And we’re back! After four months on hiatus while we all smartly stayed home, we chez Mom Voyage are easing back into travel guides the safest way: with road trips. With a focus on easy(ish) day or weekend trips from major cities, recs for local food social-distancing style, plus tons of outdoor spaces to explore with kids (masks on around other humans, please) we’re kicking off with the Mom’s Guide to the Hudson Valley. Because if there’s one group of people who deserves a chill weekend upstate with the kids, it’s NYC parents. (Bonus: the Hudson Valley is also totally accessible for parents of the NJ, CT, MA varieties and more.)
You may know the Hudson Valley for its autumnal standouts: leaf-peeping, apple-picking, and the like. But there’s really no bad time of year to visit, and summer is perfect for hiking the Catskills, hitting a drive-in movie, tubing, you name it. Of course, the Hudson Valley is a pretty massive destination (we’re just starting to branch out from our city-specific guides) and it would be impossible to fit the best places to stay, play, eat, drink and explore in every riverside hamlet — so we’ve spotlighted a few favorites to wake up your travel tastebuds after their long springtime slumber. Baby steps, okay?
Where to stay
Best for rentals
In pandemic travel times short-term rentals are king. But our go-tos Airbnb and VRBO aren’t the only options for traveling families looking to socially distance; curated family rental site Kid & Coe has some particularly gorgeous properties throughout the Hudson Valley, from Chatham to Red Hook to Woodstock and beyond.
Best for major hotel
But if you’re looking for more of a classic experience (read: a hotel with all the bells and whistles), you can’t beat the new Staybridge Suites in Albany. It’s a super central location with amenities like cozy fire pits; plus, it offers a free shuttle to nearby restaurants and more. Part of the IHG group of hotels, Staybridge is notable for being spotlessly clean, and they’ve only amped up their cleaning procedures in response to COVID-19. They’ve also increased flexibility regarding cancellations, given the ever-changing nature of travel advisories in the pandemic.
Best for boutique
For a smaller-scale option, The Graham & Co. in Phoenicia is a boutique favorite that has recently reopened with limited capacity. It’s a renovated old motel, so you and the kids will have easy access from your room right to the bikes / pool / badminton courts — without having to share an elevator.
Where to eat
Best for outdoor eats
Travel dining in 2020 is shifting fast, and it means food trucks, takeout, and al fresco. If you’re in Albany, take that shuttle from the Staybridge Suites to Barcelona Restaurant & Wine Bar for kid-approved European food options and wines to die for. In the Rhinebeck area, Frites of NY food truck gets rave reviews from all ages.
Diner fans (aka every child) will love the Eveready Diner, with locations in Hyde Park and Brewster, which are currently open for takeout only (bring it to the Hyde Park drive-in! More about that in a minute). Then there’s the retro-chic Phoenicia Diner, where you can fill up on hearty, flavorful brunch in the newly expanded outdoor seating area before hitting your hike — or whitewater tubing on the Esopus Creek.
For a high-end meal, Rhinebeck’s Terrapin is re-opened for the works: expanded patio seating, takeout, and curbside. Housed inside an old church, Terrapin brings together farm-to-table food and global flair and has been one of my favorite meals for over a decade.
Best for coffee
Stacks Espresso Bar(s) are a Hudson Valley staple for coffee fiends, but their locations in Troy and Newton remain closed. Downtown Albany, however (my go-to on recent travels there) is open for exceptional takeaway coffees and pastries, and these folks are ready for you!
Where to explore
What’s the perfect pastime for when you want to get moving but stay safe? Head to the woods, kids. The Hudson Valley is home to some of the best (and most kid-friendly) hiking this country has to offer. Top picks for kids near Albany are John Boyd Thacher State Park, including the Indian Ladder trail which lets you traverse a stunning natural staircase (plus some manmade boosts like steps and railings) through waterfalls and breathtaking cliffside views.
Meanwhile in the Catskills: Hiking Kelly Hollow is gorgeous and easy enough for littles. Westward towards Ithaca, we’re partial to the slightly longer but still kid-doable Rim & Gorge (if you haven’t owned an “Ithaca is Gorges” T-shirt yet, you will soon) at just over four miles of trail.
Many museums have already reopened this summer; others are holding out a bit longer as the coronavirus curve continues to decline in NY (well done, Cuomo et al). We’ll still have to wait a bit for visual art standbys Dia Beacon and Vassar College’s Frances Lehmann Loeb Art Center, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s former home (now a museum) in Hyde Park is also still closed.
However, Frederic Church’s elegant Olana estate is open for timed tours, and epic outdoor sculpture paradise Storm King relaunches this week. The latter is a particular family favorite; kids will love ogling the giant structures and traipsing through the fields so much, they may not even notice they’re getting exposed to serious works of art in the process.
Just for fun
Looking for more Hudson Valley fun (you know, the kind that doesn’t involve large crowds or getting close to other humans)? Drive-in movies are having a resurgence courtesy of social distancing, and upstate NY has a treasure trove of ’em. Favorites are the Overlook Drive-in in Poughkeepsie and the Hyde Park Drive-in near Roosevelt’s home. Pack a picnic or buy to-go concessions on site. Just remember: No face mask, no entry!
Another amazing option we’re thanking the pandemic for: Outdoor yoga the whole family can enjoy. BeBhakti Yoga Center in Beacon is hosting classes in the summer breeze at Long Dock Park. Bring the (older) kids, space your mats six feet from strangers, and get your om on.
Want more pandemic travel recs? These are the best (and safest) beaches to visit with your family in 2020.