New York’s Hudson Valley Travel Guide For Families
If you’re looking for a long weekend away, filled with a little something for everyone, head for the Hudson Valley.
Is a quick, affordable getaway with fun activities, for both kids and adults, something only dreams are made of? Most definitely not. With beautiful scenery, natural areas for hiking and swimming, cute towns, low-key breweries, and affordable accommodations, the Lower Hudson Valley (including Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties in New York) is just that dream come true.
Before You Go
You’ll want to set aside three or four days to get the most out of this trip. Be aware that restaurants and attractions are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so consider going mid to late week. The peak season is from April to October, so if you’re looking to save some money, plan to go outside of those months.
When it comes to accommodations, there are several affordable and convenient options. If you choose to stay in one place there is everything from the basic Residence Inn, Fishkill to the extravagant Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz. If you would prefer to move around, hop onto Airbnb or VRBO for lots of short term options.
Log on to the Hudson Valley Special Events Calendar and consider planning your trip around one of the many legendary celebrations and festivals. Early summer visitors can enjoy The Lupine Festival, a spectacular showcase of the blooms that give the festival its name. Mid-summer brings, among others, the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival and the Grey-Fox Bluegrass Festival. A late summer highlight is the legendary Dutchess County Fair.
Day 1: Cruise On In
The drive to the Lower Hudson from the Philadelphia area is under four hours. Plan to leave in the morning so you can arrive in time to take a late afternoon boat ride on a charter like Pride of The Hudson. The two-hour narrated tour is enough time for the adults to relax (you can grab a drink from the bar onboard), and for the kids to get a full boating experience without asking “is this over?”
Keep in mind Pride of the Hudson is just one of many boat charter services in the area. If you’re looking for something more unique, try the monthly high-tea cruise on the Poughkeepsie, or an evening ride on the Kingston, which passes two Hudson River lighthouses along the way. You’ll find a complete listing of options on the Historic Hudson River Visitor’s Website.
Day 2: Get a Bird’s Eye View
Begin your first full day at the Walkway Over the Hudson. This paved pedestrian walkway, which is only a small section of a larger rail-trail system, straddles the Hudson River, giving visitors a magnificent 360-degree view. There’s a free audio tour, and plenty of historic details on signs strategically placed along the way.
Visitors who start on the Highland side can walk the mile and a quarter across the bridge to Poughkeepsie–home to the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum. The museum is geared towards the youngest visitors, so families with older kids may want to grab some lunch instead (try The Palace Diner), and head back over the bridge for a second breathtaking look.
From Highland, take a 30-minute drive to the town of Rhinebeck. Your kids will be happy to visit Samuel’s Sweet Shop, a nostalgic candy store sure to take you down memory lane and fortify your kids while you walk around this picturesque town.
After Rhinebeck, it’s time to head to New Paltz. If there’s a chance, stop at Poet’s Walk along the way. This hike is a terrific way to take in the varied landscapes that make the Hudson Valley special. You’ll walk through woods and an open meadow before arriving at bluffs overlooking the Hudson River.
If you decide to head straight to New Platz, once there visit the Huguenot Street Historic District to learn about one of the first groups of settlers to come to America. Start in the Visitor Center, where interactive exhibits will introduce you to the history. If you prefer, or get there after hours, wander the area using the mobile tour on your phone.
Day 3: Relax in a Garden
If you were lucky enough to stay at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, finish lapping up the luxury and then make the 40-minute drive to Hyde Park. Here, you’ll want to be sure and visit the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. While the Visitor Center will give you a lot of information about this famous family, the only way to see the inside of the house is to take a guided one-hour tour. If you don’t think your kids will stand the tour don’t worry– it’s well worth the trip to wander the stunning gardens and grounds on your own.
On your way out of Hyde Park be sure to grab some lunch. Play it safe by stopping at the Whole Foods or, take your chances at one of the roadside stands that will pop up along the way. Regardless, fill your tank because it’s time for the craft beer portion of this trip.
With a family atmosphere in mind, try the Sloop Brewing Company in Elizaville. Outdoor tables ring a play structure keeping kids and parents happy for a while. Another option is Plan Bee in Poughkeepsie, where kids can run in the fields, visit the animals, and lounge in hammocks, while parents taste seasonal, fruit-forward brews.
Day 4: Take a Dip
Before making the drive back to the Philadelphia, area take the kids for a swim in The River Pool at Beacon. Only three feet at its deepest, this protected, and partially submerged, pool is a unique opportunity to view the river from the water. Without the expansive Hudson River, the valley itself wouldn’t exist, making this the perfect trip finale.
Photograph by Rachel Kramer.