Get (Safely!) Out and About In and Around the Capital District
Your family could really use a fun outing, but you're committed to social distancing. Many popular nature trails and lake beaches seem like a good idea until you realize that many others had the same idea, making some of these destinations too crowded for comfort.. Luckily, there are new and interesting places to explore while staying a safe distance for others. If you can, switch your schedule and do your outings on weekdays to avoid weekend crowds. Here are a few suggestions you may not have considered, and all of them are in the Albany, Schenectady, and Troy area.
And don't forget your masks!
Sculpture Parks: Art OMI and Opus40
Sculpture parks offer the opportunity to take in some sculpture while enjoying outdoor space. Some of the art pieces encourage interaction (although be careful: some don't), and you can enhance your experience by bringing along sketchbooks or cameras to see how the sculptures can inspire your own compositions. The sprawling grounds allows kids to be a bit more relaxed than in a typical museum, and best of all, it's easy to keep a distance from others. Keep in mind that it will get busier and hotter at midday, so planning for an earlier morning or late afternoon visit is likely to work best.
Shaker Sites: Shaker Heritage Site & Hancock Shaker Village
Both the Shaker Heritage Site, located in Albany (near the airport), and Hancock Shaker Village, in Pittsfield, MA are facinating places to visit under normal circumstances. Because both sites are comprised of mutliple buildings, outdoor grounds with gardens and animals, they're a fun visit even when you stay entirely outdoors. Viisting the grounds of Shaker Heritage Site is permitted from dawn to dusk, and it's free. To visit Hancock Shaker Village, pre-purchase admission for a particular time slot, then follow a one-way route through the garden and Village. Whether you choose to review the website to make it a history lesson or just enjoy the farm animals, either are a great outing.
Gardens: Central Park Rose Garden & Berkshire Botanical Garden
The Central Park Rose Garden in Schenectady is in its glory during the summer, and the fragrant roses, water features, and architectural details make it a favorite to explore as well as a hugely popular photography setting. Bring along a picnic lunch, or take a walk around nearby Iroquois Lake if it won't be too tough to avoid the currently-closed playground or bring along frisbees and play some disc golf or ride the bike trails while you're there. The Berkshire Botanical Garden, in Stockbridge, MA, is open from 9 am to 5 pm with pre-purchased timed admission (children under 12 are free). Their 24-acre grounds offer a huge variety of landscaped settings to explore, and you can prepare ahead via their virtual programming.
Animal Encounters: Dakota Ridge Farm & Into the Woods Farm
Visit Dakota Ridge Farm, in Ballston Spa, to meet some llamas. They offer pre-scheduled Tours and Treks that allow you to feed and pet a llama as well as taking photographs. Meet goats at Into the Woods Farm in Middle Grove. Schedule a Wild Walk or sign up for some Goat Yoga. For both of these farms, you'll need to sign up for an appointment in order to take part in activities. Check their website or to schedule a visit.
Fruit Picking: Indian Ladder Farm & Bowman Orchards
Indian Ladder Farm anticipates that berry picking will start in late June. Already, you can walk on their nature trail, and their Yellow Rock Cafe is open for take-out orders, withpicnic tables set up in their herb garden. For up-to-date information on picking, follow their social media or call their PYO line at 866-640-PICK. Bowman Orchards also expects strawberry picking to start soon, and their farmers' market is already open. Again, check for up-to-date picking information via social media or call them at (518) 371-2042. Check out our tips for berry picking with kids.
Drive-In Fun: Ellms Family Farm & Drive-In Movie Theaters
Ellms Family Farm, long popular for fall fun and Christmas tree shopping, has hosted several special Cider Donut Drive-Thru events with extra fun activities thrown in. Follow them on social media, and if you see an event coming up that you're interested in, sign up right away. Many local drive-in movie theaters have opened for summer, and our colleague Helena Robin thinks you should definitely take your kids to a drive-in movie theater. Be sure to check their websites to review COVID-19 procedures before you go.
Outdoor Adventure: Mountain Ridge Adventure & Camp Fowler
The great thing about outdoor fun is that it's easy to spread out. At Mountain Ridge Adventure is now reservation-only, and you'll need to bring your own gloves or buy some on site, but there's plenty of fresh air and sanitation between uses. Plus your family will have a blast. Camp Fowler isn't running their usual overnight camp, but you can pre-register for a day visit to enjoy their beautiful waterfront.