Introducing your kids to the cultural treasures of New York State

Contributed by Cheryl S.

View of Boldt Castle and some of the Thousand Islands in upstate New York. [Photo:]
The Big Apple may be the financial and cultural powerhouse of the region, but there are plenty of other great things for families to see and do in New York State. The Empire State has lovingly preserved and restored classic Americana, and natural wonders abound.

Fascinating history

The famous Howe Caverns in the Catskills are a hugely popular destination. Here, visitors can go on boat trips deep underground to view limestone formations. The nearby Catskill Forest Preserve offers numerous outdoor activities, and you can go on guided nature trails at the Stony Kill Environmental Centre. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s home can be viewed at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, and there are other Roosevelt sites close by, as well as George Washington’s Headquarters.

Science and Government

Albany, the state’s capital, is home to the magnificent Children’s Museum of Science, where families can enjoy some fun learning together. The “Molecularium” shows are especially popular, teaching young kids about atoms and molecules.

The New York State Capitol building is the imposing seat of state business and administration. Take a guided tour of the Assembly Chamber and see colorful murals depicting local history from the time of Hudson.

Island hopping

Explore over 2000 islands by boat. The Thousand Islands are packed with attractions like the historic Boldt Castle and the Singer Castle. The fun event, Bill Johnstone’s Pirate Days, is held on the seaways and islands each year, when locals dress up in pirate costumes to commemorate the hunting down of an outlaw. Muskets and cannons are part of the fun.

The nearby Wellesley Island State Park is the region’s biggest camping complex. It includes the popular and educational Minna Anthony Common Nature Centre, where you can get great views across the Thousand Islands.

Historic hotels

New York State is also home to some of the country’s grandest hotels, such as the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, 90 miles north of New York City. This palatial and beautiful hotel is a National Historic Landmark, founded in 1869 and set in 40,000 spectacular acres of the Hudson Valley Region. The resort is renowned for its gorgeous natural setting and the recreational facilities it offers its guests.

The power of nature

The “Maid of the Mist Boat Tour” has been operating since 1846 and takes passengers along the Niagara River through dense spray as it negotiates several sets of falls. If you prefer land over water, the “Cave of Winds Tour” may suit you better, as you can walk into the thick mists over a series of walkways. Either way, kids love it. There are also interesting geological formations at Devil’s Hole. There are views across the rapids and the area downstream is officially one of the top parts of the country for freshwater fishing.

Of course no family trip to the Empire State is complete without visiting the world-class galleries, museums and other attractions of New York City itself, but the rest of the state should on no account be underestimated either.


  1. We just went to Niagara Falls over the summer and Howe Caverns is on our to-do list, as requested by my son. There are definitely wonderful places to visit in NY!

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