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World’s Tallest Holiday Inn

World's tallest Holiday Inn

World’s tallest Holiday Inn, New York City

Last week, I was in New York City for the New York Times Travel Show. It’s an annual ritual; I go to get travel inspiration, network, and learn what I can in the trend seminars. This year, I stayed overnight, in the world’s tallest Holiday Inn hotel! It’s downtown, in the financial district, and really close to the “1” subway line.

This property is really new—it just opened in October 2014—and was built from the ground up where a parking garage used to stand. It’s more than 453 feet tall, with 50 floors – and my room was on the 43th floor!

To say the views were spectacular would be an understatement. I was in a corner room, and the longer side of windows provided me with this view of the Hudson River and New Jersey beyond.


Hudson River Views

Hudson River Views

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BIG Finds at Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Ocean City, MD

Robert Wadlow

World’s tallest man!

You can find a lot of superlative stuff inside the 32 Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums around the world; each location has more than 300 exhibits and artifacts. We’ve never been inside one of these “odditoriums” before, but we finally took the plunge last week while in Ocean City, Maryland. We discovered that this beachy destination is very seasonal, so there wasn’t a lot to do yet in mid-April. The 2.25-mile Boardwalk was hopping, however, and Ripley’s is in a prime location at the southern end.

Robert Ripley, a cartoonist and adventurer, traveled to 201 countries over the course of his life, and collected a vast, eclectic collection of oddities. Many of these (originals and reproductions) are on display here, alongside newer pieces collected in recent decades.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the only place you’ll ever see an authentic concrete section of the Berlin Wall displayed near a model oil rig constructed of match sticks, and a mural of Rihanna depicted in Lite Bright pegs. A whole lot of weird. We liked it!

As you walk through different rooms, you’ll find the exhibits fit into themes, like animals, space, and human extremes. Of course, we had to take a photo with a statue of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man. Wadlow (1918-1940) reached a height of 8’, 11”, and weighed 440 lbs. His arm span was 9½ feet! Only 17 people have been recorded in medical history to reach the height of eight feet.

In another room, a replica of the world’s largest Great White Shark ever caught with a rod and reel was hanging from the ceiling, near an iron cage you could step into. It’s 16’, 8” long, 3,427 lbs, and was caught off the shores of Montauk, New York in 1986 by Donnie Braddick.

Great White Shark

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BIG Finds in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

World Trade Center Baltimore

In front of the world’s tallest pentagonal building

Over Columbus Day weekend, we attended the Digital Family Summit in Baltimore. This annual kid-friendly conference is geared toward tweens and teens who are digital content creators, meaning they’re writing blogs or producing videos for the web. I thought it would be a great experience for The Boy, who took workshops in video game design and WordPress. I would recommend it if your kids are out there navigating their way through the world wide web.

Our hotel was an easy ten-minute walk to the Inner Harbor district, one of the top tourist destinations in “Charm City,” so we took advantage of our down time to do a little exploring for BIG stuff. We were also able to meet up with one of Matt’s high school friends, Kim, who lives nearby with her five kids.

It was one of those five kids who actually tipped us off to our first find. Upon learning what we blog about, 12-year old Danny said, “You know, the tallest pentagonal building in the world is here in the Inner Harbor.”

What?!? My crackerjack advance research techniques had obviously failed me, because that was news.

World Trade Center, Baltimore

The 405-foot tall building is actually the World Trade Center, and was designed by the firm founded by renowned architect I.M. Pei. You can take the elevators to the “Top of the World” observation level on the 27th floor for 360° views of the city. Now that I’ve actually done my homework, I’ve found out that it’s technically the world’s tallest “regular” pentagonal building, meaning that all sides are the same length. There is a taller irregular pentagonal building in Houston; the JPMorgan Chase building, which is 1,002-feet tall.

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CN Tower, Toronto, Canada: Tallest Structure in the Western Hemisphere

CN Tower

The CN Tower / La Tour CN, Toronto, Canada

When you’re a chicken, it helps to have brave friends. During my recent trip to Toronto for the TBEX conference, I wanted to visit the CN Tower, the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere. I knew that a highlight of visiting the attraction is the ability to walk over a glass floor, with a view straight down 1,122 feet. I also knew that chances were good I would not be able to maneuver my jelly knees over the glass.

I enlisted my friend Karon, who blogs at All Things Lifestyle, to come with me. She’s jumped out of an airplane, so I was pretty confident she could handle standing on a 2 ½ ” thick tempered glass plate.

When you visit the CN Tower, you have options. You can take the 58-second elevator ride to the glass floor level, which is connected to the Outdoor SkyTerrace. You can also take a photo one story up on the LookOut Level. For an additional fee, you can take the special SkyPod elevator up an additional 33 stories, to 1,465 feet.

Within the building there’s also a 3D movie theater, the “Himalamazon” motion theater ride, the 360Restaurant, and a gift shop. For the exceptional daredevil, there is one more can’t-miss experience: Edge Walk, the world’s highest full circle, hands-free walk, on a 5-foot wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod, 1,168 feet — or 116 stories — above the ground. I’m not prone to text-speak, but O.M.G.!


An EdgeWalk group at CN Tower, minus me. Photo credit: EdgeWalk

Regardless of which level you end up on, you’ll get a fantastic view of Toronto, Lake Ontario, and the surrounding region, up to 100 miles away. Apparently, you can even see Niagara Falls under ideal conditions.

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Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ: World’s Largest Theme Park

Daffy Duck

My new favorite hobby: embarrassing my teenager.

We’re fans of the Six Flags theme parks, mainly because their “Go Big” ad campaign clearly shows a shared appreciation for BIG entertainment. Yet, I was skeptical when I heard this spring that Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ was going to be the world’s largest theme park.

However, based on the recent addition of the Safari Off Road Adventure, the acreage is now up to 510, larger than any other theme park. Also, this park is home to Kingda Ka, the world’s tallest roller coaster. Matt wasn’t told until we got there that his job would be to ride Kingda Ka and report on the experience.

We really enjoyed the Safari Off Road Adventure, a totally reworked version of the old Wild Safari drive-through attraction which was there for years. Now, you and about 25 others board an all-terrain vehicle, which mainly travels along a paved road, but also does some off-roading. The on-board video tells the story of the fictional Wilds family, who run the outpost and take care of the animals living there.

Because it’s a new attraction, I probably don’t need to tell you that the lines are going to be long.  You want to get there when it opens to minimize your wait. On the day we went, the Safari opened at 10:30 am for season pass holders, and 11:00 am for everyone else. We didn’t know that in advance, so we had to wait a half hour anyway. Also, the animals are generally most active in the morning.

Safari Off Road Adventure

The Safari park is home to 1,200 animals from six continents, and they’re separated into different themed areas, like Didgeridoo Pass, Afrikka, and the Wilde Plains. The guides provided a lot of interesting tidbits in their narration. I learned, for example, that ostriches have two sets of eyelids, and elephants weigh 100 lbs. when they’re born.

While you’re kept at a distance from the lions, you do get really close to other animals. At one point, a giraffe came over to say hello. The Girl didn’t know whether to giggle or shriek, so she did a little of both. The Boy perfected his ostrich face by pursing his lips and looking bothered. Collectively, everyone on board went “Awww!” when we passed a mama black bear playing with her cubs.


Everyone: put down your phones and just LOOK at the giraffe!

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Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City – New Jersey’s Tallest Lighthouse

Absecon lighthousePoor Matt. He’s been doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” for the sake of the blog lately, like when we sent him out on a tightrope 70 feet in the air in November. Last month, we sent him up a circular staircase of 228 steps, to the top of Absecon Lighthouse, the third tallest lighthouse in America.

Well, someone has to do it.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

We spent a cold President’s Day weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey, WITH the kids. Despite those obstacles, we still had a great time, and found plenty to do. One of our stops was the Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States (topped only by the Cape Hatteras Lighhouse in North Carolina, and the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida).

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The lighthouse has been decommissioned since 1933, but it’s still lit every night, and open for tours daily.


Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City, NJ

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Willis Tower: Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere

Willis Tower

Willis Tower, Chicago

I’m sorta amazed by people who don’t have a fear of heights, like I do. How do they not get jelly knees and queasy stomachs being that far from terra firma? In this case, 1,353 feet above said terra, to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (That’s 412 meters, for all our metric friends).

Our guest post this month comes from Nicole Wiltrout, a freelance writer living in Columbus, IN. Nicole writes about adventures at home and away with her husband and two young sons at Arrows Sent Forth. She also shared this report on the world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis last year.

Nicole is far braver than I am. Her report:

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

My husband and I, along with our youngest son, spent a weekend in Chicago. This included a trip to the SkyDeck at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) on a Saturday afternoon.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

My family typically visits Chicago a couple of times each year. This particular trip was to do some research for a blogging project with Expedia. I wanted to visit a few major Chicago attractions that I had either never been to or hadn’t visited in a while. I’ve heard a lot about the SkyDeck but had never done it on previous trips to the city.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The SkyDeck would be particularly interesting to fans of Go BIG or Go Home because it’s a chance to go to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll ride an elevator 103 stories up and step out on a glass sky ledge that extends four feet off the side of the building.

SkyDeck Willis Tower

No way. No how. Never.

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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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PHOTO FRIDAY – World’s Largest State Fair, TX

I’ve never met a state or county fair I didn’t like. They retain the flavor of old-fashioned American fun, even though they’re no longer an inexpensive day out! Last year, we went to the Big E in West Springfield, MA. It’s the state fair of Massachusetts and several other New England states, and it’s where you’ll find the world’s largest traveling amusement park, the North American Midway. The highlight of the day was sampling the Craz-E burger, a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two halves of a glazed doughnut. Yes, you read that right. I’m not up for an Oscar nomination, but the video clip we posted of The Boy’s first Craz-E bite captured a really fun Go BIG moment!

This year, the Big E takes place September 16-October 2.

The world’s largest state fair, not surprisingly, is the State Fair of Texas. Three million people are expected to attend this 125-year old institution, which begins in Dallas next week (September 30) through October 23. Our friend Jessica at Suitcases and Sippycups goes almost every year, and has provided us with our PHOTO FRIDAY today!

ferris wheel

This is the 212-foot Texas Star ferris wheel, the tallest ferris wheel in North America! It can carry up to 264 passengers in its 44 gondolas.

 state fair

This is Big Tex (can’t help but love that name!), the 52-foot tall icon of the state fair! Jessica shares, “His voice booms all over the state fair. Most of the time he just makes general announcements about upcoming shows or events. But every now and then he makes a personal comment about someone’s shirt or hair in the crowd. It is hilarious to watch people look up at him and marvel at how the giant statue can see them.” Thanks, Jessica!

Who’s headed to a BIG fair soon? What’s your favorite fair food?  We’re partial to deep-fried Oreos.

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World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet, Burlington, VT

I’m feeling the love for Vermont this week, in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s destruction. So even though we’re in the middle of Pennsylvania right now, I wanted to share a part of one our BEST family vacations…to Vermont. Thanks to Mara at Mother of All Trips for inspiring me to write about the Green Mountain State this week!

Where we went, and who was coerced into going: I admit, the initial lure to Vermont was Ben & Jerry’s factory tour. And while we did go there, while staying at the amazing Smuggler’s Notch resort, we also stayed in Burlington for four chock-full days of fun. I learned about the world’s tallest filing cabinet after the trip was already planned, but naturally managed to squeeze it into our Burlington itinerary!

Filing Cabinet

Rocking the rust!


 Okay, what was so cool about it?

The cabinet was built in 2002 by local artist Bren Alvarez. The 40+-foot cabinet is actually a stack of 11 metal filing cabinets, in different colors, welded together. The elements have obviously taken their toll, so the rusty tower can’t be long for this world. There’s a total of 38 drawers, on purpose. Alvarez was commenting on the number of years that bureaucratic paperwork accumulated by a proposed beltway project that would have run right through the neighborhood where the cabinet stands.

We didn’t stay to see the filing cabinet for very long. In fact, the kids didn’t even get out of the car. (This was a year before the Go BIG fever infected our household.)

Besides, we had too much other fun stuff to do in Burlington! Our favorite places:

North Beach, even though the waters of Lake Champlain were chilly. The kids will swim in water at any temperature, and the sandy beach was warm.

The ECHO Lake Aquarium Science Center, which sits on the waterfront. ECHO (Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunity) features over 70 live species of marine life, more than 100 interactive experiences, seasonal exhibits and participatory events.


ECHO Burlington

A unique perspective of a fish tank at ECHO

A lake cruise aboard the Ethan Allen. We enjoyed a buffet lunch and a 90-minute narrated tour which brought us to the central and deepest point of the lake, and along Burlington’s coast.

Lake Champlain Chocolates factory tour, where we enjoyed divine hot chocolate at the café. We left with factory seconds of broken chocolate-covered pretzels. (Not surprisingly, they just as good when they’re broken.)

Lake Champlain

"I can't see anything through this thing!" No one can, sweetie.

 The Vermont Teddy Bear Company, which is technically in Shelburne, just south of Burlington. The tour guide explained how teddy bears are made, from cutting fur, sewing, stuffing, to dressing. Of course we ended up in the gift shop making our own customized bears, which were presented with a birth certificate, bow tie, and travel box.

Vermont Teddy Bear Company

Watch out...sometimes, we're all in a cheesy mood at the same time.

 How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list): 9

The filing cabinet in itself only rates a 4. But as an all-around family vacation destination, Burlington is a 9!

Hey you! Go BIG!:

The world’s tallest filing cabinet is on Flynn Avenue in Burlington between Pine Street and Foster Street. But whatever…just go visit Vermont!

For tourism and trip planning info, visit:

Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce

Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing






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