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Quirky New York State Facts & Attractions

Published: Feb 27, 2014

When most people think of New York State, attractions like Niagara Falls, the wine trails of Hudson Valley & Finger Lakes and treasures like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown come to mind. What they may not realize is that New York is also home to an array of unusual tourist attractions, several of which are highlighted below.

  • World's Smallest Church, Oneida: Built in 1989, Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York sits on a wooden platform in the center of a pond and is accessible only by boat. A billboard near the road details everything you need to know: "Built in 1989. Floor area 51 inches by 81 inches (28.68 square feet). Seats two people. Non-denominational. Dedicated as a witness to God."

It has served as a chapel for numerous weddings, only accommodating the Minister, Bride and Groom. The wedding party attended the service by surrounding the chapel in boats.

  • The World's Largest Kaleidoscope: Located within the Emerson Country Store in Mt. Tremper, America's Largest Kaleidoscope has been mesmerizing guests since 1996.  The silo is over 56 feet tall and is a multi-media presentation that wows audiences with brilliant moving images and theater-quality sound.  The overall kaleidoscope concept was designed by award winning kaleidoscope artist Charles Karadimos.  The specially-created video used as the imagery for the kaleidoscope was designed by Isaac Abrams, a pioneer in the psychedelic art movement of the 60's, and his son, Raphael, a computer artist. Accompanying the visuals is a musical score by Gary Burke, a local composer and drummer who has worked with Frances Ford Coppola and Bob Dylan.  Listen for hints of folk, jazz, big band, psychedelic rock and patriotic grandeur.
  • JELL-O Museum: In 1897 in Le Roy, New York,  JELL-O was invented when Pearle Wait, a carpenter in LeRoy, was experimenting with gelatine and came up with the fruit flavoured dessert, which his wife May, named JELL-O.

Le Roy is now home to the JELL-O Museum. Follow the JELL-O Brick Road inside this former academic building and you'll find things like the 20 original JELL-O oil paintings done in the 1920s, photos of the original JELL-O girl, JELL-O spoons, JELL-O paddles, JELL-O key chains, JELL-O shorts, JELL-O canvas bags and you guessed it, many more JELL-O items. You can watch a video tracing the marketing of this dessert for 100 years playing advertising jingles Jack Benny (JELL-O's pitchman in the 1930s) expounds the virtues of this "red letter" dessert. That's why JELL-O boxes have red lettering.

  • World's Largest Pancake Griddle: This 27-foot steel kitchen utensil adorns the Birkett Mills building on Main Street in Penn Yan, New York. In 1987, Birkett Mills greased the surface, hoisted it over a fire and cooked what the Guinness Book confirmed to be the largest buckwheat pancake in history. They mixed the batter in a cement mixer and flipped it with a crane.
  • The Big Duck: One of Long Island's most famous roadside attractions is The Big Duck, a ferrocement building in the shape of a duck located in Flanders, New York. It was originally built in 1931 by duck farmer Martin Maurer in nearby Riverhead, and used as a shop to sell ducks and duck eggs. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. It is a principal building on the Big Duck Ranch, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Roadside architecture designed to promote what is sold inside is now commonly known as "Duck Architechture", in honor of the whimsical grand-daddy of them all. Now the big duck, where a local farmer used to sell eggs, etc., is a popular spot to stop on the way out to the famous Hamptons, and inside you'll find all sorts of duck souvenirs.
  • Powder Mill Park in Perinton, just southeast of the city of Rochester, is notable for its history. It was originally a hidden location where gunpowder, dynamite, and artillery shells were manufactured by the Acadia Power Company. While that interesting tidbit speaks to the fact that this area has always had a weird element, there is something in the park today that is a much more visceral representation of how strange the place can get. There is a private residence at 142 Park Road that rises above a stream at the Powder Mills Park entrance that has come to be a head-scratcher of a sight for generations of people who have grown up in the surrounding area. Visible from the road, the abode appears to be a number of mushrooms growing out of the wooded hillside. The Mushroom House consists of a series of pod units, which look similar to lily pads from beneath, that are suspended on stem-like stilts. There are even underground pods, a car-pod garage, and a mosaic-lined inter-pod tunnel.
  • Rochester is known as both the Flour City and the Flower City. The community is home to the first abolitionist group, bloomers, marshmallows, Jell-O, French's Mustard, baby shoes, gold teeth and the mail chute.
  • The 641 mile transportation network known as the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway is the longest toll road in the United States.
  • The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair was actually held in Bethel.
  • Dairying is New York's most important farming activity with over 18,000 cattle and or calves farms.
  • Chittenago is the home of L. Frank Baum, author of the "Wizard of Oz". It features a yellow brick inlaid sidewalks leading to Aunti Em's and other Oz-themed businesses. Chittenago is the location of an annual Munchkins parade.
  • Hartsdale has a pet cemetery established in 1896 and containing 12,000 plots.
  • The Catskills are the home of the legend of Rip Van Winkle, brown trout and flycasting.
  • The Genesee River is one of the few rivers in the world that flows south to north.
  • The oldest cattle ranch in the US was started in 1747 at Montauk on Long Island.
  • Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Olympic Parks combined.
  • Niagara Reservation became the first state park in the United States.
  • New York State is home to 58 species of wild orchids.
  • New York has over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams.
  • Horseheads is the first and only village in the United States dedicated to the service of the American military horse.

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