There are hundreds of lists of things to do in the USA, or individual states like New York, but we’ve come up with one thing in every state plus D.C. in 21 different categories. Truly something for everyone, from historic places to foods you have to try, from the downright quirky to amazing museums, and from weird places to stay to fun things to do. Our primary criteria were we have or want to see them, and they are things you can physically visit or try.
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Historic Place: Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
The Springwood Estate is where Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the USA, was born, lived and is buried and is the site of the very first US Presidential Library. FDR was famous for supporting the repeal of prohibition as well as supporting the Allies in WWII, whilst the US officially remained “neutral”.
Famous Person: Benedict Arnold
Possibly the most famous traitor in US history, Benedict Arnold fought for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. After being overlooked for promotion on multiple occasions, with others claiming credit for his victories and even making false accusations against him, he defected to the British Army.
This monument features just his leg and does not mention Benedict Arnold by name. Instead it is inscribed “In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution, and for himself the rank of Major General.”
Natural Wonder: Niagara Falls
One the most powerful waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that sit astride the Canadian/US border. If you have the documentation to cross Rainbow Bridge into Canada, or can take the Maid of the Mist tour, you will get a much better view of the biggest of the three, Horseshoe Falls, than you can from the US side.
Food & Drink: Pizza and Dr. Brown’s.
Definitely not invented in New York, pizza’s origins date back to the 10th century, yet it has still been adopted as the archetypal New York dish. The first pizzeria in the USA is Lombardi’s, which is still in operation today and, we can vouch, makes fantastic pizzas. Quench your thirst with a cream soda from New York’s own Dr. Brown’s
Factory Tour: Cooperstown Baseball Bats
See how the bats are made, or ‘turned’, for one of America’s most popular sports. Cooperstown, known as the “Home of Baseball”, is also where you can visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Man Made: Croton Dam
Map 35 Yorktown Rd, Croton-On-Hudson, New York 10520
Proving that dams don’t have to be impressive, but generally featureless concrete walls, Croton Dam is quite the opposite. The dam forms part of New York’s water supply system and, when it was completed in 1906 it was the highest dam in the world.
Record Breaking: Grand Central Terminal
With 44 platforms, Grand Central Terminal in New York has more platforms than any other railway station. Arranged across two levels and all underground, the platforms serve a total of 56 lines. And if those stats aren’t impressive enough, the stunning zodiac mural on the roof of the main concourse really is the cherry on the cake.
After years of smoke and pollution, the ceiling was covered in dirt and hid the mural. When the ceiling was cleaned a small section was left dirty (over by the crab) to show just how bad it had been.
Quirky Record: World’s Largest Kaleidoscope
If you had a kaleidoscope as a kid, you’ll understand the concept here. Scaled up so that 20 people at a time can stare upwards and see the fractal imagery of a history of America in a ten minute show.
Activity: Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Officially a way for Staten Islanders to get to Manhatten, the Staten Island Ferry works just as well as a pleasure cruise to see the skyline of New York from the water. Glide past Lady Liberty and view Governors Island, and it’s FREE!
Atlas Obscura: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Said to be the largest amount of gold stored in one place, the gold vault inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York can be visited on a tour! 7,000 tons of gold bars, owned by over 100 countries; 5 percent of all the gold ever mined and worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and the tour price… FREE!
Most Visited: Times Square
Categorically NOT a square, but still a hive of activity with billboards demanding your attention and the hustle and bustle of New York. Times Square is perhaps the heart of New York City; it is also, of course, the place where the famous ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
State/National Park: Adirondack State Park
The largest park in the USA, totally a third of New York state’s area and larger than many of the smaller states, Adirondack State Park is unfathomably large. This also means it has a wide variety of landscapes and activities, from forests to farmlands, mountains to lakes and even including towns and villages within its vast area.
Event: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
One of the most famous and largest parades in the world; every year on Thanksgiving morning a cast of thousands parade from Central Park to Macy’s.
Different Place to Stay: Library Hotel
With 60 rooms across ten floors, this boutique hotel themes each floor after a major category from the Dewey Decimal Classification. Then, within each floor, each room is themed after a minor category. So room 800.003 is Poetry and room 500.001 is Mathematics. To continue the book theme, the hotel has a collection of over 6,000 books, with a small number in each room that relate to that room’s theme.
Different Place to Eat: Katz’s Delicatessen
For over 125 years, Katz’s Delicatessen has been serving up delicious food to New Yorkers and tourists. Famous in its own right – you may remember it from the film “When Harry Met Sally”. Yep, that scene was filmed here and if you are lucky enough for it to be free, you can sit in the same booth and perhaps have the same reaction??
Have Some Fun: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The only place in the world where you can explore an aircraft carrier, a space shuttle and Concorde. USS Intrepid saw service during World War II, the shuttle Enterprise was the vehicle that proved the concept would work and Concorde G-BOAD is officially the world’s fastest ever passenger plane across the Atlantic, with a time of just 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
Film Location: Ghostbusters
Map 14 N Moore St, New York, New York 10013
The instantly recognisable Ghostbusters HQ is still a working fire station that is officially known as Hook and Ladder No. 8.
Map 3755 Randall Rd, Verona, New York 13478
Mason’s Pond, just outside Oneida, is home to the world’s smallest church. The church sits out in the lake, so can’t be visited, but with dimensions of just 51″ x 81″, you wouldn’t be able to get inside anyway!
Something Different: Masstransitscope
Installed in the abandoned Myrtle Avenue station, this art installation by Bill Brand uses the same concept as the primitive motion picture device called a Zoetrope. If static images are flashed at our eyes quickly enough, we perceive them as a moving image. The masstransitscope uses this trick to perform an abstract motion picture as trains leaving DeKalb stations head towards Manhattan on the express track pass through what was Myrtle Avenue station.
The video above shows how the animation should look when viewed from the moving train.
Museum: 9/11 Memorial
Forever memorialising the events of September the 11th, the footprints of the World Trade Centre towers are now huge water features, with the names of the victims punched into the metal guard rail that surrounds each footprint.
Scenic Drive: Lakes to Locks Passage
From Albany to almost the Canadian border, this scenic drive follows the Hudson river initially, before tracing the route of the Champlain Canal. It then drives the bank of the long thin Champlain Lake to Champlain itself just south of Canada.
Don’t miss the locks on Champlain Canal, transport from a bygone era.
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We’d love to hear what you think. What did we miss? What do you think we should have chosen instead?
If we love your idea, we might just swap it into the list, if we like it, maybe will give it an honourable mention; either way we’ll be sure to give you credit, AND add it to our list of things to see and do when we are in the area.
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