While the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New York is probably sky-high buildings and some of the most iconic landmarks in the world.
The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park are all well-known destinations for tourists and locals alike. But New York’s beauty doesn’t stop there! If you venture outside The Big Apple, you’ll find a ton of gems spread all over the state.
Seriously, New York State brims with incredible sights and attractions you’re very likely not to find anywhere else in the country, and exploring New York beyond its most famous magnets is something no visitor has ever regretted doing.
9 Unique Places in New York State to Visit
From castle ruins sitting on eerie islands to a psychedelic walk inside the largest kaleidoscope in the world, here are some of the most unique places in New York State you may have never heard of!
Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island
Pollepel may sound like just another island on the Hudson River, but it actually homes one of the most incredible castle ruins in the entire Americas.
Once an old warehouse built to store military supplies, Bannerman’s Castle is one of New York’s most beautiful landmarks today.
While a big part of the complex was destroyed during an explosion, the castle’s ruins look as beautiful as ever. The easiest way to get to see Bannerman Castle is by booking a cruise and walking tour of the island, but if you consider yourself skilled enough, you can actually kayak your way there!
Moreover, the castle also hosts movie and theatre nights for a truly unique activity.
At 60 feet tall, Kaatskill is the largest kaleidoscope in the entire world, making it a must on your New York bucket list!
Located right next to the Emerson Resort & Spa, this gorgeous psychedelic-looking gem overlooks the quaint town of Mount Tremper.
Visitors can enter the kaleidoscope and walk inside it, a truly mesmerizing experience that will have you wondering if you’ve been somehow transported into a wonderland of striking colors and patterns!
Eternal Flames Falls
While New York State has an array of much taller waterfalls, Eternal Flames Falls is quite likely the most special of them all.
Located in Chestnut Ridge Park in the western part of the state, this unique waterfall hides a grotto behind it that emits a natural gas that lights a natural flame almost year-round (hence its name!)
Green Lakes State Park
Set near the town of Lafayetteville in Central New York, Green Lakes State Park is home to two gorgeous glacial lakes whose waters come in striking kool-aid blue tones.
While swimming is only allowed on designated spots in order to protect the coral in the lakes, Green Lakes State Park is a dream for hiking, with an array of trails featuring gorgeous views of the lakes and the idyllic forest that surrounds them.
Boating and camping are favorite activities here during the summer, while winter brings in lots of fun in the snow activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing!
Herkimer Diamond Mines
Ever dreamed of finding your own diamonds? If a day spent treasure hunting sounds like your jam, Herkimer Diamond Minds provides just that experience!
As one of the most unique spots in upstate New York, this mine doesn’t actually contain diamonds, but its quartz crystals look as close as they can do it. While here, you’ll get to scavenge the area in search of them, and yep, anything you can find during your visit, you’re free to keep!
Back in time, Native Mohawk people used these crystals to create jewelry and various tools. In order to keep the history of the land alive, there are several workshops you can join after the crystal hunt where you’ll get to learn how to make your own jewelry and gifts to bring back home.
Sitting on Heart Island in the Thousand Islands region in New York, Boldt Castle is actually a half-finished mansion that was built by millionaire George Boldt for his wife, Louise.
The extensive building was actually left incomplete and abandoned for seventy years after the death of his wife, but its remains are as dreamy as ever and may just remind you of an enchanted castle!
Visiting the castle and the island it stands on is easy, with several boat tour operators providing transport to Heart Island from Alexandria Bay.
During your visit, you’ll get to explore the mansion’s ruins, the island, and even get to set a picnic table up to enjoy a lunch surrounded by gorgeous views of a sleepy fairytale castle and the St Lawrence River.
Love haunted experiences? If you’re looking for a place guaranteed to leave you aghast, spending a night at Belhurst Castle is sure to please.
Once a casino and a speakeasy, Belhurst Castle was witness to many deaths, including a man who died of poisoning while running away from the law and Isabella, an opera star who died in the underground passage nearby.
Guests have reported seeing the ghost of Isabella all over the place, including the castle’s windows, the lawn, and along the shores of the lake. Sightings of other specters have also been reported, as well as screams from children and objects flying around!
Whether you’re just curious or just don’t believe, spending a night at Belhurst Castle is an experience you won’t soon forget!
New York Renaissance Faire
Love a good adventure? If a trip to a time when knights and princesses roamed the land sounds like your jam, head out to New York’s Ren Faire!
Located in Tuxedo, this time-traveling experience recreates a medieval village where patrons can taste delicious foods, join thrilling games, and partner up with a beautiful maiden or a dashing hero for an afternoon of fun.
Enjoying the colorful sunsets over Cayuga Lake is enough to make anyone want to visit this lake. Located in Ithaca, New York, there are several ways to enjoy the beauty of this lake, including kayaking and renting a boat.
If you like more laid-back activities, ones that don’t require a lot of physical effort, why not try a glass or two of the local wine, there are several wineries to visit, as well as four distilleries, a cidery, and a meadery.
Ready to plan an unforgettable trip to New York State? I hope this list of the most unique places in New York helped you plan a super unusual itinerary through the state.
Even though there are plenty more on the repertoire, these spots, in particular, stand high above the crowds when it comes to providing a truly unique experience in the Empire State!
What are some other unique places in New York worth mentioning on the list? If you know of any others, feel free to drop them in the comment section below!