After an excruciatingly long and cold winter, at last–it’s summertime in the Capital Region! And with the kids out of school, you may be looking for fun ways to fill those long summer days. Here are a few off-the-beaten-path, family-friendly day trips to keep in your back pocket as the mercury rises.
North Pole and Santa’s Workshop
324 Whiteface Memorial Highway,
Wilmington (aka, North Pole), NY 12997
Did you know that Santa Claus lives just 150 miles north of Albany in the Adirondack High Peaks? A great day trip for younger children, the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop offers rides and activities designed primarily for your elves who are 48 inches and smaller. Rides like the Candy Cane Express train will excite pint-sized engineers, while the Bobsled ride will inspire future Olympians. Santa’s Village features not only Santa’s home and the official North Pole U.S. Post Office, but also Santa’s Reindeer Barn where you can see his famous sleigh team, the Toy Makers’ Shop, Bake Shop, Hat Maker, and more.
Several special summer events at the North Pole serve as a great reminder that Santa keeps a watchful eye on children year round. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from July 2 through September 5, good boys and girls can enjoy a delicious breakfast with Santa from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Then on July 7-8, July 14-15, July 21-22, and July 28-29, Santa celebrates Christmas in July. These two-day events begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday when your family is treated to a very special dinner with the Man in Red himself, special craft activities, and personalized souvenirs, followed by s’mores around the campfire. Wednesday morning features breakfast with Santa, followed by a fun day in his Village.
To make your reservations for breakfast with Santa or Christmas in July, visit www.northpoleny.com or call 946.2211.
Hours: June 30-September 5: Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Hyde Park, New York
If your ‘tweens or teens are burgeoning history buffs or chefs, a day trip to Hyde Park would be right up their alley. Just north of Poughkeepsie along the Hudson River, Hyde Park is only 70 miles due south of Albany.
Springwood (4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538) is the estate where Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born and made his lifelong home, and its rose garden would become the burial place for both him and Eleanor. The original home was built in 1800, but it was purchased and remodeled by a wealthy merchant in 1845. It would again be purchased in 1866 and further remodeled by FDR’s father, James; a final expansion by FDR and his mother, Sara, in 1915 resulted in the Federal and Italianate-style estate we see today. The home is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From May through September, tours are offered throughout the day, but advance reservations are required. Check out the children’s discovery center, which provides interactive play stations and activities based on FDR’s life interests at his home. Kids can learn about trees, birds, stream critters, growing your own food, and more www.nps.gov/hofr/learn/kidsyouth/upload/DiscoveryCenter2.pdf. Please visit www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm or call toll-free 1-800-FDR-VISIT for details.
The Springwood estate also is home to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The nation’s first presidential library, it was built under FDR’s direction and opened to the public in 1941. The library operates daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., April through October. For more information, including admission pricing, visit www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu or call toll-free 1-800-FDR-VISIT.
When you are ready to whet your appetite, the Culinary Institute of America (1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, NY 12538-1499) features restaurants and cafes with food prepared by some of the best up-and-coming chefs in the country. Dubbed “The World’s Premier Culinary College,” the CIA in Hyde Park is beautifully situated on the banks of the Hudson and offers frequent tours, special culinary events, and open houses for prospective students. Visit www.ciachef.edu/newyork/ or call 845.452.9600 to learn more or to schedule a tour.
Bennington and Manchester, Vermont
A great destination for families with teens interested in history or architecture, Bennington, Vermont is less than an hour’s drive from the Capital Region, with bucolic scenery mile after mile. Situated at the base of the Green Mountains, Bennington is home to picturesque bridges like the Silk Road Covered Bridge and the Burt Henry Covered Bridge. The Park-McCullough House (1 Park Street, Bennington, VT 05257), built in 1864-65 by attorney and entrepreneur Trenor Park, is one of New England’s most beautiful and best preserved Victorian mansions. The house is open for tours between May and September on Fridays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Visit www.parkmccullough.org or call 802.442.5441 for more information.
The 300-foot Bennington Battle Monument (15 Monument Circle, Bennington, VT 05201) commemorates a pivotal battle that turned the tide of the American Revolution. The park holds a variety of events and festivals over the summer, including anniversary reenactments the weekend of August 15. The site is open daily mid-April through October 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit www.benningtonbattlemonument.com or call 802.447.0550 for additional information and admission details.
Manchester, only 25 miles to the north of Bennington, is home to Hildene (1005 Hildene Road, Manchester, VT 05254), Robert Todd Lincoln’s summer residence. The only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to survive to adulthood, Robert built this beautiful Georgian Revival-style estate as a summer home in 1905 after he became the chairman of the Pullman Company. With its regal decor, agricultural center (complete with goats), formal gardens, and 12 miles of walking trails, Hildene has appeal for children and adults alike. Add to it the shops, outlets, and restaurants found in town, and a day in Manchester is well-spent! Hildene is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; visit www.hildene.org or call 802.362.1788 for more information and admission details.
Howe Caverns and Howe High Adventure
255 Discovery Drive, Howe’s Cave, NY 12092
Located just 40 miles north of Albany in Schoharie County, Howe Caverns has summer fun both above and below the Earth’s surface. Your little spelunkers can channel their inner geologist when they take a ride 156 feet underground into the caverns. Surrounded by limestone, stalagmites, and stalactites, explorers of all ages will find spectacular formations around every twist and turn during the cave tour. But don’t forget a sweater! The cave is a constant 52 degrees with 70-75% humidity year round.
Meanwhile, back on the planet’s exterior, Howe High Adventure offers an assortment of activities that will have your adrenaline pumping and your kids squealing with glee. A ropes course and rock wall are some of the tamer options! To really get your heart racing with excitement, try the 4 Tower Zip Line, Air Jumper, or the H2OGO Balls–a 12-foot inflatable ball filled with five gallons of water—and you—which is then rolled 1,100 feet downhill! Check for age, height, weight, and apparel restrictions at www.howecaverns.com or call 296.8900.
Howe Caverns hours: Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day weekend: Open daily from 9am-6pm.
Howe High Adventure hours: Memorial Day weekend – the month of June: Open weekends from 11am–5pm.; July 1- Labor Day: Open daily from 11am–5pm.