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New York: The Most Unusual Experiences

  • Big Duck, Long Island: You knew Long Island was famous for its duck, but this statue on Route 24 at the Flanders/Hampton Bays border will likely surprise you -- it's 20 feet tall. Even better, you can stop here and pick up tourist information.

  • Reviving the Borscht Belt: The Catskill region has come a long way from the Borscht Belt vacationland where New York City families once retreated to day camps in the mountains. But there are still some of those old-school, all-in-one resorts, many of them ethnic enclaves of group entertainment and back-to-back activities like bowling, shuffleboard, and pale imitations of yesteryear game shows. They're nostalgic for some, high camp or cheese for others. Among the many resorts hanging onto old ways of summer fun in the mountains, one stands out: Scott's Oquaga Lake House, where generations of one family have been entertaining visitors, incredibly, since 1869. The resort is best known for the singing Scott family's nightly cabaret revues in which everyone from the costumed grandkids to the grandparents play a rousing part.

  • 700 Mormons Interpreting the Bible in Full Technicolor: The Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, got its miraculous start in the Finger Lakes region before heading west. Every year in July, hundreds of thousands of the faithful and curious make pilgrimages to witness the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a giant spectacle that constitutes the largest outdoor theatrical production in the U.S.: The show sports a costumed cast of 700, a nine-level stage, and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It has to be seen to be believed, but even nonbelievers enjoy the over-the-top show.

  • The Winery Impersonating Hooters: Wine tasting is all about protocol and pompous, highbrow terms like bouquet, nose, and body, right? Not at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, in the Finger Lakes, where a visit to the vineyard is occasionally more akin to something you'd stumble upon at a college frat house. To start, the winery's bestseller is the mass-market "Red Cat," a low-rent party wine that has earned a reputation as an everyman's aphrodisiac. The winery revels in party atmosphere, rock-'n'-roll music, and irreverence toward traditional wine-tasting etiquette. Sometimes, wine tasting is accompanied by cheerful folks joining in chants laced with sexual innuendo; more than a few women have been known to doff their tops to demonstrate their preference for Hazlitt wines.

  • Kazoo Museum, Eden: Who would go through the trouble of collecting wooden kazoos, gold kazoos, and liquor-bottle-shaped kazoos (celebrating the end of Prohibition)? People driven indoors by the brutal western New York winters. This museum has the oddest collection of this peculiar little instrument and until recently was making even more.

  • Town of Mediums, Lily Dale: This haven for those in touch with otherworldly spirits has been celebrating its odd collection of residents for nearly 130 years. You can stop by for a private reading any time of year, or come in the summer for daily events, along with meditation and healing services.

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