Traci Suppa has a strange compulsion for roadside attractions. She drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the “world’s largest” things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home. Some of her favorite discoveries, like the world’s largest kaleidoscope, are in her own neck of the woods–the Hudson Valley region of New York. Follow her on Twitter at @GoBIG_GoHome.
New York’s Hudson Valley remains under the radar as a family vacation destination, and I don’t get why. This verdant, 150-mile tract on both sides of the Hudson River offers affordable, wholesome fun when you want to whisk the kids away from the screens, and get back to basics. This region is also an ideal addition to an itinerary which begins or ends in New York City, since it’s reachable in less than an hour by car or train.
It’s also a great place to call home. My family, which includes our 10-year old son and 3-year old daughter, makes frequent outings to these favorite indoor and outdoor sites, most of which are open year round.
With a history pre-dating the Revolutionary War, the Hudson Valley is home to a wealth of historical sites open for public tours. Several cater to children with fun interactive programs and hands-on events. Sites like Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Tarrytown and the Museum Village in Monroe introduce children to the past through living history tours and reenactments by costumed interpreters.
World’s Largest Kaleidoscope
Sometimes the destination isn’t as important as the thrill of seeing the world’s largest … whatever. Constructed inside a tall black silo, the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope is actually the interior of the silo in the town of Mt. Tremper. You have the choice of lying on the floor to see the show, or leaning on tilted back boards. A ten-minute video — colorful, musical, and somewhat psychedelic – is reflected off three 37-foot tall mirrors. There’s complete darkness except for the ever-changing prismatic display overhead.
The Walkway Over the Hudson
A breathtaking birds-eye view is your reward for braving The Walkway Over the Hudson which ascends 212 feet above the water at midpoint. But it’s the span — 6,767 feet, or 1.25 miles — which distinguishes it as the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. You can access this new linear state park from Highland or Poughkeepsie, and you’re welcome to bring your bike or skates. The bridge connects 27 miles of rail trails and riverfront parks on either side.
The Hudson Valley has its roots in agriculture, and scores of working farms still dot the landscape. Many open their fields to “pick-your-own” fruits and vegetables, particularly apples and pumpkins. Several in particular actively entice visitors with special events like seasonal hayrides, corn mazes, petting zoos, crafts, games, workshops and more. Kelder Farm in Kerhonkson also has a mini golf course, Weed Orchards in Marlboro bakes delectable apple cider donuts, Barton Orchards in Poughquag has a sizeable playground with a wooden pirate ship, and Secor Farms is a small field perfect for pre-schoolers picking spring berries.
There are several water parks in the region but our favorite is SplashDown Beach in Fishkill. It offers enough fun to fill a full day, yet its manageable size means you won’t be walking miles between attractions. With its shallow pool, Shipwreck Lagoon is the main hub of pre-school activity. For bigger, braver kids, Cowabunga Falls and Pirate’s Plunge are breath-catching water slides. At four stories tall, the Humunga Half Pipe is New York’s only zero-gravity half pipe ride, sending riders up to a pinnacle and letting gravity draw them quickly down again.