When you think of fun, you may not think Poughkeepsie, but one visit to this learning center will change all that. Geared toward younger kids, this museum is a great choice for preschoolers because it has a mix of physical and intellectual exhibits, and no age is left out - children don’t have to be readers to try the experiments.
The museum is located on the Hudson, just a short walk from the Poughkeepsie train station or a 60 to 90 minute car ride, depending on your starting spot in Westchester. The surrounding area is undergoing a renaissance, and several cute cafés and restaurants can be found just a short drive away.
Because our kids kept moving back and forth between physical play in the activity zones and fine motor learning at the smaller science exhibits, we easily spent more than two hours here. We showed up on a Saturday, but during the week you can find special programming such as Toddler Tours or the Home School Club, where for $5 extra your child can complete a science or art project.
The only food available is inside the “healthy vending machine” with options such as Veggie Straws, crackers, fig bars, milk, and water. There’s a small area with tables to eat, but if you need a full meal you should plan to either pack a lunch or find a local restaurant.
The museum is $10 for everyone over the age of 1, but there are several ways to visit for free. Unfortunately, none of the Westchester County Libraries offer museum passes, but if you are a member of the Westchester Children’s Museum or Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk, you can get up to six tickets at a 50 percent discount. Or show up on the third Saturday of the month between 5 and 8 p.m. for Family Free Nights. Grandma and grandpa go free the second Friday of each month. If you or your partner are active-duty military personnel, the entire family can visit for free during summer months. Or get $2 off admission when you take the train and book a “Getaway” fare on the MTA website.
The museum has two floors of indoor permanent exhibits and a seasonal Children’s Garden. The first floor has large areas of pretend play in the exhibit “Rivertown,” with a bakery replica, a fire truck that’s one of the most popular kid hangouts, a construction site with real tools, and an art studio where kids can “paint” on the water wall or make a craft. Next to this area is Caroline’s Baby Park, a shoes-off enclosed space for pre-walkers with soft foam climbing blocks, books, and tactile tubes.
The Early Learning Junction area is part climbing structure, part train table, and part physics exhibit. Roll the cars on the hilly track and see if they get some air, stuff scarves into the wind tunnels and guess where they’ll go, or crank disks up the conveyer belt, then drop them into the pegboard.
After you have completed the downstairs level, head up to a large room of science and physics exhibits that are sure to enchant. Float balls in the wind tunnel, make a life-size sculpture of your hand on the pinboard, control a robotic arm in the Wonderdome, create an obstacle course out of levers, and build with several types of blocks such as KEVA, ThinkerLinkers, and Magna-Tiles. There are many other fun experiments with gravity, motion, weight, and numbers. This is where our kids spent the majority of their time.
The second room upstairs is themed for pretend play. Kids can pick out a costume and take to the stage, or get physical on one of the two climbing structures. A pirate ship play area features a net and slide, or kids can climb the larger structure and jump on the netted catwalk, go through the tunnel, and slide back down. Older kids will love The Storybox, a sensory sand area where children are encouraged to create scenes of a story using animal characters in the sand.
We love that this museum allows kids to explore physically and mentally with plenty of play structures right next to stellar learning tools such as building blocks and hands-on science exhibits. They never get bored because there’s always something to try or to master.
Andrea Worthington owns BabyG
Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum
75 North Water St.
Tuesday - Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Open Mondays in July and August and select Holiday Mondays only.
$10 adults, $10 children, free under age 1. Parking is free.