Road Trip Series: Family Fun In The Hudson Valley And Finger Lakes Regions

It’s time for a road trip! It’s the perfect way to fit in some serious family bonding time while enjoying the scenic views. For a getaway that’s sure to please both kids and adults alike, upstate New York has you covered.

There’s no better time to enjoy the dense foliage and rolling hills of the other part of the Empire State, and as usual, New York outdoes itself with not one, but two great regions to explore. Head west to the Finger Lakes region or east to the Hudson Valley — either way, you’re bound to have a great time on the road with your family.

Hudson Valley

The Dutch definitely knew what they were doing when they settled along the Hudson River back in the early days of New York’s history. This beautiful region features dramatic cliffs rising up over the Hudson River as well as small towns that aren’t so sleepy anymore — loads of charming restaurants, wineries and colorful shops offer something for everyone to enjoy when you’re ready to get out of the car.

Things To Do

Ride the rails of the Catskill Mountain Railroad for a look at the mountains the way they were seen by travelers 100 years ago. Kids will get a kick out of the clackety-clack rhythms of train travel, while adults can enjoy the scenery without worrying about traffic. Leaf peeping tours and Christmastime Polar Express rides are also available if you decide to go in the fall or winter.

You don’t have to be a skilled outdoorsman to love Bear Mountain State Park. There’s a zoo full of local creatures for the kids to get up close and personal with, along with well-manicured trails, boat rentals and a cafe if you need to recharge. This is a great way to get kids out into nature while still having picnic areas and bathrooms close for the little ones.

However, if your kids are older and ready for a bigger adventure, try Zipline Adventure Tours at Hunter Mountain. Everyone will enjoy exploring the climbing tower and walking bridges as they get a bird’s eye view of the local forest. Check age and weight restrictions before you book to make sure everyone has a great time.

Places To Eat

For a classic diner experience, try the Eveready Diner in Hyde Park — the perfect stop after a day of exploring the region’s many historical sites. There’s a bevy of old-fashioned soda fountain treats as well as classic pies and all the coffee refills the grown-ups could want. The extensive breakfast menu is available all day, so there’s definitely something here for even your pickiest eater.

When the kids want pizza but you had your heart set on something a little more upscale, compromise by heading to Pizzeria Posto in Rhinebeck. The wood-fired pizzas come with an array of fresh toppings and clever flavor combinations. Kids can stick to a classic Margherita while adults explore popular items like the pistachio pie. The service here gets rave reviews as well.

The Artist’s Palate in Poughkeepsie is a great choice for families with vegetarian tastes or dietary restrictions — the staff works hard to both educate and accommodate. Locally-sourced ingredients and seasonal eating are two hallmarks of the chef’s menu, which also include comfort food items that kids will like. For the adults, the beer and wine list is eclectic, so take the opportunity to try something new.

Finger Lakes

Though the Finger Lakes region is perhaps best known as the go-to destination for wine lovers to tour the vineyards and enjoy a tasting or three, it also has its fair share of family-friendly activities as well. From camping to museums, you’ll be able to keep kids of all ages entertained in this stunning region in the western part of the state — and you can probably sneak in a glass or two of locally-produced wine for yourself while you’re at it!

Things To Do

If you’re eager to get a glimpse of a working vineyard, try spending the night at The Vineyard Villas. The lovely cottage accommodations provide loads of privacy for your family, plus stunning views of rolling fields — and, of course, the grapes. Enjoy an evening gathered around the fire pit making s’mores, stargazing and telling stories. You can also use this as an outpost to explore the great outdoors at Watkins Glen State Park or walk to Finger Lakes National Forest for a day of hiking.

The Corning Museum of Glass is an incredible place to learn about the surprisingly fascinating history of this fragile substance. Kids will love watching artisans spin and blow molten glass to create beautiful colors and shapes. There are even special, hand-on tours available if you plan ahead.

Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards is a fun place to stop in the fall. Kids and adults of all ages can do some apple picking, run through the corn maze and sample the homemade apple cider on this working farm. There’s also a playground and cafe for families who want to stretch their legs and make a full afternoon of the visit.

Places To Eat

A Brew Pub on Seneca Lake is the place to go if your family loves roast beef sandwiches. It’s the only thing they have on the menu here, besides locally crafted beer from Two Goats Brewing. The simplicity is welcome after a long day in the car together, and there’s often live music to enjoy while you kick back and relax together.

When your kids are craving spaghetti, only Pastabilities will do. This Syracuse institution serves up fresh, homemade pasta with loads of creative sauces. There’s also pizza, burgers and one of the most reasonably-priced kids’ menus you’ll find anywhere. There are even gluten-free choices available.

Before heading out for a day hike or boating excursion, you need to pack the ultimate family picnic. The perfect place to shop for your repast? Sauders Country Store in Seneca Falls. Fresh fruits and veggies from local farms as well as an array of meats, cheeses, and other goodies will let you pack something for everyone. If you don’t feel like building your own sandwich, order from the bakery and take it to go. This is a local institution, and for good reason – the samples are a big part of the appeal!

Family Road Trip Tips

Plan your route ahead of time and try to strike a balance between activities that are fun for kids and adults. Once you have a basic idea of what your family car trip will look like, be sure to leave some room for surprises and exploring off the beaten path. You never know what discoveries you’ll make in beautiful New York State until you get out there and take that trip together!