Waterfalls, Wild Animals, and More Things to Do in Chittenango, NY
Did you know that Chittenango, New York is home to an actual yellow brick road? Okay, it’s a sidewalk. But still, how cool! Why? Because the author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, was from Chittenango. And the village honors his memory in so many ways, including a yearly festival. Add to that a popular waterfall, a privately-owned wildlife park, and the historic Erie Canal. There are so many unique things to do in Chittenango, you have to check it out for yourself!
The History of Chittenango
First of all, you’re probably wondering where the name Chittenango came from. Good question! Upstate New York was originally home to several different Native American tribes and clans, so a lot of the names come from their indigenous languages. It is believed that the name Chittenango comes from “Chu-de-nääng”, meaning ‘where waters run north’.
Chittenango grew as a popular port city along the Erie Canal, and there is both a park and museum there today honoring its history.
Chittenango & The Wizard of Oz
As I mentioned, Chittenango was the home of L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz. Just as you’ve always dreamed of doing, you can actually walk along the yellow brick road with your own two feet. Parts of the sidewalk in the village are indeed made with yellow bricks. It makes for a fun photo opportunity, and you don’t need to worry about flying monkeys!
Chittenango really embraces its connection to The Wizard of Oz. The main museum in town is All Things Oz, featuring memorabilia from the movie. Every year, the first weekend of June celebrates Oz-Stravanganza. The festival celebrates the movie and its history every June and used to serve as a yearly reunion for the munchkins and other actors from the movie. It truly is a one-of-a-kind event! Chittenango is also home to the Yellow Brick Road Casino – another nod to the film.
It’s important to note that Frank was not the only notable member of his family. his mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a strong advocate for women’s rights and supported the Underground Railroad in Central New York. You can visit Matilda and Frank’s home in nearby Fayetteville, where they have an area dedicated to the popular story.
Chittenango Falls State Park
Once you’re done visiting the village, get back on the road to go a little further to Chittenango Falls State Park. You’ll see the creek meandering along the road on your way there; don’t be afraid to pull over and take some photos! There are a couple of pull-off spots where it is safe to do so. Once you get to the park, there is a $3 or $5 (weekday/weekend rates) fee – cheaper than most state parks, or FREE with your Empire Pass! There are lots of spots at the park for you to enjoy a picnic lunch, so spread out a blanket and relax.
The park is dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry friends with you (on a leash of course). When you’re ready to walk down to see the falls, be careful – there are several steps made of stone, some uneven or steep. But the trip down is well worth it! There is a bridge crossing the creek at the bottom of the falls and it makes for some great views and photos. You can wade in the water there and relax until you’ve regained the energy you need to climb the stairs! If you’re looking for a longer hike, there are some trails on the other side of the parking lot. While there are no waterfalls to see along the trail, it does make for a pretty walk in the woods.
Chittenango Canal Boat Landing Museum
The Erie Canal was integral to the development of Chittenango and the Town of Sullivan. So it’s not surprising that in the 1980s, a group of people discovered an overgrown section of the canal. The team restored the land to what they envision it was like in the late 1800s. Now, the Chittenango Canal Boat Landing Museum is home to historically accurate buildings and even a replica of an old canal boat. It’s a great spot to learn about the history that made the area what it was.
Interestingly, the museum is also on the Haunted History Trail of New York. It tells the stories of two men who died in a boiler explosion, and a young boy who accidentally died jumping off a bridge.
Old Erie Canal State Park
Much of the Erie Canal that crosses New York State is accompanied by recreational trails that run alongside it. These trails are used for walking, biking, hiking, and even horseback riding. The Chittenango area of the Erie Canal is no different. The state recently finished the 750-mile Empire State Trail, and this portion of the canalway is right in the middle of it.
The official park is right alongside the museum, and there are boats available at the museum for rent by hour or day.
The Wild Animal Park
One of my absolute favorite things to do in Chittenango is to visit The Wild Animal Park. The Wild is a family-owned zoo that gets bigger and better every year. While slightly more expensive than the zoo in Syracuse, The Wild offers so much more in its experience. The layout of the park is well thought-out and lets the animals have large exhibits while letting visitors get as close as is safe. You can tell the animals are happy and well taken care of. Which makes sense since the owner, Jeff Taylor, hand raises most of the animals from infancy.
When you visit, be sure to catch some of the demonstrations that the caretakers do – you can see the intimate relationships they have with the animals. The lions and tigers really act like big cats! Plus they are the only zoo in New York State that has all 7 of the big cats. Overall, there are about 50 different species of animals.
Visitors can get up close and personal with the giraffes and the camels. Spend a few dollars on carrots so you can feed Jase & Jasmine. Other animal encounters are available for an additional fee. Be sure to follow The Wild on Facebook to see the new animals as they are acquired and watch the owner and his family raise them in their home as pets and during the winter. You can also stay up-to-date on various events like their drive-through safari, and trick-or-treating.
Budget tip: If you’re a local, the season pass is available for about the same price as three visits – well worth it!
More Things to Do in Chittenango
There are so many great activities in Chittenango, it makes for the perfect day trip! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Tell me your favorite Chittenango attractions in the comments.