Top 10 free (or cheap) things to do with kids under 5 in the Hudson Valley

Having a good time with the kids can get costly when you are constantly spending money on indoor play places, movies, food, etc. So next time you and your little ones are looking for a new adventure check out this list of fun and cheap (or free!) great places to take the family.

EF LIbrary

1. I cannot stress this enough, if you have a toddler, baby or preschool aged child your local library is the place you want to be! Most of the libraries offer a slew of story times including arts and crafts, free play, structured activities and more! Though many of them require registration in advance there are often a number of drop in programs for the little ones & many libraries don’t limit the activities to local residents so play library hop for a week or 2 and see what you like best. Also check out free story times at Barnes and Noble.

Fridas play room

2. Coffee shops and kid friendly cafes are great places for mommy to unwind with a cup of coffee while the little ones play. Head to Frida’s Bakery & Cafe in Millton, The Bakery  or Moxie Cupcake in New Paltz, and Taste Budd Cafe in Red Hook where for the cost of a cup of delicious coffee the kids can play and mom can enjoy.

3. Many towns have free or cheap play spaces for the younger crew. An open room filled with new toys to explore and room to run, jump and play with other kids is a great way to beat winter cabin fever! The Murphy Midtown center in Kingston offers a free play space during the winter months as does the Rosendale Community Center (The Rosendale Cooperative Play Group). In Fishkill, the little rascals at the Fishkill Rec. has a great inexpensive program ($3) for kids ages 4 and under too!

4. The Millbrook Zoo is one of our personal favorite places! Inexpensive, wide open spaces and lots to learn. They are open all year and at only $5 an adult and $3 a child it makes a great day trip for warmer winter days and all summer long. (Tip: In the summer bring a lunch, there are grassy areas you can have a picnic!)

Community Clay Day @ Art Centro

5. Get crafty! After cleaning up toys, dishes and clothes all week it is nice to have a place where the kids can create and we don’t have to do the majority of the messy craft clean- up. Ranging in cost from Free to $5 places like the Creative Co-Op in Rosendale (2x a month toddler playgroup), The Mid Hudson Children’s Museum ($2+admission) and Art Centro in Poughkeepsie offers weekly or monthly art projects ranging from Free to $6.

6. The Mid Hudson Children’s Museum is lots of fun for the little ones! From a brand new firetruck to climb and play in to lots of hands on fun, kids can easily spend hours here exploring everything the museum has to offer. Admission is only $8 and the third Saturday each month (from 5-8pm) is FREE!

sprout creek

7. Kids love animals so what better way to spend an afternoon than visiting a furry (or scaly?) friend. A quick trip to Petco to visit the reptiles, fish, birds and small creatures could work any time of year, or pack a lunch and head to a local farm. Our favorite is Sprout Creek Farm in Lagrange. Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston is another great option.

8. Visit a state park or historic site. Many of the historic sites are open year round and families can enjoy a walk, picnic or play outside. A few in our area include Washington Headquarters State Historic Park, Olana State Historic Site, FDR home, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Vanderbilt Mansion and Bear Mountain State Park. Which are your favorite?

The Catskill Animal Society- photo from Facebook

9. The Catskill Animal Sanctuary is another unique place to visit. Over 100 acres of farm and farm animals that were rescued from the city to explore, pet and love. Many of the animals are free range so don’t be surprised if a goat tries to hitch a ride in your car! The CAS is open to the public April- October but open year round for over night stays, member tours and events! Public tours are $12 for adults, $8 kids under 12 and free for under 2.

10. Connect with nature at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. Open year round, the winter calendar is filled with a variety of educational nature programs for only $5 for children and $7 for adults. In the warmer weather Grasshopper Grove, a unique all natural kids playground, is perfect for the under 5 group at only $3/person and free for under 2.

Do you have a favorite free or cheap place to bring the kids? Share in the comments!

Photo credits: Art Centro’s website, The Catskill Animal Society Facebook Page, & East Fishkill Library on Facebook

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