Open-Air Museums

Learn something new at any of these outdoor museums

The Valley is home to a wealth of history and culture: FDR and Eleanor lived in Hyde Park; Samuel Morse (and his Poughkeepsie estate) is the subject of this month’s history column (see here); the list goes on and on. But just because it’s summer, it doesn’t mean you have to put your cultural excursions on hold. Check out these five institutions that let you enjoy the great outdoors while learning something new.

Gomez Mill House Marlboro
This historic house, once the home of Luis Moses Gomez, a pioneering Jewish merchant in New York in the 18th century, and known as the oldest Jewish dwelling in North America, celebrated its 300th anniversary last year. After being owned by Gomez, the property also became home to American Revolutionary patriot Wolfert Acker, 19th-century conservationist William Henry Armstrong, and several other important historical figures. Today, the museum helps to educate the public about the contributions Gomez and the house’s other owners made to Orange County. Visitors can also walk around the grounds and view the beautiful creek-side mill. Free admission for parents and their children on Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Open Wed.-Sun. 845-236-3126;

Hudson River Maritime Museum Kingston
This Ulster County museum is all about living the aquatic life. Kids will love viewing and learning about all the boats that have come and gone through the Kingston waterfront. They’ll even get a chance to visit — and walk on — Mathilda, the museum’s 1898 steam tugboat. Guests can also view the Hudson River Lighthouses: Past and Present exhibit, a new display celebrating the 1915 Rondout Light’s 100th anniversary. Open daily beginning May 2. 845-338-0071;

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Manitoga Garrison
Manitoga is the house, studio, and 75-acre woodland estate of legendary designer Russel Wright. The house features oversized glass windows allowing the view of a 30-foot waterfall and a Quarry Pool, among other beautiful surroundings. His studio also incorporates Wright’s love of nature and environment through the use of both natural and synthetic materials, as well as Japanese-inspired designs. This summer, artist-in-residence Stephen Talasnik will present an exhibit called Sanctuary, which will feature twisting and turning reed structures floating tranquilly in the Quarry Pool. “There is an intimacy to the choreographed environment that engages the senses,” says Talasnik. “It compels the individual to confront a very immediate and intimate space within a suggestively theatrical large-scale natural sanctuary.” Open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. 845-424-3812;

Museum Village Monroe
This open-air, living-history museum allows visitors to explore 19th-century rural life in Orange County, as well as the evolution of industry and technology in America. Guests can visit with the weaver or the blacksmith, stop by an old stone schoolhouse, or even try their hand at candle-making. The main building is home to tools, artifacts, and other forms of Americana, but guests can also explore the grounds, including a barn with several goats (The site also hosts birthday parties). In addition, the Village is also home to Harry, unearthed in nearby Harriman in 1952, one of three complete specimens of the mastodon in the world. The Village recently joined forces with the Southeastern New York Library Council as a Hudson River Valley Heritage member. By becoming a member, the Village is able to put its documents and other artifacts online to share with people around the world. Open weekends. 845-782-8248;

West Point Foundry Preserve Cold Spring
When the foundry first opened in 1818, its purpose was to supply the U.S. government with artillery; it was also the birthplace of some of this nation’s first steam engines and iron ships. In October 2014, a newly renovated preserve opened to the public. Among other renovations, many of the foundry’s ruins were stabilized and interpretive signage was installed. Now, free monthly tours will be offered at the pretty preserve through November. In addition, a new online smartphone tour ( will allow people both at the foundry and at home to experience everything the museum has to offer, including videos and photos featuring the foundry and its workers. Open daily. 845-473-4440;

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