8 Kid-Friendly Museums to Visit in the Hudson Valley | Museums | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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8 Kid-Friendly Museums to Visit in the Hudson Valley

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Hudson River Maritime Museum's solar powered boat Solaris on an Industrial Waterfront tour on Rondout Creek. - COURTESY HUDSON RIVER MARITIME MUSEUM
  • Courtesy Hudson River Maritime Museum
  • Hudson River Maritime Museum's solar powered boat Solaris on an Industrial Waterfront tour on Rondout Creek.

Aside from the abundance of art museums in the region, from Dia:Beacon to Mass MoCA, the Hudson Valley has a broad range of themed museums. The subject matter runs the gamut from the maritime history of the Hudson River and its tributaries to the evolution of American motorcycles. Whether you're taking the family for a weekend outing, or going on an adult field trip, these Hudson Valley museums are worthy destinations. 

Museum Village of Old Smith's Clove

Immerse yourself in living history at the Museum Village of Old Smith's Clove in Monroe, where costumed interpreters portray a slice of 19th-century village life. This open-air historical museum—a classic public school field trip destination—offers visitors a peak into the reality of rural American life in the 1800s, including the transition from a rural cultural and economy to an industrial one. The property includes a log cabin, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith, a drug store, a print shop, and more, each filled with historic artifacts. Through educational programs, hands-on-exhibits, guided tours and special events Museum Village brings to life the past and documents the evolution of industry and technology in America.

Motorcyclepedia Museum

There are several quality museums dedicated to aficionados, too. From choppers to street bikes, crotch rockets to cruisers, motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes and appeal to all types of people—from full-time bad boys to Wall Street brokers blowing off steam. The Motorcyclepedia Museum is an 85,000-square-foot space in Newburgh displaying the collection father-son duo Gerald and Ted Doering has amassed over a combined 80 years. The volunteer-run museum is a love letter to the American motorcycle, with the most complete timeline of Indian motorcycles anywhere in the world, plus a handful of historically significant European and Asian models. "Headlights, horns, handlebars, gas tanks—it's very obvious to see how these parts evolved when you have a timeline as complete as our Indian timeline," says Dale Prusinowski, a Motorcyclepedia trustee. In addition to the display of over 600 bikes, the museum also has more than 3,000 articles of memorabilia, such as posters and ads, and special interest exhibits that include historical context for different bikes. 

Velocipede Museum

If bicycles are more your speed, check out Motorcyclepedia's sister exhibition space, the Velocipede Museum, housed in the historic Labor Temple at 109 Liberty Street, Newburgh. Velocipede is the umbrella term for all human-powered vehicles with wheels. While only the first floor of the three-story building will be open until renovations are completed, there are already nearly 50 bicycles of all shapes, sizes, and eras dating as far back as 1820. Perch atop the vintage Penny Farthing, browse the tri- and quad-cycles, and learn about the evolution of the bicycle. The front of the building has been preserved as a workshop, and in future will be a space for kids' workshops, teaching basic bicycle skills like tire-changing and chain adjustment. 

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome

Aviation enthusiasts, meanwhile, won’t want to miss the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, where vintage plane displays and air shows abound. After spending his life savings on six WWI aircrafts that were up for sale when Roosevelt Field closed in 1951, the Aerodrome's founder Cole Palen laboriously moved his new treasures upstate. The Aerodrome is America’s first flying museum of antique aircraft and replicas, with over 60 planes. The nonprofit museum collects, restores, and exhibits aircraft from the Pioneer, WWI, and Golden Ages of aviation. Head to the grounds for air shows every Saturday and Sunday from mid-June to mid-October. Every weekend air show is preceded by a vintage fashion show and an old-time auto parade. On Saturdays, the show emphasizes planes from the Pioneer days. On Sundays, there’s a mock-World War I dogfight in the sky. Want a historic thrill? You can also take a ride in a bi-plane.

FASNY Firefighting Museum

If your kids like fire trucks, dressing up in fire gear, and learning about fire safety and emergencies, then they will love the FASNY Firefighting Museum just north of Hudson's downtown. Set in a spacious-hangar like building, it is the world’s largest firefighting museum, with a staggering 90 fire engines on display, some dating back to the 1700s, apparata, and memorabilia. Trace the history of firefighting technology and culture from hand-drawn hose carts of the Colonial era to the 1,000-gallon diesel-powered tankers of the 1970s. Photo opps abound. There are also hands-on interactive exhibits, including the bucket brigade. Upstairs you will find the interactive fire safety education section which includes a 911 call simulator, a carpeted area to try a drop and roll, and other fire safety visual aids for kids. And of course, stop and meet Molly the resident Dalmatian.

Hudson River Maritime Museum

Delve deep into the influence of the river itself—a long-important artery for trade and transport—at the waterfront Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston. Sited along the historic Rondout Creek waterfront, the museum was established in 1980 to preserve and interpret the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries, like brick making, bluestone quarrying, cement mining, coal transport, and ice harvesting. The physical museum has objects and archives galore, including photographs, ice yachts, ship models, life boats, and a 100-year-old shad boat. They also have a fleet of boats, including a 100% solar-powered boat, which they use to offer educational tours of local lighthouses, industrial sites, sunset, and after-dark lantern cruises. The Wooden Boat School preserves the historic maritime craft traditions through drawing, carpentry, and boat-building classes. The HRRM puts out publications and hosts public events, lectures, education programs, and activities throughout the year, covering a range of topics from the history of the local ice-harvesting trade to women lighthouse keepers of the Hudson River. 


Mid-Hudson Children's Museum

At the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum in Poughkeepsie, children are encouraged to learn through “purposeful play,” via a series of interactive exhibits that teach science, math, art, music, technology, engineering, and literacy to encourage critical thinking skills and curiosity. Cleverly designed activities and spaces trick kids into learning while having fun. The buttercup-yellow museum has five exhibit galleries plus an outdoor children's garden. The Link, Lift, Launch space features exhibits on flight, magnetism, rockets, and building, encouraging kids to think critically, problem solve, and collaborate. The museum also sponsors the Poughkeepsie Waterfront Market, an inclusive, weekly farmers' market that takes place on Mondays from May to October in their Hudson riverfront outdoor pavilion.

Hudson Highlands Nature Museum

Another especially kid-friendly spot is the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, with its emphasis on environmental and wildlife education, along with nature-based play. The museum, which was founded in 1959, is comprised of two locations—a wildlife education center in Cornwall-on-Hudson and an outdoor discovery center in nearby Cornwall—both of which include meadows, woods, . Every Saturday and Sunday, kids can meet the animals—which include both native and non-native species of turtles, frogs, birds, and fish.
Both properties include hiking trails that are open to the public. Themed, week-long summer camps teach children ages 4-12 about the environment, science, and the natural world through outdoor exploration, experimentation, and crafts.

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