I ‘m excited to have my first guest blogger! Traci Suppa of Go Big or Go Home shares my affinity the superlative places and very big things that I put on my 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12! list. She’s got a fantastic blog following her families travels to visit said places, a few of which she recounts here- Enjoy!
High and Low and Away We Go!
I have a strange affection for quirky roadside attractions. The bigger, the better. My unfortunate family falls victim to the road trips I organize seeking sites claiming to be the “biggest,” “largest,” or “tallest” in the state, country, and even the world. Over time, they have come to enjoy, or at least tolerate, these fun outings full of great photo ops.
Generally, and expectedly, most of the sites we’ve seen are offbeat, and lowbrow. A few standouts, however, do earn marks in the highbrow category for their educational or spiritual character. On both extremes, these are the places which have really captivated my 10-year old son and 3-year old daughter.
The Largest Buddha in the Western Hemisphere, Carmel, NY
The largest Buddha statue in the western hemisphere rests in situ at the tranquil Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, a mere 20 minutes from our house.The monastery, belonging to the Buddhist Association of the United States, is a collection of seven Asian-style buildings seemingly out of place in this New York suburb, but lovely nonetheless.
Our mother-son adventure began by following a stone path lined with statues of Buddha’s chubby, bald disciples up to the Great Buddha Hall. We removed our shoes, entered, looked up, and gaped. At 37-feet tall, the “Great Buddha Vairocana” sits serenely in lotus pose, commanding the silent respect of the 10,000 small Buddha statues encircling him. Filled with brilliant daylight, the spacious hall provides an unobstructed, pillar-free view — an architectural homage to the Tang Dynasty.
We availed ourselves of the free literature in the back of the room, and left a small donation. My son was thrilled with his colorful Chinese bookmarks, and even took a small book about Buddhism so he could learn more about it.
World’s Largest Light Bulb, Edison, NJ
A monumental replica of Thomas Edison’s first practical incandescent bulb, the world’s largest light bulb is nearly 14 feet of Pyrex glass segments. It sits on top of the 117-foot concrete Memorial Tower at the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park, and was built in 1937 by former Edison employees. While you’re here, devote 30-60 minutes to visiting the adjoining museum, where you can see historic photographs, early light bulbs and other inventions, and even listen one of Edison’s phonographs.
Edison’s laboratory was located on this tract of land from 1879-1884, before he moved to a more well-known site in West Orange, NJ. Still in his 20’s and relatively unknown during his time here, Edison was already churning out patents at the unbelievable pace of a sheer genius. Besides the phonograph and the light bulb, he came up with 400 other patents.
History museums can be hit-or-miss with kids, but this site delivered an accessible and engaging experience. The highlight? When our guide played an antique phonograph just for us. Even my pre-schooler stood still long enough to listen to the scratchy melody. Getting that little first-hand taste of history was well worth the trip.
Traci L. Suppa has a strange compulsion for roadside attractions. She drags her small-town family to see the world’s largest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or GO Home. http://GoBIGorGoHomeblog.com