Finding great places for childhood adventures in the Hudson Valley
I grew up in the Hudson Valley but as a child never fully comprehended the beauty, history or adventure of the area. I spent most of my days hating home; there was nothing to do and no where to go. As a child with hopes and dreams of city life we were situated in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see or do. It wasn’t until I was grown and gone and starting a family on my own that I began to understand what I was missing. I get goosebumps now when look at a map of the Hudson Valley and see this beautiful, enormous body of water flowing right through the middle of it. Nothing to do? I can’t find enough days on our calendar now for the amount of places we want to go, see, explore and play. The Hudson Valley is truly busting at the seems with family fun and we are exceptionally lucky to be right smack in the middle of it all.
Though the Hudson Valley is filled with sculpture parks and playgrounds, zoos and attractions, the River is what brings the whole region together. Even though I am not an outdoorsy person by nature we love to spend our summers outside by the river (or lake, creek, etc.). Here I have rounded up 10 exciting ways to play on (and in!) the Hudson River.
1. Try your hand at crabbing. The same beautiful blue crabs that can be found down in the Chesapeake Bay actually migrate into our river this time of year! In the winter the head down to the deeper waters of the New York Bay but each summer they head back up to the mid- Hudson region. And yes, they are totally edible and delicious! Crabbing with kids is great because they are so easy to catch. All you need is a string, some fresh or rotten food (chicken legs or necks are popular) and a net.
I am going to wait until my boys are a little older and the fear of one of them falling into the river subsides a bit but I did a little research and found some of the most popular crabbing spots for you:
The Newburgh Pier
Long Dock Park, Beacon
Plum Point, New Windsor
Bear Mountain Bridge
Iona Island, Stony Point
You do not need a license for crabbing, just make sure if you are going to keep any of the crabs you catch you know the regulations. You cannot keep a “sponge crab” or a female carrying eggs and if you happen to find a crab that’s tagged, return it and call it into the DEC (they are tracking their migration patterns and will give you a cool hat for calling it in!)
Crabbing is great, it’s free, easy for kids and a fun way to spend a day on the river!
2. Hit the open waters. There are two ways you can boat on the Hudson, you can let the wind be your guide and learn to sail or let the motor- powered boat take you for a spin.
First, if sailing is more your speed, there are a number of places on the Hudson that will help you set your sail:
Hudson Sailing, Kingston
Kingston Sailing Club, Kingston
Tivoli Sailing Company, Tivoli
But if you prefer a larger, less work, boating experience check out one of the many Hudson River Cruise excursions:
Hudson River Cruises which provides a unique vanishing point of the beautiful Hudson River aboard the Rip Van Winkle. From it’s dock in Kingston, the tour follows the river south toward Hyde Park pointing out the estates, vineyards, lighthouses and more along the way. Hudson River Cruises also offers private charter, special events, group discounts and more.
Empire Cruise Lines sailing right out of Poughkeepsie offers lunch and dinner cruises, sightseeing tours, special events including a Haunted Hudson River Tour and is also available for private parties.
3. Throw in a line. When you think about all the fun things that you can do on the Hudson, fishing is often at the top of the list. Yes, you do need a fishing license but once you get that the river comes alive. There are more than 200 species of fish living in the Hudson River and it’s watershed. The more widespread is striped bass, catfish, carp, white perch and herring. (This handy chart from the DEC will help kids be able to identify what they caught).
While we just missed free fishing weekend, November 11th, Veterans day has also been declared a free fishing day where fishing licenses are not required in NYS.
In Dutchess County, hot spots include; Long Dock Park in Beacon, Fahnestock State Park and Riverfront park in Poughkeepsie. In Orange County, Bear Mountain State Park, Sloop Hill Sate Unique Area and The Newburgh Waterfront. In Ulster County, Highland Landing Park, Black Creek Preserve, Kingston Point Park and Falling Waters Preserve. (Among the many spots along the Rondout and Esopus Creeks).
4. Cool off in the river. Thanks mostly to the Hudson River, we are blessed with many beautiful lakes and swimming holes throughout the region. From a pool made within the Hudson River in Beacon (Beacon River Pool) to the popular Kaaterskill Falls at the creek there are a number of places to play in the sand, sun and water. Some of the more popular places on the Hudson include Kingston Point Beach, Ulster Landing County Park and Saugerties Village Beach. Here is a complete list of Hudson Valley Swimming Holes and Beaches by county: www.hvparent.com/best-of-swimming-holes-and-beaches
5. Grab a paddle. A little bit of Hawaiian culture right here on the Hudson River. Paddle boarding dates back to the 1960’s when Hawaiian surfing instructors would stand on their surf boards to take photos of the tourists during lessons. Today, stand- up paddle boarding is growing in popularity in the Hudson Valley region. From sunset Hudson River tours to rentals for learning at your own pace, stand up paddle boarding can be found at the following places:
Here are a few more: http://myadventurespot.com
6. Take in the views. Okay, technically not directly in the water of the Hudson but too good not to include in the list. If getting wet and wild isn’t so much your thing, you can still experience most of what the River has to offer 212 feet above it on the Walkway over the Hudson. This state historic park is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world and offers visitors magnificent views of the Hudson River and the Beautiful Valley. In addition to the views, visitors can jog, bike, picnic, bird watch and look for trains and boats along the river. There are picnic tables and restrooms at either end as well as concession and benches. Along the railings of the bridge, interpretive signs are linked to a free cell phone tour called Talkway Over the Walkway. More ideas for spending a day at the Walkway: A Day at the Walkway.
7. Hold onto your shorts! No paddles for this ride on the Hudson. You might have to drive a little bit north of the best of tubing down the Hudson but there are a few spots right here in the Hudson Valley totally worth checking out. You can easily make a day out of it, taking your time to enjoy the birds and other wildlife on the lulls in your trip or for a more exciting ride plan to go on one of the days each month when the Department of Environmental Protection releases water from the Reservoir providing the city with more drinking water. In the Hudson Valley you can rent from Tinker Town Tube Rentals, Phoenicia. If you can make the day trip, further north is where all the real tubing fun happens. Tubby Tubes Co., Beaver Brook, and Adirondack Tubing Adventures just to name a few.
8. Capture of piece of history. The Hudson River Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Hudson River. Located in Kingston, the museum invites visitors to explore its many exhibits filled with industrial, maritime and ecological facts and displays. In addition to the museum along the Hudson River, you can take a tour up to the observation deck of the Rondout Lighthouse and/ or explore the wonderful Kingston waterfront.
9. Explore an old castle on the Hudson. Just south of Beacon on an island lives the ruins of an old castle built in 1901. It was the first army-navy surplus store. The castle was used to store Bannerman’s large supply of black powder after the Spanish-American War. Just like back then, the castle is only accessible by boat. You can work your muscles and kayak there yourself, or settle in for a passenger ride. Tours leave from Newburgh or Beacon.
10. Picnic and play. Since we aren’t quite ready as a family to jump in and get our feet wet in the river with some of the more adventurous experiences above I wanted to add the last on the list for those with younger kids or are more of a mellow group. There are quite a few amazing parks right on the Hudson River for spending the day relaxing with a picnic, enjoying a leisurely hike or playing a game of Frisbee with the kids. Our favorite Bowdoin Park offers beautiful views, open fields for running, trails for exploring, picnic tables, a wonderful playground for playing and even a splash pad for cooling off in the hot summer sun. A few other favorites include; Storm King, Hudson Highlands, Riverfront park (Beacon), Waryas Park (Poughkeepsie), Highland Landing Park, Riverfront Park (Poughkeepsie), Vanderbilt Mansion (Hyde Park), Mills Norrie State Park, Kingston Point Park, Ulster Landing Park.