An easy escape from many NE metropolises, this cool mountainous countryside beckons families to explore the great outdoors.
Less than two hours from New York City, the Catskill Mountains area is a popular, economical ski destination in winter and in summer it’s a region that charms families who prefer a rural vacation to one of lazing on the beach. Note: The following warm-weather places of interest are only open in the non-ski season (approximately April through October) but each has something to offer visitors of any age.
255 Discovery Drive
Howes Cave, NY 12092
Since its discovery in 1842, Howe Caverns has offered a rare glimpse into a prehistoric world formed millions of years ago by an underground river. Wheelchairs and strollers are not permitted with standard admission. Those who are wheelchair-bound, however, will be given a complimentary tour, including an elevator ride 156 feet down and a documentary viewing. The elevator entrance, smooth brick walkways and modern lighting throughout make the cave more accessible. Explore winding passages and enchanting tower formations, and then take a ride on the underground boat to visit the Bridal Altar and Winding Way. Above ground, learn more about the history and science of Howe Caverns through exhibits and interpretive displays. The caverns are open year-round with tours throughout the day.
Zoom Flume Water Park
Shady Glen Road
East Durham, NY 12423
The region’s largest (but still fairly small) water park has 300-foot high winding waterslides, rapids, an interactive water playground, a lazy river, and a giant lagoon activity pool. My personal favorite is the Black Vortex, which zooms you down through twists and turns, all in complete darkness. For younger children, there’s a miniature waterslide and play area. Snacks and refreshments are available at the outdoor food court and chaise lounges populate each section of the park, so adults can relax while keeping an eye on the kids.
Hudson River Cruises
Roundout Creek Dock
5 Field Court
Kingston, NY 12401
Take a two-hour sightseeing cruise on the Hudson, where your guide will point out gorgeous estates, lighthouses and scenic preservation sites. The Rip Van Winkle also does specialty cruises such as the Kid’s Kruise in the summer, and Leaf Peepers in the fall.
Lander’s Wild & Scenic River Trips
5666 State Route 97
Narrowsburg, NY 12764
Canoe, kayak or raft along the Delaware River using Lander’s guided services. You can camp on the grounds overnight, and there are getaway packages available.
Bike Plattekill Mountain Resort
469 Plattekill Mountain Road
Roxbury, NY 12474
There are more than 60 miles of chairlift-served trails here for all levels of mountain bikers, and the resort’s many services include lessons, beginner packages, rentals, and races. The base lodge also has a repair and retail shop, and there are picnic and camping sites on the property.
Hunter Mountain Skyride
Hunter, NY 12442
On a nice day, nothing beats the amazing view aboard the Hunter Skyride. The 4-passenger chairlift takes you vertically up the mountain to the summit elevation of 3,200 feet above sea level. You can see the Berkshire Mountains, the Green Mountains and of course, the Catskill Mountains. At the top, you can walk around, hike down, or mountain bike through one of the various trails on the mountain. Open Wednesday through Sunday from July through Labor Day, in addition to weekends in September and October.
Hudson Valley Renegades
1500 Route 9D
Wappingers Falls, NY 12590
Baseball fans cannot miss a game at the lively and welcoming Duchess Stadium to watch the Renegades, a farm team of the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, as with any minor league baseball team, the game is never the main attraction. The little kids can try and spot one of the three mascot raccoons, Rookie, Renee and Rascal, wandering the stands and they will especially love the third-base line section of the “The Dutch” where blow-up jumping castles and other kid-friendly games are set up until the 7th Inning Stretch. Make sure to be on the lookout for the different competitions that will take place on the field in between innings. You can participant in “Deal or No Deal” to win an iPod or even get tickets to a New York Mets or Yankees game with a tennis ball toss. Fireworks after the game usually occur at least once a week, check the website for details!
By Jillian Ryan
The Delaware Ulster Rail Road
43510 Route 28
Arkville, NY 12406
800/225-4132 or 845/586-3877
Take a ride in a vintage train car, with themed events aboard. Witness a train robbery with desperados and deputies or enjoy live music on a twilight ride. The venue also hosts special events with live music, food, and murder mysteries. All ages will be comfortable here because there is a family-friendly cafÃ© in a vintage car and places to rest in the shade.
Last Chance Antiques and Cheese Cafe
602 Main Street (Route 23A)
Tannersville, NY 12485
If you’re hungry, thirsty, or you want to pick up some specialty items, Last Chance Cheese is the place to go. The cheerful, well-stocked gourmet store and antiques shop is also a full-service restaurant. It features over 100 imported cheeses and 300 beers—among myriad comfort foods—on its long and appetizing menu. It’s difficult to decide what to order, so don’t let anyone in your party order the same thing—that way, you can sample as much as possible! After filling up on cheese fondue, french onion soup, meatloaf, lasagna, brownie sundaes and root beer floats, wander into the shop side of the store and pick up gourmet coffee, candies, antique trumpets, posters, and other knick-knacks.
Hanford Mills Museum
Intersection of Routes 10 and 12
East Meredith, NY 13757
800/295-4992 or 607/278-5744
Take a tour of the John Hanford Farmstead and explore America’s industrial past in one of the only remaining industrial mills of the 19th century that is still in use. Kids get to see a working sawmill and gristmill powered by a waterwheel in action, and they can participate in hands-on activities and workshops. In the gallery, view exhibits about local and regional history, or take a walk along the nature trail.
For lodging suggestions and more information about the region, visit www.catskillregiontoday.com.
Gia interned for Family Travel Forum while an English major at New York University. She now works for True Romance Magazine. She likes to read, write, sing, golf, and of course, travel. One of her favorite places is Rome, and she hopes to live there for at least part of her adult life.
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