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Family Fun Time


Last Updated: 08/07/2013 6:06 pm


Congratulations. Your wedding/civil union/hand-binding ceremony has arrived, and it’s happening in the Hudson Valley. Everything has been lovingly planned, from the bridesmaids’ matching flip-flops to the music. The meat is grass-fed, the cheese, artisanal and raw. All is in readiness.

Then it hits you. You’ve got an entire weekend with mismatched families, ranging from Ivan The Terrible Two-year-old, to your intended’s high-energy Grandma, who can outlast the whole mishpocheh. If you don’t act fast, it could devolve into Meet the Fockers. Relax. Knock back some Old Gristmill Authentic American Corn Whisky. Chronogram can help. Here are our (selective) suggestions.

Locust Grove is the house and gardens of telegraph inventor Samuel F.B. Morse. Set on 150 acres in Poughkeepsie, Locust Grove hosts trail walks, garden parties, art exhibitions, tastings, and other events. The Visitors’ Center is open daily from 10am to 3pm through November 30. The gardens are open from 8am to dusk. Admission to the gardens and grounds is free; entry to the mansion and exhibits is $9 for adults, and $5 for ages 6-18.

In nearby Hyde Park is the Vanderbilt Mansion. The 50-room home designed by architect Charles McKim, of McKim, Mead and (Stanford) White was primarily a weekend getaway for Frederick Vanderbilt and wife Louise. The Mansion and formal gardens are open daily from 9am to dusk. A guided tour of the Mansion is $8 for adults; kids 15 and under, free. Reservations are required for guided tours; the last tour is at 4pm.

For kids large and small, there is the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie, full of interactive exhibits. In the Great Bubble Machine, for example, you can see the world—not through rose-colored glasses, but through a bubble. Hours of entertainment for the wee ones.

No visit to Hyde Park is complete without eating at The Culinary Institute of America. The CIA boasts five restaurants, all student-staffed. St. Andrew’s Café and Apple Pie Bakery Café are the most family-friendly. The Apple Pie Bakery Café doesn’t require reservations, and shorts, jeans, and sneakers—verboten elsewhere at the CIA—are accepted. American Bounty Restaurant, Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici, and Escoffier Restaurant are open for lunch and dinner and require reservations and business or business/casual attire. If classic French food is your glass of Pernod, try Escoffier.

The foodie in your midst can attend demos or one- or two-day workshop at the school. Some are geared toward kids, such as “Do It Yourself Diner Food for Kids” and “Party Food for the Sophisticated Teen Chef,” both slated for June 9. The CIA offers gift certificates for restaurants and courses—an excellent wedding gift!

For oenophiles, there are wineries and wine tours on either side of the Hudson. A trip to a winery can be a satisfying way to taste some local wines and spirits, and catch a bit of a buzz while admiring the Hudson Valley. Tours around the winery, which usually include a walk through the vineyards and the pleasantly musty cave, or cellar, are usually complimentary. There is a per-person charge for tastings where you will sample an assortment of wines. Expect to pay a higher price for reserve or vintage wines. Some wineries sell food; others encourage you to bring a picnic and relax on the grounds with a bottle of house wine.

There are also the wine trails. Here, you pay an entry fee that entitles you to shuttle between wineries. The Dutchess Wine Trail covers Alison Wines & Vineyards, Clinton Vineyards, and Millbrook Vineyards.

In Ulster County, the Shawangunk Wine Trail has 10 vineyards on it: Adair Vineyards, Applewood Winery, Baldwin Vineyards, Benmarl Winery, Brotherhood Winery, Glorie Farm Winery, Rivendell Winery, Stoutridge Winery, The Warwick Winery & Distillery, and Whitecliff Vineyards.

Time to...go tubing down the Esopus? Yep! A local attraction in Phoenicia, Town Tinker Rental promises a safe, exhilarating ride. Put on your wet suit and Tevas and hop into an inner tube!

One way to get really high is to…get really high. In a hot-air balloon, that is. Bill Hughes of Blue Sky Balloons has been piloting hot-air balloons for close to 40 years. Blue Sky schedules sunrise or sunset flights, weather permitting. They depart from Sprout Creek Farm in LaGrange or James Baird State Park, both off the Taconic in Dutchess County.

You can sail the Hudson River on the sloop Clearwater, or its sister ship, schooner The Mystic Whaler. There are three-hour cruises from assorted local destinations, and the Clearwater has an eight-hour trip between Kingston and Catskill. Another outfit to try is Hudson River Cruises’ Rip Van Winkle. Departing out of Kingston, the Rip Van Winkle has cruises with guided tours, evening cruises without tours (but with the all-important bar), cruises for kids, cruises with music, and even a Murder Mystery Cruise.;

Maybe what you really crave is relaxation. In Dutchess, try Haven Spa in Rhinebeck. With services for guys (“The GQ”) and teens and preteens (“Serene Teens,” “Princess Services”), there’s a cornucopia of treatments to choose from. Try “Pamper Me Senseless,” which includes a Holy Stone Massage, a half-hour reflexology session and a Warm Milk and Honey Body Wrap. Haven suggests a designated driver may be necessary.

Mt. Tremper offers the revamped Emerson Resort & Spa, which was leveled after a 2005 fire. The spa has an Ayurvedic bent, and treatments include Dosha Balancing, Indian Head Massage, and a Rice and Bamboo Body Polish. The complex also has a fitness center, a salon, three restaurants, The Phoenix, The Café at the Spa, and The Emerson Café. They also have the world’s largest kaleidoscope—65 feet tall. Both spas sell gift certificates.

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