15+ FREE Things to do
in Dutchess County, NY
Dutchess County is located in the Mid-Hudson Valley Region of New York State and has so much to offer. While many people are looking for fun things to do in Dutchess most people in the Hudson Valley are also looking for free things to do in Dutchess County.
Don’t get me wrong, I know places need to charge fees, but sometimes free is also good.
From main street to the smallest corner of Dutchess County, I am here to show you that you can have fun even while doing free things in Dutchess County.
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Things to Know Before Participating in Free Things in Dutchess County:
- Some of these locations are seasonal, so please confirm all information on each locations website before making plans.
- One should always be prepared for any type of weather when heading out. These tips will be helpful.
- If you’re not sure where to start in planning your day/weekend/week in Dutchess county, these itineraries may help.
Where is Dutchess County NY
As previously mentioned, Dutchess County sits in the Mid-Hudson Valley Region and is sandwiched between Putnam County and Columbia County.
Dutchess County is one of the best places to visit in the Hudson Valley because of its location. Still close enough to New York City, Dutchess County is one of the best day trips around but is also wonderful for long weekend getaways.
With historic towns, such as Hyde Park and Rhinebeck, free things in Dutchess County are not hard to find if you look, keep an open mind and think outside the box.
While in Dutchess County, make sure to prepare for a day full of fun.
Here are a few of my favorite things you may have not thought of doing when you think of free things to do in Dutchess County:
- Window shopping at the many retail shops located in each town/city
- Walking around the Culinary Institute of America, Marist College and/or Vassar College
- Finding and admiring a National Historic Landmark and Historic Sites
- Admiring the many Natural Habitats, Scenic Vistas that you can only find in the Hudson River Valley.
Are these places actually free?
Yes, they are.
By free, I mean that they do not charge an admission fee. Some locations offer tours for a fee and other activities that you may or may not have to pay for.
But if you’re looking for a few ideas of FREE things to do in Dutchess County, then this is the list for you.
Free Things to do in Dutchess County
– Bard College
Located in Annandale-on-Hudson, Bard College is the home for SummerScape, five weeks of live music, dance, opera and the Bard Music Festival.
But the best FREE thing to do at Bard College is a visit to Bard Arboretum/Blithewood Garden. (See Below)
– Barton Orchards
Located in Poughquag, Barton Orchards is known for their festivals, but did you also know that their Bark Park, Midway and Petting Zoo are open daily and are free to visit (when there are no festival) and use these amenities? It’s one of the best family friendly free things to do in Dutchess County.
– Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Located on the campus of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. Vassar was the first college or university in the country to include an art museum as part of its original plan.
The Lehman Loeb Art Center’s collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 22,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, textiles, and glass and ceramic wares. This is one of the bes free things to do in Dutchess County for art lovers.
– Franklin D Roosevelt Library & Museum (Grounds)
Although the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, FDR Presidential Library and Museum charge an admission fee for entrance into the buildings and tours, the grounds and the Rose Garden, where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried, are free and open everyday from sunrise to sunset.
– The Hessel Museum of Art
Located in Annandale-on-Hudson, The Hessel Museum of Art was built in 2006 and is located in the campus of Bard College.
Located on 500 acres and adjacent to the Hudson River and the Catskills Mountain, a trip to the Hessel Museum is not to be missed. Advanced reservation for your visit can be made on their website.
– Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve
Extending from Westchester County to Dutchess County, the Hudson Highlands and Hudson River provide spectacular backdrops for the many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed here, such as hiking, boating, fishing, and birding. The park’s extensive hiking trail network includes terrain that varies from easy to challenging.
FYI: You can find a Highland Eagle Viewing Map on the website.
– Locust Grove Estate
Located in Poughkeepsie, Locust Grove Estate was once the home of Samuel Morse. Open daily from 10am – 5pm, the gardens and grounds offer five miles of carriage roads and amazing views of the Hudson River. Locust Grove also hosts special events throughout the year.
Pet friendly – this is a great place to go on a walk with your furry friend. Picnics are also allowed in designated areas.
Although tours of the mansion are offered on the weekends, there is a tour fee.
– Madam Brett Park
Located in Beacon, this 12 acre park is home to Fishkill Marsh and a beautiful waterfall on the creek. Walking and wildlife watching are some of the favorite activities done at Madam Brett Park. It is dog friendly, so bring along your furry sidekick.
– Mount Beacon
Although the trail up Mount Beacon is steep, the view from the top is breathtaking. Observation platforms atop the stairs preview the treat rewarding all who reach the summit: a panoramic vista stretching from the Hudson Highlands to the Catskill Mountains.
A mile away is the location of South Mount Beacon fire tower. Free and open year-round, dawn to dusk.
– Mount Gulian Historic Site
Located near Beacon, Mount Gulian Historic Site is a reconstructed 18th century Dutch manor house on the Hudson River. The original house served as the headquarters of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben during the American Revolutionary War
Although a guided tour is offered to the public for a fee, the grounds consist of the main house, Dutch Barn and Heritage Garden.
– Poet’s Walk Park
Located in Red Hook, Poet’s Walk is a one of the many public parks in Dutchess County with breathtaking views of the Hudson River. Walking through Poet’s Walk Park offers a unique experience. The designed landscape boasts “outdoor rooms”, beautiful meadows and an amazing gazebo.
If you’re a landscape lover, then this is one of the best free things to do in Dutchess County.
– Staatsbugh State Historic Site
Located in Staatsburgh, the grounds of Staatsburgh State Historic Site or Mills Estate, is perfect for hiking, biking and/or having a picnic. Free, outdoor tours and programs are offered Thursday – Sunday (registration required).
FYI: There is a Staatsburgh Scavenger Hunt download PDF on their website that will make your next visit a lot of fun.
– Stony Kill Farm
This working farm in Wappingers Falls consists of 1,000 acres and is conveniently located on Route 9D. The farm was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1980.
With an abundance of trails and the Verplank Memorial Perennial Garden, this is a trip worth taking if you’re looking for some free things to do in Dutchess County. Every Saturday and Sunday from February – November, our barn is open to visitors from 11 am – 1 pm.
READ MORE: CLICK HERE TO READ ALL ABOUT STONY KILL FARM
– Van Wyck Homestead Museum
Located in Fishkill and open seasonally for guided tours, the Van Wyck Homestead Museum is a great place to visit and explore. Self-guided tours of the grounds are available everyday with brochures located on site.
The house was used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War as the Officer’s Quarters for the Fishkill Supply Depot.
– Vanderbilt Mansion
Although tours of the mansion are taking place for a fee, walking the grounds and formal gardens of this national historic site is always free. Open daily during every season, this is
Built by of one of the first families of wealth in America. Designed by one of the nation’s preeminent architects. The Vanderbilt Mansion is a home built expressly for the aristocratic lifestyle.
– Walkway Over the Hudson
As the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park can be accessed from Highland, NY in Ulster County and Poughkeepsie, NY.
In addition to walking the span of the walkway, the 21-story, glass-enclosed elevator on the Poughkeepsie waterfront at Upper Landing Park operates from 9 a.m. until 90 minutes before park closing time.
There is also an audio tour that you can do from your smart phone highlighting the Walkway’s Past, Present and Future.
– Wassaic Project
Maxon Mills is home to the Wassaic Project. They have public art on view throughout Wassaic year-round, open and accessible to visitors 24/7.
Open 12pm – 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, this is the perfect outing when looking for someplace interesting and quaint to explore.
– Wilderstein Historic Site
Located in Rhinebeck, it was the home of Margaret Suckley, a cousin and confidante of Franklin Roosevelt, and is widely regarded as the Hudson Valley’s most important example of Victorian architecture.
The grounds offer an abundance of hiking trails and makes for the perfect outing when looking for free things to do in Dutchess County.
Best Breathtaking Views of the Hudson River in Dutchess County
One of the best features of the Hudson Valley and Dutchess County is the ability to take in the most breathtaking views of the Hudson River around.
Although visiting these places are beautiful during summer months, these are honestly great locations to visit all year long. The beautiful landscapes offers the perfect backdrop for photos.
Some of my free favorite places to take in views of the Hudson River include:
- Bard Arboretum/Blithewood Garden – Situated on a steeply sloping bluff approximately 130 feet above the Hudson River, Blithewood is a 45-acre section of the Bard College campus that was once part of a historic estate comprising a manor house, outbuildings, drives, gardens, lawns, and meadows.
- Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls – Bowdoin Park is a picturesque 301-acre park located in Southern Dutchess County. This park has amazing views overlooking the Hudson River, and is a perfect venue to host your next gathering or event. With picnic areas, playground, ball fields, hiking trails and more, this is one of the best free things to do in Dutchess County.
- Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park – Overlooking the Hudson River, CIA is a great place to visit and wander. Their restaurants are also top-notch!
- Hudson Highlands in Beacon – The Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve starts in Westchester County and extends up to Dennings Point in Beacon.
- Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie – Set on a hill overlooking the scenic Hudson River sits a historic mansion owned by Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code.
- Long Dock Park in Beacon – With waterfront views and a spectacular view of Orange County across the river, this is a must see spot.
- Marist College in Poughkeepsie – Marist’s 180-acre main campus overlooks the Hudson River and is situated along its east banks.
- Poet’s Walk Park in Red Hook – The land is relatively flat, so you have to burn very few calories to be rewarded with awesome views of the Catskills, Hudson River and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
- Staatsburgh State Historic Site in Staatsburgh – Mills Estate offers great hiking trails with awesome views of the Hudson River.
- Upper Landing Park in Poughkeepsie – Upper Landing Park offers Poughkeepsie residents and visitors a beautiful setting to enjoy alongside the Hudson River, an engaging walk through over 300 years of local history, and access to Walkway Over the Hudson’s waterfront elevator.
- Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park – This is a great place to take in a sunset. You can park here and watch the sunset with amazing views of the Hudson River in view.
- Victor Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie – This park sits on the river’s edge and is adjacent to the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum. Plenty of open space and benches offer amazing views of the Hudson River, Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Walkway over the Hudson.
- Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park – The absolute BEST place to see views of the Hudson River. Hands down!
What is there to do in Dutchess County this weekend?
Although finding free things to do in Dutchess County may seem daunting, don’t let overwhelm or the weather hold you back.
Many of the places listed here are open year-round and are so much fun any time of the year. Outdoor activities do not have to be limited to the warmer months.
Listening to outdoor live music is a wonderful pastime, mostly done during the warmer months, and is perfect for the whole family. Depending on the venue, the only cost
What is there to do in Dutchess County today?
While the Dutchess Tourism website and their social media page offers lots of inspiration, it may be difficult to narrow down your search for fun and free things to do in Dutchess County. That’s why this article and my Events article are helpful.
Until the Next Adventure…
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