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.

Favorite towns: Woodstock, the place in upstate New York where the concert didn’t happen

Even though the town of Woodstock in the Hudson Valley region of New York balked at letting the mega concert happen within its domain—and even though all of Ulster County didn’t want the concert there, Woodstock the town is a groovy, upscale (and a little downscale) arts haven that is definitely worth heading to for a day of wandering, particularly if you like to shop for lovely, interesting items. It is one of my favorite towns to head, particularly because the people who live here make sure it remains true to who they are and not what corporate giants would like them to be.

There are tree-lined streets and small historic buildings. The arts focus started here back in 1902 which helps make it eye candy for shopping. Plus, even though the concert didn’t happen here, hippies are welcome and mixed in with the upscale, there is an edgy grit.

I head here every summer to look for wedding, baby and birthday gifts, plus a new pair of shoes. The shoes are for me. Sometimes it’s a quick trip, mostly for the shoes, but once in awhile there’s that wonderful summer day where no where else really matters. Here is my Woodstock guide–mostly shopping. Everything I’ve listed, I have done.

Some shopping stops that are my favorites:

If you wander along Tinker Street where each of these are located, you’ll also come across shops selling all sorts of specialty items from kitchen supplies to books to clothing to greeting cards. Some shops are the up-scale variety and others center around tie dye and incense.

Clouds Gallery: Located on the right-hand side of Tinker Street if you are driving up through town. The specialty is hand blown contemporary glass, fine American crafts and jewelry. My daughter has a collection of blown glass hearts– one for each birthday, from this store. The hearts are gifts from my mother who is my companion on these jaunts. Tell Robert, the owner, I said hi.

Pegasus Footwear: This is where I always find an interesting pair of shoes. The types they sell are perfect for travelers’ feet. They also last.

Timbuktu: An eclectic mix of folk art, pottery, jewelry and fusion type fare from different countries. Whoever is the buyer knows his or her stuff. Presents I’ve bought here: salad servers with beaded work from Kenya, a hand painted clock with a sun’s face on it, and ceramics to name a few.

Tinker Street Toys of Woodstock: Right next door to Clouds. This is a child’s dream store (and adults). I’ve played in here many a time and pick up stocking stuffers for the real kids in my life–and my husband.

For other shopping suggestions, click here.

Where to eat

Our favorite place is The Little Bear, an upscale Chinese restaurant two miles out of town. Eat in the sun room type addition. It overlooks a stream and you may even see deer. I’ve been here with kids and the staff has always been amenable–even when my son was only a year and a half.

Anywhere I’ve wandered in for a bite, I’ve found the food good, but you can’t go wrong at The Little Bear.

What to do at night:

The Tinker Street Cinema movie theater, housed in a former church–, the old wooden, white kind, is a one-screen kind of place. Popcorn always tastes better in movie theaters like this one. The last movie I saw here was 21 Grams.

There are other things to do at night, but since I’m mostly visiting family and friends in Kingston, I’m not here much after dinner. Folks, who have, please offer suggestions. I do know there are always concerts, talks and art events going on somewhere. This is a happening place.

Other places to head:

Where Woodstock, the concert happened. It takes a 43 mile drive.