For a small mountain town, Phoenicia has endless outdoor activities. Today, as well as trying some of these, Ryan and I decided to visit one of its top indoor experiences too: The world’s largest kaleidoscope.

Yes, this sounds a bit bizarre – and I had no idea how good it was going to be.

The 60-ft Kaatskill Kaleidoscope is inside a converted grain silo, which is tucked inside a shop at the Emerson shopping complex just south of Phoenicia. Before setting foot in the store I had no idea about the art or business involved in kaleidoscopes. But there was so much creativity here – not just in the patterns each kaleidoscope made, but also the objects themselves and the designs behind how they made the patterns change.

It's in that old grain silo

It’s in that old grain silo

P1090498 Kaleidoscope
This one gets its patterns from plastic objects in this wheel

This one gets its patterns from plastic objects in this wheel

... check it!

… check it!

To get the patterns, turn over the kaleidoscope and look inside as the colours move down the tubes

To get the patterns, turn over the kaleidoscope and look inside as the colours move down the tubes

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Some used mineral oil for example, so that the colored pieces inside would continue to move even after you’d stopped turning. Others had plastic objects rattling around at the bottom, while another had a glass ball on the end so you could see whatever was in front of you – a table, your shoes, a face – spliced and diced and repeated dozens of times. Some looked like coke bottles and others were shaped like penguins. While many were pretty gaudy on the outside, when I looked inside, each was so entrancing and I kept turning and turning.

This one was amazing inside...

This one was amazing inside…

Looking through a kaleidoscope with a glass end

Looking through a kaleidoscope with a glass end

'The world's smallest kaleidoscope'

‘The world’s smallest kaleidoscope’


After wandering around the shop oohing and aahing at the variety, we moved on to the main event – a 10-minute show inside the massive kaleidoscope. Ryan and I were the only ones at the show, so we could lay on the floor and look upwards, rather than having to use the chairs in the room.

The theme of the show was American history, and it walked us through the nation’s creation – from the Big Bang and ancient Europe to the forefathers, wars and Woodstock. Patterns, faces and flags were repeated again and again in a circle above us and moved quickly as music filled the room. There were no explanations about what we were seeing so it was largely a test of who you knew, rather than anything educational.

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We left feeling a little dizzy and in need of a cup of tea. The show was really fun but I would’ve liked more interaction like we had with the handheld kaleidoscopes – it would’ve been good if we could have turned a wheel to manipulate the patterns, for example. It was cool but I definitely preferred the store and marvelling at the mini kaleidoscopes and their designs.

After that cup of tea, we got over the dizziness with a ride through forests and past lakes on the Catskill Mountain Railroad. While it gave great views, I still had the kaleidoscope patterns burned into my retinas. I’d recommend checking them out if you’re ever in the area.

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Back home tonight. Don’t make me go!