Out and about in the Capital Region? Check out some of these quirky 518 landmarks while keeping your social distance

Worth a closer look
The Nott Memorial at Union College in Schenectady is bathed in a late-spring sunset on June 18.
The Nott Memorial at Union College in Schenectady is bathed in a late-spring sunset on June 18.

Most Capital Region residents know the area as the home of The Egg, the New York State Museum and the barking grounds for our K-9 friend Nipper.

But few know the 518 for its strange and quirky hot spots. So if you’re looking for something unusual to check out this summer amid social-distancing guidelines, we’ve compiled a list of the craziest sites to visit locally. Some were spotted by Atlas Obscura, while others were sitting right in our backyards and were too wild to escape our list. Either way, give your summer some excitement with these 518 secret attractions.

Site of the Cohoes Mastodon, Cohoes

What’s not as cool as checking out the “Cohoes Mastodon” at the museum, but still pretty cool for those mega-mastodon fans? Visiting the spot it was discovered, of course. 

Back in 1866, builders discovered the bones of a 13,000-year-old creature when they built Harmony Mill No. 3 by the Cohoes falls. 

Now, that creature sits in the New York State Museum, while the spot they found our once-furry friend is marked by a sign, proclaiming that the several-ton mastodon fell at that exact location — on the corner of North Mohawk and Front streets.

Stained glass on Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.PHOTO BY ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A stained glass window at the Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs. The location has a history of being haunted.

Canfield Casino in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs

Appearing on an episode of Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters,” this location has been rumored to be a hot spot for mysterious figures appearing in photos. Many who’ve visited claim they were slapped by someone there, saw a guest vanish into thin air or smelled cigar smoke when, very clearly, nobody was smoking. 

While you can get your spooky fix here, the site also houses the Saratoga Springs History Museum, so you can also attend for some (confirmed) true history.

Loudon Cottage, Loudonville

Abe Lincoln is cool and all, but seeing his ghost walk around this Loudonville home is certainly not.

Some insist they have, however, making Loudon Cottage a destination for those into ghosts and ghouls. The cottage is the former summer home of Clara Harris, who sat by Lincoln as he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. While it’s a pretty home, the mystery surrounding it might just be more exciting than your visit itself.

Nott Memorial at Union College, Schenectady

There aren’t many 16-sided buildings in the world, but Union College is home to one. Nott Memorial, a national landmark, is a Gothic-style building with more than 700 windows all around. 

Built in honor of former Union College President Eliphalet Nott, this “hott” spot still hosts lectures, so if you’re down to get a little education while learning about the 518’s rich history, you’ve got the perfect place for both.

Geyser Creek trail, Saratoga Springs

SPAC events may not be happening anytime soon, but who says you can’t check out the oddities that the state park has to offer? Geyser Creek, right next to that water fountain that tastes rancid, is home to a tufa formation — a mineral buildup that’s just as unique in texture as it is in appearance. Sure, it may not compare to Dead & Company’s millionth show at the venue down the way, but it sure is cool.

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Uncle Sam’s fake grave, Troy

A visit to Troy means seeing Uncle Sam at every streetcorner. But what many don’t know is that his burial site is home to a big debate among Uncle Sam conspirators. Locals know that the American figure was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, yet somehow he has a second burial site — a fake grave, if you will — next to a bridge on Route 2.

The creepy fake grave includes a marker explaining who Uncle Sam was along with a slab that looks to be a tombstone. However, it only represents the completion of a bridge. So yeah, he’s not actually there. But at least you can pay your respects to the bridge if you feel so moved.

Uncle Sam’s chamber pot, Troy 

After tearing down Samuel Wilson’s home in the ’70s, Troy conducted an archeological dig of the home’s remains in 1993. What they found was astounding.

Besides doors and other memorabilia, the diggers found something pretty exciting: Uncle Sam’s chamber pot. Yes, now on permanent display at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, you can check out the exact device Wilson used to pop his patriotic squats. If the society is open by the time this piece prints, be sure to check out the stinky antique. 


A spinning U-Haul truck on a pole, Albany

If you’re planning on moving this summer and would prefer not to take your mind off the big day, there’s a spot in Albany perfect for you.

At 139 Broadway, on top of the giant U-Haul building, sits a spinning U-Haul truck on a pole. As an updated version of the ever-so-popular car-dealership arm-waving guy, this truck knows how to bring in business. 

Is it a little out of left field? Yes. Do you want to drive there right now? Yes.

A car on a smokestack, Amsterdam

There’s something about the Capital Region and placing cars on top of high places.

Over in Amsterdam, a Volkswagen Beetle has been resting on top of a smokestack for years, rising above the surrounding trees. The weird landmark, over on Ann Street, has perplexed passersby for a while, and Roadside America reports it was actually a marketing gimmick for Dudka’s Garage. Well, clearly tall cars strike a chord. 

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Kirk Douglas’ face on a rock, Amsterdam

Right in Kirk Douglas Park near the famed actor’s childhood home in Amsterdam, you can see a plaque on a rock commemorating the local icon. He may have died earlier this year, but Douglas’ unforgettable chin is hard to miss in the 518 park.

Recite lines from “Spartacus,” reenact a scene or two from “Lust For Life” and take a nice walk in the park to honor the local hero.

Categories: A Summer To Remember, Life and Arts, Special Sections

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