You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to have fun in the Hudson Valley. In fact, there are a ton of ways to experience the area without even having to crack your wallet. Here are our top five picks for free things to do in the Hudson Valley.
1. Art Along the Hudson
This collaborative organization represents over 1,000 artists, 400 studio tour participants, 250 art venues, and 150 art festivals and community events throughout the Hudson Valley, offering free, year-round activities that expose people to regional art and artists. Open studio tours invite the public into the private spaces of over 400 artists in the Hudson Valley for free, self-guided tours, including Peekskill Open Studios on June 1 and 2. Art Along the Hudson also provides information about free receptions held during First Friday or Saturday events in the area, which are multi-venue, city-wide celebrations. Ask for Arts in Kingston hosts a free reception every first Saturday of the month from 5-8pm, Imogen Holloway Gallery hosts receptions with wine and snacks as part of Saugerties' First Friday, and the Wassaic Project hosts Last Saturdays, offering studio tours in their repurposed livestock auction barn. This weekend, Dia:Beacon opens its doors for Community Free Day on May 18, which is doubling as the kick-off event for their 10th anniversary celebration. Read more about that here.
2. Free Walking Tours of Vassar College
Get a bit of exercise while you tour the historic campus with current professors as your guides. Chris Smart, a chemistry professor and Vassar alumnus leads tours on June 15, and psychology professor Randy Cornelius leads on June 22. Tour highlights include Vassar's Main Building and the Judith Loeb Chiara ’49 Center at the Maria Mitchell Observatory, both of which are national historic monuments; the Vassar Chapel; and the Thompson Memorial Library, whose collegiate Gothic architecture includes a massive stained glass window depicting the first woman to receive a doctorate as she defends her dissertation in 1678. Vassar campus is also an arboretum, with more than 200 varieties of trees and an array of native plants.
3. Art Omi on Bicycle
The large-scale contemporary sculptures of the Fields Sculpture Park and Architecture Omi are open to the public year-round. Art Omi's Visitors Center offers free access to bicycles (and handicapped-accessible golf carts) for touring the sprawling park, which consists of six areas connected by a circular path system. Pack a lunch and eat al fresco at one of the park's picnic areas. Free guided tours are available to groups of six or more with a reservation, and Art Omi offers free public programs throughout the year, like their Saturday Children's Workshops, a reading and spring barbeque on May 18, and their 2013 Exhibition Opening and Field Day on June 15, which will include kite-flying, hayrides, and art workshops. While you're there, check out Alice Aycock's A Simple Network of Underground Wells and Tunnels, which the artist describes as “a subterranean network of passages set up for the purpose of operating below the surface of the earth.”
4. Scenic Hudson Hiking and Volunteer Opportunities
The invaluable nonprofit environmental group focuses on exploring and preserving land in the Hudson Valley, and they offer a variety of ways for people to get involved. This Saturday, May 18, they're hosting a Four Seasons spring hike of the Shaupeneak Ridge (and another one at Mount Beacon Park on June 1). Saturday, May 25, is the Weekend Volunteer Restoration Workday at Franny Reese State Park, where volunteers learn to identify local flora and techniques for removing invasive plants; and on June 6, Scenic Hudson hosts a Pitch in for Parks event at Poets' Walk Park, part of an ongoing series on the first Thursday of each month where volunteers help maintain and build new trails at the region's beloved parks.
5. Walkway Over the Hudson
The abandoned-railroad-bridge-turned-pedestrian-park is open to the public year-round, weather permitting. At 212 feet tall and 1.28 miles long, Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Spend the day bike riding, jogging, or walking your dog, and enjoy the beautiful views of the Hudson River. You can even take a free cell phone tour with "Talkway Over the Walkway." There are picnic tables at both ends of the bridge, and benches at each of the bridge's three scenic overlooks—get some exercise in, and then relax with a bite to eat and enjoy the views.