A concrete jungle is probably the first image that comes to mind when you think of New York, but what most visitors to the Big Apple don’t know is that there are thousands of incredible destinations worth visiting spread all over the Empire State.
New York State is home to amazing sights and destinations you’re very unlikely to find anywhere else in the world, let alone the country. If you’re willing to venture outside its most popular tourist spots, you’ll be in for a true treat when visiting this wondrous state.
From the world’s largest kaleidoscope to abandoned castles standing on enchanting islands, here’s a list of some of the most unique places in New York you probably don’t know exist!
Unique Places to Visit in New York State You May Not Know Exist
1. Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island
Sitting in the middle of the Hudson River, Pollepel Island may sound like just another island in the valley, but it’s actually the setting of one of the most mesmerizing castle ruins in North America!
Originally built as a warehouse meant to store military supplies, Bannerman Castle was partly destroyed during an explosion. Despite the accident, the castle’s ruins still remain as dreamy as ever, making them one of the most enchanting New York landmarks guaranteed to make you feel as though you’re walking inside a fairytale!
Getting to Pollepel Island is possible if you consider yourself a pro at kayaking, but the absolute best way to visit it is by treating it as a day trip and booking a cruise and walking tour of the island. If you like unique activities, the castle hosts movie and theatre nights!
2. Eternal Flames Falls
While its name may sound a bit cheesy, it’s actually quite a literal way to describe Eternal Flames Falls. Set inside Chestnut Ridge State Park in western New York, this waterfall hides a grotto that emits a natural light, creating a natural flame that’s lit almost year-round and is visible behind the fall’s drape of cascading water.
3. Kaatskill Kaleidoscope
Ever wondered what walking inside a kaleidoscope would feel like? If you haven’t really thought about it, I bet you’re doing so now!
Standing at 60 feet tall and boasting a diameter of 37.5 feet, Kaatskill is the biggest kaleidoscope on the entire planet. This psychedelic-looking attraction is located in the town of Mount Tremper, right next to the Emerson Resort & Spa.
Not only is the structure itself as dreamy as it can get, but you can actually go inside the kaleidoscope and walk around a mystifying spectacle of colors and shapes, an experience that is guaranteed to leave you awestruck.
4. Green Lakes State Park
Sitting a stone’s throw away from the town of Fayetteville, Green Lakes State Park is what can be considered a hidden gem in New York and a spot anyone who loves nature needs to visit at least once!
Boasting bold kool-aid blue waters, the two glacial lakes at Green Lakes State Park are a sight anyone visiting New York should witness. Swimming outside of carefully designated spots is not allowed due to the coral that lives at the bottom of the lakes, but visitors can spend their time here exploring the lakes on a boat.
Moreover, hiking is another prime activity at Green Lakes, with a wide menu of trails available, all of which guarantee amazing views of the lakes as well as the dreamy forest that surrounds them!
5. Herkimer Diamond Mines
If finding your very own diamond was your childhood dream, Herkimer Diamond Mines can very well make it come true!
Okay, they’re not ACTUAL diamonds, but the shiny quartz crystals at this mine are as close as you can get to them. During your visit to Herkimer, you’ll get to go on a scavenger hunt in search of these gems, and anything you find, you get to keep!
After you’ve found enough crystals, you can join one of the workshops available at the visitor center, where you’ll learn how to make your own jewelry. This isn’t only a fun activity to top off your visit, but it’s also a way to honor the Native Mohawk people who once resided in the area – they used these gems to create jewelry, tools, and various other items!
6. Boldt Castle
Set on an island over the Saint Lawrence River, Boldt Castle is one of the most enchanting sights in New York.
Originally built by millionaire George Boldt for his wife, the castle is a half-finished mansion abandoned after he became a widower. Even though the building wasn’t completed, its abandoned ruins will remind you of a storybook castle!
7. Belhurst Castle
Love experiences guaranteed to leave you aghast? If a night spent at a haunted castle has always been an item on your bucket list, you can cross it off right in New York!
Belhurst Castle is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the entire state, and you can actually stay for a night here if you dare. Originally home to a casino and a speakeasy, the castle was the setting of many untimely deaths, including that of a man on the run, as well as Isabella, an opera star who passed away near its grounds.
Sightings of Isabella’s ghost have been reported countless times, be it inside the rooms as well as near the lake and on the lawn. Moreover, guests have reported hearing screams from children as well as objects being flown around all over the place!
Hopefully, this list of some of the most unique places to visit in New York State helped you plot a truly unusual itinerary. Even though there are countless destinations worth visiting all over the state, these ones are a great place to start exploring the Empire State’s lesser-known side!
Have you ever visited any of these unique destinations in New York? Which one was your favorite? Let us know all about your time there in the comment section below!
More Tips For Planning Your Trip To New York
- Starting your journey in NYC? Not exactly the cheapest place to visit, but we’ve found the best things to do for free with kids in New York City!
- Looking to escape the big smoke, these are most incredible day trips you can take from NYC – many won’t even require a car!
- Keeping beyond the city and behind the wheel, here’s where you’ll find the most incredible scenic dries in New York state!
- Seeking out a nature escape? These are the best places to connect with nature in New York
- Looking for a colorful weekend outing? Why not find one of New York’s Best Sunflower Fields?
- Never forget an important road tripping item again! Before you hit the road, grab our downloadable list of road trip essentials for your next family road trip.
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