Kids’ Almanac (Dec. 27 – Jan. 3)

My kids and I had a fantastic time during our first visit to Hudson Beach Glass to make a blown-glass ornament, and we can’t wait to go back! Now through January 6, you can stop in and make your own glass globe ornament. This activity is open to all ages – basically anyone who can blow up a balloon – and each person’s session lasts about 15 minutes. You select the style from a box of samples, choose your own color combination, put on the supplied safety glasses and you are ready to roll.

The work begins with turning the rod holding a hot molten blob of glass in the 2,000-degree furnace, then shaping it and finally blowing it into a sphere. The last step is letting it cool in the annealing oven, a comparatively brisk 960-degree “refrigerator.” You return to pick up your ornament the next day. Each ornament costs $30.

Everything about our experience was fantastic, and Wendy and John Gilvey were incredibly kind, patient and personable with us. While you’re there, check out the amazing showroom with incredible glassware for sale; and make sure that you spend some time in the awesome gallery upstairs.

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After you make your ornament and do your glass shopping, keep the happy feeling going with a stop in across the street at the Bank Square Coffeehouse. It has an entire shelf of gluten-free baked goods in the case. I couldn’t believe it. I bought one of each for “research purposes.” I can now tell you firsthand that they were all so delicious, especially the brownie.

Hudson Beach Glass is located at 162 Main Street in Beacon. For reservations or more information, call (845) 440-0068 or visit www.hudsonbeachglass.com. Bank Square Coffeehouse is located at 129 Main Street in Beacon. For more information, call (845) 440-7165 or visit https://banksquarecoffeehouse.com.

I had come across the Hudson Valley Raceway’s slot-car center’s website, but didn’t really understand it until my kids and I stopped in to check it out. In about two seconds, we were all hooked! This is so much fun, I can barely type this out to tell you about it. It’s basically a scale-model raceway. You can rent a car and a controller, and it corresponds with the color-coded lanes on the track. You insert the front tab of your car in the groove of your lane (that’s the “slot” part), attach your controller to the posts and like a flash, your car is hurtling down the track. If you lose control of your car, it pops out of the slot and you have to go reinsert it. That ended up being a good part of my job as the kids got started.

We did two of the three tracks: There’s a big curvy track, an oval track and a drag-race straight track. There’s also a monitor so you can compare your lap times, which was fun. I got down to 2.7 seconds on the oval track. You pay for the rental time of the track. We played for half an hour, which was $10 for each of us, and my kids were begging for more.

Slot cars are a lot of fun! My kids are already saving up to buy their own customizable slot cars, which apparently go even faster than what we were using as rentals. It’s so satisfying running something that goes so fast. I’d say that this is an activity that’s ideal for ages 5 through adult. It takes some coordination to manipulate the car successfully around the track, but it’s a great way to feel the energy of real car races. The venue hosts a variety of racing events, including 2 p.m. Rookie Races on Sundays for $10. This is a wonderful indoor activity, especially during the winter months.

Hudson Valley Raceway is located at 629 Route 52 (Fishkill Avenue) in Beacon, behind and underneath Southern Dutchess Bowl. For more information, call (845) 838-5333 or visit www.hvraceway.net.

As a reminder, movies are super-cheap at Silver Cinemas South Hills: $3 per ticket, and $2 on Tuesdays. It’s a great way to see some of your favorites again, or to catch a movie that you missed when it first came out. It’s a fun and frugal way to spend the afternoon or evening. Silver Cinemas South Hills are located off Route 9, at the rear of the South Hills Mall at 1895 South Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information or showtimes, call (845) 297-5993 or visit www.silvercinemasinc.com.

I happen to love Chuck E. Cheese because it’s true: It’s where a kid can be a kid. My kids love the autonomy that they experience there, and I enjoy watching them play their little hearts out on the huge variety of games.

But here’s the big news: Chuck E. Cheese now has gluten-free pizza and cupcakes! They’re even self-contained in their own packaging to avoid cross-contamination. The gluten-free pizza is actually better than it usually is at some other pizza joints, and the cupcakes are frozen, so they have to thaw before you eat them – or not: I enjoyed eating mine cold. Gluten-free! Just one more reason Chuck E. Cheese rocks.

Chuck E. Cheese is located at 1895 South Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 297-9500 or visit www.chuckecheese.com.

For my final what-to-do-during-vacation activity, I want to share the really fun game that my daughter invented at our house called Balloon Dodgeball. We stood across from each other, each of us prohibited from crossing the center threshold, and threw balloons at each other. If you catch the thrown attempt, it doesn’t count; but if it hits you, that counts as a point against you. It’s a lot of fun, and other than the occasional popping balloon, it’s much more gentle on the furnishings than any other projectile game that we play. Enjoy!

In celebration of this New Year, Erica Chase-Salerno wishes for her children all of the gifts of our Hudson Valley: to think as clearly as the views from our mountaintop perches; to create as freely as the flowing waters of our rivers; and to love as deeply as the heritage of our valleys. She can be reached at kidsalmanac@ulsterpublishing.com.

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