Fun Family Day Trip Ideas Within Driving Distance from Albany, NY
Looking for something to do on a weekend or during summer vacation that will be fun for both adults and kids? Albany's prime location means that you're never further than a two-hour road trip to places like the Adirondacks, Southern Vermont, the Hudson Valley, Western Massachusetts, and Central New York. The next time you're looking to get away without going far, plan a day around these outdoor adventures, amusement parks, and history museums, all located within 45 to 90 minutes away from Albany.
Discover the Hudson Valley and Catskills
Feeling adventurous? Take the family to Catamount Aerial Adventure Park in Hillsdale NY, right on the Massachusetts border and less than an hour from Albany. They have 12 tree top challenge courses and 3 zipline courses, geared towards kids and adults of various skill levels. Visitors can soar along some of their more than 50 zip lines and traverse the wood and rope walkways at their own pace, as their courses are assigned color-coded levels of difficulty. They're open in the summer and early fall, so you can enjoy the lush green and vibrant autumn foliage of the Taconic Mountains and Housatonic River Valley as you play in the tree tops.
For more zip lining fun, visit New York Zipline Adventures in Hunter, about an hour and 15 minutes from Albany. Their Mid Mountain Tour is a kid-friendly journey, featuring six zip lines, nine platforms, four suspension bridges that allows guests of all ages (60 lbs or more) to explore the Catkills from above. There's also an family-friendly Adventure Tower, which is 60 feet tall and full of fun obstacles.
Need to beat the heat? Take the whole family to Zoom Flume Water Park in East Durham (1 hour out of Albany), which has an array of water slides, a wave pool, lazy river, wild river, and several activity pools for younger kids. Want to spend the whole day? They have multiple dining options and areas for picnicking.
Venture Out to Central New York
Photo credit: Hope Relly-Cobb
Schoharie and Cooperstown are both an easy drive (1 to 1.5 hours) down I-88, and are a great option if you want to get out of the city and into Central New York's rolling hills and farmlands.
In Schoharie County, explore its charming small towns, learn about Revolutionary War history at the Old Stone Fort Museum, and go spelunking in Howe Caverns, which has wide, well-lit pathways and plenty of cool formations to check out, as well as an underground boat ride.
Off the beaten path aways -- but well-worth the trip -- is the Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center. Explore their interactive exhibits to learn about how the New York Power Authority uses the Schoharie Creek to provide electricity to New York City, and take a tour of Lansing Manor, a 19th-century house located on the premises.
In Cooperstown, on the southern shore on Otsego Lake, baseball fans of all ages will enjoy exploring the exhibits at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Don't forget to venture out into the town while you're there, however. Go to The Farmers' Museum, a living history village and farm that depicts life in the 19th century. Kids and adults alike can learn about local history and take a ride on the Empire State Carousel. At Glimmerglass State Park -- located at the opposite end of the lake --check out the beach, hike a nature trail, or tour The Hyde Hall Mansion.
Photo credit: Hope Relly-Cobb
Go out of state for the day! Southern Vermont is only a short 1 to 1.5 hour drive from Albany and offers fun and educational attractions for all ages. Stop by Bennington to climb the Bennington Battle Monument, the tallest building in Vermont, and enjoy the views of the Green Mountains from the top. Explore Bennington, visit a covered bridge, or take a tour of the Park-McCullough House (a Gilded Age mansion with all-original furnishings and a historic kids' playhouse out front that looks just like the main house) before heading up the scenic Route 7A to Manchester.
Manchester is known for its large selection of outlets, where you'll also find Northshire Bookstore's Vermont location. The bookstore is located in a large Victrorian house, with the entire second floor dedicated to kids books. For fun with history and nature, visit Hildene, the home of Robert Todd Lincoln. You can explore the house (and see one of Abraham Lincoln's hats -- one of the few left today), walk inside a restored luxury Pullman Railroad Car, visit a working goat farm, and trek numerous nature trails.
Explore the Berkshires
Photo credit: Hope Relly-Cobb
There are plenty of activities right over the border in Massachusetts that will fill a fun day out without going more than an hour out of Albany. In the Pittsfield area, stop by Hancock Shaker Village to explore the gardens, visit the livestock, and tour the living history museum. There are special hands-on exhibits for kids where they can dress up in period clothing, attend a 19th century school, and try their hands at traditional crafts, like spinning wool.
In Lenox, MA, take a ride at the Berskshire Scenic Railway Museum. Kids and parents can tour historic locomotives and stations, as well as take a short train ride. Looking for more historical attractions nearby to round out your day? Kid-friendly options include Edith Warton's The Mount (where kids under 18 get in free) in Lenox and Naumkeag (a large Gilded Age "Berkshire Cottage" with tons of gardens to explore) in Stockbridge, a little town with shops and restaurants that's perfect for exploring on foot.
For a unique adventure, head out to Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont, about 90 minutes from Albany (a little longer depending on traffic). Among many other attractions, they boast the Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster, which takes guests (by themselves or in pairs) up the mountain in carts, then lets them sail back down through the forest in winding curves. You can purchase single rides or packages of five or ten. Kids as young as 9 can drive the carts and kids as young as 3 can ride along. The carts also have brakes that allow everyone to go at their own speed.
Have a Southern Adirondack Adventure in Lake George
The southern tip of Lake George is only about an hour from Albany, and full of fun things to do as a family. Take a tour of Fort William Henry, where you can explore the soldiers' quarters, view the lake from the parapet, and watch musket and canon demonstrations. Spend some time exploring Lake George Village's shops and restaurants, then cool off at one of the lake's many beaches.
If you've been to Lake George before, chances are you've seen the tour boats cruising along the water. Take a ride on the Adirondac or the Horicon with Shoreline Cruises. They offer several different kinds of tours, which typically set sail in the late morning or afternoon and last between 1 and 2.5 hours, depending on which one you choose. Dinner, sunset, or fireworks cruises are also availble in the evenings.
Lake George visitors can also cruise on one of the Lake George Steamboat Company's iconic steamboats, the Minne Ha Ha, the Mohican, or the Lac du Saint Sacrement. In addition to scenic trips around the lake, they also offer family dinner cruises and a pirate-themed excursion kids will love.
Spend the day at one of the region's newest kid-friendly attractions. Lake George Expedition Park - Dino Roar Valley & Magic Forest is just south of Lake George and offers rides and activities for all ages. Families can enjoy traditional amusement park rides, like a Tilt-A-Whirl and Ferris Wheel, and explore Dino Roar Valley, a nature trail where you can see life-sized models of dinosaurs and dig for "fossils."
Want to explore the outdoors, regardless of the season? Explore the trails, go mountain biking, ride the chairlift, or challenge yourselves at the Aerial Adventure Park at West Mountain in Queensbury. Their tree top obstacle course has zip lines, a trapeze, a climbing wall, and tons of aerial walkways to traverse. If it's winter fun you're looking for, you can enjoy a great day out on the slopes skiing, tubing, and snowboarding at West Mountain Ski Area. They also have two restaurants on-site, so there's no reason not to spend the entire day there.
With so many regions to explore, and a wide variety of activities from which to choose, you can plan a day with something for every member of your family to enjoy without straying far from home.