A road trip is always a good time, but it’s especially sweet when there are unusual stops along the way. The Empire State delivers, with these awesome road trip stops that will definitely add a little zing to your travels.
Cherry Valley, NY
Those cruising down historic Route 20 in Otsego County are in for a treat: Not only will they find all sorts of gifts and novelties in the vintage Tepee, they will also enjoy a breathtaking view of the Adirondacks. Hungry travelers will be satisfied too, thanks to Tepee Pete’s Chuck Wagon and his “almost famous” chili. Built in 1950 as a souvenir shop for turnpike travelers, today the iconic shape and rich history makes the Tepee a can’t-miss slice of Americana.
Howes Cave, NY
Discovered in 1928 by a pair of cows (who presumably did not survive their adventure), Secret Caverns is a goldmine of exploration for those who want something a little off the beaten tourist path. Colorful signs lead visitors to the caves, where they are allowed to actually touch the cave walls and artifacts during their underground tour. Come to see the 100-foot underground waterfall, hang around to enjoy the lodge and leave with memories of a strange, wonderful place.
Known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, the Ausable Chasm has been thrilling visitors since 1870. This two-mile sandstone gorge now offers a wealth of fun for those who love physical activity. Indulge in a day or two of rappelling, rock climbing, tubing, disc golf, biking and more. Those who prefer something a bit more sedentary can enjoy the day, night or winter tours before exploring the extensive gift shop. Cabins and a campground round out the experience for those who want to make this a destination, not just a quick road trip stop.
Many who are drawn to Cooperstown for the famous Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum wind up staying to enjoy The Farmer’s Museum. The museum is filled with over 23,000 artifacts that showcase the history of farming in the New York area and beyond. Programs for adults and children alike are always changing, but there are some staples that everyone will enjoy, such as viewing of the Cardiff Giant, riding the Empire State Carousel, and exploring Lippitt Farmstead, a working example of a farm in the mid-19th century.
Built in 1931 as a shop to sell ducks and duck eggs, the Big Duck on Long Island is an eye-popping sight. Standing 20 feet tall, the mighty duck is made with mostly Portland Cement, has Ford Model T taillights for eyes and proudly claims a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. This prime example of novelty architecture invites visitors to pause and reflect on the craziness of some advertising attempts – and of course, marvel at how well this one turned out. The shop is still in operation, now selling all sorts of souvenirs with a duck theme.
Hudson Highlands State Park, NY
“Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” doesn’t sound like a great road trip destination, but wait until you see it. Known as Bannerman Castle, this behemoth of a building sits on an island in the middle of the Hudson River and was once an enormous storage complex for military surplus goods. A series of misfortunes through the 1900s gradually led the castle to ruin, but today hard-hat walking tours from May to October allow curious visitors to explore what’s left of this once majestic Scottish castle on the Hudson.
Lake George, NY
Looking for a family fun park that delights adults and children alike? Magic Forest in Lake George is the place to be. Designed specifically for toddlers, preschoolers and other youngsters as well as their doting family members, Magic Forest offers a wealth of playgrounds, animals to pet and feed, 25 rides for kids and adults, magic shows, a safari of animal statues and even an interactive “Fairy Tale Trail.” And why not take the time to see the Horse Diving Show, featuring the last diving horse in the country? It’s magic for all ages.
Ever wanted to mine your own diamonds? Now you can. At Herkimer Diamond Mines, visitors can jump into the surface mine with a hammer and eye protection and begin pounding away at the grey rock – and eventually, they just might wind up with a double-terminated quartz crystal. It’s entirely possible to work up a big appetite while mining, so there are three dining options available, as well as plenty of lodging for the weary prospector. This reasonably-priced fun for kids and adults alike is a unique way to explore the quirky side of our natural world.
Whiteface Mountain is the fifth tallest in the Adirondacks, and the view from the top is truly a sight to behold. But how does a person get there? It starts with driving up the majority of the mountain, then parking and taking the famous Whiteface Mountain Steps to the top. The steps were created of cement and stone, and with the help of handrails, allow the adventurous to climb up the last bit of mountain to the breathtaking summit. The steps might not be easy to climb – in other words, this isn’t the best stop for kids – but the views are worth the struggle.
On Route 11 in upstate New York, there is a giant Lifesaver roll standing right in the middle of town. Seriously. The size of a typical car, this Lifesaver roll was erected in honor of E.J. Nobel, the man behind the iconic Lifesaver candy. Originally a decoration for the Lifesavers factory in Port Chester, NY, the statue was given to the town of Gouverneur when the factory closed. Though there is little pomp and circumstance around it, the town itself is a great place to stretch your legs while you stare in awe at the big Lifesavers roll.