When we hear the words “New York,” most of us think immediately of NYC, but the state of New York is beautiful and has much to offer outside of the city as well. The Hudson Valley area is one of our favorites, and there are many natural wonders as well as noteworthy landmarks in art and history as well, just an hour or two north of the city. Here are a few of our favorites, from south moving north along the Hudson River.
Bear Mountain State Park – Just an hour or so north of the city, Bear Mountain State Park is big enough to spread out, and has attractions to interest family members of any age. There is a small zoo, a Merry-go-round, a Playground, and even an antique but functional Merry-go-Round (check to see if it’s open before you visit if this is on your list of things to do.) All of this can be reached easily from the main entrance and parking lot at the lodge. You can also hike or drive to the mountain top at Perkin’s Peek. We drove there in April and found it snowing with a wicked wind. It was invigorating for us to run to the viewing tower and the views at the top were, of course, worth the climb.
The Walkway Over the Hudson – this was a fun way to appreciate the view from the middle of the Hudson River. We started in Highland, NY, at the start of the “rail train” and made our way across the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY. Dogs (on a 6 foot leash) are welcome. The wind really whips in the middle!
Minnewaska State Park – this is about 45 minutes west of the Hudson, but had to be included as it is our favorite park in NY. Minnewaska is full of natural wonders. $10 per vehicle gives you access to the park. Awosting Falls are a short hike from the lower lot, perfect for young families. However, you can go right up to the edge of the falls at the top (terrifying!) so keep dogs and small children tightly leashed. You can also make your way down to the bottom, to get a better view and dip your toes in the water. There are several beautiful mountain lakes. If you go to the visitor’s center you will find the jewel blue Lake Minnewaska right in back of it, surrounded by rock ledges and foliage. It is breathtaking. Also worth visiting on the western side of the park are Verkeerder Falls (higher than Niagara!), Sam’s Point overlook, and several interesting ice caves.
Springwood and the museum and library of FDR – the grounds, mansion, library and museum are all worth visiting, and you can easily spend half a day here, depending on the attention spans of your youngest family members. The resting place of the Roosevelts sits beneath a simple white headstone in the middle of a large flower garden behind the library. The stables with the names of his horses can also be visited – you’ll see the stable formerly belonging to “New Deal.”
The Vanderbilt Estate – again, the grounds are just as impressive as the mansion, with space and views that make it worth a visit, even if the mansion is closed. Tours of the mansion are $10 per person, and the grounds are free. There is an Italian Garden complete with fountains and benches to sit and take in the Hudson in from the mansion’s back yard. The estate is just across the street from Springwood in Hyde Park, so both visits can be done easily in a day.