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

World’s Largest Gift Shop, Las Vegas, NV

A few years ago, the Las Vegas tourism board launched a campaign to promote Sin City as a family destination. I think it was before the whole “What happens in Vegas…” concept became a regrettably overused part of the vernacular, along the lines of “Got milk?”  I’m not sure how successful the family branding was, but I might consider bringing the kids there if I found enough for them to do. Have you been there with kids? If so, I would love to hear your comments below. I put the question out there on Twitter, and @dgcampagna told me she likes bringing her kids to the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum and the Ethel M Chocolates factory tour, among other places.

Vegas is on my bucket list. I’m not much of a gambler, but Matt likes a poker game. His dream is to enter a tournament and become the next World Poker Tour champion. Sorry, we don’t have an extra $10K lying around for the buy-in. Regardless, we hope to get there someday.

This month’s guest post was written by someone who did get there recently. I met Lexy at the 2010 BlogHer conference. She’s a super-friendly, travel-savvy blogger over at KissMyCountry.com. During a girlfriends’ weekend, she discovered Bonanza Gifts, the World’s Largest Gift Shop. I can only imagine the delightful, large-scale cheesiness of this Vegas souvenir store, but she experienced it firsthand! Lucky.

Gift ShopWhere we went, and who was coerced into going:
During our recent Girl’s Weekend in Las Vegas, my friend Ursula and I visited Bonanza Gifts, located on The Strip across the street from The Sahara hotel and casino.  Ursula actually volunteered to come along to buy gifts for her children– no coercing.  I was glad for the company.  We took a cab and arrived pretty quickly – the Strip was empty on the Saturday morning we’d earmarked for our visit.

Why did you go there, exactly?
I know Traci from BlogHer ’10, love her blog, and since I was headed to Vegas I asked if there was any “largest whatever” in Vegas that I could visit on her behalf.  Traci came up with the gift shop and the World’s Largest Gold Nugget at the Golden Nugget Casino.  I chose the gift shop because I’m a gift shop fanatic, leaving the Nugget for another fan.

Slot machine

What kid doesn't need a slot machine squirt toy?

Okay, what was so cool about it?
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World’s Largest Disney Store, New York, NY


Disney castle

You are now entering...the Princess Zone!

IT’S DISNEY GIVEAWAY DAY! But first, the post…

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

There’s a reason the sale of psuedoephedrine-laced cough medication is regulated. It can make you do crazy things. Case in point: suffering from a sinus infection, and self-medicating with Advil Cold & Sinus, I made the decision to drag everyone into NYC recently to check out the brand new Disney store…in Times Square…one week after it opened. I took leave of my senses, and I’m blaming it on pharmacology.

It’s the world’s largest Disney store, but as I found out from a “Cast Member,” it’s not as big as the “World of Disney” store in Orlando. They are different companies, so the distinction is made.

Bonus: After our expedition, nourishment was in order, so we ended up at Applebee’s. Turns out, the Times Square location is the world’s largest Applebee’s!

WHY did you go there, exactly?

Actually, we were going to the upper west side anyway, because The Girl and I had tickets for Angelina Ballerina, the Musical. The Girl imagines herself to be a dainty ballerina type. Taller, louder, and more in-your-face than all the other three-year olds in Miss Tanya’s “Combo” dance class, she obviously has an active imagination.

The boys went to check out the Quidditch World Cup, then came to pick us up after the show. When I said to Matt, “let’s go down to Times Square,” he acquiesced, knowing I was on medication and fearing the unknown.

We found free, on-street parking on 45th street–a sign that it was meant to be. We entered, squeezed our way through throngs of people, and applied the Death Grip to The Girl’s hand so she wouldn’t get lost.

Disney store

A Jessie doll? Why yes, I would be interested in purchasing that. How did you know?

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Any Disney fan will lose their mind in this place. There are two floors with floor-to-ceiling merchandise; everything from toys to apparel. The displays are so endearing, the décor so magical, the staff so friendly…all the necessary elements to separate you from your money.

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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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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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