Home Travel Unique and Unusual Things to See and Do in New York State

Unique and Unusual Things to See and Do in New York State

by Ohio Digital News

Expect the unexpected when you explore New York State’s mysterious marvels. The best slice of pizza might just be waiting for you in the concourse of a NYC subway station. Your new favorite concert venue could be a cement mine in the Hudson Valley. Get wrapped up in your first mummy experience in Central NY. There is no shortage of unique and unusual things to see and do in New York, so get out and discover!

Delectable Diversions

Trinity Place (Manhattan)

Wine and dine in a restaurant and bar built inside a turn-of-the-century Wall Street bank vault commissioned by none other than Andrew Carnegie. Advertised in 1904 as the world’s largest and strongest bank vault, Trinity Place is now a place for fine dining and libation befitting Manhattan’s Financial District, where modern American cuisine meets Old World splendor.

See No Evil Pizza (Manhattan)

On the concourse level of the 1 train station at 50th Street and Broadway, you’ll find gourmet pizza in an unassuming location. See No Evil Pizza offers an aesthetically appealing environment consisting of a bar and open kitchen that serves up 12-inch varieties of pizza crafted from three-day fermented dough made with artisanal flour from Italy.

Nōksu (Manhattan)

Underneath Koreatown within Manhattan’s subway system you’ll find a MICHELIN Star-trained chef operating a high-end seafood and sushi venue. Located in a secret space protected by a key code, each dish is perfectly paired with a cocktail or mocktail, all over a chef’s counter. The menu features a popular and picturesque sunflower-shaped surf clam steamed egg, decorated with crispy potatoes and Kaluga caviar.

Alluring Artistry

The World’s Largest Kaleidoscope (Mount Tremper)


Credit: @emersonresort on Instagram

Standing 60-feet-tall, what was once a farm silo has been transformed into the Guinness Book of World Records-certified “World’s Largest Kaleidoscope.” Through tapered mirrors, the Kaleidoshow images are transformed into fractal figures and the storytelling begins, accompanied by surround sound and an original score. The current Kaleidoshow is called “The Earth Laughs in Flowers” and pays homage to the colorful, vibrant flower and plant life native to the Emerson Resort & Spa grounds, where the kaleidoscope resides.

Union Church of Pocantico Hills (Pocantico Hills)

Union Church

Photo Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

Art enthusiasts will be drawn to a tiny church near Sleepy Hollow, known as Union Church of Pocantico Hills. The church contains Henri Matisse’s last work, the “Rose Window,” and nine windows by Marc Chagall.

House of Guitars (Rochester)

House of Guitars

Photo courtesy of House of Guitars

Rock and roll on over to Rochester to check out the “Largest Guitar Store in the World.” The store was started in the 1960’s out of the basement of a family home and quickly gained fame as an intersection of music, art and culture. Rock legends including Aerosmith, Ozzy Osborne, Cheap Trick, Metallica, and Motley Crue are only a few of the major acts who have shopped (or still shop) at the House of Guitars.

Million Dollar Staircase (Albany)

Million Dollar Staircase

Credit: @discoveralbany on Instagram

444 steps adorn the Million Dollar Staircase in the NYS Capitol building, with 77 famous faces carved throughout. The cost of the staircase was $1.5 million dollars and it took 14 years to complete. The roster or honorees carved into the staircase include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Abraham Lincoln.

Spectacles in Nature

Eternal Flame Falls (Orchard Park)

Eternal flame at chestnut ridge_Bob Lennartz

Credit: Bob Lennartz

Take a one-mile round-trip hike in Orchard Park to one of Greater Niagara’s most picturesque (and Insta-famous) spots. Eternal Flame Falls, found in Chestnut Ridge Park, is a 35-foot rushing waterfall, scenic in its own right, but not-so-hidden in one of its grottos is a small flickering flame about 8 inches high. The cause and continuation of the eternal flame remains a mystery today.

Overlook Mountain House (Woodstock)

Overlook mountain house in autumn

Credit: Marie Frei

3,140 feet above Woodstock is where you’ll find the Overlook Mountain House ruins. This once grand resort, went up in flames just a few years after it was  constructed in 1871 to service New York City residents looking for a weekend retreat. After being rebuilt, it burned down a second time in the 1920’s. Attempts were made to rebuild (and fireproof) the structure, but finances ran dry and the venue remained partially-complete from the 1940’s through today. Hikers who trek the 4.6-mile out-and-back trail to the top of Overlook Mountain can explore the historic ruins as they summit.

Taconic Sculpture Park (Chatham)

Taconic Sculpture Park

If you’re traveling along the Taconic and think you spot a giant, stone head perched on the hillside… you’re absolutely right. The Taconic Sculpture Park is a 3-acre, 30+ marble and limestone sculpture gallery in the yard of sculptor Roy Kanwit. The park is open seasonally on weekends, but make sure to contact Roy if you are making a special trip. The remarkable 20-foot head seen from the Taconic is called “Mother Earth” named after the Greek Goddess, Gaea, and you can actually climb inside and on top of it (via a staircase) to take in the surrounding scenery.

Opus 40 (Saugerties)

Opus 40

One of the largest works of art on the continent lives in the quaint town of Saugerties. Opus 40 is a magnificent 6.5-acre environmental bluestone sculpture built from an abandoned quarry. Harvey Fite, the sole creator of this walkable sculpture park, used only hand tools to fit together thousands of stones to form a series of terraces, ramps, and steps, to serve as a showcase for his sculptures. Opus 40 features a calendar full of concerts, film screenings, and festivals, and the surrounding 63 acres of meadows and forested paths frame the sculpture to create stunning scenery.

Widow Jane Mine (Rosendale)

A 19th-century natural cement mine makes a surprisingly ideal performance venue in Rosendale. Widow Jane Mine sits on a 22-acre estate open to the public, and offers a half-mile of mixed surface trails for hiking and dog walking, and is more notably used as a music venue and recording studio. The cavernous room and pillar construction creates a natural amphitheater in the 500 “seat” venue, with amazing acoustics and unobstructed audience views due to the sloping floors. Light filters in from four openings to the outside, and electricity is provided via a generator.

The Smallest Inhabited Island on Earth (Alexandria Bay)

Smallest Island

Credit: @kevinwojcik on Instagram

The appropriately named “Just Room Enough Island” is the smallest inhabited Island in the world, and it just so happens to reside right off of Alexandria Bay. The 3,300-square-foot space is home to precisely one cottage, one tree, and a few outdoor lounge chairs. While you need to know the family in order to get an invite onto the island, you can always see it by boat.

Tree of 40 Fruit (Syracuse)

On the campus of Syracuse University you’ll find a very fruitful oddity. The Tree of 40 Fruit’s branches blossom in different shades of pink, white, and crimson, and from there grow a mix of fruit– up to 40 different varieties! Plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and more can all be found on the single tree. The tree was brought to life by grafting together different branches from different trees, and it was the brainchild of a sculptor and art professor at the university who wanted to create a piece of natural art that would transform itself.

Wolf Conservation Center (South Salem)

Wolf Conservation Center

Howl with excitement when you step into the Wolf Conservation Center. This 26-acre environmental education center in South Salem is home to “ambassador” wolves that are part of its education programs, and critically endangered wolves that are part of a national recovery plan. The nocturnal and fearless can even spend a night Sleeping with Wolves, where guests camp out overnight with the center’s 30+ wolves.

Rare Recreations

Vanderbilt Tennis (Manhattan)

Since 1993, Vanderbilt Tennis Club has been located inside Grand Central Terminal on the 4th floor. This unique club is open to the public and offers a wide range of programs and services both instructional and recreational. 

Frames Bowling Lounge (Manhattan)

Spare a night to check out a hidden gem within the bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal. Frames, a high-end bowling alley and entertainment lounge, features 28 lanes of bowling, a dance club, vintage Rock ‘N Roll inspired karaoke lounge, virtual darts, billiards, laneside dining and drinking.

Skate Bowl at Art Omi (Ghent)

Contemporary art meets action sport at Art Omi. Within the 300-acre open-air sculpture park is a functional skate bowl, designed to exist as both a sculpture and social space for skateboarding, meeting, performances, and more.

Museum Muses

Cazenovia Museum (Cazenovia)

Cazenovia Museum

You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a museum inside of a public library, but that just means you haven’t been to Cazenovia Museum & Public Library! Over its 100 years of existence, the Cazenovia Public Library has acquired a number of collections through generous donations. Perhaps the most enthralling exhibit is “Exploring Egypt” which houses a number of authentic Egyption artifacts, including a complete mummy and its case, several masks, breastplates and sandals, ushabtis, scarabs and other objects.

Vanderbilt Museum & Reichert Planetarium (Centerport)

Vanderbilt Museum

Opulent architecture, stunning waterfront views, and lush grounds complete with a rose garden and reflecting pool are what you’d come to expect from a Vanderbilt home on Long Island’s Gold Coast. At Eagle’s Nest, a sprawling 24-room Spanish Revival mansion that was once the summer home of William K. Vanderbilt II, you’ll find even more. Dive into history at the maritime museum, home to thousands of marine specimens and even a vintage diving suit, and journey through the cosmos at one of the largest and most advanced planetariums in the country.

Wilder Brain Collection (Ithaca)

At its peak, the Wilder Brain Collection in Cornell University comprised up to 1,200 specimens. Now, eight brains sit on display in fluid-filled glass jars, some of which belong to Cornell professors, a suffragist, and Wilder himself (a former Civil War surgeon and one of Cornell’s original faculty members.) Perhaps the most notable brain on display in the collection is that of Edward Rulloff, Ithaca’s infamous 19th-century “genius killer,” whose brain was long believed to be one of the largest ever recorded.

The Met Cloisters (Manhattan)

Exterior of a beige stone corridor surrounding a green garden with pink flowers

Credit: @lifethroughsarahslens on Instagram

In Fort Tryon Park, you’ll find the only museum in the country dedicated to the art of the Middle Ages. The grounds are made up of Medieval-style gardens, chapels, and various galleries that house the 2,000 works of art- each piece created sometime between the 12th-15th centuries. Marvel at beautiful vistas of the Palisades as you stroll the paths overlooking the Hudson River.

Mmuseumm (Manhattan)

Housed in a  former freight elevator shaft in Tribeca, Mmuseumm explores modern humanity and current events through revealing objects from around the world. This tiny space (6 feet wide, 6 feet deep, 6 feet high) features rotating and permanent collections, specializing in the “overlooked, dismissed, or ignored.” Mmuseumm is open to the public for free on the weekends.

Grape Discovery Center (Westfield)

Lake Erie Grape Discovery Center

Discover exhibits and displays that tell the story of more than 150 years of grape-growing. The Chautauqua-Allegheny region is the oldest and largest Concord grape-growing region in the world and the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies. At the center you can taste 100% pure Concord grape juice, wines from Lake Erie Wine Country, and savor even more grape products.

Mark Twain Study (Elmira)

Mark Twain Study

You’ll find something to write home about on the campus of Elmira College, the current residence of Mark Twain’s study. While summering with his family at Quarry Farm in Elmira, Twain spent his days carefully crafting literary masterpieces including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “The Prince and the Pauper” within his octagonal study, built in 1874. Today, Twain and his family rest in peace at the nearby Woodlawn Cemetery.

Lands of Imagination

Star Trek Set (Ticonderoga)

Star Trek Original Series Set Tour

Go “where no man has gone before” in Ticonderoga and visit a re-created Star Trek set that will transport you into the past while simultaneously propelling you into the future. Star Trek fanatic James Cawley began rebuilding the original set in 1997 after acquiring the original show’s blueprints, and the resulting exhibit draws people from all over the globe to live long and prosper during a set tour.

Santa’s Workshop (North Pole)

Village of Lights at the North Pole

One of the first theme parks in America, Santa’s Workshop in North Pole is an amusement park that features daily scheduled shows, carousels and mini roller coasters, and hosts special events throughout the year. Visitors can wander through its vintage Christmas-themed village and interact with Santa’s helpers in the Candy Shop, real-life reindeer, check out Santa’s Bake Shop, Santa’s Toy Shop, the Blacksmith Shop, and more!

The Mini Route 66 (Speculator)

Take a road trip along Route 66 without moving a mile! In the small village of Speculator, you’ll find a collection of tiny buildings, including a general store, service station, church, schoolhouse, post office, ice cream parlor, and even a barbershop. Each structure is just 98-square-feet and all pay homage to scenery along the great American road trip.

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