Your vacation gets you in touch with nature and the kids can learn about the past

Places to go in the Hudson Valley and Capital District of New York

Throughout the mid-Hudson Valley and Capital District of New York there are so many state parks and historic sites to explore – indoor sites for rainy days and outdoor spots for biking, hiking and camping. Here are some great ideas for your family’s next vacation.

Get outdoors and get active
Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, highlights the value of reconnecting children with nature and encouraging outdoor play. New York State parks and historic sites offer a full spectrum of opportunities to introduce or re-familiarize children with our environment.

State parks and historic sites in the Hudson Valley are flush with child-friendly and family-fun activities offering year-round adventures for visitors of all ages. From formal programming such as fish stocking events held every spring at Saratoga Spa State Park, Junior Naturalist activities held at Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New Paltz, dragonfly searches at Taconic State Park in Copake Falls and canal-related tours at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter to the everyday options available such as hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, camping, and birding, there are many affordable and interesting choices for friends and family to relax close to home.

With more than 225 locations across the state, the park system offers visitors a variety of campgrounds, beaches and pools, golf courses, historic homes, nature centers and more than 1,400 miles of trails.

Approximately 90 percent of state parks’ property remains natural, with lakes, streams, rivers, waterfalls, gorges, and bluffs, as well as woodlands and wetlands. More than 100 species of native mammals, tens of thousands of species of insects, hundreds of fish species, 70 species of amphibians and more than 300 species of birds find a home in our parkland.

Have you ever spotted a red eft or common yellow throat? Would you know the difference between red trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit? Visitors can learn more about these outdoor elements at nature centers in the region including the Shaver Pond Nature Center at Grafton Lakes State Park in Grafton where park naturalists conduct outdoor education programs, the Taconic Outdoor Education Program at Clarence Fahnestock State Park in Carmel which celebrates the seasons with various special events, and the U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center at Sterling Forest which features exhibits about the local environment and education programming.

Explore our historic treasures
New York State’s historic sites tell the story of our rich heritage. Here in the Hudson River Valley, meet the poets and artists, soldiers and sailors, leaders and heroes, and families and local residents who helped shape our great state and nation.

Experience the many facets of New York State history through storytelling, exhibits, musical performances, dancing, crafts, cooking demonstrations, military drills, and encampments. Enjoy walking on nature trails, exploring along scenic bike paths or picnicking on beautiful grounds.

Scout out a hidden gem, and escape to Clermont State Historic Site nestled along the banks of the Hudson River. Clermont’s most notable resident was Robert R. Livingston, Jr., who not only drafted the Declaration of Independence, but also negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and worked with Robert Fulton in developing steamboat technology.

Just a short drive north, reserve a spot so you and the family can see interpreters demonstrating hearthside cooking of early Dutch inhabitants at Fort Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer. The site features exhibits highlighting archeological finds from the Albany Fort Orange excavations, special programs, and guided tours of the museum.

During peak season, costumed interpreters await you at New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, the final encampment of General George Washington’s army. Don’t miss the new exhibit “Behind Every Great Man” introducing visitors to the lesser known people who made up this military community.

If you’re looking for artistic inspiration, travel to Olana State Historic Site in Hudson. This Persian-style villa, home to renowned artist, Fredric E. Church, offers exotic interiors, eclectic furnishings, painting, sketches and colorful intricate stenciling on both the interior and exterior of the home will evoke a sense of wonder and magic. Not enough outdoors? Don’t worry – the grounds offer beautiful vistas, meadows, a pond, gardens and a great network of trails for the family to explore. Bring lunch, a camera and a sketch pad!

These properties are just a small sample of the wide-ranging exciting destinations in the Hudson Valley awaiting your family this summer.

Details about facilities and events noted here as well as the full inventory of parks, historic sites, special events, and activities, along with information about the Empire Passport annual pass, can be found at