10 Unique and Exciting Ways to Play on the Hudson River

Kids on RiverI 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.

Family cruising and River Safety Tips


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

Cold Spring

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!

kids on boat

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

For a fun family sailing experience, the Clearwater Sloop sails from a variety of docks between Albany and NYC. Check their website to see availability. www.clearwater.org

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:


I Paddle NY

Kayak Hudson

Hudson river expeditions

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.

Also check out Hudson Valley’s Best Playgrounds, Top Family Picnic Spots and Top Hiking Spots

Still want more? Here are 5 more ways to Explore the Mighty Hudson River with Kids or these Family Adventures on the Hudson River.


10 reasons we loved our visit to Chuggington at the Catskill Mountain Railroad


We were invited this weekend to ride the rails at the Chuggington Event at the Catskill Mountain Railroad in Kingston, NY. My boys are huge train aficionados and the look on their faces when the train pulled up and whistled it’s horn was truly priceless. On the train they loved hearing the familiar voices of Wilson, Brewester and KoKo and having them come to life at the after show was thrilling for even the adults! One of my favorite parts though was how the entire event was pulled together. They pulled story lines from the popular Disney channel show in order to create a space that was simply magical for the kids. My youngest is still talking about KoKo’s surprise party!

In Top 10 fashion, here are my 10 favorite parts of the event:

IMG_8460 IMG_8461IMG_84811. Activities for the kids- Around the field are fun challenges and activities for the kids. There are 3 challenges in particular the kids earn a colored Chuggington bracelet at each. The others include bubbles, face painting, food, tattoos and music. All are free with a “tips” jar 😉


2. The train ride- We have been on others that were just back and forth in the train yard. We were on the train here for about 30 minutes. There was staff on the cars who encouraged participation with the on going theme and the voices and music from the show played through the speakers. Towards the end, the kids received hats and blowers for KoKo’s surprise party! I suggest getting tickets for the covered flat for the best seats.


3. Music- I might still be singing the words to the catchy theme song!

IMG_84654. My oldest’ favorite spot was the train table. There was plenty to play with and the friendly staff were wonderful playing with him. There is a ‘toy store’ on site filled with Chuggington train sets, books, movies and more if you want to bring the fun home.

5. The activities were all free! We skipped on the face painting but the boys are still proudly showing off their tattoos!


6. We spent quite a bit of time in the music tent. There were plenty of ways to make music and the woman singing was awesome and super friendly!


7. The firetruck was another big hit! My youngest was thrilled with the chance to climb aboard, ring the bell and pretend to put out fires. I love when communities get together and support each other to put on a great event.

8. We were there so long we needed lunch. We were able to choose from pizza or grilled burgers and hot dogs for an inexpensive, family friendly bite to eat.

9. You can easily spend an entire day in the area. We spent three hours at the Chugginton event, and skipped quite a few things. We also received a ticket with discounts for other local places around town and could have spent a few more hours in the area before heading home.

10. There is only 1 weekend left to ride the rails!

Trains run every hour from 10am until 4pm. Plan to spend 2-3 hours.

Tickets are $19 a person.

Advance tickets are required, as seating is limited. All trains depart from Westbook Station at Kingston Plaza.

Disclaimer – Pamela Perry, author of Top 10 Tuesday received tickets to Catskill Mountain Railroad to help facilitate this review as a resource for Hudson Valley Parent readers in conjunction with places to go. Hudson Valley Parent Magazine did not receive any other compensation for this post.

10 fun things to do with dad on Father’s Day

father and son

My dad likes to sit back and relax on Father’s Day, my husband likes to be on the go. Sometimes it can be difficult finding something everyone likes to do though there is no shortage of activities in the Hudson Valley. From a delicious breakfast on the farm to soaring in a biplane or relaxing by the lake I have rounded up 10 awesome and somewhat unique things to do with dad this Father’s Day no matter what his passion may be.

“Anyone can be a father but it takes someone very special to be a dad!”

-Happy Father’s Day to all the special dads-

For the budget conscious dad.

Enjoy FREE admission for dad at many local museums, state parks and more. Plus dads ride free at a local amusement park too! Click HERE to see the full list.

For the nature loving dad.

Pack a picnic lunch and head to Storm King Art Center. The whole family can get close to the ponds edge to explore its inhabitants with experts from the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. The program is free with admission. If staying on the dry side of the pond has dad bumming, take him to Kittatiny Canoes on the Delaware in Pond Eddy for a special Father’s Day canoe or raft trip. Tip: Dads paddle for free on their special day.

For the dad that isn’t into sweating at the grill on Father’s Day.

Madava Farms in Dover Plains, home to the famous Crown Maple Syrup is hosting what looks like a delicious BBQ lunch. Seriously my mouth is watering just reading the menu. Enjoy breathtaking views while dad sips his beer and toasting a marshmallow by the fire pit after lunch.

Madava Farm

More: Kid  friendly places to Eat ]

For the adventurous dad.

Whether dad is a high flying adventurous guy or a down and dirty type, the whole family can find a thrill this weekend. Check out Northeast Offroad Adventures where dads get a free NORA hat and passengers are $25. But if his dream is soaring, visit the Rhinebeck Airodrome where everyone is celebrating fathers day with special pricing on admission and biplane rides.

For the kid at heart dad.

It’s a trainstastic adventure and the entire family is invited! The crew from Chuggington has rolled into the Catskill Mountain Railroad this Father’s Day weekend! Families will enjoy a show, activities, games and a train ride too.

For the best berry in the bunch dad.

With strawberry picking in full swing this weekend you have plenty of options to let dad fill up on the sweetest berries on the farm. I suggest a day at Kelder’s Farm where dad and the kids can enjoy a jump on the air pillow, a round of mini golf ad a visit with the barn animals.

kelders strawberries

Image Credit: Kelder’s Farm , Facebook

[ More: Hudson Valley’s Best Pick Your Own Berry Farms ]

For the sun bathing, beach loving dad.

The weather is looking beautiful for Father’s Day weekend, why not take dad to the beach? Try one of these great swimming holes or beaches. My top pick would be the beach at Belleayre Mountain. You can spend the day swimming, lounging by the lake, boating, fishing or enjoying a game of basketball or volleyball. My suggestion would be to pack a picnic lunch as concessions there are limited.

beach dad and child

For the biker dad.

Might I suggest a trip to Motorcyclepedia. A motorcycle enthusiast’s paradise filled with vintage bikes through present. A special collection of Harley Davidsons, military, police and much more. And if the museum didn’t quite satisfy you, head over to Orange County Choppers after for a bite to eat!

scott and austin

[ More: 70 places to visit this summer ]

For the breakfast lovers or cruisers.

While you might still be recovering from Mother’s Day brunch and another big meal out doesn’t thrill dad anyway. Don’t rule it out quite yet! Take a look at the Father’s Day Breakfast on the farm. This hearty, local and fresh meal has become pretty popular with the locals! If cruising and dining is more dad’s speed , try the Father’s Day brunch cruise which sails along the majestic Hudson River and includes a delicious brunch buffet and narrated tour.

For the classic car lover.

It’s the Famous 50s Hot Rod Weekend at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa! This show has become known as the biggest family- style car show in the Catskills. Featuring hot rods, custom cars and trucks, muscle cars, classics and more. Plus, enjoy live music, flame throwers, contests, games, awards and more. The perfect way to spend Father’s Day weekend.

13 things you don’t want to miss this month!

boys and mom

I am not quite sure what happened to May, it certainly seemed to disappear before our eyes. As I looked ahead to June I quickly started filling up our days with the typical end of the year busy-ness, PreK graduation, school picnics, birthday celebrations, teacher gifts and the list goes on. Then I started working on the Hudson Valley Parent calendar and the rest of our June days were filled in with local day trips, festivals, carnivals, fireworks, berry picking and more. As busy as this time of the year can get I love it. I love making those precious memories with my boys and even if we only make it to half the things on my list this month it will truly be about those special moment we share together during these fleeting childhood years.

So I have rounded up to share with you this week 10 of the must- dos on my June bucket list, so you too can start making summer memories with your crew. (Don’t forget, if you make it to any of the events on our list or HVParent calendar share a photo with us on our Facebook Page! We love to see Hudson Valley Parents having fun around town!)

1. Enjoy a free festival like the Annual Children’s Earth and Water Festival.

2. Take a trip to the theater. The New York Academy of Ballet is performing a Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty. You can also see Shrek the Musical at the Forestburgh Playhouse or Monster Intelligence at Sugarloaf Performing Arts Center.

3. Explore the big rigs at the New Paltz Rotary Club’s Touch a Truck event on June 7th!

touch a truck

4. Complete challenges with Wilson, Brewster and the gang of Chugginton aboard the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Young trainees can also participate in activities, enjoy face painting, music, tattoos, food and a Chuggington Train Ride

5. Go strawberry picking or enjoy all the best strawberry treats at the Beacon Strawberry Festival! If you haven’t already, check out the super adorable readers’ picking berries in our Top UPICK farm list!berry picking

6. New York sure does have some amazing pizza and the Hudson Valley is no exception! You be the judge of the best slice while listening to live music, games, raffles and fun for the whole family at Hudson Valley Pizza Fest on June 14th. Kids under 12 are free!

7. Visit the Car Show at Bear Mountain. Pack a picnic, it is a beautiful spot to sit by the lake, walk across the street to the trailside zoo, hike the mountain or take the paddle boats out to the lake. If warm enough, there are quite a few local family- friendly swimming holes to cool off in. (List coming soon!)


8. Have some fun down on the farm with events like the Garden Tractor Pull in Montgomery, the Farm Family Fun Day in Poughquag, even a tractor parade in Calliccoon!

9. Learn all about local resources, businesses and more while the kids play, create and have fun. The best part of Hudson Valley Family Fest is that each business vendor will have something for the kids to do! (Rescheduled from May 31st)

10. Attend a summer kick off event such as the kick- off party at the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum on June 26th! It’s all about having a healthy summer with snacks, crafts, activities, demos, music and lots of fun for the whole family.

11. Take a ride on the ferris wheel (or other awesome rides) at the carnival! June 17th is the start date of the Amenia Fire Co. Carnival and staring on June 25th in Warwick. Plus each have awesome firework displays, or you can see fireworks on June 22nd after the Renegades Opening Game, at Bear Mountain on June 26th or at the Stars and Stripes Celebration in Middletown on June 27th.

12. Listen to live music under the stars! Many towns begin their outdoor summer concerts this month. Check our calendar or your local town site to find this free family concert closest to you!


13. Is there a town near you hosting a community day or block party? These events are usually free and so much fun! Poughkidsie is celebrating their first birthday on June 14th with a block party, Also the Greenwood Lake Street Fair on June 13, Community Celebration in Kingston on June 18th, Pleasant Valley Community Day on June 20 and the Union Vale Community Day on the 6th. One last one, not technically a community day event, but can’t resist not posting about, The Rosendale Farmer’s Market is hosting a Mermaid Parade and festival on June 28th.

In addition to all these fun events, visit and bookmark Hudson Valley Parent’s complete Summer Fun Guide! All the best in ice cream spots, drive- ins, camps, festivals and fairs… plus, tips, tricks and more summer fun!

Visit us on Facebook for all the most current things to do and places to go in the Hudson Valley!

23 Hudson Valley Farms with CSA shares and 10 reasons to join

IMG_4947We love the farm. We are so lucky here in the Hudson Valley to be smack in the middle of such diverse areas. Only a few minute drive and you can be in either a city or a farm. My boys and I spend many summer days visiting the cows, riding horses and petting the goats at some of the nearby farms. Our favorite, Sprout Creek Farm has a super friendly staff, lots of animals and absolutely delicious ice cream in the summer! Another favorite farm activity is berry picking. We are excited to jump into the fields and pick our own fruits to turn into delicious treats  So many of our local farms offer animals for petting, fresh foods, classes and even activities such as playgrounds and jump pillows.

Since I have 3 (yes, daddy counts!) healthy, growing boys who consume their fair share of foods I often thought about joining a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture share). Though I have to admit I only knew it meant you got your foods directly from the farm. I started talking to friends who participate and read articles around the web. (Hint: HVParent have a good one here) and was really interested! Then I had to build a case for my dear, penny- pinching husband. I first had to prove that we would be in-fact saving money despite the hefty upfront costs and I had to back up the money facts with all the ways I felt a CSA share would be a good fit for our family.

So I am sharing with you today, not only 23 Hudson Valley Farms that offer CSA shares but also my Top 10 reasons to join a farm CSA!

[Top List: 23 Hudson Valley Farms offering CSA shares]

1. I would say probably the #1 reason why CSA’s are wonderful for families are because you are receiving great, local, farm fresh food at a great price. While paying upfront might seem a bit daunting to the budget, many have done the math and decided that savings of a CSA outweigh the costs of purchasing organic quality foods.

2. Many times you open your box to discover foods you haven’t tried before or maybe have never even heard of! As part of a farm CSA you may discover delicious new foods, try new recipes and get an opportunity to introduce the kids to many different things.


3. You will most likely eat healthier. Often times that fresh bunch of arugula looks more appealing than a can of peas!

[See Also: Healthy Eating on a Budget]

4. Support local economy and farmers. Paying upfront for your share helps ensure the farmers will be getting a pay check regardless of weather conditions and other factors that often hurt the farmer and his family. According to localrootsnyc.org, “Three of the top 20 most threatened farming regions in the United States are in the New York State area:

#10: Syracuse – Buffalo Region
#11: Hudson Valley
# 19: Eastern Long Island – Suffolk County”

kids petting baby chick

5. Make it into a fun outing for the kids. Pick-ups are a lot of fun, especially at a farm with different animals to visit and feed and kids get a first hand look at where our food really comes from… more than just a supermarket!

6. When you are able to see the work that goes into each plant, you watch it grow, you touch, smell and taste it straight from the farm you have a better appreciation for the foods and are more likely to eat them. Both solving picky eater dilemmas and creating healthy meals!

picking berries

7. Many farms that offer CSA shares have dedicated sections specially for U-Pick options. Some put no limits on the amount you pick! (Though a general rule of thumb is to not over pick, the point is still a share here). If you are a family like us who love to pick our own fruits throughout the season you know how much that adds up!

8. Becoming a part of a CSA is truly a sharing community. Members will often swap recipes at the pick- up line, kids play in the fields and you overall feel good about helping and being a part of the community.

farm view

9. Many farms offer education, workshops and special events. Have you ever wondered how to pickle those cucumbers? Check out your local farms and see if they offer any workshops near you!

10. When you join a CSA, you are protecting the environment, supporting farmers, small businesses and all around creating a better planet for our children’s children. What better reason then that?

[See also: Top list of Hudson Valley Farm Markets]

10 family fun ways to celebrate Mother’s Day in the Hudson Valley

Mother's Day Walk 2014

My boys and I enjoyed the Mommy Dash/ Sparrows Nest Walk last year

1. Giving mom the day off from cooking is one of the most popular things to do on Mother’s Day. So take mom to brunch at one of the great family restaurants in the Hudson Valley. I suggest the Mother’s Day brunch at Vassar College’s Alumni house from Twisted Soul, or the Bear Mountain inn.

2. Spend quality time raising money for a wonderful local charity, Sparrows Nest. The ladies over at Mommy Dash are hosting a family fun Walk in Hopewell Junction on Mother’s Day. After the walk I recommend East Fishkill Provisions where they are serving up a delicious breakfast/ lunch buffet from 11-3 with indoor/ outdoor seating and free for kids under 5!

3. Enjoy an event with the whole family such as the Apple Blossom Festival in Red Hook, The Mother’s Day tea-riffic tea party in Cornwall-on-Hudson, or The Fancy Nancy Mother’s Day Tea (open to the first 10 children ages 5-8).

4. Plant a tree with your mother at Falling Waters Preserve in Saugerties. Bring water and lunch and spend time with mom getting dirty with mother nature.

paintbrushes and party painting

Photo Credit: Paintbrushes and Party

5. For the creative mom take her to Paintbrushes and Party on Mother’s day for a special Mother’s Day paint and brunch event. You can paint together while sipping on mimosas and soft drinks and enjoying a light buffet brunch.

[Related: Celebrate Mom without Breaking the Bank]

 6. Treat mom to the Annual Tulip Festival & Mother’s Day Celebration in Ellenville on Mother’s Day. Mom can shop local vendors and the whole family will enjoy the live music, delicious lunch buffet and illusionist, David Garrity.

7. Take mom to the fair! For the carnival loving moms, the Hudson Valley Fair is in town! The whole family can enjoy shows, rides, games and my favorite, fair food!

8. Take a family friendly tour of the gardens at Clermont and enjoy a beautiful tea with mom at the Mother’s Day Tea at Clermont State Historic Site.

Drive- in movie

9. Bring mom to the movies. Indoor or out, there are some great theaters in the Hudson Valley and most of the drive- ins are opened! My top pick would be Four Brother’s Drive- In, Amenia. Before the show grab dinner next door at Four Brother’s Pizza and snacks at the snack shack.

10. Take a walk and maybe bring along a picnic. A few of my top picks for family friendly spots are the Saugerties Lighthouse, Poets’ Walk,Storm King Art Center, Bear Mountain, and the Mohonk Preserve.

Happy Mother’s Day!

20 places children with special needs can play, learn and explore.

family photoIn honor of Autism Awareness Month and one of my favorite people on the planet I thought appropriate to round-up some of the great places in the Hudson Valley children with special needs and their families can play, learn and explore. The gorgeous man with me in the photo to the left is my uncle, he has Down Syndrome. When he was young there were so few opportunities for children with special needs. Actually at his age, it wasn’t uncommon for most children to be institutionalized. It wasn’t understood or accepted and it was always a struggle. Friends weren’t an option let alone ice skating, music classes, painting, sports, etc. He was picked on and spent a lot of time alone outside or inside with the television. Fast forward 50 years and while as a society we are still learning and adapting to those with special needs we are seeing many more resources, programs and inclusion for all kids. (Heck he has more of a social life now than I do!) When I started this post I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to even find 10 local places, let alone 20! I am so pleasantly surprised and humbled by the amount of opportunities in our own area. So here ya go… In honor of every family in the Hudson Valley waiting to be included, to learn a new talent or foster a passion, there is a place for you!

Read More: 10 tips for play dates with kids of all abilities.

1. Bounce Poughkeepsie– Children with special needs and their caregivers can jump for $10 for the first hour and $5 for the second hour on the first Monday of every month. Call ahead for reservations and immediate family members are welcome to bounce too! Poughkeepsie, 845-206-4555.

2. Sensory Friendly Films– This monthly program brings favorite films to families with kids who have Autism (and I would imagine other special needs are fine too). The theater keeps the lights on, the sound down and kids are encouraged to get up and dance, sing, shout and move throughout the theater. A very cool way the whole family can enjoy time at the movies! Check the site for upcoming movies and dates. Looks like they are play Mall Cop 2 on April 25th and Tomorrowland on May 30th. Middletown, 845-695-1724.

3. Miss Claire’s Musical Cupboard A musical paradise for special needs children. Miss Claire’s offers Zylofone Performing Arts, a program specially designed for special needs as well as Baby Signing Time, teaching basic sign language through music. If you aren’t familiar with baby signing time, check it out! My boys started signing around 6 months thanks to Signing Time and we have been hooked ever since! Other programs include, Kindermusik, Rhythmic Arts, Music, Movement and Drums and Yoga. Montgomery,845-522-9652.

4. Winslow Riding Academy– Therapeutic horseback riding helps children and adults with disabilities improve their physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. At Winslow Riding Academy, there are specific programs to help meet the needs of individuals whether they have a disability or not. A few of the programs offered include, Therapeutic Riding, Hippotheraphy, Horses for Heroes and group or private riding lessons. Warwick, 845-986-6686. Another popular therapeutic riding farm is Hidden Hollow Farms.

5. Camp Huntington– A special camp for special campers. Camp Huntington offers week-long and weekend camps that focus on building independence, team work and bring out hidden talents and abilities. Activities include swimming, music, sports, drama, crafts, cooking, gardening and much more! High Falls, 845-687-7840.

6. Kelder’s Farm– Most farms are wonderful for kids with special needs. The entire family can enjoy seasonal berry picking, farm animals and running free. Though not open year round, Kelder’s Farm is a wonderful place for children with special needs and their families. Activities include a giant air pillow, barnyard zoo, corn maze and seasonal berry and apple picking. Kerhonkson, 845-626-7137.

See More: U-pick orchards in the Hudson Valley

7. Bard Collage Pool– For children with Autism and other special needs, we know how important sensory input is for a balanced day. Many kids love swimming or the water. I found that for only $10 (drop-in) for the day you can use the pool during their open swim times at Bard Collage!

8. Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum– The museum has been making many improvements over the last year. We love the new two-story fire truck, and the new Wonder Dome, great for kids with special needs. This space is a great place for sensory and therapeutic play and exploration and used by both parents and therapists. The space includes a light waterfall, a tactile curtain, and exploration of light, color, shadows and depths. A wonderful sensory experience. Take a peek too at the events calendar, April 17th the museum is showcasing the Wonder Dome with a guided play experience teaching families new ways to play with a focus on sensory learning and color. Poughkeepsie, 845-471-0589.

9. Poets Walk– There are so many beautiful parks and landscapes in our area I am always struggling to pull out one or two to highlight in these round- up posts! I chose to highlight Poets Walk for a special needs post because of the different type of landscapes to explore, the quietness and overall atmosphere of this park. Red Hook.

10. Winslow Riding Academy– Therapeutic horseback riding helps children and adults with disabilities improve their physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. At Winslow Riding Academy, there are specific programs to help meet the needs of individual whether they have a disability or not. A few of the programs offered include, Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy, Horses for Heroes and group or private riding lessons. Warwick, 845-986-6686. Another popular therapeutic riding farm is Hidden Hollow Farms.

11. Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary– A place where animals roam free, plenty of education, cuddling and playing. The Animal Sanctuary is a wonderful place most kids with special needs (especially those who love animals) will love to spend their time. The staff are caring and warm and the place is always growing and changing. (In fact, when researching, it looks like they are moving to a bigger and better space! The photos on their site look wonderful for completion but unfortunately they are closed to the public right now).

12. Orange County Sports Club– A special Needs Adaptive Play (SNAP) class for kids interested in gymnastics and movement. The class is 45 minutes and there are many other classes from mommy and me up through pre-teen and more so the whole family can play at the same club! Florida, 845-651-1000.

13. Lagrange Challenger Bowling Club– Doing some research and I found quite a few towns that offer adaptive sports programs for children and adults with physical or developmental special needs. Lagrange bowling club was just one example that provides a fun, supportive, non judgmental environment that promotes self- esteem and socialization. Check and see if there is something similar near you.

14. Mid-Hudson Music Together– It’s tough parenting siblings when one has a disability and one doesn’t. Finding classes and things the kids can do at the same time can be a challenge so I love that Mid Hudson Music Together offers a Supportive Family class! The idea is that both children with and without developmental special needs can play and learn from each other. They also offer individual and group music therapy.

See More: 10 Hudson Valley places the whole family can enjoy.

15. Therapeutic Ice Skating at the Civic Center– What a great idea! Children with disabilities can truly accomplish anything with a little flexibility! The Mid Hudson Civic Center has designed a program that teaches children of all abilities how to ice skate. They also offer an open skating session for families of children with disabilities for $5 including skate rental! Open skate is on Sundays from 12:15-1pm. Poughkeepsie, 845-454-5800 x 1205.

16. Sensory Friendly Films– This monthly program brings favorite films to families with kids who have Autism (and I would imagine other special needs are fine too) The theater keeps the lights on, the sound down and kids are encouraged to get up and dance, sing, shout and move throughout the film. A very cool way the whole family can enjoy time at the movies! Check the site for upcoming movies and dates. Looks like they are play Mall Cop 2 on April 25th and Tomorrowland on May 30th. Middletown, 845-695-1724.

17. The Ashokan Center– Camp Whirligig is a music and dance camp especially for families living with Autism. Activities include dancing, music, swimming, games and more. Registration opens soon,check the site for more info. Olivebridge, 845-657-8333.

Read more: Are specialty camps the best option for kids with special needs.

18. Art Fun for Kids–  If art is more your child’s interest, Jerry from ARC is teaching kids of all ages how to draw, paint, cut and paste with special programs including art therapy, to special needs classes and art parties. These classes combine art education and learning the basics with a child centered art therapy approach. Kingston, 845-331-2662.

19. NatureAccess® program– This special outdoor program promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in outdoor nature programs. In order to make participation in these programs as smoothly as possible, call ahead to make arrangements and specially trained staff will be there to assist you. This program is open to class trips, summer camp, public programs, outreach visits and group visits.

20. WeeZee World– Not quite within the Hudson Valley Region but this place looks too awesome to not include. A sensory playground for children of all sensory needs. The various areas of the facility incorporate each of the senses including a cafe, a rain room, creation station, an oxygen bar, bubble station, half-pipe and so much more. You have to fill out a sensory survey and contact membership for admission information but this place looks seriously amazing, I will be calling first thing in the morning! Chappaqua (Westchester County), 914-752-2100. (Upon further research it doesn’t look like the type of place you can drop in and play but if you are interested give them a call anyway).

Read more: How to handle the stress and anxiety of a child with Autism.

Other resources: