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

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World’s Largest Outdoor Antiques Show: Brimfield Antique Show, Brimfield, MA

Brimfield BarnI spend more time than I should watching HGTV, and my current favorite show is Flea Market Flip. I’m captivated by the “before and after” transformations of the old pieces they find at antiques shows and flea markets. One of the markets regularly featured is the Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, Massachusetts. It’s supposedly the world’s largest outdoor antiques fair, so that was all the reason I needed to plan an outing.

Brimfield is a small town, with Route 20 (Main Street) running through it. The antiques show, which has run since 1959, is situated on both sides of this road along a one mile stretch. Technically, the show is multiple smaller markets, each with their own days and hours of operation. There are 21 show fields in all, and more than 3,000 dealers at full capacity. There are a handful of buildings, but most dealers are under tents.

Brimfield Grand Trunk Antiques

The best decision I made was to not bring the kids. Instead, I brought a friend who loves to shop as much as I do. There is a LOT of ground to cover, and my kids would have hated it. We tracked our walking, and logged close to four miles over two days. And this was the July show, which is the smallest in terms of number of exhibitors. There are three shows each year – May, July, and September.

It was an amazing smorgasbord of antique and vintage finds, as well as the random stuff you would find at anyone’s garage sale. At the end of the weekend, my loot consisted of vintage tourism postcards for my collection, earrings made from old keys, a scarf, and a decorative wall hanging made from old tin ceiling tiles.

Vintage postcards

There are “regulars” who know the layout well and know which dealers they like. But it seemed to me that most of us were newbies, taking it all in, and shopping with no real plan of attack. If you are new to it all, here are some of my suggestions:

Tips for Shopping the Brimfield Antiques & Collectibles Show

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World’s Biggest Bookstore and World’s Longest Street, Toronto, Ontario

Two debatable world records didn’t keep me from checking out a “world’s largest” and a “world’s longest” while I was in Toronto last month for the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference!

Yonge Street

Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Yonge Street

Until 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized Yonge (pronounced “Young”) Street as the world’s longest street, because at the time, Yonge Street proper was considered part of Highway 11. The entire length of that configuration is nearly 1,200 miles end-to-end, beginning at Queen’s Quay in downtown Toronto to Rainy River, near the Minnesota and Ontario border. The world record for longest motorable road is now held by the Pan-American Highway.

I still took a stroll up Yonge Street, about a mile from the intersections of Wellington Street and Edward Street. It was such a lively thoroughfare in this section of the city, with great shopping and dining. Along the way, I resisted the pull of the tractor beams drawing me toward the Eaton Centre, Toronto’s largest mall. I had a bookstore to see.

Yonge Street

On a mission to find the “WBB.”

World’s Biggest Bookstore

It’s becoming a habit for us to visit world’s largests which are in peril of losing their title, or being lost forever. Last year, we visited the World’s Largest McDonald’s in Orlando, knowing that it would soon be oversized by a new London restaurant. In this case, the lease on the building housing the World’s Biggest Bookstore is set to expire at the end of 2013. Indigo Books and Music, the Canadian national chain which owns the “WBB,” has said it doesn’t plan to renew the lease.

World's Biggest Bookstore

Found it!

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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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PEZ Visitor Center, Orange, CT: World’s Largest PEZ Dispenser

PEZ Visitor Center

PEZ Visitor Center, Orange, CT

I remember my first PEZ dispenser; do you? It was Snoopy, my all-time favorite cartoon character. The Boy started a collection several years ago, and R2D2 was the star of that show. It’s since been passed down to The Girl, and she’s glammed up the group with Hello Kitty and a princess or two.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

The kids and I drove over to Orange, CT to visit the PEZ Visitor Center, home to the world’s largest PEZ dispenser, as well as the world’s largest public collection of PEZ memorabilia.

It was one of those late summer days, when camps have ended and the first day of school is still weeks away. We were bored.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

If you’ve nibbled on a pack of PEZ at any time over the past 30 years, it was made here at this manufacturing facility. The visitor center is a new addition, acting as part museum, part attraction.

As soon as we got out of the car, I smelled the sweet scent of cherry candy in the air. Once we entered, our eyes went straight to a wall covered by rows of PEZ dispensers, and a PEZ motorcycle hanging from the ceiling.Beyond the ticket window, you’re greeted by a giant, 12-foot tall PEZ dispenser, topped by a boy’s head with a blue baseball cap. Adorable.

Worlds Largest PEZ Dispenser

You’re free to explore this place on your own, and you’ll have to give and take. There are the decidedly kid-focused activities, like a create-your-own dispenser table, alongside the display cases of vintage memorabilia. There’s a fascinating historical time line across two walls which appeals those of us old enough to remember some of these earlier decades. Included here are bits of fun trivia.

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Wanamaker Organ, Philadelphia, PA: The World’s Largest Organ

plaqueSince we’re on an historic preservation bent this month, we wanted to share Matt’s recent experience seeing – and hearing – the Wanamaker Grand Organ at Macy’s in Philadelphia. Built in 1911, the world’s largest operational pipe organ is still in excellent shape, thanks to its preservation group, the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ.

You may be wondering why Matt – not the biggest shopping fan – chose to spend his free time during a business trip in a twelve-floor department store.

Matt has grown up hearing his grandmother’s story about working at “Wanamaker’s,” (now Macy’s) when she was 18. To offer some context, Matt’s grandmother is now a sound 100 years old, so this was back in 1931! She was a seamstress by trade, and worked at the time for a hosiery company, demonstrating how to mend silk stockings.

Hearing her tell it, you realize that this was her first real adventure as a young woman in the big world beyond the small New York suburb she grew up in. Her eyes still light up when she recounts the grandeur of the Wanamaker Building. So Matt wanted to see it for himself, and share in her excitement.

So Matt wasn’t there to shop (not even a little something for his wife); he went straight to the organ. What you see from the central courtyard is only a partial view of the organ’s 28,500 pipes. The largest pipe is more than 32 feet long, and so wide that a Shetland Pony was once posed inside for publicity photos. The smallest pipe is only a quarter-inch in length.


The musicians sit in a massive console which has six ivory keyboards and 729 color-coded stop tablets. There are 168 piston buttons under the keyboards and 42 foot controls. The console weighs 2.5 tons, and the entire instrument weighs 287 tons!

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Country Junction: World’s Largest General Store, Lehighton, PA

We’re back! Thanks for holding.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Country Junction

Country Junction

You know I’m an easy grader when I rate the places we visit. Too many years spent working in PR, looking for the best in places for a proper spin. I tried my hardest at Country Junction, the world’s largest general store, but I may have met my match. It’s a chain, but we went to the largest flagship location. I couldn’t get out of this place fast enough.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

I love the retail, you know that. Matt was even patient enough to visit the world’s largest candle store, and the world’s largest shoe store. These places lulled him into a false sense of security. Having been scarred at Country Junction, I’ve lost his trust.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Welllll…not much.

A “general store” makes me think of an old-timey emporium out in Walnut Grove where the Ingalls family would buy coffee, jerky, nails, and penny candy. This place began as a hardware store, then added lawn and garden products, then gift and home décor items. There’s furniture, seasonal décor, grocery, a candy counter, and a bakery.

Oh, and a fine selection of guns and ammo. And a display of taxidermied animals. The turkey would look nice over our fireplace.

Country Junction

The green lights add a lot to the display, I think.

The layout follows a yellow brick road (painted squares on the cement floor), and there are a few animatronics here and there to keep the kids from whining. And random dinosaur and Spartacus statues.


Hail! (Matt forgot to bring his gold chest plates on this trip.)

We didn’t purchase much, but we did try the fresh-baked apple dumplings in the bakery department, and they were quite good.

Here’s a few things we found among the merch:

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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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PHOTO FRIDAY: Big Fun Toy Store, Cleveland, OH

I included the Big Fun toy store on our Cleveland itinerary for its name, obviously.

Big Fun

It’s not the world’s largest toy store (that would be the Toys R’ Us in Times Square), but it lives up to its name by giving you a really enjoyable trip down memory lane!  Big Fun, which has been around for almost 20 years, has two locations. We went to the one in the Coventry neighborhood. Both are stuffed to the brim – literally from floor to ceiling – with an amazing array of toys, collectibles, novelties and gag gifts.


Their own description says it best: “a cathedral of counter-culture, a warehouse of nerdabilia and nostalgia.”

toy store

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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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Yankee Candle: World’s Largest Candle Store

“I don’t like shopping. I don’t like candles. I really don’t like shopping for candles.” So proclaimed my grumpy husband upon exiting the Yankee Candle flagship store. I was on a “retail therapy” high, so I didn’t let it bother me.

Yankee Candle

Deceivingly small from the outside. 90,000 sq ft of shopping goodness on the inside.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Earlier this month, we drove up to the world’s largest candle store to see the world’s largest candle. And, naturally, to part with some of our money. Matt needed the most coercion, especially since he would miss the Giants game, and would have to watch it later on the DVR.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

While in the Berkshires for a reunion, I picked up some travel brochures. The heavens parted, and a ray of sunlight shone down on the one for Yankee Candle. Though misty with joyful tears, my eyes focused on the words “world’s largest candle store,” and “world’s largest candle.” 90,000 square feet! 400,000 candles! 200 different scents!



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