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

World’s Largest Dairy Store, CT and NY

Okay, here’s my attempt at blogging with a cold. We feed, clothe, and house two Petri dishes, and they re-pay us with post nasal drip.

Stew Leonard's

We hang at the Danbury location.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys grocery shopping, especially with kids in tow. Things are different when we go to Stew Leonard’s, the world’s largest dairy store. There are four locations in CT and NY, and we usually end up in Danbury. I get no arguments from anyone when I announce, “We’re going to Stew’s!”

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Granted, a grocery store is not necessarily a travel destination. But if you’re driving near their Danbury or Norwalk locations during the warmer months, you can stop in for a little diversion, and eat outside at their “hoedown,” which offers grilled cheeseburgers, chicken, hot dogs, as well as steak sandwiches, lobster and fries.

Stew Leonard’s is in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records for having the “largest sales per square foot for a single grocery: $115 million in sales, $3,470 per square foot.”  The “World’s Largest Dairy Store” title came from Ripley’s Believe It or Not.  Regardless, the offerings go way beyond dairy. The bakery, deli, and meat department are also stand outs, and the prepared foods make a lazy cook out of me.

If a trip to Stew’s is in the forecast, I ditch the weekly meal plan like a hot potato. Yes, I’ve recently attempted to plan dinners a week in advance. Because I like to pretend I’m organized and in control. Until 4:00 comes around, nothing is defrosted, and the cereal boxes start calling my name.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Stew Leonard's Cow

Girl: “Don’t pull the rope!” Boy: “I’m pulling the rope…” Cow: MOOOO!!! Girl: “AAAAAACK!”

Stew’s strategically elevates the supermarket to quality entertainment. The largest elements of this are the animatronic animals, food, and other characters. Push a big red button, and Twinky the Kid pops out of a box and says “Hi” with a friendly twang. The Farm Fresh Five dairy band jams over the frozen food cases, mesmerizing the kids while I peruse the nugget selection. There’s a parrot, chicken, donkey, bears, and a pine tree all ready to greet you.

And then, there’s Clover the Cow. The Boy, at ten years of age, has just recently gotten over his fear of her loud, deep “moo,” initiated with a yank of her rope. The Girl will still shake and plead “No cow!” when we pass near her sweet face. Both would much rather stand in front of Chiquita Banana, shimmying and singing along with her.

Do you know the words to the Chiquita ditty? I thought these might help, because once you watch this video, you’ll by humming the tune all day. Curiously, the official lyrics are not the ones sung by this big banana.

Whoever designed the store layout was a genius. Instead of straight aisles, there’s a winding path through each department, with occasional cut-throughs. You’re forced to pass by every single item sold at Stew’s. Not that you’ll mind. The quality is above par, and the prices are reasonable. Frequent free sample stations of both hot and cold foods lessen the burden considerably!

Farm Fresh Five

“Slim Skim” is secretly jealous of “Rich Milk,” who gets to sing lead. The cookies are just throwing themselves at him.

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The Big E: World’s Largest Traveling Amusement Park

North American Midway

The North American Midway is the world's largest traveling amusement park

There is a treadmill in our house. It does—occasionally—get used for something other than a laundry rack. So finding Matt running on it last week was not as much shocking as it was…suspect. In hindsight, I realized he was preparing for the Craz-E burger, the culinary creation born at The Big E, or the Eastern States Exposition. 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.

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

The four of us went to The Big E this past weekend, and brought along our appetites. After a few days cooped up inside with incessant rain, the sun shone on a clear, cool autumn day, and we happily hit the road.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

With a name like the “Big” E, we had to go. We wouldn’t be living up to the Blogocratic Oath (no such thing) if we missed it.

I learned about the Craz-E burger while doing my research, and that pretty much sealed the deal. Matt has never met a burger he didn’t like. The more beef, the better. He’s been known to eat the triple patty Baconator at Wendy’s, but has stopped short at the quadruple BK Stacker at Burger King. He prefers food which could seal his arteries in under ten minutes.

Yes, his life insurance policy is up-to-date.

Worlds largest corn dog

I've read an unsubstantiated claim that this is the world's largest corn dog!

So when I reported that the Craz-E burger is a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two halves of a glazed doughnut, he got a glint in his eye I haven’t seen since our first date. “Lustful” is an apt description.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

The Big E lives up to its name. It’s massive, and we walked miles that day. There’s a lot to do and see, and I’m sure we missed most of it. Of course we hit the expanse of midway rides. We also saw out first horse show, and visited some of the 4H pavilions. The Girl made friends with Doug the Llama.

We caught a hysterical show by Hilby, the Skinny German Juggle Boy. We’ve also—purely by chance–seen him at the Woodloch Resort and the Dutchess County Fair this year. So now we’re juggler groupies, I guess.

And of course, there’s the fair food, which never disappoints. Matt’s 1,500-calorie Craz-E burger held him over most of the afternoon, until it was time for the other specialty, the Big E Cream Puff, and its cousin, the E-Clair. We also made room for hot dogs, pierogi, samosas, and overpriced ($5.00!) milk shakes.

You’re dying to find out how the Craz-E burger tasted, aren’t you?

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World’s Largest Underground Pedestrian Network, Montréal, QC

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

Montreal Underground Network

So much shopping. Just not before 10:00am, when we were there. D%&#$!

While we were in Montréal, we enjoyed utterly perfect weather – warm, sunny, breezy. It framed the city in such a favorable light, it was difficult to imagine the brutal winters which settle early on this island. In 1966, a major initiative began to build an underground network to connect downtown buildings, and allow the city’s weather-beleagured residents to get in out of the cold.

Today, the world’s largest underground pedestrian network, known as RÉSO, is 22 miles of malls and shops, office buildings, 14 hotels, three universities, the World Trade Centre, The Bell Centre hockey stadium, and16 Metro stations.

We found ourselves in and out of the network several times during our trip, although it was never really our true and final destination.

WHY did you go there, exactly?

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