The Magic Forest is a small fun fair in upstate New York that is a gold mine of unique Americana from a bygone era including the world’s largest Uncle Sam figure and the nation’s only remaining diving horse.
Created in 1963, the Magic Forest amusement park has not changed a great deal since then. The park is one of the final surviving example of the kind of simple, kid-friendly rural amusement park that were once ubiquitous in the heyday of Route 66. There are all the classic rickety carnival rides that shake, spin, and generally work hard to make riders nauseous, alongside the quaint fairytale-themed attractions based on nursery rhymes that seem almost aching quaint. However the park features a number of more one-of-a-kind attractions that set it apart from its quickly disappearing counterparts.
In addition to all of the standard fun fare, the Magic Forest is dotted with large fiberglass figures known as “muffler men,” due to their former homes as mascots for auto repair shops. Towering over these already over-sized figures is a nearly 40-foot tall statue of Uncle Sam which claims to be the largest in the world. While there has been no official research or comparison to truly establish this fact, its validity is unknown, although its safe to assume that it is true. Would Uncle Sam lie to you?
The true star of the park though is Lightning, the Diving Horse. This chestnut gelding is the only remaining performer of a type of show the president of the Humane Society of the United States once called, “… a colossally stupid idea,” in which the horse jumps muzzle first into a pool of water. During the height of the popularity of diving horses the poor beasts were often shoved and prodded off of high dives that would make a human being balk, but Lightning’s show has been maximized for his health and happiness with a much shorter fall, high class boarding and a light performing schedule that is only in effect for two months out of the year. Which is all to say that the show can be enjoyed free of most ethical qualms that ruin so much fun in this world.
Visit New York State with Atlas Obscura Trips
Only in Queens: Tasting Our Way Through New York’s Most Diverse Borough
Manhattan may have name-brand recognition and Brooklyn a certain cache, but Queens is the city’s largest and most diverse borough. Join us, October 4-7, to dig into Queens’ rich neighborhood life.