Off-The-Beaten Path Summer Fun for the Whole Family in Albany, NY
Need ideas for fun places to go with your kids in and around Albany, but feel like you've been everywhere? Visit a family-friendly museum, have an adventure in the great outdoors, or take in a free performance at one of these lesser-known attractions on your next day out.
Go Hiking in a Rare Ecosystem
Explore the outdoors at the Pine Bush Preserve Discovery Center. Kids and adults alike can learn about the Albany Pine Bush through interactive exhibits that showcase the unique plants, animals, and geology of the rare pine barren. The Discovery Center also hosts events all the time, including guided family hikes and workshops geared towards visitors of all ages. Want to strike out on your own? The Preserve has 18 miles of trails, many of them easy, sandy, and well-marked.
Take a Cruise on the Hudson
Explore Albany from a new perspective! Dutch Apple Cruises offers tours of the Hudson River. Set sail from Downtown Albany on one of their standard afternoon tours, which lasts about 1.5 hours. Learn about the history of the region while cruising down to Van Weis Point and enjoy the sights on the trip back. They also have a snack bar on board with kid-friendly offerings like ice cream and hot dogs.
Experience Local History
The Mabee Farm -- run by the Schenectady County Historical Society -- is only a short drive away in Rotterdam. You can take a tour of the house (built in 1705 by Dutch settlers) and wander the farm and grounds Tuesdays through Sundays year-round. Admission is free for children, and there's a small fee for adults. They host many family-friendly programs throughout the summer, where kids can try their hands at colonial crafts and agriculture. They're also known to host festivals, complete with historic demonstrations, products from local crafters, and petting zoos.
Catch a Performance in Washington Park
Attend a musical or play by Playhouse Stage Company at Washington Park Lakehouse's outdoor amphitheater. Their shows are open to the public and are often kid-friendly. You can either scope out a free spot on the lawn, or purchase reserved seating for an affordable price. Playhouse Stage Company also performs at the Cohoes Music Hall, if you'd rather catch a show indoors.
Visit a Museum Everyone Can Enjoy
Hesitant to bring the whole family to an art museum? The Albany Institute of History & Art offers family guides to help make visiting the museum more fun for kids. In addition to an array of temporary exhibitions, the Institute's collection includes artifacts from Ancient Egypt (including mummies), paintings from The Hudson River School, sculptures, and art and artifacts highlighting the history of Albany. They also have a children's gallery that uses play and creativity to encourage kids to interact with concepts they'll see in the main exhibits.
Bring Historic Families to Life
A great way to get kids interested in history is to visit a historic house, where they can see how people lived and picture past events within a concrete context. Visit the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, run by the Underground Railroad History Project, to learn about the Myers and their house's role as a headquarters in the 1850s. Take a tour of Historic Cherry Hill -- the home of the Van Rensselaers for five generations and the scene of an infamous 1827 murder -- which is finishing up its extensive 10-year restoration in 2019. Or take a trip to Schuyler Mansion State Historic site, home of General Philip Schuyler and the site of Alexander Hamilton's wedding to Elizabeth Schuyler.
Explore an Airpark
The Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville is perfect if your child loves planes -- the museum has a hangar and airpark with more than 20 restored historical planes and aircraft, some of which are open for visitors to climb on board. (Make sure to snap a picture of them in the pilot seat!) Within the museum itself are exhibits on the history of aviation, from its invention, to its role in the World Wars, to space exploration. After exploring the exhibits, don't forget to stop by their flight simulator.
Discover an Island
You don't have to go far from Albany to spend a day exploring an island -- Peebles Island State Park lies at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. Hike the trail that runs around the perimeter of the island, go for a spin down their bike path, play a game of horseshoes, find a picnic table to enjoy a scenic lunch, hang out on the observation deck, and learn more about the park at the Visitor Center.