The 10 Coolest Roadside Attractions in NY

Eternal Flame Falls by Mpmajewski
Eternal Flame Falls. Photo by Mpmajewski

If you’ve done any traveling in New York, you may have come across roadside attractions. These are oddities that, while not the main reason for visiting a particular place, are immediately eye-catching and usually have an interesting history behind their origins. From giant replicas of people and animals to preserved relics of the past, these are sure to leave an impression on your trip. Want to see some of them? We’ve picked out 10 of the coolest and weirdest roadside attractions in NY for you to keep a lookout for.

Coolest Roadside Attractions in NY: 

1. Cross Island Chapel

Location: Sconondoa Rd, Oneida, New York 13421

Tiny churches aren’t the most uncommon oddity in America, but the Cross Island Chapel takes the title for the world’s smallest. Constructed in 1989, this church takes up roughly 29 feet and rests atop a dock in the middle of Mason’s Pond just outside of the city of Oneida.

Aside from the cross jutting out of the water nearby, there’s no actual island insight. Humorously, the church was used for a wedding back in 1990, and all the guests had to wait on shore while the newlywed couple and minister conducted their processes.

Visitors can request to use the church via the number listed on the nearby sign and reach the chapel by rowboat. It only fits two people comfortably, so be wary if you have a large party with you. Otherwise, it’s a cute roadside attraction and definitely worth a stop to have lunch at and admire from afar.

Watch this video to see it: 

Why you’d be visiting Oneida County: The area is home to the Fort Stanwix National Monument and a few parks, including Pixley Falls, Delta Lake State Park, and Verona Beach State Park.

How to get there: It’s a four and a half-hour drive away from the city, and nearly a five hour trip by train.

2. Secret Caverns

Location: 671 Caverns Rd, Howes Cave, NY 12092

Ever since its discovery by Roger Mallery in 1928, this funky cave has been a destination for underground adventurers and enthusiasts alike. Many see it as a less commercialized and more hands-on experience to its neighbor the Howe Caverns. 

Tours last about an hour and take visitors through a subterranean world of mystifying rock formations and abstract art, all leading up to a magnificent 100-foot waterfall pouring down from the surface. 

Tour guides are described as funny and full of personality, offering both historical information of the area and improvised stories for laughs.

If you’re looking for a small detour while traveling in Schoharie County, Secret Caverns is the spot to check out. Be sure to bring proper footwear in case of slippery surfaces.

Watch this video to see it:

Why you’d be visiting Schoharie County: The area has some nice hikes, including Mine Kill Falls, Vroman’s nose Hiking Trail, and Max v. Shaul Park, as well as the aforementioned Howe Caverns.

How to get there: Going by car takes a little over three hours and is the shortest option. Numerous billboards decorate the side of Caverns road, so it’ll be hard to miss.

3. The Big Duck

Location: 1012 NY-24, Flanders, NY 11901

An iconic landmark of Suffolk County, this souvenir shop is in the shape of a large, Pekin duck. It was built in 1931 by a couple trying to sell their ducks, hoping that the bizarre architecture would attract passersby. 

roadside attractions photo
One of the coolest roadside attractions in NY. Photo by Springfulutopia

The duck was relocated a few times throughout Long Island before settling in its current location. While no longer selling real ducks, the shop does offer a variety of wacky, duck-related merchandise. The staff are also very friendly and provide more information on the duck’s history.

The Big Duck is definitely one of the coolest roadside attractions in NY and a must-see if you’re visiting Long Island, making for an odd but memorable roadside attraction on your trip.

Why you’d be visiting Suffolk County: The area is brimming with parks and lighthouses to explore, including Robert Moses State Park, Fire Island Lighthouse, and Sunken Forest.

How to get there: The drive is a little over an hour and a half across Long Island, while the train and bus take about over three.

4. Scythe Tree

Location: 841 Waterloo- Geneva Rd, Waterloo, NY 13165

This tree may appear as a regular sight at first glance, but in actuality, it’s a historical marker of Waterloo that represents the commitment of a few farmers who went off to war. 

In 1861, James Wyman Johnson hung his scythe and went to fight for the Union in the Civil War. He died before returning, and so his scythe would remain in the tree. Flash forward to 1918 to brothers Raymond and Lynn Schaffe, who also hung their scythes on the same tree when they went off to fight in War World II.

To this day, those scythe blades are still hanging, now embedded by the tree back growing around them. By far the most historical stop on our list and highly recommended to pass by.

Watch this video to learn more:

Why you’d be visiting Seneca County: The area’s got a few cool spots, such as Seneca Caverns, Fostoria Iron Triangle Railpark, and the Howard Collier State Nature Preserve.

How to get there: Driving can take over five hours and bus rides can vary from five to seven hours. The tree is right in between Finger Lakes Self Storage and the town’s police department.

5. Canisteo’s Living Sign

Location: Cemetery Rd, Canisteo, NY 14823

Speaking of living landmarks, this sign! Within Canisteo is a hill imbued with the letters of its town, measuring 30 feet long, 90 feet wide, and made up of 260 scotch trees. It’s claimed to be the largest “living” sign in the world and acts as an East Coast equivalence of California’s glamorous Hollywood sign. 

The trees were planted in 1933 and the sign was initially used for navigation, and since then it’s become one of the town’s defining features.

roadside attractions NY
Canisteo’s Living Sign. Photo by Kp1111

While likely not as practical anymore with the current navigational technology, it’s still an awesome sight to behold regardless.

Why you’d be visiting Steuben County: The area has a few parks of interest, including Hamilton Lake, Pokagon State Park, and Coldwater Lake State Park.

How to get there: Driving to Canisteo takes almost five and a half hours, while bus rides can take between eight to nine hours.

6. Opus 40

Location: 50 Fite Rd, Saugerties, NY 12477

This place is probably the most unique on our list of coolest roadside attractions in NY. Nicknamed the “Stonehedge of North America,” this sculpture park was the result of Harvey Fite’s careful carving and placement over the course of 37 years.

The park features numerous perplexing stone formations, pathways paved brick by brick, and a few tunnels, all infused with the surrounding nature. There’s also a museum, an art gallery, and even live music on occasion.

Of all the parks in Ulster County, Opus 40 is by the most unique, and it’s great for an afternoon stroll or picnic.

Watch this video to see it:

Why you’d be visiting Ulster County: The area is well known for its nature excursions, home to a variety of parks, reserves, falls, and mountains.

How to get there: The park is relatively close to the city, taking about 2 hours by car and a little longer by train or bus.

How to get there: The drive from the city is about 2 hours, with train and bus taking a little more.

7. Eternal Flame Falls

Location: Hwy 277, Orchard Park, NY 14127

Eternal Flame Falls by Mpmajewski
Eternal Flame Falls. Photo by Mpmajewski

Chestnut Ridge Park has a nice trail that leads to a peculiar view: a flame burning brightly in a crevice behind a waterfall. This occurs naturally due to the gases seeping under the falls, and while it will go out on occasion, it’s known to be the longest burning flame in history.

The trail itself is already a beautiful hike that’s easy and accessible, so why not check out the flame on the way? The rocks by the falls might be slippery so be sure to bring the proper shoes. You’ll know you’re close when you smell a sulfuric whiff in the air.

Why you’d be visiting Erie County: Besides Chestnut Ridge Park, the area also features Presque Isle State Park, Lake Shore Railway Museum, and the Bicentennial Tower.

How to get there: Driving takes around six hours and 45 minutes, while bus and train take about eight and ten hours respectively. The trail leading up to the flame has distinct trail marks.

8. Wilkinson Point

Location: 225 Fuhrmann Blvd, Buffalo, NY 14203

This little park on Erie Lake displays several whirligigs, metallic sculptures that twirl and spin in the wind. They’re quite unusual, but a pretty sight.

The park itself is also a pleasant getaway from the bustling Buffalo, with some nice scenery and great views of the lake. There’s plenty of space for recreation like volleyball and kayaking, bike rentals, and a beer garden. 

It’s a great place to spend an hour or two relaxing while surrounded by these spinning contraptions. Make sure to arrive early, as parking can be a bit limited.

Watch this video to see it:

Why You’d be Visiting Buffalo: The city alone has a ton of the stuff to do, with some stand-outs including the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Buffalo Museum of Science, and Buffalo Naval Park.

How to get there: Driving from New York City to Buffalo takes around seven hours, eight by train, and less than 10 by bus. 

9. Chuang Yen Monastery

Location: 2020 Route 301, Carmel, NY 10512

This monastery houses the largest Buddha Statue in the western hemisphere. It stands at 37 feet tall and surrounded by thousands of smaller Buddhas; the whole scene is absolutely stunning.

The monastery is also a serene place to relax and wander about. It offers meditation-related activities, a cafeteria that serves delicious vegan food, and art and scenery to observe. It’s currently closed for the year but will be open in 2021, more information on its website.

Watch this video to see it:

Why you’d be visiting Putnam County: The area provides plenty of outdoor attractions, including Storm King Art Center, Pollepel Island, and Bannerman Castle.

How to get there: It’s a very short drive from the city, only taking an hour and 15 minutes by car and a half-hour more by train.

10. National Soaring Museum and Harris Hill Soaring Corporation

Location: 51 Soaring Hill Dr., Elmira, NY 14903

The last place on our list of coolest roadside attractions in NY maybe a museum, but it’s a special one. This aviation museum is all about sailplanes and gliders, displaying a large and diverse collection of flyers of all colors and shapes, each with information about its history and use. Additionally, the museum is right next to the Harris Hill Soaring Corporation, and by paying a $110 fee, visitors can fly in one of their sailplanes for a 15-20 minute ride. Rides are described as thrilling, with breathtaking views of the county and even glimpses of the Finger Lakes.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about old-fashioned aircraft and take flight in one, it’s worth it to check these places out. Be sure to call ahead if you’re interested in flying.

Watch this video to see it:

Why you’d be visiting Chemung County: Some other nifty things to do in the area include Eldridge Park, Arnot Art Museum, and Sperr Memorial Park.

How to get there: The drive is less than four and a half hours, while the bus takes around six.