Best Places to play in the Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley offers plenty of options for the summer when we just want to kick back and have some fun. Here’s a sampling.


1) We’re lucky to have the enormous, 5,000-plus-acre Bear Mountain State Park so close to home. Hiking and bike trails abound, there’s a public swimming pool, as well as lakes where families can take a spin on paddle boats or rowboats. The park’s well-known zoo features critters that make the region their natural home, such as bears, foxes, raccoons, and more. Older kids can learn a bit about the region’s natural history at The Trailside Museum. Generation after generation delights in the park’s stone and timber pavilion that’s home to a carousel with nearly 40 beautifully carved animals to ride. 845-786-2701

2) Water parks draw kids like magnets in the summer. They’re a great way for the whole family to relax, cool off and savor sun and fun. SplashDown Beach Water Park offers summer fun for all ages. There’s a Bob the Builder section, complete with dumping buckets and geysers. Another favorite is the Shipwreck Lagoon, complete with a pirate ship. Older kids, teens and adults will dig the park’s four-story-high bullet bowl slide; New York’s only zero-gravity Humunga Half-Pipe. 845-897-9600

3) There’s plenty to enjoy at Hunter Mountain, even when ski season is over. Older kids and adults can get their adrenaline pumping with a ride on the longest, highest zipline tour in North America. For the more cautious, and for the younger members of the family, ecological canopy tours are offered at Hunter, with short zips, suspended walking bridges, and other wooden features to climb on. Kids can also play on the 60-foot Adventure Tower, full of obstacles and fun climbs. 518-263-4388

4) Tour the renowned Catskill Animal Sanctuary, a 110-acre haven for rescued farm animals — it’s a great way to teach kids to respect critters and have fun, too. Many of the animals roam freely, so don’t be surprised if a chicken hops on your car, or a goat ambles over to greet you. The facility even has a day camp, Camp Kindness, for kids ages 8 to 13; its goal is to foster compassion towards all living creatures, and teach kids cool ways to respect Planet Earth. 845-336-8447

5) There’s plenty to do for kids of all ages at The Castle Fun Center. You name it: go-karts and bumper cars, roller skating, laser tag, mini-golf, batting cages, a climbing wall, arcade, and more. Parents can join in or take a break and practice “adult golf” at the Castle’s driving range. In the evening, Jester’s Restaurant and Comedy Bar serve up entertainment for those 18 and over. 845-469-2116

Quirky Spots to visit in the Hudson Valley


1) Kids adore petting zoos. Love Apple Farm lets children feed the baby animals straight from a nursing bottle. You-pick-it seasonal fruits include: strawberries, peaches and apples — a great way to give kids a hands-on experience of where our food actually comes from. Kids make a beeline for the “tree forest” playground, where they run around freely. The farm also features a café with doughnuts and home-baked fruit pies. 518-828-5048

2) The Zoom Flume Water Park offers lots of ways to stay cool during those warm days ahead. The facility has a nifty wave pool, as well as winding water slides, including one with a totally dark tunnel, plus rafting, a giant Lagoon Pool, a Lazy River, and more. 800-888-3586

Tips for keeping your kids sunburn free while playing outside!

3) Sometimes an old-fashioned amusement park is the ideal place to kick back for some simple, no-frills family fun. Hoffman's Playland family fun center dates back to 1952; it started with two rides and a few ponies. It now has 19 classic, “old-fashioned” rides (remember the Scrambler or the Tilt-a-Whirl?), a Ferris wheel, snacks such as cotton candy, and an arcade. 518-785-2842

4) A warm-weather day is perfect for a trip to the Oasis Family Fun Park . It features an award-wining miniature golf course, a “Defender Dome” bounce house, laser tag, and a paddle-boat area that even has a ride-through “cave.” 518-283-3646

Unconventional pit stops before you hit the road this summer!

5) The Albany Indoor Rock Gym: With an assortment of overhangs, floor-to-ceiling cracks, even the option to climb across the ceiling, kids can creep and crawl to their hearts’ content. The facility also features what’s described as the nation’s only indoor cave system, for ages 10 and over. Check the schedule; there’s limited weekday-only access to climbing for kids under 10.  518-459-7625

Grace McCoy is a writer and editor who lives in the mid-Hudson Valley.