My Vacation: Amazing Roadside Attractions
After a 17-year career in tourism marketing, Traci L. Suppa, 41, is now a freelance travel writer in New York's Hudson Valley, where she pens the Go BIG or Go Home blog. She chronicles her family's adventures seeking out the "World's Largest" roadside attractions. She set out with her husband, 10-year-old-son and 3-year-old daughter on a road trip from New York to Florida. Suppa shares this report.
Best memory (above): The whole clan, my parents and brother's family included, spent the evening together at Splitsville, a "luxury" bowling alley in Tampa, Fla. At 30 feet high, we saw the world's largest bowling pin. Is there a more compelling symbol of retro Americana? Seeing it was a thrill, but even better was being with my family for a wholesome evening of bowling.
Best moment (above): I loved the afternoon we spent learning how to play shuffleboard -- the right way -- at Mirror Lake, the world's largest shuffleboard club, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Built in 1923, it's also the nation's oldest. The clubhouse, an Art Deco landmark, has so much timeworn charm.
What I learned: There's so much more to Florida than theme parks and beaches. There's history, heritage and culture everywhere. If you purposely veer off the beaten tourist path, you'll find unique and authentic experiences. I'll never forget the time I spent on previous visits to Tampa Bay, canoeing the Hillsborough River and visiting the Greek sponge-diving community of Tarpon Springs.
Best meal (above): I would have loved this paella even if I wasn't eating it at the world's largest Spanish restaurant. The Columbia's original 1905 location is in historic Ybor City, in Tampa's "Latin Quarter," and spans an entire block. Flamenco dance shows are performed twice every night.
Don't miss: I would love to spend an entire day exploring Ybor City, then stay late to participate in the buzzing night life. This is where Cuban immigrants built a home away from home in the early 1900s. If you enjoy cultural and historical immersion, this National Historic Landmark District merits a visit. Tour the Ybor City Museum State Park, then stop for an authentic Cuban sandwich along Seventh Avenue.
Best tip: Don't think of a road trip as just "travel time" from Point A to Point B. Make the journey a part of the trip, stopping along the way at interesting destinations. Let your kids help plan the trip and pick places to go, so they become invested and interested in the process.
Greatest adventure (above): You expect certain things when traveling to Florida (heat, for instance). We visited during the coldest December in local history, which made for quite an adventure riding the Sea Screamer, the world's largest speed boat, which departs from Clearwater Marina. Our beach towels became the only thing stopping us from getting frostbitten.
Most amusing moment (above): We attempted to walk the world's longest continuous sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. But our 3-year-old accidentally rubbed sunscreen into her eye, and high drama ensued. My husband carried her for as long as he could, which wasn't too long.