School’s out and the long days of summer loom ahead. Why not plan a few day trips this summer to give the kids (and yourself) something to look forward to? Read on for some great road-trip possibilities, courtesy of the Third Edition of Let’s Take The Kids! Great Places to Go in New York’s Hudson Valley by Joanna Michaels.
This might very well be one of the smallest counties in the state, but that doesn’t prevent it from having a plethora of family-style options to take advantage of. Each summer, the town of Carmel hosts the Circle of 1,000 Drums Festival in Veterans Memorial Park, where kids learn how to make their very own drums. Carmel also hosts the county’s yearly 4-H Fair. If there are any animal enthusiasts in the family, drive a bit more south down to Mahopac and check out the Mahopac Farm, complete with a petting zoo and farm critters galore. Just off of Route 84 rests Brewster, home of Ryder Farm’s raspberries which stretch over a 125-acre span.
Orange County is arguably one of the most historic counties around, perfect for history buffs of all ages. Vails Gate is the site of the New Windsor Cantonment, the spot that the northern Continental Army called home during the tail end of the American Revolution. Tours, reenactments, and wartime exhibits are abundant here, and the place is so well respected that many local teachers make it a yearly destination for field trips. George Washington’s Headquarters is not too far away in Newburgh, which is also known as Hasbrouck House. The first National Historic Site in the nation’s history, the house is set up exactly the way it was when Washington and his men lived there. The museum next to the house hosts relics ranging from noble (Washington’s life-size portrait) to the peculiar (a lock of his hair). Appropriately enough, this county is also the home of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Guided tours will show off almost everything connected with the history of West Point, including monuments and selected quarters. And yes, there’s a museum here too! If all the history gets to be a bit too much to take after awhile, the Hudson Highlands Cruises at Cornwall-on-Hudson are breathtaking, as are Newburgh’s River Rose Cruises on a two-level paddleboat. If solid water is more preferable when you’re in Newburgh, try the ice-skating at Ice Time Sports Complex.
Have a desire to see things from a different point of view? Then Sullivan County is the spot for you, because your spirits can soar—literally—over at Wurtsboro Airport. Open since 1927, fully qualified commercial pilots in Cessna tow planes take sightseers up over the Catskill Mountains in sailplanes for a good 15-20 minutes, and then glide softly back down to the ground. For those of you who wish to keep your feet on the ground, the option is available, and you can watch the planes from there. The Delaware River is always a tempting spot for the avid canoe and kayak aficionados and their families alike, since the 135-mile long river itself is a rather tame one. Rental posts are everywhere, as well as rest areas along the river itself. The other bodies of water in this county – including Lake Huntington, Mongaup Falls Reservoir, and White Lake – make for excellent fishing opportunities, with plenty of trout available to be hooked. Never been a lucky fisher? Stop by DeBruce’s Catskill State Fish Hatchery. If you and the kids need some time indoors, take them to the O&W Railway Museum in Roscoe. After all, what kid doesn’t love trains? They’ll get to walk around inside an actual red caboose and play with the model railroad. Finally, if you want to show off a landmark of the 1960’s, there’s always the Woodstock Festival Site in Bethel, the place where all the craziness happened.
One word: Bears. That’s right, bears. The Widmark Honey Farm in Gardiner is home to a whole bunch of black bears and their cubs, all of who entertain the visitors with their bear-like antics. Of course, what Honey Farm would “bee” complete without a beekeeping exhibit and honey production center? No worries, by the way: the gift shop has several different kinds of honey for sale. If you and the family are in the mood for another eclectic activity, stop by Robin Hood Archery in Accord and experience the dignified sport at one of the many shooting ranges. The Pine Grove Ranch in Kerhonkson has a little bit of everything for everyone. While the young ones spend time in Lil’ Maverick Day Camp, the older family members can spend time at the rock wall, the baby animal farm, the paddleboats, and horseback riding, naturally. There’s even a cattle drive for any veteran riders! Shows are ongoing events at numerous theaters, such as the Unison Arts and Learning Center in New Paltz and the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston. To spend time on the really hot days, the Town Tinker Tube Rental facility on the Esopus Creek in Phoenicia is the best option. When the sun finally goes down, the John R. Kirk Planetarium on the SUNY New Paltz campus has various shows every weekend.
Dutchess County is the birthplace and home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the most revered presidents in our nation’s history (Random Ironic Fact: In all four of his Presidential elections, he never won Dutchess County). The FDR House and Museum sits in Hyde Park, off of Route 9. The visitor’s center was overhauled not too long ago, and provides a depth of insight into Roosevelt’s life. Inside the house are numerous family objects, including FDR’s collection of stuffed birds. Outside is the famed rose garden and the President’s burial site. As long as you’re going to be in Hyde Park, make reservations at one of the student-controlled restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America and take in an incredible meal. Go down Route 9 in the other direction and you’ll run into the home of another famous historical subject, Samuel F.B. Morse. The painter and creator of Morse code once lived in Poughkeepsie’s Locust Grove, and makes for another interesting tour. The 150 acres of lawns are a good spot to kick back and relax for a little bit. Continue south on Route 9 until you get to Fishkill, and go have a blast at Splashdown Park and Adventure Island, where the water slides, pools, mini-golf courses and everything else will keep the kids entertained for a long time. At nighttime, head back to either Hyde Park or Poughkeepsie: there are two of the few hundred remaining drive-in movie spots in the nation in Dutchess County, one in each of those two areas.
In Columbia County, you can take a drive into Hudson and swing by the American Museum of Firefighting. Among other things, Engine Hall has all sorts of firefighting antiques, including trucks and engines, and even paraphernalia used by bucket brigades back in the early 18th Century. Revolutionary War reenactments can be seen at Clermont in Germantown, home of New York Continental Congressional Delegate Robert Livingston, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence. For a more artistic touch, The Fields Sculpture Park in Ghent has hosted outdoor sculpture exhibits in a gorgeous landscape environment since 1988. Since you can’t go wrong with attractions featuring animals, stop into the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, where the whole family can watch goat cheese be made right before their eyes. It also turns out its fair share of sheep cheese and yogurt. If that doesn’t make anybody in the family hungry, then stop by The Berry Farm in Chatham, a haven for numerous kinds of berries and kiwis.
This area should be renamed “The Animal Kingdom.” Just like Columbia County, there are surefire creature attractions in Greene County that everybody will get a kick out of. The most well-known of these is the Catskill Game Farm. Thousands of wild beasts call this their address, as well as the cute little critters in the petting zoo that are ready to be bottle-fed by the kids. Less than five miles north of here is the Catskill Mountain Wolf Center, which provides visitors with all the information they would ever want to know about gray wolves. Cornwallville is the spot of Armstrong’s Elk Farm, home for more than forty Rocky Mountain elk and their velvet antlers, which are harvested to make assorted medicines. For those craving a realistic farm life experience, check out Hull-O Farms in Durham, where you can spend a weekend giving all the traditional farm tasks a try and stuffing yourself full of great barbeque. To cool off from all this activity, head out to Shady Glen Canyon in the East Durham area for the Zoom Flume “Aquamusement” Park. You might also want to see what the buzz is about at North and South Lakes over at Haines Falls, one of the more popular summer destination spots.
Summer is the ideal time to check out events in the mostly rural Delaware County. It’s a well-known spot for hikers in the state, mostly because of the oodles of long and winding paths. The Catskill Forest Preserve in Stamford alone has trails exceeding three hundred miles, which can accommodate hikers of all skill levels. The nearby Catskill Scenic Trail, Kirkside Park in Roxbury, and Oquaga Creek State Park also draw their fair share of hiking buffs. The Catskill Scenic Trail is also popular with individuals who enjoy off-road activities. If the kids are altogether new to the whole hiking experience, The Americorps hosts an Outdoor Education Center in Delhi, which is perfect for beginning instruction to hiking. Over at the West Kortright Center, you and the family can take in one of the various types of concerts held during the summer months, both indoors and outside on the lawns. The youngsters will get a real kick out of the Roxbury Arts Group children’s concerts, crafts, and puppet shows. And yes, there are animals to be cuddled with in Delaware County as well, particularly in Walton at Healing Waters Farm, Carriage Museum, and Petting Zoo. The zoo here is diverse and inviting, and the collection of Amish carriages and buggies, well maintained to this day, is thought provoking.
When people hear “Ostego County,” they tend to think “Cooperstown.” When they hear “Cooperstown,” they automatically think “Baseball Hall of Fame.” The entire town has baseball fever, and the Hall of Fame is the epicenter. It’s a place you and the family can go to year after year, and it will never get old. It’s the spot to gaze at the bronze plaques of inductees and priceless Major League relics, and pay homage to the great sluggers and aces of days gone by. Believe it or not, this isn’t the only Hall of Fame in Ostego County. Over in Oneonta you can find the National Soccer Hall of Fame, featuring the oldest known soccer ball in the world. The site also offers summer soccer camps for the future MLS star in the family. Cooperstown still has a cultural side to it as well. The Fenimore Art Museum has massive art galleries and unique exhibits, as well as kid-oriented areas. The town also hosts the Farmer’s Museum, which is actually a displaced village of antique houses from central New York. Highlights here include the sparks flying from the blacksmith shop, and the Cardiff Giant, one of P.T. Barnum’s famous hoaxes. For a really bizarre yet enjoyable experience, take the kids to Royal Llamas in Oneonta, where they can admire the numerous llama species and even take a llama for a ride!
A pivotal Revolutionary War spot, Schoharie County has some of the best natural and man-made attractions in the state. One of the more well-known tourist attractions is Howe Caverns, with ongoing tours more than 150 below ground. While you’re underground, you’ll try the boat ride on the Lake of Venus, a truly dreamlike experience. Believe it or not, couples have actually gotten married inside the caves at the heart-shaped Bridal Altar. Those who wish to learn more about the history of the area can check out the award-winning Iroquois Indian Museum nearby. Artifacts from the Six Nations are on display, including ceremonial pieces. Kids can actually try on Indian clothing at one spot. Another lesser-known cave spot is Secret Caverns in Cobleskill, which features an underground waterfall spanning one hundred feet in height. For a good snack, the place to be is the Schoharie Pharmacy and Ice Cream Fountain, home of the Throop Pharmacy (the oldest building in the entire county) and spot-hitting ice cream. Fultonham’s Max V. Shaul State Park is tiny compared to other parks in the state, but it’s an ideal place to spend some time away from everything. Cooper’s Ark Farm in Schoharie is where the kids can learn how to perform everyday farm jobs, and also watch an alpaca wander the grounds.
Saratoga County is hands-down the best horseracing spot in the state, and it shows. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame conveys all the excitement of a day at the races in a pleasant environment, and even has a full size horse skeleton for those who want to know what a pony looks like on the inside. From July to September, you and the family can have breakfast at Saratoga Racetrack, watch the horses practice, and see a demonstration of the starting gate. Saratoga County has one of the most bizarre, unique museums you could ever hope to find: The National Bottle Museum in Ballston Spa. Not only is there a collection of about two thousand bottles, but you and the family can stop into the glass studio and watch works of art be created right in front of you. Another must-see spot in Ballston Spa is The Rodeo at the Double M Arena. Everything you ever thought you could see at a rodeo is here, complete with authentic Rodeo clowns. For more live entertainment, the place to be is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, better known as SPAC. Nearly every kind of music is set to be performed here each year, and it doesn’t get much better than a nighttime concert underneath the stars outside. Continuing with the Revolutionary War tradition of the state is the Saratoga National Historic Park, complete with battlefield tours, General Philip Schuyler’s house, and even a monument to the pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold.
Lake George is the most distinguished spot in Warren County, and the lake sure knows how to accommodate visitors. Shepherd Park and Lake George Battlefield Park all surround the lake for picnic and recreation purposes, while Million Dollar Beach and Lake Avenue Beach are the prime swimming areas. If seeing the lake more up close and personally is the goal, then go for one of the Lake George Steamboat Cruises, which can range from one to four and a half hours long. Warren County also boasts more than a hundred and sixty lakes, all of which are filled to the brim with fish such as trout, bass, salmon, pickerel, perch, and crappies. We all know that kids love candy, so taking them to the Boston Candy Kitchen in Glens Falls makes perfect sense. Here, they can watch workers manipulate ribbon candy and candy cane bases into the familiar shapes and patterns. Those who get a kick out of gems should stop by the Barton Garnet Mines in North Creek. After all, garnets are the official gemstone of New York, so why not let the family spend some time perusing for their own? Of course, it’s impossible to spend time in Warren County without heading over to The Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom for the high-speed roller coasters and refreshing water attractions.
Finally, even more spots to spend a great day with the family can be found across the state border and into the Berkshires region of Massachusetts. If nobody seems to know anything about the area, then stop into the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. Along with some historical insight, you can also see the aquariums, the dinosaur gallery, the authentic Egyptian mummy, and the art exhibits. Those lovable llamas can be found out here too, over at Berkshire Mountain Llama Hikes in Lee. The family can spend one, two, or three hours riding along trails on the furry back of a llama. More nature can be found at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, complete with seven miles of trails and numerous ponds. If that’s not great enough, there are actual, 200 million-year-old dinosaur footprints in Holyoke. To look at Massachusetts from the highest point possible, drive up to the top of Lanesboro’s Mount Greylock, standing tall at 3,491 feet. Kayak and canoe lessons are available over at Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, as well as supervised whitewater treks. The best places to go swimming are Onota Lake in Pittsfield and Windsor Lake in North Adams. For a great spa environment, head over to Williamstown and check out Sands Springs Pool and Spa. Last but certainly not least, pay tribute to one of America’s most respected and loved artists at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, which houses the grandest collection of his works in the world.