We like things big in America and we certainly like to boast about it. Superlatives reign supreme in this listing of the biggest of their kind in the country (and sometimes in the world). Natural and man-made, they range from stunning to downright awesome.
For some it is their worst nightmare, while for others the thought of navigating through the biggest mall is America is a dream come true. Just outside Minneapolis, the Mall of America (www.mallofamerica.com) has long held the reputation for being the largest mall in America with its 500 stores (the Eastwood Mall in Youngstown, OH is reportedly larger in square footage). Within the mall you'll find luxury brands like Burberry, TUMI and Coach alongside mall department stores including Sears, Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom and hundreds of fashion, electronics, beauty and retail outlets. For entertainment there's a Nickelodeon Universe theme park (billed as the largest indoor family theme park in America), a 14-screen movie theater, an aquarium, a miniature golf course and the LEGO Imagination Center. And just in case the mood takes you, there's a wedding chapel and hotels to spend your wedding night. In a global context, Mall of America is dwarfed by several huge shopping complexes in China, Philippines and Dubai, boasting up to 1,500 stores.
Biggest Candy Store
Daffin's (www.daffins.com) boasts that it is the world's largest candy store and at 20,000 square-feet (plus a 30,000 square foot candy factory in the neighboring town of Farrell), who are we to argue with them. You can take a factory tour (call tel. 877/323-3465 for reservations at east two weeks in advance) or just visit the delectable store with its miles of displays of gum drops, licorice, jelly beans, salt water taffy and old-fashioned candies. The store's "Chocolate Kingdom" is a room full of chocolate sculptures including large chocolate animals, two large castles, and an entire miniature village with chocolate houses, a Ferris wheel and railroads. Highlights are a 400-pound chocolate turtle, a giant kangaroo, a 125-pound chocolate reindeer and a 75-pound chocolate frog. There are plenty of samples and delicious goods to be purchased at both the factory and the store, located about 75 miles north of Pittsburgh. Admission is free but obviously you'll want to purchase some candy.
There is still some question as to whether this massive granite rock is indeed the biggest, but Stone Mountain (www.stonemountainpark.com), located just outside Atlanta lays claim to this title. Known now as a "theme park," Stone Mountain is Georgia's most visited site and the highlight is the natural attraction of the rock itself, which is over five miles in circumference at its base and 1,686 feet high. Its Confederate Memorial Carving depicting President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson (started by the same sculptor as Mt Rushmore but completed by another) is the biggest bas-relief carving in the world, some three acres in size, located 400 feet above the ground. Aside from the rock, visitors can travel to the top of the mountain on the Summit Skyride, hike trails, experience views of Atlanta, watch a laser show, take a Ducks tour, ride the Scenic Railroad around the mountain, visit historic buildings, play Mini-Golf, cruise around Stone Mountain Lake on a paddlewheel riverboat or watch a 4D movie. Park entrance fees are $8 per vehicle.
Classifying which waterfall is the biggest in the U.S. is difficult, mainly because so many different sites lay claim to the honor. If by biggest we mean tallest, then Colonial Creek Falls in Washington appears to be the winner despite most people's belief that it is Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California. The problem seems to be in the measurement as Colonial Creek has never been accurately measured but only estimated at approximately 2,600 feet. The falls are located near Diablo Lake, within North Cascades National Park and can be seen from three vantage points -- the Ross Dam trailhead less than a mile east of John Pierce Falls along Highway 20; on the east end of the Thunder Arm Bridge over Diablo Lake, just east of the Colonial Creek campground; or from the Colonial Creek basin, about one mile above US 20. There is no entrance fee to visit the park. Then there are also the three huge waterfalls (Olo'upena Falls, at 2953 feet, Pu'uka'oku Falls at 2756 feet -- both located on the northern shore of Molokai, and Waihilau Falls, at 2600 feet, located in the Waimanu Valley on the Big Island) in Hawaii. All are taller than the mainland falls but appear to only flow during the rainy season and with far less volume so are not usually recognized as the biggest.
Using volume as a measure rather than actual height, the massive General Sherman (www.nps.gov/archive/seki/shrm_pic.htm) is not only the biggest tree in the world and the tallest Giant Sequoia tree, coming in at a whopping 52,500 cubic feet, but it is also considered the largest living thing in the world. The tree, named after General William Tecumseh Sherman, the great American Civil War leader, is located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park, California and is thought to be about 2,500 years old. General Sherman also boasts a height of 295 feet and a 103 foot circumference on the ground. If you are after the tallest, than it's not too far to drive to Redwood National Park (www.nps.gov/redw), near Eureka, CA, the home of a tree named Hyperion, which measures a touch over 378 feet high). Entry to Sequoia National Park, which also includes Kings Canyon and the Hume Lake District of Sequoia National Forest is $20 per vehicle or $10 per person on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or bus.
Built in 1802 and standing some 198 feet high including its lightning rods and flag, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (www.nps.gov/caha) is America's tallest. During the Civil War, the lighthouse was attacked by both Union and Confederate armies and it remains a symbol of the country's maritime history. The beacon from the light can be seen up to 20-miles out to sea and watches over the notorious and treacherous Diamond Shoals, on the outer banks of the North Carolina coast, widely known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic where hundreds of ships have sunk over the centuries. Maintained by the National Park Service, the striped landmark is a popular visitor attraction and forms part of the protected National Seashore of North Carolina. The lighthouse is open from the third Friday in April (April 17 in 2009) through Columbus Day (October 12, 2009) and visitors can climb the 248 iron spiral stairs to the top. Climbing tour tickets are $7 for adults and $3.50 for senior citizens and children (12 and under, and at least 42 inches tall). There are spectacular views from the top.
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