10 Oversized Water Toys That Are Worth the Splurge

RAVE Sports, Amazon
RAVE Sports, Amazon

Pool floaties are like perennials with air nozzles. Every year, when the weather warms, they emerge from their hibernation in garages and sheds to help us beat the heat in style, whether it's at the pool, the lake, or the beach. If you’re looking to add some new inflatables to your collection this summer, we've got you covered. From floating amusement parks to inflatable livestock, here are 10 oversized water toys you should splurge on.

1. Party Bird Island Flamingo; $172

Sun Pleasure, Amazon

Fun Fact: Real flamingos lose their pink coloration if they stop eating certain foods. Luckily, this 16-foot-by-9-foot balloon version doesn’t need shrimp, larvae, or plankton to stay pretty and pink. Coated in durable vinyl, the buoyant bird can support 1320 pounds while drifting majestically through the waves. The company also makes equally giant peacock and unicorn floats.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Giant Inflatable Pizza Slices; Starting at $21

Swimline, Amazon

Pizza is a pool party staple. Now you can set yourself adrift on a human-sized raft that’s shaped like a gigantic slice of it. The crust doubles as a headrest, and there are cup holders hidden among the—ahem, pineapple-free—toppings. By the way, individual “slices” can be linked together along the edges. Purchase eight rafts for roughly $117, and you’ll have enough to make a full-fledged pizza pie. Mama mia!

Buy it: Amazon or Walmart

3. PVC Water Walking Inflatable Zorb Ball; $163

Preenex, Walmart

Zip across the neighborhood pond without even getting your feet wet. Simply inflate this spherical vessel, open the waterproof zipper, and climb inside. Then make like a hamster and roll over the water’s surface. The ball can bear up to 396 pounds—and there’s an 800-watt inflation device included.

Buy it: Walmart

4. Swimline Floating Inflatable Tiki Bar; $58

VM Express, Walmart

Why go to the tiki bar when the tiki bar can come to you? Swimline’s blow-up taproom has a pair of ice storage bins and half a dozen drink holders to create your own watering hole in the water. Best of all, there’s a 90-by-90-inch canopy that’ll shade you and your buddies while you enjoy your drinks.

Buy it: Walmart

5. RAVE Sports Splash Zone (Plus 12-Foot Water Bouncer); $639

RAVE Sports, Amazon

For just a few hundred dollars, you get a water slide, a balancing log, and a water bouncer (which, unlike a trampoline, doesn’t depend on springs. But don’t worry; you can still do plenty of neat flips on this thing!). Basically, it’s a portable, miniature water park—perfect for lakeside afternoons and family getaways.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Pirate Pong Inflatable Raft; $20

Pong, Amazon

Avast, ye land-lubbers! Feast yer eyes on this buccaneer-themed floating beer pong table. Measuring 6 feet long by 3 feet wide, the sizable inflatable game surface comes with a set of Jolly Roger ping pong balls, making it the perfect accessory for your next summer parrr-ty.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Aquaglide Malibu Island; $400

Aquaglide, Camping World

The Aguaglide Malibu Island, a massive floating lounge space, can seat up to 10 people at a time. The floor acts like a self-contained wade pool, so you can soak your legs without touching any sand, seaweed or aquatic critters. It includes 11 cupholders along with ample basking space for anyone who wants a good tan.

Buy it: Camping World

8. Inflex Inflat-A-Bull; $44

Intex, Amazon

Who’s up for a backyard rodeo? It’ll be tough to keep a straight face when the Inflat-A-Bull crashes your next pool party. Kids and adults alike will get a kick out of riding this thing ‘til the cows come home. Let loose a “Yee-Haw” and let the games begin.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Aquaglide Jungle Jim Water Play Station; $2100

Aquaglide, Overton’s

Inside and out, this pyramid is a treasure. The exterior walls are built for leaping, sliding, and climbing. Meanwhile, the hollow interior has recreation space aplenty—and there’s an opening at the pinnacle that you can climb right through. When fully inflated, the play station measures 6 feet, 9 inches tall.

Buy it: Overton’s

10. Aquaglide Summit Express; $10,000

Aquaglide, Overton’s

Does it come with monkey bars? Check. Climbing walls? Totally. An extra-wide water slide? You bet. Aguaglide’s Summit Express has everything your family could ask for (as you might expect from a $10,000 toy). With its strategically placed climbing steps, you don’t need to be Sir Edmund Hillary to reach the tippity-top, which stands 16 feet above the water’s surface.

Buy it: Overton’s

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Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Illuminating Facts About A Christmas Story's Leg Lamp

It's a Major Award!
It's a Major Award!
Tim Evanson, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

When A Christmas Story was first released in 1983, it was a sleeper that attracted only a small (but quite cultish) following. Over the past three decades, however, the film has steadily become a holiday staple on par with classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947). And as the film itself has grown in popularity, so has one of its most recognizable props: the leg lamp, that glowing gam otherwise known as “A Major Award.”

1. The A Christmas Story leg lamp was inspired by an old-school soft drink.

Before A Christmas Story was a movie, it was a series of short stories that appeared in two different volumes by the late writer and radio personality Jean Shepherd. The books, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters, were fictionalized accounts of Shepherd’s childhood in Depression-era Indiana (though the movie was filmed mostly in Cleveland, Ohio). Shepherd describes the leg lamp and his father’s obsession with it in a 1966 story titled “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.”

According to A Christmas Story House and Museum (yep, there’s an entire museum dedicated to the subject), Shepherd imagined the leg lamp after seeing an illuminated Nehi Soda advertisement, which featured two shapely disembodied legs up to the knee. Shepherd gave cloaked credit to Nehi by writing that the Old Man’s crossword contest was sponsored by an “orange pop” company whose name “was a play on words, involving the lady’s knee.”

When the lamp finally arrives in Shepherd’s essay, he writes, “From ankle to thigh the translucent flesh radiated a vibrant, sensual, luminous orange-yellow-pinkish nimbus of Pagan fire. All it needed was tom-toms and maybe a gong or two. And a tenor singing in a high, quavery, earnest voice: ‘A pretty girl/Is like a melody…’”

2. The A Christmas Story leg lamp was immortalized by production designer Reuben Freed.

Uncertain of just what a leg lamp should look like, A Christmas Story’s production designer Reuben Freed created a quick sketch and showed it to Shepherd, who surprisingly approved it right away. “I immediately thought of something I had seen in my mother’s front room, which was sort of a gold-colored silk lampshade, pleated with fringe around it,” Freed told Cleveland magazine in 2009. “I thought of it immediately and never thought of anything else—just that classic, big ugly shape.”

3. The “original” A Christmas Story leg lamp no longer exists.

Finding an original leg lamp is considered the ultimate feat for A Christmas Story aficionados, Caseen Gaines wrote in A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic. But “the likelihood of finding one is about as great as locating Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle in the basement of the Alamo.” Freed produced three leg lamps for the movie, but none of them survived the production. All three were broken during filming.

4. There’s a simple reason for the typo on the box the A Christmas Story leg lamp is delivered in.

When the leg lamp arrives at Ralphie’s house in the movie, it’s in a crate labeled not only with the infamous “FRAGILE,” but also “HIS END UP.” Though the use of “his” in place of “this” might seem like a subtle joke, the crate was indeed originally labeled “THIS END UP,” but no one had bothered to measure the container before trying to wheel it through the door. Jim Moralevitz, an actor who played one of the leg-lamp delivery guys, told Cleveland’s News-Herald, “I had the pleasure of delivering the major award 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the crate was so wide that it wouldn’t fit through the door. So they called in the carpenters and they took four inches off.”

5. The A Christmas Story leg lamp is big in Cleveland.

Erik Drost, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Because much of A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland, the city has embraced the movie as its own (possibly to the resentment of Shepherd’s native Indiana). In 2013, to celebrate the movie’s 30th anniversary, Terminal Tower in Cleveland’s Public Square was turned into a giant leg lamp, complete with a red garter.

Terminal Tower can be seen, sans leg-lamp accoutrements, in A Christmas Story’s first few opening shots, looming over Higbee’s department store, where Ralphie first spots the coveted Red Ryder BB gun.

6. The A Christmas Story leg lamp is also a big deal in Long Island.

In 2005, the Reichert family, owners of the Northport Hardware Store in Northport, Long Island, got a goofy idea after attending the mayor’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. They browsed through the store’s generous stock of leg lamps, called over some of the guys from the bar next door, and ceremoniously lit one of the lamps in the store’s picture window. Then they all cheered.

Somehow the Reicherts’s lighting of the leg lamp caught on and it has become an annual Northport tradition, though their store no longer hosts the festivities.

7. The A Christmas Story leg lamp is a hit on Halloween.

The leg lamp has become so popular, you can now purchase ready-made Halloween costumes in its likeness. In 2012, Josh Sundquist, a paralympian, motivational speaker, and author who lost his leg to cancer when he was 9 years old, won Halloween when he decided to make his own leg lamp costume. He even shaved his leg for authenticity.

8. The A Christmas Story leg lamp has been a star on the stage.

In 2012, A Christmas Story: The Musical opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater. The leg lamp was celebrated with a kick line—only the Broadway chorus kicked up not only their own legs, but also fishnet-clad leg lamps.

The year before, at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California, the Troubadour Theater Company performed A Christmas Westside Story, a mashup of A Christmas Story and the epic tale of the Sharks and the Jets. What song did the leg lamp get to sing? None other than “I Feel Pretty.”

9. The A Christmas Story leg lamp is a hot commodity.

Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

According to a post-Christmas press release that highlighted Amazon’s seasonal sales in 2012, the online retail giant boasted: “If you stacked every Christmas Story Leg Lamp purchased by Amazon customers this holiday season, the height would reach the top of Mt. Everest.”

10. The A Christmas Story leg lamp gave rise to a hilarious catchphrase.

“Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian!” has graced everything from baby onesies to novelty shirts to kitschy home decor.