Kids’ Almanac (10/18-10/25)

View from the porch of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

“All nature here is new to art. The mists were resting in the valley of the Hudson – the tops of mountains were visible on the other side – you might imagine them in another world. The fields in shadow were a most beautiful fresh green, the mountain side was brilliant though dark.”
– Thomas Cole

Discover the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

How did Englishman Thomas Cole catapult to the top of the 1800s US art game? The father of this new style of landscape painting, now known as the Hudson River School, had talent, skill and popularity. Already growing in prominence, he eventually made his way to a Catskill cottage for studio space, but after his marriage to Maria Bartow, he got to live in the main house permanently. His most famous work, The Course of Empire, was created right in Catskill.


Cole was in love with the natural landscape of the Catskills and deeply resented the development of trains and roads and the influx of people, all of which he considered a “downfall” to the area. His criticism was pretty brutal, such as “the most noble scenes are made desolate, and oftentimes with a wantonness and barbarism scarcely credible in a civilized nation.” Or this gem from his poem, “Lament of the Forest,” in 1838: “A few short years! – these valleys, greenly clad, these slumbering mountains, resting in our arms, shall naked glare beneath the scorching sun.”

My family enjoys the Thomas Cole National Historic Site because it’s local; the videos and tours are interesting and informative; the buildings are the same spaces Cole painted in and inhabited; and the museum has created a number of wonderful details to connect the artist with the rest of us. Here are four aspects of our visit that my family and I particularly appreciate about the museum: 

1. Immersion into the Thomas Cole experience begins immediately at Admissions, with an image of a Cole painting printed on each ticket.

2. Infusion of modern art: The current exhibition of site-specific contemporary works in juxtaposition to Thomas Cole’s creations greatly enhanced our visit. I didn’t “get it” at first; I assumed I would be uninterested seeing art that isn’t his. Quite the opposite! This mix of styles and textures is brilliant. One favorite of mine is impossibly constructed with thread; another is a display of amazing glass cylinders: “Thomas Cole was fascinated by how color connects to music, to emotion and the natural world,” said curator Kate Menconeri. “This exhibition explores that fascination through contemporary eyes – those of artists who are expanding our experience and understanding of color two centuries later. Simultaneously they, like Cole, explore color at the intersection of art and science, and as both light and pigment.” This display of works is comprised of 11 local, contemporary female artists. Find a full description here:

3. Action pieces: I wish more places did this. Free postcards include a topical Cole quote, a summary statement and resources for more information: Hike Where Thomas Cole Hiked; Support Environmental and Art Education for Students; Say No to Single-Use Plastic; Discover Contemporary Artists that Engage with Environmental Themes; Take Part in Your Community’s Decisions about Land Use; and Connect with Conservation Organizations. So doable!

4. The house tour includes opportunities for processing what a visitor may wish to sketch or make note of. That hands-on “now” feature can help cement new ideas or spark new ones.

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is a must-see for families. I strongly recommend taking a guided tour, reserved in advance to guarantee your spot. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is located at 218 Spring Street in Catskill. For more information about hours, pricing, exhibits, special events, groups, children’s workshops and more, call (518) 943-7465 or visit 

Check out Bowdoin Park

301: That’s the number of acres dedicated to Bowdoin Park, a versatile recreation and education center in Dutchess County. Who is this “Bowdoin” for whom the park is named, anyway? After decades of use as farmland, George T. Bowdoin bequeathed the land to the Children’s Aid Society in 1928 for boys’ farming classes and co-ed summer camps. The land was sold to Dutchess County in 1975. Thankfully, it has been preserved as open space – as opposed to its other potential fates as a residential development or a landfill.

If Poughkeepsie is the Queen City, then Bowdoin Park is her Town’s crown jewel. It’s open all year long. Looking for an accessible playground, inexpensive classes like archery or survival or Nerf, a chapel, a family-reunion venue, ice skating, sledding, sprinklers, hiking trails, concerts or more? How about scenic Hudson River views? Bowdoin Park is what you’re looking for. 

What do my kids like best about Bowdoin, especially as they’ve gotten older? Park instructor extraordinaire/grown-up kid Dave Beck. How does Dave do it? This guy creates an environment of fun and learning, whatever he does, from teaching awesome on-site classes to presenting interesting seasonal maple demonstrations. Are you more of a nature buff? Bring your binoculars for birding, and especially keep your eyes out for the pair of resident eagles!

Is it easy to reach this park? Oh, yes. In fact, I highly recommend it as a handy errand stop when your kids (and you!) need a break from the indoors, due to its proximity to the Poughkeepsie Galleria. Bowdoin Park is located at 85 Sheafe Road in Wappinger Falls in the Town of Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 298-4600 or visit   

Explore Opus 40

Do you have any projects that you have been diligently working on for decades? A commitment to something intensely challenging that uses tools from a bygone era, while maintaining a consistent vision? Harvey Fite did.

Bard College Fine Arts founder Harvey Fite spent 37 years building a large wooden-and-stone home, studio, garage, blacksmith shop and the Quarryman’s Museum. But the showstopper is his construction of a 6.5-acre sculpture known as Opus 40.

I could look at any number of photos of Opus 40, but I find it impossible to capture the massive scale and creativity of this unique place without experiencing it directly. After we purchased our tickets, my entire family scattered to go exploring. This is not a place where kids say, “Are we done yet?” or “How long are we staying here?” They’re too fascinated by their surroundings! Ramps, walkways, tiny passages, expansive spaces – Opus 40 has it all. What doesn’t it have? Cement or mortar. These swirls, segments and straightaways are painstakingly pieced together simply by shape and gravity. And definitely read about the amazing process of raising the iconic obelisk positioned in the middle of the structure.

Who can resist following each winding path that eventually connects to an open area, which leads to a new direction down a different twisty trail, only to spot a fresh possibility to go this other way? Precisely why each of my family members claims the site their own, calling it “my” Opus 40. There’s even a wonderful fountain. My daughter finds the entire space calm and peaceful and keeps requesting return visits.

For those who enjoy facts with the fantastical, Opus 40 has that, too, with its informative introductory video and the Quarryman’s Museum displays of period tools. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $3 for children over 6, and admission is free for children under 6. Group rates are available for more than six people. A popular venue for concerts and other special events, Opus 40 is an essential destination for locals and tourists alike.

Opus 40 is located at 50 Fite Road in Saugerties. For more information, call (845) 246-3400 or visit

(Photo by Will Dendis)

Take the kids

Family events hand-picked by Erica Chase-Salerno,

High Water Festival on the Rondout
The High Water Festival is family-friendly fun honoring life along the Kingston waterfront, including Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, live music and more. It’s free and open to the public of all ages.
Friday, Oct. 19, 4-8 p.m.
44-86 Rondout Landing, Kingston
(845) 481-7339

Haunted Huguenot Street is baaaaack
Haunted Huguenot Street connects Halloween with history where it happened. This year’s theme is about disease and the terrifying techniques used in 1700s healing. Tickets cost $25 general admission, $22.50 for seniors, armed forces, veterans and members. Tours run hourly from 5 to 10 p.m., Thursday to Sunday through October 28.
Historic Huguenot Street
81 Huguenot St., New Paltz
(845) 255-1660 ,


Cemetery tours & tales in Rhinebeck & Clermont
Tales from the Underground offers costumed guides sharing stories about the lives of local luminaries, and it takes place in a cemetery. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students, $8 for seniors.
Saturday/Sunday, Oct. 20/21, 3 p.m.
Rhinebeck Cemetery
3 Mill Rd. (enter through gates)
(845) 876-3080

Legends by Candlelight Ghost Tours share stories about local residents in a historic cemetery setting on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for members and $5 for children.
Fridays/Saturdays, Oct. 19-27
6-9 p.m. on the hour & half-hour
Clermont State Historic Site
1 Clermont Ave.
(518) 537-4240

Halloween Karaoke in Poughkeepsie
Halloween Karaoke offers kids of all ages freedom to sing with silliness without the seasonal spookiness. E-mail to register. There’s also an all-ages kids’ Halloween Party on Saturday, October 20 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 19, 7-9:30 p.m.
Soul on Fire Center for Expressive Arts
673 Freedom Plains Rd., Poughkeepsie
(845) 204-0347

All aboard the Catskill Fall Flyer Pumpkin Express
The Pumpkin Express puts the “go” in “gourd” on this family-friendly fall foliage train ride, complete with a pumpkin to take home! Admission costs $18 for adults, $12 for ages 2 to 12, $16 for seniors, military and veterans.
October 20-22/27-28, 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Catskill Fall Flyer Pumpkin Express
149 Aaron Ct., Kingston
(845) 332-4854

Sleepy Hollow Action Scenes at Maritime Museum
Sleepy Hollow Action Scenes give new meaning to “bad hair day”! Kids can experience some or all of this spooky story in honor of this local Halloween classic, or just come listen. It’s for ages 5 to 12 years. Admission is free for adults, $5 per child, and registration is required.
Saturday, Oct. 20, 1-3 p.m.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
50 Rondout Landing
(845) 338-0071

Festival of Scarecrows at Frog Alley
Kingston’s Festival of Scarecrows is a creative collection of straw people and other traditional fall trappings at one of Kingston’s oldest streets, Frog Alley. It’s up to you to determine whether any of them have a brain!
Saturday, Oct. 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (next to fire station)
Frog Alley
(646) 522-8558 

Pumpkin Parade to benefit Grace Smith House
The Grace Pumpkin Parade gives folks a chance to compete to raise funds for the Grace Smith House domestic violence shelter while celebrating the season with costumes, floats and candy of course!
Saturday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Pulaski Park to the waterfront
Poughkeepsie, (845) 452-7155

Build sets for Dracula at Unison
This Dracula Set-Making Workshop for kids is a chance for all ages to create scenery for this nocturnal nightmare, and it even includes a ticket to attend the October 27 show! $10 for kids.
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2-6 p.m.
Unison Arts Center
68 Mountain Rest Rd., New Paltz
(845) 255-1559

Carve a pumpkin at Long Dock Park
Pumpkin-Carving in the Park gives all ages an opportunity to create a creepy cat or a friendly fairy or whatever they like. Pumpkins are provided, but Jacks remain on-site for illumination on Halloween. These workshops are free and open to the public of all ages.
Carving: Monday-Thursday, Oct. 22-Oct. 25
3-6 p.m.
Display: Friday, Oct. 26, 6 p.m.
Long Dock Park, 8 Long Dock Rd., Beacon
(845) 473-4440, ext. 273

National Coming Out Day Teen Dance
The National Coming Out Day Teen Dance and Teen Night is a celebration of pride and community in a setting of safety and connection, plus the movie Coraline. For LGBTQ youth and allies ages 12 to 19.
Friday, Oct. 19, 7-10 p.m.
Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center
300 Wall St., Kingston
(845) 331-5300

Wimpy Kid Live in Pine Plains
Wimpy Kid Live: The Meltdown Show with Jeff Kinney is coming to town in celebration of the latest release of the 13th book in the Wimpy Kid series, The Meltdown. Fan tickets cost $16.99 and include a copy of the book, a pre-personalized bookplate signed by the author and a photo with the author. Companion tickets are free for parents, guardians and children under 6 when accompanied by a corresponding fan ticketholder, and are required for show entry.
Thursday, Nov. 1, 7-9 p.m.  
Stissing Mountain High School
2829 Church Street, Pine Plains
(845) 876-0500 

Ashokan Center’s Fall Family Fun Fest
The Fall Family Fun Fest includes live music, food and hands-on activities for the entire family, including broommaking! Tickets cost $5 at the door; kids under 12 get in free.
Sunday, Oct. 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Ashokan Center, 477 Beaverkill Rd.
Ashokan, (845) 657-8333