15 Best Things to Do in Herkimer, NY

Herkimer, NY

Welcome to the heart of New York State!

From the grain of history etched into our architecture to the warmth of our community events, you're in for an authentic, small-town experience.

Come along as we share some of the best things to do in Herkimer, New York!

Ready to explore? Let the journey begin!

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Christopher Kuhn, Franklin Butler, Gia Granger, Alyssa Rodriguez, Justin Kirby, Robert Hyde and Adam Shuttleworth.

Cruise Along the Erie Canal

A boat at Erie Canal
Carrie A Hanrahan / Shutterstock.com

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."

This Matsuo Basho quote always comes to mind when I travel down the Erie Canal.

As a frequenter of the Erie Canal Cruises, I've turned this journey into a comforting routine, a way to reconnect with the local history of our area.

One sunny afternoon, I booked a trip for my friend and myself. We were both excited, especially my friend, who was eager to experience going through a lock system.

The boat was comfortable, with a covered seating area offering plenty of shade.

Likewise, the journey was smooth and pleasant, accommodating to all on board.

Through these cruises, I've learned much about the Erie Canal, its history, and its significance to our area. It's become a cherished part of my routine.

I highly recommend a trip on the Erie Canal Cruises to anyone looking for a way to experience local history uniquely.

Enjoy a Night of Fright at Crooked Descent Horror

I've always had a fascination with everything spooky.

Growing up in my city, one of the highlights every year is when the calendar hits October and the Halloween season rolls in.

That's when everyone starts talking about Crooked Descent Horror, a local haunt that gives you chills in all the right ways.

This year was my third time attending, and it just improved.

I've taken my kids along once, which was an unforgettable experience for them too!

The actors put their hearts and souls into scaring you while ensuring you enjoy your life.

Recently, I decided to brave the haunt by myself, and oh boy, was that a ride!

The characters were eerily fantastic, with their performances so chillingly accurate that you can't help but feel a cold shiver down your spine.

And for the frights you get, the ticket price is worth every penny.

A word of caution, though: it's not for the faint-hearted, particularly those young or young at heart.

But if you're an adrenaline junkie like me, searching for that next good rush, the Crooked Descent Horror is the place to be.

Don't miss out on the scare of a lifetime.

Spend the Day at Arc Herkimer Business Park

Let me tell you, there's no better place to take your family for a fun-filled day outdoors than the Arc Herkimer Business Park.

This place is fantastic! My kids have a blast every time we go there.

There are plenty of things to keep them occupied, and the safe flooring beneath the play equipment gives me peace of mind.

I love that they've thoughtfully set up special areas according to age groups for secure play.

The park itself is always clean, and the equipment looks relatively new.

Moreover, they have a variety of structures that cater to different interests.

I’ve seen children’s imaginations run wild as they explore and create their adventures.

One thing that my family and I particularly enjoy about the park is the covered areas.

It's a great place to sit and relax, maybe have a picnic while the kids play.

The park also has benches, so there's always a spot to take a breather.

And yes, you can even host birthday parties there!

The Arc Herkimer Business Park truly has a unique way of bringing the community together.

So, if you're ever in the area, I'd highly recommend spending a day here.

Take a Peek into History at the Herkimer County Historical Society

Exterior of Herkimer County Historical Society
Doug Kerr from Upstate New York, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every time I step into the Herkimer County Historical Society, it's like walking into a time capsule.

The beautiful architecture of the building itself is worth admiring, but the exhibits' richness keeps me coming back.

There is also an upstairs exhibit showcasing a high-wheel bike ridden across the country.

It's an inspiring testament to the spirit of adventure and exploration--a story that, I believe, is not told often enough.

And for basketball enthusiasts like myself, a truly remarkable story is told here.

It's a tale of how basketball found its true home here - an intriguing story captured in the book 'Nais-myth: Basketball's Stolen Legacy.'

Whether you're cycling the Erie Canal Trail or just passing by, this museum is a 'must.'

It's also surrounded by beautiful old buildings, making the ride to the museum scenic.

The souvenirs are reasonably priced so you can take a piece of history home.

Time and again, I find myself drawn to this place, and every visit is like uncovering a new layer of history.

The Herkimer County Historical Society - it's our link to an incredible past and a testament to the stories that shape us.

Visit Gems Along the Mohawk

I've always taken pride in the rich history and natural beauty of my hometown, and one of my favorite ways to immerse myself in both is a visit to Gems Along the Mohawk.

Nestled along the scenic Erie Canal, this gem of a place offers a unique combination of local history, spectacular views, and a shopping experience that's a tribute to all things New York.

I often start my visits with the boat tour, which takes you to Lock 18 and back.

The journey is not just a scenic one but also quite educational.

On one trip, I was lucky enough to see the lock operate twice on one of these trips!

This, coupled with a land tour to the lock, made me even more appreciate the engineering marvel of the Erie Canal.

The highlight of one of my trips was a chance to see the second-oldest church in New York State.

I enjoy my Gems Along the Mohawk trips.

It celebrates and showcases the heart and soul of our region.

Create Unforgettable Experiences at Crazy Otto's Empire Diner

Exterior of Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner
Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whenever someone asks me where they should eat in town, my answer is always the same - Crazy Otto's Empire Diner.

It's hard to ignore the charm of this legendary family-owned diner.

One thing that always strikes me is the cleanliness of the place.

Not to mention, the atmosphere is such a fun experience.

You get that authentic, classic diner vibe that's hard to come by.

Besides, every meal here has been nothing short of amazing.

Whether you're in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the food consistently exceeds expectations, and the prices are more than reasonable.

If you ever find yourself here, do yourself a favor and try the chocolate cake - it's a slice of heaven.

Crazy Otto's Empire Diner is a place to create unforgettable experiences, and I am sure I will continue to come here again and again.

Unearth Treasures at Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort

There's something truly mesmerizing about chipping away at a rock and finding a sparkling quartz crystal diamond hidden inside!

As a regular at Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort, I consider this not just a pastime but an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Earth.

My favorite part about visiting the resort is the thrill of the unknown.

You never know what you're going to find in those rocks!

Going out there with my tools, safety gear, and a lot of water to beat the heat is always an adventure.

And sometimes, I indulge in their delicious food and drinks as a special treat.

I remember the first time I found a diamond; I was splitting a stubborn stone in half, and I found a diamond!

It was a small piece, but the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming.

Now, I have a splendid collection of these gems, some of which I've even turned into jewelry - they are a spectacle to behold!

The resort also houses a fascinating museum filled with unique stones from various parts of the world, a sight that never gets old.

Despite seeing them countless times, I am drawn to the exhibit.

Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort is a place to create memories, learn, and appreciate our world's natural beauty.

So, grab a chisel, put on a hard hat, and join me in unearthing the Earth's hidden treasures.

Spend the Day at Herkimer Fishing Derby

There's an undeniable charm about Herkimer Fishing Derby, a spot I've come to appreciate and frequent.

It's got the nostalgic air of a well-loved but somewhat forgotten gem, where the once-bustling fishing dock is now a memory, and the pavilion echoes with the silence of emptiness.

You'd think the lack of seating inside would be a deterrent, but there's something peaceful about the solitude it offers.

This might not be your spot if you're looking for pristine, manicured lawns.

Tables are sporadically placed amid the wild brush.

Nature is reclaiming its space here one day at a time, an enthralling spectacle.

The town seems to have let this place be, adding to its unrefined allure.

You could say it's like a fine wine, aged and rich with character.

Undeniably, it could use some love and care, which adds to its rustic charm.

Wildlife is one of the most delightful sights I've encountered here.

The Mohawk River is a stone's throw away from the village and offers endless opportunities for wildlife spotting.

I've been lucky enough to spot a senior groundhog on one of my short walks along the river, completely unfazed by my presence.

This unexpected encounter was a refreshing reminder of nature's whimsical surprises.

The Herkimer Fishing Derby remains a place of quiet solace, where memories are made, and the hustle of life is momentarily forgotten.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Historic Herkimer Home

Exterior of Herkimer Home
Wknight94 talk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I remember my first visit to the historic Herkimer Home like it was yesterday.

Just a quick stop off the Thruway, the home's scenic grounds brimmed with fascinating history and beauty.

The house tour was engaging and educational, lasting about an hour.

Each room held artifacts from a bygone era, including furniture that once belonged to Revolutionary War hero Nicholas Herkimer.

The architecture was captivating, and I was struck by the in-depth portrayal of Herkimer's multifaceted life as a frontier farmer, businessman, father, and slaveholder and his untimely death in the Revolutionary War.

Apart from the house, the grounds offered plenty of picnic tables against nature's tranquil backdrop.

A bedroom in Herkimer Home
Wknight94 talk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I also had the chance to meet the resident blacksmith, who was more than happy to demonstrate his craft.

The visitor's center, a free-to-visit area, was another highlight of my trip with its engaging exhibits.

The home's proximity to the shores of the Mohawk River and the Erie Canalway Bike Trail added a whole new dimension to my visit.

I still remember the leisurely bike ride along the trail, taking in the serene landscape undisturbed by the modern hustle and bustle.

My trip to the Herkimer Home was a rewarding journey into the past.

It enriched my knowledge and allowed me to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of our local heritage.

Discover Treasures at The Little Falls Antique Center

Who knew that a simple stroll on a Saturday afternoon would lead me to uncover a treasure trove in our town?

Visiting The Little Falls Antique Center introduced me to a new world of charm and nostalgia that I never knew existed.

Upon entering, I was greeted by an adorable dog, a furry mascot, wagging its tail behind the counter.

It was as if the canine welcomed me to an enchanting journey back in time.

The two-story building, filled to the brim with unique finds, was like a time capsule dating back to 1855.

It felt like stepping onto the set of a period film, with each item carrying a tale from its time.

The selection was astonishingly diverse, from old tools that drew my fascination to a rich array of teapots that would make any collector's heart flutter.

I spent hours in the sea of antiques, every corner revealing something more intriguing than the last.

Despite my limited knowledge of antiques, I was drawn to the rare and unusual items that filled the shelves.

However, what caught my eye were the old postcards, paintings, and books that my artistically inclined daughter would adore.

The entire space was well-organized and cool, a refreshing respite on a hot day.

Convenient free parking nearby and the location's proximity to the river and canal were bonuses.

Post-discovery, a stroll along the water's edge was the perfect end to an exciting day.

The Little Falls Antique Center unveiled a world of historical wonders in my backyard.

Being there felt like part of a story waiting to be discovered, and I can't wait to uncover more on my next visit.

Enjoy the Night at the Ilion Little Theater Club

You haven't truly experienced the charm of our hometown unless you've spent a night at the Ilion Little Theater Club.

Nestled in the heart of Ilion, New York, this quaint theater, with roughly 67 seats, offers an intimate and unforgettable entertainment experience.

Take it from someone who's enjoyed attending several shows there.

Every seat offers an unobstructed view of the stage, thoroughly immersing you in the performance.

Thanks to the superb acting prowess of the local talent that grace this stage, you can feel the joy, laughter, and tears as they unfold before your eyes.

The performances are so natural, so raw; it's hard not to be moved.

My daughter has had the thrill of performing in a couple of plays here, and I can see the love and dedication that goes into each production.

But it's not just about the stage performances.

The people behind the scenes, the cast and crew, are some of the friendliest folks you'll ever meet.

They're passionate about their work, which shows in the production's quality.

The theater hosts a fantastic summer program for kids and yearly stages of amazing shows.

And the best part? The ticket prices are incredibly reasonable.

You won't have to break the bank to enjoy a great night out in your backyard.

Make it a point to visit the Ilion Little Theater Club, a genuinely underappreciated gem in our community.

And who knows, you might even spot me in the audience or the middle of the pictures!

Go on Adventures at Russell Park Mountain Biking Trails

Hitting the trails at Russell Park is a rush, an experience like no other.

My heart started pumping when I set foot on the Russell Park Mountain Biking Trails.

The moment my tires hit the dirt, the adventure begins; the trails are well-maintained and offer a variety of technical challenges for every skill level.

After a grueling ride, one of my favorite things to do is head down to the natural clay pit.

There's something truly therapeutic about rubbing your feet into the excellent, smooth clay.

It's like a natural spa right in the middle of the park.

Just remember to bring flip-flops for the trek back to your car - trust me, your feet will thank you.

While the park is gorgeous year-round, summer brings its unique charm.

The lush green surroundings are teeming with wildlife, and the air is filled with the songs of birds.

For those seeking a bit of competitive fun, there are races held over most weekends.

I've participated in a few. They're a great way to challenge yourself and meet fellow biking enthusiasts.

Whether you're a seasoned rider or starting out, Russell Park Mountain Biking Trails has something to offer.

It's a place to connect with nature, challenge yourself, and, most importantly, have fun.

Take a Stroll Through Utica Zoo

Welcome sign of Utica Zoo
Megan Miller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every year, my family and I make it a point to visit the Utica Zoo.

It's an incredible place, not too big or small, with over 200 animals to see.

You'll be amazed at how much there is to explore without feeling overwhelmed.

The affordable entrance fee is just the beginning.

Moreover, the zoo is organized uniquely, with a neat layout on a hill. I love how they offer wagons for rent.

Seeing our little ones' faces light up as we pull them around the zoo is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

Utica Zoo surprises you with more when you think you've seen it all.

Each visit feels like the first one, with the diverse range of animals we get to see.

I remember the excitement on my children's faces when they saw lions and zebras up close. It's truly a sight to behold!

Another aspect I appreciate about the zoo is the overall cleanliness and maintenance.

Utica Zoo doesn't disappoint with its commitment to the animals' welfare.

Even when some exhibits are closed for maintenance, the rest of the zoo remains open and inviting.

One of my favorite times to visit is during weekdays in the summer.

The minimal crowd makes it easier to take those leisurely strolls while enjoying the sights and sounds of the zoo.

Plus, the kids' programs they offer are fantastic.

It's an educational and fun way for children to learn about different animals.

So, whether it's the reasonable pricing or the wide variety of animals, Utica Zoo is a gem in our city.

I'm proud to have such a wonderful place like this right in our backyard.

For anyone considering visiting, I can assure you that it's worth every penny and every minute spent there.

Check Out Plantation Island Wildlife Management Area

What a joy it is to live so close to the Plantation Island Wildlife Management Area, where every visit feels like a new adventure waiting to unfold.

I often spend my weekends there, pedaling along the canal bike path with my family.

The feeling of the cool breeze brushing against our faces, the rhythmic turning of the wheels, and the laughter of my children echoing in the air create picture-perfect moments.

Likewise, the new section from Little Falls to Herkimer is undoubtedly a fantastic addition, offering more beautiful scenes.

There's something genuinely serene about strolling along the water as well.

Even during winter, when the path can get a little icy in parts, the beauty doesn't wane.

Although, you do have to watch out for fallen trees that sometimes block parts of the path.

But the real thrill begins when we venture into the island's heart.

The terrain can be challenging, with mud and prickly bushes.

It requires a bit of athleticism and a spirit of adventure. But trust me, the experience is well worth the effort.

Each exploration brings new sightings and discoveries, adding to our family's treasure trove of memories.

Yes, living next to Plantation Island Wildlife Management Area is like having a piece of paradise right in our backyard, where each visit blends serenity and adventure.

Unearth Treasures at Ace of Diamonds Mine & Campground

Whenever the sun shines down on Herkimer, New York, I feel an irresistible pull toward the Ace of Diamonds Mine & Campground.

There's just something about digging in the soil, uncovering the shimmering Herkimer diamonds that can't be found anywhere else.

There's nothing like the thrill of striking your pick and seeing a glint in the dirt, knowing you've found a gemstone.

And it's not just any gemstone, but a double-terminated quartz crystal - a Herkimer diamond.

Feel the raw excitement of discovering something precious that has been waiting beneath the earth for millions of years.

And the fun doesn't stop at mining.

There's an open space as vast as your dreams to dig for these diamonds.

It's also a fantastic place to spend time with the kids.

I recall the joy on my nephews' faces when they were sluicing for diamonds, their excited shouts echoing around the mine.

And then afterward, we sat down to a delightful packed lunch at the easily accessible picnic tables, our very own mining day feast.

Inside the store, you’ll find all sorts of beautiful things - from mining gear you can rent to already-discovered diamonds you can buy.

The Ace of Diamonds Mine & Campground is a treasure trove of unique experiences, discovery, and joy.

So, when you're in Herkimer, swing by and try your hand at mining.

Who knows? You might strike it lucky and unearth a diamond.

Final Thoughts

You'll never tire of the variety and charm this small town offers.

Whether you're a history buff, nature enthusiast, or adventure seeker, there's always something to do in Herkimer, New York.

I'm always discovering something new and exciting about my hometown, and I hope you enjoy your time here as much as I do.

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