Free and Easy
Convenient Orange County attractions and events that won’t cost you a dime!
Experience family-friendly, first-class attractions that are absolutely free and easy to reach in Orange County’s beautiful Hudson Valley location, just one-hour north of New York City. For economy’s sake, pack a picnic to enjoy at one of our scenic vistas. Note that group admission rates may apply to parties of 10 or more.
Begin with a moving experience at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in Vails Gate. Interactive and educational exhibits honor recipients of the Purple Heart at this location on the expansive grounds of the New Windsor Cantonment where General George Washington actually awarded the first badges of military merit. Take time to explore the cantonment’s Revolutionary War buildings and visitor center displays. From mid-April through October, the whole family will enjoy the costumed interpreter living history demonstrations.
Across the highway, the Last Encampment of the Continental Army has replicas of military huts that housed Revolutionary War troops. This site also offers nature trails, an observation trail, and picnic facilities. Just a few miles away, view the elegant 1754 Georgian-style home that served as Knox’s Headquarters from 1782 to1783 when the troops were establishing their winter quarters at the Cantonment. Walk the trail to the ruins of a 1741 mill on Silver Stream. Tours of the home are held between Memorial Day and Labor Day and for holiday events.
Allow several hours to view the galleries at the United States Military Academy’s West Point Museum. The wide range of exhibits on history and art relating to the United States Military Academy Corps of Cadets, the US Army and the History of Warfare dating back to Egyptian times is captivating. Stop in the adjacent West Point Visitors Center to see the informative displays about cadet life. Both are accessible from Main Street in Highland Falls.
Follow the trails at the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site through what was once the site of a fierce Revolutionary War battle. Interpretive signs, stone foundations and redoubt walls line the path. Gaze out from the Grand Battery where the reproduction cannon overlooks the Hudson River. Take the foot bridge across the Popolopen Creek to a trail leading to the Bear Mountain Zoo. At the Fort’s on-site museum, open Wednesday through Sunday from April through October, a 15-minute film, original artifacts, models and detailed mannequins tell the story of the 1777 assault. Check their schedule for re-enactments demonstrating camp life and artillery.
As the birthplace of the “Father of the American Trotter,” Orange County is the perfect location for the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Go see it while their general admission fees have been generously waived. Riveting state-of-the-art and interactive exhibits tell the history of America’s first sport. Call a race. Ride a 3-D simulator that lets you drive a sulky to the finish line. See the world’s largest Currier & Ives collection. Pre-schoolers will enjoy the talking horse and try-on jockey costumes. There’s something for everyone! You’ll see horses training almost everyday at the Goshen Historic Track right behind the museum. They charge a small fee for the grand circuit racing events that occur there on select weekends in June and July.
Nine Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum sites dot our nation and Orange County is fortunate to have one of them housed in a beautiful historic bank building in Newburgh. Visit changing exhibits from the world’s largest private holdings of important original manuscripts and documents on literature, science, religion, history and art. Just down the street, stroll the river walk at the Newburgh Waterfront to gaze out at exceptional Hudson River scenery.
Step back in time at the Orange County Farmers Museum weekends from mid-May to October. The Montgomery based museum includes a blacksmith shop, a saw mill, and barns housing an extensive collection of farming implements and tools. Private tours are offered by appointment only, but there are hands-on demonstrations and events happening most weekends. Nearby, pick up fire prevention safety tips and peruse an extensive collection of antique firefighting equipment and memorabilia displayed in an old firehouse turned into the Orange County Firefighters Museum. Open most Saturdays from 1 to 4 PM, this Village of Montgomery facility is a fun family outing.
Get a close-up look at the cool motorcycles you’ve seen on their television shows when you drop into the Orange County Choppers Showroom in Newburgh. There is a fee for shop tours, but it doesn’t cost a thing to take a self-guided tour of many of the uniquely designed choppers that have made them world famous. It’s open 7 days a week. Bring your own 2-wheeled vehicles for a bike ride on the Heritage Trail. The 12-mile paved rail trail runs from the Village of Monroe to the Village of Goshen passing woodlands, ponds and Black Dirt farm views Choose your distance. The nearly flat route with parking near several entrances makes it accessible to all.
The Sterling Forest State Park Information Center, a beautiful lodge-style building with nature and history exhibits and a huge diorama of the 7,000-acre park, will motivate you to get out on the trails. Free organized hikes and fascinating lectures by park educators on weekends will keep you coming back time after time. Donations are accepted. Don’t forget the all the other state and county parks and nature preserves that offer hiking, picnicking, and scenic views. The Hunter Farm, a 60-acre preserve in Middletown, features The Tadpole Trail, a ¾ mile children’s exploratory nature trail with 7 learning stations.
In addition to free attractions, many free events appear on the Orange County Tourism events calendar including some of the Hudson Valley’s most popular festivals. Here are a few coming up in 2015 to get you started:
- Pine Bush UFO Fair and Parade www.pinebushufofair.com. May.
- RiverFest www.river-fest.com. June.
- Earth and Water Festival http://waterauthority.orangecountygov.com. June.
- Sunday Tractor Pulls www.ocfarmersmuseum.org. Select Sundays April through October.
- Bellvale Farms Dairy Tour www.bellvalefarms.com. Sundays June through October.
- Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, A Living Memorial June.
- Newburgh Illuminated www.facebook.com/events/140195. June.
- Pride Weekend www.gaywarwick.wix.com/ocnyprideweekend. June.
- Children’s Day at the New Windsor Cantonment www.nysparks.com. June.
- Storm King Art Center Free Admission Day www.stormking.org. Last Thursdays of the Month during Summer.
- Great American Weekend www.goshennychamber.com. July.
- 165th Annual Firemen’s Inspection Parade www.pjnyfd.com. July.
- Shakespeare in Salesian Park www.facebook.com/CornerstoneTheaterArts. Saturdays & Sundays in July.
- Civil War Troopers Fife and Drum Muster. www.ocfarmersmuseum.org. July.
- Bird Festival at Bear Mountain www.trailsidezoo.org. August.
Fun in Orange County doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and if you visit the attractions listed here, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all! For more information, call Orange County Tourism at 845-615-3860 between 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.
- Fort Montgomery State Historic Site www.nysparks.com 845-446-2134
- Goshen Historic Track www.goshenhistorictrack.com 845-294-5333
- Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame www.harnessmuseum.com 845-294-6330
- Heritage Trail www.orangecountynyparks.com 845-615-3830
- Hunter Farm Preserve www.oclt.org 845-469-0951
- Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site www.nysparks.com 845-561-5498
- Last Encampment of the Continental Army
- National Purple Heart Hall of Honor www.thepurpleheart.com 845-561-1765
- New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site www.nysparks.com 845-561-1765
- Orange County Choppers Showroom www.orangecountychoppers.com 845-522-5222
- Orange County Farmers Museum www.ocfarmersmuseum.com 845-457-2959
- Orange County Firefighters Museum www.ocfm.us 845-457-9654
- Sterling Forest State Park www.palisadesparksconservancy.org 845-351-5907
- West Point Museum www.usma.edu/museum 845-938-3590
- West Point Visitors Center www.westpoint.edu 845-938-2638