be smooshed.

This year, the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and taking its 13-foot Bootmobile around the northeast (ME, MA, NY, VA) and the midwest (IL). We found out that we are going to MISS it when it’s in NYC, because that’s the week we’ll be in Florida. We are DISTRAUGHT. (And by “we,” you know I just mean “me.”)

LL Bean

The L.L. Bean Bootmobile

Hopefully, you’ll be able to catch it, and report back to me with photos. Track it on its website or the L.L. Bean Facebook page.

Upcoming appearance dates for the L.L. Bean Bootmobile:

6/16-6/17 – Boston, MA

6/22-6/23 – McLean, VA

6/29-6/30 – New York, NY

7/4-7/7 – Freeport, ME

The World’s Largest Potato

This is fun! The world’s largest potato is touring the U.S. to celebrate the Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary. The Famous Idaho® Potato Truck is traveling coast to coast in 2012, stopping in large cities, supermarket parking lots, and at special events. Currently, the truck is on the East Coast, and although we missed the New Jersey appearances, it’s likely we’ll be able to catch it in Orlando on the 25th!

Idaho potato

The world's largest potato, on tour!

On the flatbed sits the super-sized spud — a 12,000-pound russet potato, equal to 32,346 medium-sized potatoes. Of course, it’s not a real potato. This replica is 1,102 times heavier than the largest potato ever grown, which weighed 11 pounds.

The website and Facebook page provide dates and locations for the immediate future, but it’s constantly updated as they get permits for showing up at places with a six-ton potato.

Butterfinger BARmageddon News Network (BBNN) van

BUTTERFINGER® candy bars…mmmmmm. The company’s new promotion is playing up the end of the world, counting down the days to the Mayan prophecy predicted for December 21, 2012. The Butterfinger BARmageddon News Network (BBNN) van is on a nationwide tour to collect evidence that the end is year, like crop circles and UFO sighting locations.


The BARmageddon van

I wish they would have invited me along, because the BBNN news van is stopping at the country’s  kitschiest roadside attractions and unexplained mystery sites, including Roswell, the Petrified Forest in AZ., the Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK., and the world’s largest basket in Newark, OH.

You can watch the footage of their interviews and stories here. If you spot the van, say “hi” and try a sample of Butterfinger Bites.

Upcoming appearance dates for the BARmageddon News Network van:

6/17 – Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK
6/22 – Dallas, TX
6/29 – Roswell, NM
6/30 – Albuquerque, NM
7/1 – Grand Canyon, AZ
7/3-7/4 – Las Vegas, NV
7/7 – Los Angeles, CA
7/11-7/15 – San Diego, CA

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

I didn’t realize that there are currently eight active Wienermobiles, with each assigned to cover a different part of the U.S.  The first Wienermobile was created in 1936 by Oscar’ Mayer’s nephew, Carl Mayer. The design has changed over the years, but the main component, a hot dog on wheels, is still part of its charm.


The Wienermobile. Photo credit: All rights reserved by kb.ultra

Drivers of the Wienermobiles are known as Hotdoggers. Unfortunately, I do not qualify for the position, which is only open to college seniors. You can keep up to date with Wienermobile appearances on Facebook, Twitter, and the Hotdogger blog. Regrettably, the company did not respond to my requests for upcoming appearance dates or photos.

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A BIG Journey Through Australia

We start the month with a fun guest post from Ben West, who writes the Living Vicariously blog. This is exciting for me for several reasons. 1) It’s our first contribution from Australia, a country high on my bucket list for all its BIG roadside attractions. 2) It’s our first travelogue about an adventure on a motorcycle. 3) It’s an adventure being enjoyed by someone SO outside my demographic – a young, unmarried, carefree couple – which is why the name of his blog really resonates with me!

Ben is currently exploring his own country with his girlfriend Jette. Some of the BIG highlights of his trip include the world’s largest Tasmanian Devil! Here’s his report:

“Since I started to follow the Go BIG or Go Home blog, I have been noticing just how many big things we have here in Australia. Australia is a big place, so big that if all Australians had an argument and spread out evenly over the continent, every person would have 213 square miles to themselves — that’s only 4.6 people in every square mile.


Holbrook is a perfectly charming little town on the road from Sydney to Melbourne. It has bright cafes with reasonable prices, and parks full of play equipment where parents can air out their children. Holbrook not only has the sole set of traffic lights between Melbourne and Sydney, it also boasts a massive submarine sitting proudly right in the middle of town.


Holbrook is named after Commander Norman Holbrook, a decorated WWI veteran. Commander Holbrook spent the war hiding underwater and driving his Oberon class submarine around, occasionally popping up to shoot at the surprised baddies then disappear in a stream of bubbles. Lt. Holbrook won the Victoria Cross, our highest pat on the back for military people.

Jette was amazed to sight this big black submarine shell (sadly they took out all the bombs and fun stuff) almost 400 kilometers inland from Melbourne. Despite my best efforts, she would not climb aboard for a photo.

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How to Find a Kid-Friendly Hotel

Occasionally, we diverge from the telling of BIG adventures to present family travel tips, based on our own experiences. We’ve suggested technology to facilitate travel, and great places to eat on the road beyond traditional restaurants. We’ve even warned you about road trip mistakes.

Omni Shoreham hotel This week, we offer our own suggestions on how to find a family friendly hotel, as well as ideas from other family bloggers.

Over spring break, our family stayed at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. This property, in my opinion, sets a gold standard for kid-friendly accommodations, so I’ll use it as an example in many of the following points.

When searching for a kid-friendly hotel, look for:

A welcoming attitude toward children

Hotels can be upscale, grand, and historic, and still be casual enough for kids. The Omni is a stately “grand dame” among hotels, and yet, we never felt self-conscious about bringing the kids through the lovely lobby. It helped that The Girl did not have any public meltdowns. (For a change.) Not only was the staff very friendly, they delivered milk and cookies for the kids during the turn-down service.

Pool(s) and open green space

When on the road, the pool is the first and foremost amenity my kids want in a hotel. Indoor, outdoor, any shape or size will do. Swim time means blowing off steam, or winding them down for bed, or just spending some time NOT in an expensive theme park. We were fortunate that our Omni stay coincided with the seasonal opening of its outdoor heated pool!

A lawn, garden, or ideally, a playground, is also a big plus.

Shoreham hotel

"I'm not getting off this hammock anytime soon, just FYI." At the Omni Shoreham.

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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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