New York State has no shortage of family-friendly activities. And, with four distinct seasons, each month brings a new adventure. New York is made up of the city: Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, and fifty-five other counties, each with their own unique offerings. The counties closest to the city are Rockland, Westchester and Dutchess counties.
1. APPLE PICKING
In New York, apple picking and fall are synonymous. One favorite orchard is Barton Orchards in Poughquag (Dutchess County). Besides apples, they have hayrides, a corn maze, petting zoo, mining for gems, a pirate ship playground, and a fun park with a pedal kart race track, bouncy trampoline pad, with tons more to do.
If you want a smaller apple picking experience, try out Stuart’s Fruit Farm in Westchester County. Both orchards welcome leashed-dogs so it can truly be a full family outing.
If you go to these farms in October, most of them also have pumpkin patches for Halloween. And, don’t forget the apple cider donuts!
Click here for a complete list of apple orchards in upstate New York.
2. THE GREAT JACK O’LANTERN BLAZE
Halloween comes alive in Westchester County. It’s the home of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In nearby Croton-on-Hudson, you can attend The Blaze, a two-month event that sells out quickly. Walk through a display of more than 7000 jack o’lanterns.
Special lighting and eerie music add to the experience. This event is suitable for children (and adults) of all ages. Your kids will beg you to go every year.
3. WALKWAY OVER THE HUDSON
Originally a railroad bridge, the Walkway Over the Hudson opened to the public in 2009. It connects Poughkeepsie, New York in Dutchess County to Highland in Ulster County.
While it’s 1.28 miles each way, your kids can bike or take ride a scooter across it. On the Ulster County side, vendors sell snacks like popcorn and ice pops.
The views of the Hudson River are stunning and the entire experience is free. Maybe you’ll be lucky and catch a freight train passing underneath.
4. MUSCOOT FARM
With original buildings dating back to the 1800s, this farm, located in northern Westchester County, encompasses 777 acres and houses cows, donkeys, chickens, sheep, goats, turkeys, ducks, and our favorite, pigs. We’ve been lucky enough to go on more than one occasion and see mama pigs surrounded by their newly born piglets.
The farm is free but there’s a donation box at the entrance. They host events throughout the year such as fairy walks and farmers markets.
Afterward, drive down the road to the iconic King Kone, an outdoor soft serve ice cream shop that has a sandbox area for kids to play.
If you’re really looking to fill the day, head on over to Reis Park, a playground for all ages and abilities, with a food stand and indoor bathroom.
5. ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK PRESERVE
Get in touch with nature and take a ride to Rockefeller Park. This is truly our happy place. Located in Pleasantville in Westchester County, this park consists of scenic and paved carriage roads that make it the perfect place to take a nature walk with children.
Our favorite trail, Brother’s Path, is an easy walk (1.1 miles) around Swan Lake. We count the animals that we see: ducks, deer, and horses. The views of the lake will take your breath away. From there, head towards Stone Barns. You don’t have to go far off the path to see cows grazing in the pasture.
You will have to pay a $6 parking fee unless you go late afternoon after 4:30 pm or off-season. It’s free during the week from November to March.
Time your trip out for May when you’ll catch the Peony Celebration.
6. STORM KING ART CENTER
One of our family’s favorite spots, this outdoor sculpture garden, features massive works of art. Your kids can even climb or swing from some of them. Storm King offers a free tram to take you around the 500-acre space. You can also rent bicycles there.
From May to November, every Sunday at 1 pm, artists run outdoor free kids programs. Also, the cafe, although small, offers surprisingly locally sourced and organic, kid-friendly food options.
7. RENAISSANCE FAIRE
This fair located in Tuxedo transports you into the time of the Renaissance. It runs on weekends from August through October. You’ll see Shakespeare, fairies, Queen Elizabeth, and Robin Hood. Watch artisans create glass, armor, candles and more.
The highlight for us is the real-life jousting match. And no trip is complete without a giant turkey drumstick.
8. HOT-AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL
There are tons of hot air balloon festivals scattered throughout New York State. The largest one, the Adirondack Balloon Festival in Lake George is a four-day event in September. Besides the balloons, you’ll find craft fair and local food vendors.
If you’re looking more downstate, there’s also the Empire State Hot-Air Balloon Fest at Barton Orchards in June and the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival at Rhinebeck in July.
9. OLD RHINEBECK AERODROME
Speaking of Rhinebeck, New York, for your airplane-obsessed child, check out the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. The museum open from May through October houses old airplanes, motorcycles, and other vehicles. But it’s best to go there in June when you can catch an airshow with bi-planes or a World War I dog fight (think Snoopy vs. the Red Baron).
10. HOWE CAVERNS
Go spelunking and descend 156 below the earth’s surface into the caves of Howe Caverns.
They offer various tours, including one with a boat, and others with a lantern or flashlight. Kids can also mine for gemstones and participate in the ropes course, go ziplining or climb the rock wall.
Howe Caverns is located less than an hour from Albany, New York.
11. THE NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM
If your kid loves baseball, take a trip to The National Baseball Hall of Fame located in Cooperstown. Plan to spend an entire day going through the exhibits. Don’t miss the one dedicated to Babe Ruth.