World’s largest kaleidoscope near Woodstock, New York

While on a road trip, you’ve probably passed many an attraction that you’ve wondered about. Perhaps, you’ve thought, “Should I stop?” but didn’t because there’s that feeling of getting sucked into a tourist trap that’s not worth the effort of pulling over and parking.

The Kaatskill Kaleidoscope is one that is worth the effort, if you happen to be on your way to Woodstock, New York, or to the Museum of Bethel Woods at the place where Woodstock, the music festival happened–or just tootling around just outside of Kingston, New York. It is literally right off Rt. 28. The kaleidoscope is part of Emerson Place (formerly called Catskill Corners), a collection of higher end shops where you can pick up Catskill Mountain-made type products and a lot more besides. You can’t miss it.

A few years after my kaleidoscope experience, the connected Emerson Resort & Spa opened. The inn that used to be here was destroyed in a fire. From the resort’s description, it sounds like upscale has come to the area. If you’re looking to bask in luxury in the Catskills, this is it. Consider spa treatments, well-appointed rooms, 4-star rating, etc. etc. But back to the world’s largest kaleidoscope.

The kaleidoscope came about when the original owner wanted to do something spiffy and imaginative with a barn silo. Some sort of shop geared for tourists was in order for the attached barn, but the silo was calling out for something different. The size and shape, 38-feet-tall and 50-feet in diameter said, “kaleidoscope.” The result of the idea is a visual/sound experience for folks of all ages. When you step into the inside of the silo, you are stepping into the kaleidoscope. The top of the silo is where the magic happens. Through the use of projected moving images and mirrors, the world’s largest kaleidoscope replicates the kind that you hold against your eye and manipulate by turning your hand. The world’s largest is more fun, though, since you can lie on the floor and look up. If you don’t want to lie on the floor, you can lean against the wall and look up as well.

I remember lying head to head with my mom, my daugher, who was eight at the time and my mother’s best friend, splayed out in a circle like we were getting ready to do a June Taylor dance routine. I don’t remember exactly which show we saw, but I do remember that the images changed rapidly, just as if I was turning them myself. Very cool.

The show changes seasonally and each reflects the theme of the Catskills. While prices in most places tend to rise as years pass, the price of seeing the kaleidoscope show has gone down since I was there. It’s now $5 for adults. I paid at least $8. Children 12 and under are still free. You can’t get cheaper than free.

The reduced price does give you more dollars to spend in the gift shop which has probably the largest collection of kaleidoscopes in the world. They range in price from inexpensive to extremely pricey. Since my mom was along, my daughter got a better one than she would have been able to wheedle out of me.

Back when we were there we ate at the restaurant that was part of the complex, but according to Roadside America, the restaurant is no longer there, unless this has changed since 2004.