A Guide to the Best Museums in the Hudson Valley
Museums in the Hudson Valley are abundant and great places to visit, to learn about different cultures and traditions, and, most importantly, have fun.
From Yonkers to Albany, visiting museums throughout the beautiful Hudson Valley is a perfect day trip for anyone and everyone.
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What are some things to do during a museum visit?
In addition to viewing collections of art, historic objects and other media, many museums in the Hudson Valley offer:
- educational programs
- participation in a guided tour
- public programs, such as concerts
- movie showings
- and a variety of special events
What are the Best Museums in the Hudson Valley?
Just like anything else, the use the word “Best” is subjective. What may be the ‘Best’ for you, may not be the ‘Best’ for someone else.
The Hudson Valley Region of New York State is rich in history, art, culture and natural beauty. So what better way to learn about the wonderful region than to visit one of many museums in the Hudson Valley.
Museums for Families with Kids
Children’s Museums in the Hudson Valley are one of the best places for little hands to keep busy and discover new things.
The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum has two great locations:
- Outdoor Discover Center in Cornwall
- Wildlife Education Center in Cornwall-on-Hudson
The focus of the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in environmental education. Incorporating nature play at Grasshopper Grove and weekend nature programs, there is no shortage of fun things to do.
Although there is an entrance fee at the Wildlife Education Center & for use of Grasshopper Grove, the hiking trails are free to use. The Visitors Center and Nature Shop are closed. If you have children, make this your next visit.
Located in Poughkeepsie, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum is the ideal place for children to learn through creative play and educational programs. Because of it’s location near and with amazing views of Hudson River, it is considered one of the favorite things to do for families in Dutchess County.
The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum offers family free nights, hosts a weekly farmers market and has a fantastic children’s garden on the premises. This is a perfect outing for the whole family.
Museums for Nature Lovers
In addition to the various animals located at the zoo, this section of Bear Mountain State Park also houses:
- The Herpetology Museum – showcases native fish, reptiles and amphibians.
- The Nature Study Museum – showcases local wildlife.
- Geology Museum – showcases the region’s geology and animals of ancient times.
- History Museum – showcases the history of the land from the early 1900’s.
Many people are surprised by this fact and believe the zoo only houses the animals. The walking trails from one exhibit to another is another plus to visiting the Trailside Museums & Zoo.
History Museums in the Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley is home to many historical sites, including museums.
Located on Washington Ave, this museum’s main goal is to collect and expose others to the history, art and culture of Albany and the Upper Hudson Valley region. Although famous for the vast collection of Hudson River School Paintings, the museum engages in extensive educational outreach.
Although charging an entrance fee, this museum offers special programs such as:
- Free Admission Days
- Museums on Us Program
- Museums for All Program
Located in Hyde Park, this building houses an important piece of American History and sits on the grounds of the Home of Franklin D Roosevelt National Historic Site, amongst the historic buildings.
Located in Goshen, the museum’s mission is to expand harness racing’s interest. Their collection preserves the rich history of harness racing and hopes to increase the appeal to others.
In addition to the track being a National Historic Landmark, it is still in use today, as well as the stables.
Located in Kingston, this museum is solely dedicated to maritime history of the Hudson River, including the history of shipping, boating, and the maritime industry. The subject matter is important to the area because Kingston grew immensely in the 19th century and the city’s port was the busiest one between NYC and Albany.
With plenty of exhibits to see and things to do such as, there are also boat tours, special events, boat school, sailing classes and rowing classes and is a great place to visit in Ulster County.
Located in Albany and next to the Empire State Plaza, this is the place to view art and artifacts, amongst being the oldest and largest state museum in the United States.
Some ongoing exhibitions include:
- Adirondack Wilderness
- Birds of New York
- Minerals of New York
- The Carousel
- The World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Respose
- and more…
Located in Hudson, Olana State Historic Site is 250 acres of breathtaking landscape. It’s no wonder why Frederic Church called this place home. This is one of the most impressive historic sites in the entire region. The grounds are free but tours are also available of the main house.
An added bonus: The Hudson River Skywalk connects Frederic Church’s Olana and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site via the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and features sweeping views of the Hudson River Valley and views of the Catskill Mountains.
Take a ride to Red Hook and visit the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome! In additional to the vast collection of airplanes, dating back to pre-WWI, there are also air shows, biplane rides and their lighthouse air tours.
In addition to these experiences, the Aerodrome also offers special events throughout the year.
Located in Hyde Park, a tour of Vanderbilt Mansion showcases how one of the first wealthiest families in the United States lived. Filled with original furnishings, the history of this place is so interesting.
With acres and acres of walking paths and hiking trails, this place is the perfect outing for you, your family and even a furry friend(s). And the best part is that the grounds are free to explore.
Located just outside the gates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, the West Point Museum is an extraordinary place to spend the afternoon. Open year-round and right next to the West Point Visitors Center, the collection and exhibits of military history is like no other. Because the subject matter is of interest to so many, this impressive museum has visitors in it year-round.
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Art Museums in the Hudson Valley
In addition to art museums, there are also countless art galleries where you can find a variety of works by local artists.
Art Museums in the Hudson Valley are not limited to American Art. Several Museums specialize and showcase art from other parts of the world, such as African Art and Italian Art.
The DIA Art Foundation manages several locations, but DIA Beacon is the location that houses art from the 1960’s to current art. Described by many as one of the best Hudson Valley Museums, DIA:Beacon welcome tens of thousands of visitors through the doors of the former Nabisco box-printing facility.
DIA:Beacon has a unique feature where each gallery is dedicated to one artist’s work. The town of Beacon and local community has transformed with the help of the efforts made of DIA:Beacon.
Located on the Vassar College campus in Poughkeepsie, The Loeb has the distinct pleasure of being the first art museum at a college or university, in the United States, that was part of the institution’s original plan. Among the permanent exhibit on display, The Loeb also offers the opportunity to view visiting exhibits from international artists.
Also used as a research center, The Loeb welcomes faculty and students to view and use the collections for their classes.
Located in Annandale-on-Hudson, the Hessel Museum of Art was built in 2006 and showcases more than 3,000 objects collected from the 1960’s to present day.
They offer the opportunity to admire permanent Installations, as well as exhibitions within the museum and also in the CCS Bard Galleries.
In addition to the works inside the art museum, powerful public sculptures surround the museum.
Located in Peekskill, the Hudson Valley MOCA has been on a movement to showcase contemporary artists sine the late 1960’s. Because it’s located in Westchester County and not very far from the Peekskill Station of the Metro-North train’s Hudson line, it is a popular destination for art enthusiasts from New York City.
If you walk down Peekskill’s Main Street from the museum towards the Hudson River, you will be immersed in contemporary sculptures part of the Peekskill Sculpture Park and part of the Hudson Valley MOCA. A map of all the sculptures can be located on the HV MOCA website and looking for each sculpture is one of the fun things to do in Peekskill.
Located in Cold Spring, Magazzino Italian Art is great place is not only a wonderful spot to explore in Cold Spring, NY, but the best part is that it’s free. With an abundance of art exhibits, it’s no wonder that this gem is popular amongst locals and visitors alike.
There is a mixture of contemporary Italian art and postwar Italian art, and this charming museum presents Italian artists in the best possible way. In addition to the long-term/ongoing installations, there are also special exhibitions that change approximately every 6 months.
When in New Paltz, a visit to Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is a must! Because it’s situated at the State University of New York at New Paltz, it makes it the ideal location to have a great day in New Paltz.
Permanent collection includes more than 6,000 works of art from around the world. Their visiting exhibits bring people from near and far. “The Hudson Valley Masters Series” is one of the unique exhibitions that the Museum periodically hosts which focuses specifically on a body of work by an internationally acclaimed artist who resides in the area.
Located in New Windsor, Storm King Art Center is not a museum, but it could not be left off the list. One of the best outdoor sculpture parks in the region, Storm King Art Center is visited by many. Stroll the grounds, have lunch in the picnic area and make wonderful memories.
People often flock here to view the works of Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder, and Andy Goldsworthy. Admission tickets are included in the parking fees, so make sure to book tickets, because they often sell out.
Located in Yonkers, the Hudson River Museum is the largest and one of the most eclectic museums in Westchester County. And, in addition, it boasts one of the most impressive historic homes in the area, Glenview, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With an outstanding collection of art pieces exhibited, including nineteenth-century Hudson River School paintings, for all to enjoy, the Hudson Valley Museum also has a planetarium in the building. Tickets my be purchased for general admission to the musuem only, the museum and the planetarium and/or tour of Glenview.
Find a Museum By County
List of Free Museums
- Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
- Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson
- Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring
- New York State Museum
- Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art
- Trailside Museums at Bear Mountain State Park
- West Point Museum, West Point
Tips for Visiting these museums in the Hudson Valley:
- Check with each individual website to confirm information (days open & fees)
- Popular times to visit museums in the Hudson Valley are doing the summer, so make plans accordingly.
- Many locations recommend reservations – confirm information before your visit.
Until the Next Adventure…