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Kid-Friendly (and Cheap!) Weekend Adventures in the Hudson Valley

Pack up the kids and get ready for an awesome, affordable adventure.

Credit: Bear Mountain
Credit: Bear Mountain

Written by Kathleen Reilly

Sometimes all it takes is a little planning to have a great family day. When routine exploits just aren’t cutting it anymore, shake things up by exploring new terrain, taking in an exhibition, or visiting a landmark and learning a little something about our local history. Here are awesome events to attend and places to visit around town before fall ends. Best part? All of them can be done on the cheap and on one tank of gas—or less!

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

4 Reservation Rd., Pound Ridge
914-864-7317

Why Go? Over 4,000 acres of trailing, picnicking and fishing. Take a break with younger kids at the playground. Wait long enough and you can cross-country ski, too.

Insider Tip: Don’t break out the fishing rod without a license, which you can get in White Plains at the Westchester County Clerk’s office.

Must Do! The trails. This is the largest of the Westchester County parks, and kids will love the variety of terrain that can be covered in a day. Explore the inviting secondary paths. “Ward Pound Ridge is known for its family friendly trails and abundance of picnic areas,” says Mary Kaye Koch, Westchester parks marketing director. “Grills are available for outdoor cooking.”

The Fine Print: $10 admission, $5 for those holding a Westchester County park pass.

Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum

75 N. Water St., Poughkeepsie
845-471-0589

Why Go? Play, learn, have a blast. This museum makes learning appealing to youngsters. The newest exhibit, “Fun, 2, 3, 4,” has clever way of introducing math concepts to kids. Visitors also have the opportunity to measure dinosaurs using their feet, or explore the secrets of Aztec counting. You may even have a prodigy on your hands before leaving.

Insider Tip: Just next door is the recently opened pedestrian walkway over the Hudson, which connects the two sides of the river. Once a rail bridge, this short trail offers expansive views both north and south of Poughkeepsie. Plus, it’s free to traverse.

Must Do! “We have giant, blue foam blocks where kids can create amazing things — indoors or outdoors,” says Sara Capozzoli, the museum’s director of public media. “The creativity is out of control.”

The Fine Print: Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at $7.50 per person. Typically, museums offer hefty discounts for young children. Here, though, this venue offers free admission only to children under 1. After all, it is a children’s museum.

Lawrence Farms Orchards

39 Colandrea Road, Newburgh
845-562-4268

Why Go? It’s not just about apples. There’s the hay bale maze, train ride and home-baked goods. The fall selection is large, including pumpkins, eggplant, grapes, and pears.

Insider Tip: “This is located on one of the two highest points in Newburgh,” says Jane Lawrence, the orchard’s owner. “The views are beautiful, and people often come for peace.” Plenty of home-grown goodies are for sale, but you can bring your own lunch and make use of the picnic tables.

Must Do! The little farm village, where kids can play in a small farmhouse for free. Feed turkeys, peacocks and chickens for 25 cents a pop.

The Fine Print: A half-bushel bag (roughly 50 apples) is $30, hay bale maze is $2 per person, and train ride is $1 per person (train on weekends only). Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

New York State Museum

260 Madison Ave., Albany

518-474-5877

Why Go? It encompasses everything New York has to offer. There are plenty of hands-on interactive areas, including one on the Erie Canal. There are fossils, gems and all the minerals the kids can handle. “We have an archeological dig box where kids can dig for dinosaur skeletons and Native American artifacts,” says Albert Gnidica, visitor services assistant. “We are the largest and oldest state museums in the United States,” Gnidica added.

Insider Tip: Take advantage of being in the state’s capital, and visit the neighboring historical sites from the Revolutionary War.

Must Do! The vintage carousel. It’s not just for viewing — kids can actually take a ride. Check out the depression-era “A train” subway car, too! How about a replica of the Sesame Street stoop?

The Fine Print: Although the museum is free, donations are encouraged (even while riding the carousel).

Bear Mountain State Park

Tompkins Cove

845-786-2701

Why Go? A lake, hiking trails, fishing and remarkable views. Plus, a trailside zoo. “Our animals are native to the area,” says Erica Rossi, a Bear Mountain State Park representative. “We have bears, reptiles, and coyotes, all rescued and can’t be released back into the wild.” The ice skating rink opens in October.

Insider Tip: Shaded picnic area and café on site. The park hosts an Oktoberfest; while mom and dad enjoy the beer, the kids can tap into a slate of food, music and vendors.  

Must Do! Take a spin on the animal inspired merry-go-round. Weather permitting; take a ride to the top to take in the 40 foot tall stone Perkins Memorial Tower and to experience an unforgettable view of the river. Visit the carousel too.

The Fine Print: Parking is $8 per vehicle; trail admission is $1. Open 8 a.m. to sunset. Merry-go-round is open 10AM – 5PM. Kids under 16 don’t need a fishing license.

Croton Gorge Dam

Off Route 129, Croton-on-Hudson

Why Go? It’s like Niagara Falls (maybe a little bit smaller but a lot closer). Stand near the rail to feel the spray from this 200-foot dam. Plenty of space for kids to run free and explore, so pack a blanket and stay awhile. “The gorge connects to beautiful state trails,” advises Mary Kaye Koch, marketing director. The park is adjacent to the Old Croton Aqueduct trail—you can even hike to Yonkers!

Insider Tip: Pack a lunch. The park has picnic tables but no food nearby. Also, take a walk along the river that the dam spills into. Kids will enjoy the Tom Sawyer-esque experience.

Must Do! Make sure to walk across the bridge that spans the dam, as the views of the reservoir are beautiful. Although the span is closed for vehicular traffic, pedestrians are more than welcome to play.

The Fine Print: Open 8 a.m. to dusk. Parking: $5 with park pass, $10 without park pass.

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