Local Tip: Family Fun in 5 Hudson Valley Towns
For me, having grown up in New York City, the Hudson Valley is synonymous with family vacations. I’ve stayed at every camp ground, eaten pancakes in every small town diner and visited every Revolutionary War site between the Bronx and Woodstock. As an adult I’ve rediscovered the Hudson Valley and I love it.
It’s the ideal destination for family daytrips from the tri-state area or a quick family weekend from pretty much anywhere in the lower Northeast.
Below, Vanessa Ahern, a Hudson Valley local, gives us the scoop on her favorite places to visit with her 7 and 10-year-old daughters.
Here are her top 5:
My husband and I fell in love with this area before we had our kids, but they’ve helped us find the family friendly side of this off-beat destination. First, there is the Catskill Mountain Rail Road ride along the Esopus River. We enjoy the scenery while the kids like bumping along on the old fashioned train.
Holiday Bonus: During the next several weeks, Santa Claus is on board for select train rides.
After the train, stop by the hard-to-miss Emerson Resort, whose collection of shops includes the Kaleidostore, an astronomy-themed toy store that houses the world’s largest kailedoscope . Enjoy the 8-minute Kailedoscope show then afterward take a break at the shoping complex’s café.
Begin or end your day in Phoenicia, officially one of the coolest small towns in the U.S. In the morning try the enormous pancakes at Sweet Sue’s. Or head to Brio’s Pizzeria at lunchtime for wood-fired-oven pies. Of course, there’s the Ice Cream Station for an afternoon treat.
Reward your kids after a long car ride with a romp through the beautiful playground at Lions Mini Park within walking distance of the town center. It also has a small pond, ducks, picnic tables and a fenced-in area for toddlers. There’s a popular year-round farmer’s market on Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, great for sampling local seasonal produce and other goodies. And we love the pancakes at Pete’s Place. The Dutchess County Fairgrounds is host to dozens of festivals throughout the year. Family favorites include the County Fair, Garlic Festival and Sheep and Wool Festival.
Holiday Bonus: My favorite even in Rhinebeck is the Sinterklaas Festival (December 3. 2011). Enjoy a puppet show, children’s parade, dance performances, free holiday treats, arts & crafts and a generally festive atmosphere.
The place to start a cool-weather visit is Kiwanis Ice Arena, an Olympic-size skating rink. It’s located in in Cantine Field, which also has a a small wading pool for the tots, tennis courts and ball fields for warm-weather visitors. After skating, head to Lucky Chocolates in town to warm up. Kids and adults will go ga-ga over the spread of artisinal organic and fair trade chocolates.
The town’s Trevor Zoo is a hidden gem where you won’t have to fight crowds here to see plenty of exotic animals. If the kids still have energy when you’re done, head to Tribute Garden Park in town for its pirate ship, fire truck, and spiral slide.
Pine Grove Ranch and Rocking Horse Ranch
If you’re staying the weekend and want to make sure to tire the kids out for an early bedtime, book a night stay at the Rocking Horse or Pine Grove resorts. Both offer horseback riding, indoor and outdoor pools and waterplay areas, supervised kids activities, entertainment and tons of things to do. Send older kids zip lining while you head to spa. Then meet up for dinner. Rocking Horse has onsite dining while Pine Grove visitors will find good family-friendly variety in nearby New Paltz.
Vanessa Ahern blogs about Hudson Valley food, events and destinations at Hudson Valley Good Stuff.