Photograph by Netfalls/Shutterstock
Whether you’re a scratch handicapper or can’t tell a bunker from a bogey, a game of mini-golf is a surefire way to enliven a lazy summer afternoon or evening. And with no less than seven mini-courses in the region, you can have your pick of unusual locations with fun themes. Purists can head to Poughkeepsie’s Overlook Golf Center; the layout is comprised of micro versions of actual holes located at golf courses from around the area — and across the country. Fans of sci-fi will enjoy the three-headed dog and other extraterrestrial obstacles at Monster Mini-Golf in Middletown. The indoor, glow-in-the-dark setup at GloPutt in Blauvelt is perfect if the weather isn’t cooperating. And for all you crunchy granola types, Kelder Farm in Kerhonkson has a 10-hole mini course which is ringed by more than 50 varieties of plants, vegetables, fruits, and grains. At the ninth hole, you can meet the “the Grain Gang,” 13 cartoon figures made out of edible seeds and grains. And yes, tasting is not only permitted, it’s encouraged.
During a Valley summer, finding activities to do outdoors certainly isn’t difficult — you can swim, bike, walk, play golf, go sailing or rock-climbing — you get the idea. But here’s one activity we’ll bet you’ve never considered — painting. Artists of the Wallkill River School — a nonprofit artist’s cooperative in Orange County — host a series of plein air painting workshops every Sunday from May through October. Held in the great outdoors at various picturesque spots throughout the county (many of which are part of the Orange County Land Trust, which partners with the WRS on the program), the workshops offer budding artists the chance to try their hand at rendering the landscape as they see it. An artist from the WRS starts each session with an outdoor painting demonstration, then students spend about two hours working independently (with one-on-one help from the demonstrating artist). A light lunch (made with locally grown produce) and group critique ends the workshop. This month’s featured locales: Snake Hill Preserve in New Windsor (May 2 & 9); and Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point (May 16, 23, & 30), which offers wonderful views of the Hudson River, Bannerman Island, and Storm King Mountain.
The large bear den is one of the Bear Mountain Zoo’s most popular attractions
Everyone knows about the big zoo in the borough, but for those looking to stay closer to home, visiting the animals at one of the following centers is an inexpensive way to enjoy a summer day, while learning a thing or two about our region’s other inhabitants.
The zoo at Bear Mountain State Park is home to a menagerie of critters indigenous to the region — such as owls, coyotes, and bears — that are unable to survive in the wild due to injury or some other reason. Be sure to bring your walking shoes when visiting these animals — this zoo’s winding path covers three quarters of a mile. Nearby, Bear Mountain’s park area offers other fun activities, including boat rentals on Hessian Lake, nature trails (the Appalachian Trail actually runs through the zoo), and a picnic section.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary was created to care for farm animals unable to fend for themselves. The sanctuary is an educational center that provides a safe haven for critters that have suffered abuse, neglect, or abandonment. By allowing outside guests to visit, the organization hopes to raise awareness about the mistreatment these animals have suffered. Visitors who want to help can contact sanctuary officials to arrange sponsorship of an animal, which helps pay for necessities such as food and medical treatment.
Although the Trevor Zoo is located at a private school, all visitors are welcome. Its founder, Frank Trevor, was the Millbrook School’s first biology teacher and established the zoo in 1936 to share his love of wildlife with students and the public. It’s the only zoo in the country that’s located at a high school. Covering about six acres with indoor and outdoor exhibits, more than 180 exotic and regional animals are housed at the location, including seven endangered species. The zoo is open year-round, and throughout the summer accepts a limited number of volunteers, who assist in tasks such as meal preparation, cleaning, and dispensing tourist information.
All zoos accept financial donations.
Bear Mountain Zoo
Bear Mountain State Park, Bear Mountain. 845-786-2701
When it comes to food, local is perhaps the buzzword of the day. Everywhere you turn, farmers markets are popping up. Gourmet shops, restaurateurs, and even your standard grocery store are all trying to lure new customers with the promise of local produce. And while many of us grow a wide array of vegetables in our backyards (well, tomatoes at least), fruit is another story. Luckily, our area is crammed with farms where you can pluck your favorite fruits to your heart’s content — and spend a family-friendly day in the great outdoors. Everyone knows the fall is synonymous with apple picking (just note the clogged roadways in our region), but late spring signals the arrival of strawberry season. Depending on the weather, the berries are usually ripe starting in late May or early June. The low-lying berries are fairly easy to pick, but farmers suggest that you go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the sweltering sunlight. Choose plump, firm, red, ready-to-eat berries; they don’t ripen after picking. Once you’re home, you can keep the berries in the fridge for up to three days before they lose their ripeness; or you can freeze them using a dry-sugar or syrup pack.
Salute the supreme strawberry at these two festivals:
Blueberries This popular fruit has a growing reputation as an antioxidant “superfood.” There are two varieties: wild blueberries, which can be found throughout the Valley, are particularly abundant in the Shawangunk Mountains — where rumor has it that squatters built shacks (some of which survive) just to pick the little berries. Cultivated blueberries — which are larger and juicier — are farm-grown; both types are in season from July to September. To get the ripest fruit, use your thumb to gently roll each berry from the cluster into the palm of your hand.
Peaches In season from July to September, the tastiest fruit separates easily from the twig when plucked.
Raspberries When picking this fruit, which ripens from July through October, gently pull on the berry. If it is ripe, part of its center will remain on the stem.
The Hudson Valley abounds with limitless opportunities for both outdoor enthusiasts and culture vultures. But when these two passions can be combined into one pit stop, well, that’s just nirvana for some. So it is with Storm King Art Center, the world-famous 500-acre sculpture park in Orange County, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with two major exhibits. 5+5: New Perspectives comprises 12 new and recent works by both favorite artists and some whose work has never been on view at Storm King before. Examples include two large-scale steel works by Mark di Suvero and a sculpture by Chakaia Booker made of cut, twisted, and looped car tires. The View from Here: Storm King at Fifty is actually an indoor exhibit focusing on the center’s history. Two second-floor galleries are each devoted to the work of a single artist: one spotlights Alexander Calder, best-known for inventing the mobile; the other looks at the work of David Smith, the undisputed master of oversized steel abstract sculpture.
Of course, strolling through Storm King’s verdant fields and hills is always a pleasure, and a record number of visitors came last summer to experience Maya Lin’s Storm King Wavefield (shown above), seven undulating hills of earth and grass that resemble ocean waves. Walking through the 240,000-square-foot wavefield is akin to being amid large swells at sea, and many report that it is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Storm King Art Center
Open Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., through Nov. 14; grounds remain open until 8 p.m. on Saturdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day
Mountainville. 845-534-3115 or www.stormking.org
Other opportunities to see art outdoors include:
The Fields Sculpture Park at Omi International
A little cousin of Storm King, this Columbia County gem features 400 beautiful acres of farmland dotted with contemporary sculpture by internationally recognized artists.
Ghent. 518-392-4568 or www.artomi.org
Both horse and car racing have been traditions in the Valley for decades. The Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown has run auto races since 1919, while this year marks the Goshen Historic Track’s 100th year of Grand Circuit horse racing. Whether you’re into horsepower or powerful horses, it’s off to the races in these Orange County towns.
The Middletown speedway features races by drivers from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and is the oldest continuously operated dirt track in the U.S. (it opened in 1857 for horse racing, later switching over to cars). Events at the speedway are ongoing and continue through October.
The Goshen Historic Track is just a short drive away, at the entrance to the village. Opened in 1838, it is the world’s oldest harness track. Themed matinee races begin on June 6, and Grand Circuit races on July 2, just in time for the Goshen Great American Weekend (July 3-4) — a large, family-friendly fair in honor of Independence Day.
A colorful array of plants and flowers dot the landscape of Stonecrop Gardens
Sissinghurst. Versailles. Babylon. Alhambra. Dumbarton Oaks. For most, this list is simply a collection of sites and well-known travel stops. But for green thumbs, it represents every gardener’s quintessential dream: the perfect formal garden.
Usually rife with features like terraces, hedges, statuary, and geometric landscaping, formal gardens are almost a lost art: These carefully planned (and pruned) horticultural masterpieces require the necessary space, financing, and fine agrarian minds willing to tend to them. Regardless, this Western tradition still flourishes in many parts of the Valley, making for a peaceful summertime excursion away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind.
Take the family (but leave pets at home, please) to either of these famed Valley sanctuaries this summer:
Tucked within the Clarence Fahnestock Park in Cold Spring, Stonecrop Gardens offers 12 acres of cliff rock gardens, woodland and water gardens, an enclosed English-style flower bed, a potting shed, and even a lakeside conservatory — all at an 1,100-foot elevation. Visitors this month delight in the blooming rhododendron and shadblow, wisteria, and magnificent bulb displays throughout the gardens.
Further north in Dutchess County lies Innisfree Garden, a 150-acre Asian-inspired garden consisting of streams, waterfalls, terraces, rocks, native plants, and a 40-acre glacial lake. A bog garden, hydrangea-covered circular grotto, and native wildlife offer picturesque views. Picnics allowed in specified areas.
If you haven’t yet found your way to HITS-on-the-Hudson, the 200 plus-acre equestrian facility in Saugerties, you should pencil it in on your calendar for this summer. “We’ve got an exciting season,” says Danette Kadlic, a member of the site’s marketing team, with just a hint of understatement. With a one-million dollar purse up for grabs, there’ll be excitement indeed.
With five facilities located throughout the U.S., HITS (the acronym stands for Horse Shows in the Sun) is the largest producer of hunter/jumper shows in the nation. Horses and their riders compete in two different events: the hunters jump over a series of (relatively low) fences; scoring is based on the style and form they use while completing the circuit. Jumpers, on the other hand, race against the clock, hurdling five-foot-high obstacles as quickly and cleanly as possible.
Between late May and mid-September, HITS in Saugerties hosts eight weeks’ worth of shows (which take place Wednesday through Sunday). For a mere $5, spectators can watch riders at every level — from kids all the way up to former Olympians — go through their paces at one of the site’s 10 competition rings. Grand Prix events (which feature the sport’s top competitors) are held on Fridays and Sundays; besides offering purses from $25,000 to $150,000, the riders in these shows have the chance to qualify for and compete in the September 12 show, in which a top prize of $1 million will be on the line. According to Kadlic, this is the largest purse offered in the world of show jumping; she expects many of the sport’s top riders to come to Saugerties throughout the summer in order to earn a chance to vie for the big payout.
Although the horses and riders provide plenty of action, HITS offers other attractions too. As of press time, many special events were still in the planning stages, but the site’s popular Kid’s Day — with clowns, arts and crafts, family-friendly music, and other entertainment — is set for June 13. A summer-long equestrian art exhibit, showcasing works created by artists from throughout the country, will be on display at locations in and around Saugerties from May through September. And — perhaps best of all — an afternoon at HITS provides the unique opportunity to get an up-close look at some magnificent horses (a number of which are worth upwards of six figures or more) in a picture-perfect setting.
The recession may be rough on our wallets, but planning a day of fun in the sun can still be as easy as riding a bike.
Hyde Park resident Brooke Anthony loved the concept of the Walkway Over the Hudson. But something was missing. Though the 1.28-mile Walkway attracts dozens of sightseers and cyclists each day, the only way for them to enjoy a leisurely bike ride was to bring their own — somewhat inconvenient for those who don’t own the equipment or don’t want to hitch their bikes to their cars in the city.
Enter Anthony’s Bike Rentals, brainchild of Brooke and her brother, Jason. Located on Parker Avenue in Poughkeepsie, the shop came about as the result of Brooke’s own travels to Europe — especially Amsterdam. “They have a really big biking culture there,” she says. “They use cruisers, which are casual-riding bikes with really comfortable, extra-wide spring seats. They’re perfect for the casual atmosphere of the Walkway.”
The bro-and-sis team — recent grads of Marist College and the Culinary Institute of America, respectively — rely on the trust system when bike renters come calling. “We photocopy guests’ IDs and get the bikes and helmets fitted while they sign a waiver and release form,” explains Brooke. “They take a practice loop around the parking lot, and they’re good to go.” Bikers can ride wherever they please — they’re not confined to the Walkway.
The Anthonys set up shop last March, and business has been booming ever since. They’re hoping to spread the wealth to their neighbors. “We’re in the process of teaming up with local businesses to help bring a draw to them,” Brooke says. Anthony’s Bike Rentals is also the official sponsor of the Walkway District Map, which details more than 20 local eateries and shops within biking distance of the bridge. Download a copy at www.dutchesscountyregionalchamber.org/WalkwayMap.php
“It’s good to see other cyclists on the bridge with you,” says Brooke. “They always smile at you. They’re happy to see other people taking up the Walkway, doing what they want to do, and using it to their full advantage.”
View some of the Valley’s best-known landmarks — West Point, Bannerman Island, Esopus Lighthouse — from a new, watery perspective: the deck of a sightseeing boat. Three local companies regularly offer narrated excursions along the Hudson throughout the summer and fall months. The Pride of the Hudson, owned by Hudson River Adventures, trolls the waters from Newburgh to West Point; its sister vessel, Pollepel, runs trips to Bannerman Island. Hudson Highlands Cruises operates the Commander, a circa 1917 vessel that served in World War I and is on the State and National Registry of Historic Places. She departs from Peekskill, Haverstraw, and West Point then heads north to Garrison Landing. Launching from Kingston, Hudson River Cruises aboard the Rip Van Winkle head south to the Hyde Park area; the company features several types of specialty outings, including a Kids Kruise with an onboard magician and deejay (July 9 & Aug. 13).
Kids of all ages can get wet and wild in the Catskills at Zoom Flume Water Park
You don’t have to be near a beach to get splishy-splashy this summer season. While the Valley boasts a ton of water-themed activities, one of the best ways for the whole family to cool off is at a local water park. Luckily, both sides of the Valley hold their own when it comes to getting wet and wild.
Splash Down Beach bills itself as America’s “biggest little water park.” But to us, it’s anything but little: With more than 20 attractions — including the Humunga Half-Pipe (a four-story “zero gravity” water ramp), the Crocodile Creek lazy river, and the tyke-friendly Shipwreck Lagoon — this Fishkill hot spot is the perfect play-land for families with teens and wee ones.
Landlubbers can tan at the “beach” near the wave pool, ride the carousel, or take in a show at the Pirate Stage. Got a rumble in your tummy? The park’s popular Cosimo’s Pizza, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, and ice cream stands will sate your appetite in between all the rides and slides.
For bathers to the north, Zoom Flume Water Park is a can’t-miss (their tagline: “You gotta go!”). Nestled in the Catskills, this place is all about height. The Wild River Ride propels guests down a 600-foot chute with water flowing at 10,000 gallons a minute, giving a whole new meaning to “rapids.” The Black Vortex slide isn’t for the faint of heart either, with twists and turns in complete darkness; other attractions, like the Lagoon Pool, allow for more relaxing fun.
Looking to stay high and dry? Walk across the pedestrian bridge to nosh at the cliffside restaurant and bar, which features panoramic views of the park and canyon. Or book a room at the adjacent County Place Resort, which offers patrons luxurious accommodations after a day of fun. (Check out its package deals, including free tickets to the park and discounted admission to regional attractions like Howe Caverns, Baseball Hall of Fame, and Speedway Go-Karts.)
The Warwick Drive-In is known for its daily showings of double-features throughout the summer
Though the days of malt shops, greased hair, and Danny-and-Sandy drama are gone (sort of), drive-in movie theaters live on. And who would think otherwise? After all, there’s something to be said about this long-time staple in American culture: Huge screens, surround sound, and gorging on junk food from the luxury (and privacy) of your own car. Oh yeah — and the films, of course.
Read more about park-n-pictures here, and take in a double-feature at any of these Valley drive-ins:
A hop, skip, and jump away from Albany, the family-run Hollywood Drive-In accommodates up to 400 cars and displays double-features mid-April through September on 88-foot wide screens.
9254 Averill Park Rd. (Rte. 66), Averill Park. 518-283-4425 or www.hollywooddrivein.com
Opened in 1951 by the Klein brothers at the start of the drive-in boom, Greene County’s Hi-Way Drive-In boasts a 75-foot wide main screen (plus three additional ones), parking for over 600 vehicles, and the original neon marquee, which evokes a classic feel. The Hi-Way is currently the second-largest drive-in in New York State and allows well-behaved dogs on the grounds; open April through October.
10769 Rte. 9W, Coxsackie. 518-731-8672
Fair Oaks Drive-In
Restored in 1991, the Fair Oaks Drive-In showcases two screens and holds up to 800 cars. Tune in to 88.1FM (screen 1) and 89.5FM (screen 2). Reduced admission on Thursday nights.
Rte. 17, Middletown. 845-361-5774 or www.thefairoaksdrivein.com
Originally built on a five-acre pasture, Warwick Drive-In features three screens operated by the same local family that opened the business in 1950. Double features are shown from mid-March through October every night of the week. Feel free to bring your laptop: Wi-Fi access is available on the grounds at no charge.
11 Warwick Tpke., Warwick. 845-986-4440
Albany County’s Jericho Drive-In is one of the smallest of the state’s drive-ins. This quaint one-screen spot holds up to 300 cars from mid-May through September. Patrons enjoy ice cream on the grounds, featuring favorite treats like sundaes, banana splits, and milkshakes. Tune in to 530AM and 98.9FM.
21 Jericho Rd., Glenmont (Selkirk). 518-767-3398 or www.jerichodrive-in.com
Hyde Park Drive-In
In operation since 1949, the Hyde Park Drive-In sits on 12 acres that can hold up to 670 cars, and shows flicks on a massive 82-foot wide screen. Watch movies on the weekend (Friday-Monday) until mid-May, when the theater opens every night through mid-September. Tune in to 87.9FM.
4114 Albany Post Rd. (Rte. 9), Hyde Park. 845-229-4738
According to www.driveinmovie.com, the Overlook Drive-In’s 12-acre al fresco cinema holds the largest screen in all of the New York metro area — it’s six stories tall. The grounds fit up to 750 cars, though moviegoers tend to favor blankets and lawn chairs. Hungry? Enjoy char-broiled Black Angus burgers at the snack bar. Open from mid-April to mid-October. Tune in to 87.9FM.
126 Degarmo Rd., Poughkeepsie. 845-452-3445 or www.overlookdrivein.com
Throughout the summer, the sounds of live music can be heard weaving through towns all over the Valley; from hits played by the hottest new band, to classics performed by masters of their art. Hearing music while surrounded by the region’s scenic beauty elevates the experience of a summer concert — whether in the bright, sunny daytime, or at night under the stars.
Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival Festival
Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival takes place the weekend before the summer solstice this year, June 19-20, at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson. This yearly music and environmental festival aims to create a wave of awareness — through music, education, and activism — about the state of Mother Nature both globally and locally. Pete Seeger, Buckwheat Zydeco, Steve Earle, and the Felice Brothers are just some of the musicians set to grace the eco-friendly stages (which use sustainable energy from solar and biodiesel sources). In between songs, be sure to stroll around the park where you’ll find jugglers, clowns, a juried crafts show, storytellers, a dance tent, and a song circle.
Croton Point Park, Croton-on-Hudson. 845-418-3596 or www.clearwater.org
The ever-popular Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain returns June 4-6, showcasing a variety of folk, blues, rock, and reggae artists. Also, local legend Levon Helm celebrates his 70th birthday in a performance featuring special guests. When you’re not jamming out, visit some of the many vendors selling food, drinks, and crafts, or check out the Awareness Village to learn more about mind-body-spirit health. The Mountain Jam Web site features the complete lineup and a list of things to bring to make the three-day stay more enjoyable.
Hunter Mountain, Hunter. www.mountainjam.com
Belleayre Summer Music Festival
Another place to jam on a mountain is at Belleayre in the Catskills during its Summer Music Festival. Tents at the base of the slopes transform the ski haven into an outdoor concert hall for a series of performances under the stars. Artists playing at the summit include Patti Lupone (July 10), America (Aug. 14; it’s their 40th anniversary tour), and the Children’s Opera Theater (Aug. 29).
Belleayre Mountain, Highmount. 800-942-6904, ext. 1344 or www.bellayremusic.org
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
However, music lovers are more likely to spy fellow Hudson Valley readers at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts — the 2009 reader’s pick for Best Outdoor Venue for Plays and Concerts. The center has both a covered pavilion and lawn seating, and is located at the site of the original Woodstock Festival. Big-name acts at Bethel for the summer season include Brooks & Dunn (June 27); the Dave Matthews Band (July 13); Sting, performing with the U.K.’s Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (July 30); and rockers Pat Benatar with REO Speedwagon (Aug. 28).
200 Hurd Rd., Bethel. 866-781-2922 or www.bethelwoodscenter.org
It happens every year, without fail. For as long as our editorial staff can remember (for the last 10 years at least), our readers have voted the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park as the best place in the Valley to have a picnic. And no wonder. Situated on a high bluff overlooking the Hudson, the 212-acre National Historic Site’s perfectly manicured lawns offer (arguably) the finest views of the river to be found anywhere. With miles of blue-green water flowing gently by, Ulster County’s Shaupeneak Ridge and Catskill Mountains rising in the distance, it’s easy to see why 19th-century millionaire Frederick W. Vanderbilt built his “country house” on this spot. So pack a cooler, the kids, and a Frisbee, and enjoy these bucolic surroundings for yourself. After your meal, visit the 54-room Beaux-Arts mansion, which was designed by famed architects McKim, Mead, and White (they also built New York’s Penn Station). And be sure to stroll through the site’s Italian-style formal gardens; an enthusiastic horticulturist, Frederick himself laid out the elaborate rose garden. And if you’re up to it, take the long walk down the bluff to Bard Rock at the water’s edge — but remember, you’ll have a steep climb back up to get to your car.
There are countless ways to wander the Valley. But the Catskill Mountain Railroad is a classic route that has remained a favorite through the years. Originally called the Ulster & Delaware Railroad, the line carried passengers and freight until 1954. By 1983, a section of the route was reopened to provide scenic rides to tourists.
The train starts rolling May 29, providing a 12-mile round-trip ride between Phoenicia and the Cold Brook Station in Boiceville. The line travels along the Esopus Creek, offering stunning views of the mountains and wildlife, including the occasional bald eagle. A new attraction this summer is the Twilight Limited ride, which offers light refreshments and live entertainment. For those interested in the history of the railroad, the Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia is one of the train’s stops. Built in 1900, the museum was once a railroad depot, and features photos, films, artifacts, and other memorabilia from the railroad’s heyday.
Whether you are downing a foo-foo cocktail at the Newburgh waterfront before traipsing off to one of several delightful restaurants there (including Cajun, Italian or sushi), kicking back in Kingston, or gazing at the world’s longest pedestrian bridge from the deck of Poughkeepsie’s Shadows on the Hudson, riverside dining is one of summer’s singular delights in the Hudson Valley.