Cheap thrills

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt with Anna and baby James, formal portrait in Hyde Park, New York.

In a recession, the things that financially stressed families expunge first from their budgets are often the things that are the most fun – and therefore regarded as frills, no matter how much good they do us in terms of alleviating stress and refreshing our energies. Vacations, dinners out and other costly indulgences tend to fall by the wayside, as tough economic times challenge us to come up with affordable alternative diversions with which to occupy our precious free time. That’s why reservations for campsites in state parks, for example, become scarce commodities in lean years like the one that we’re in now.

Even though many museums already have a “pay-what-you-can” entry policy, and a day at a National Park or Historic Site remains a fantastic bargain compared to, say, a day at a commercial theme park, many families still have trouble rationalizing taking the whole crew on such an outing more than once or twice a year. If that describes you, Dear Reader, I bring good news: This Saturday, September 24, is a very special day, and you would be wise to take advantage of it. It is designated Museum Day by the Smithsonian and its many affiliate museums and National Public Lands Day by the National Park Service – not to mention the Worldwide Day of Play.

On September 24, to be more specific, you can get into any museum participating in the Smithsonian’s Museum Day program for free, just by presenting a ticket good for you and a guest that you can download at Participating museums in the mid-Hudson region include Dia:Beacon, the FASNY Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, the Gomez Mill House Museum and Historic Site in Marlboro, the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie, the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, Storm King Art Center in Mountainville and the Museum at Bethel Woods. There are plenty more options within day-trip range, so check out the Museum Day search tool on the Smithsonian site.

You can also get into any National Park for free on Public Lands Day. Search at to explore all your options; but you probably already know that the two National Parks in our immediate vicinity are the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park. National Public Lands Day being the country’s largest single-day effort to spruce up parks and other open spaces, this Saturday would be a great time not only to enjoy these sites but also to do a bit of volunteer work to help maintain them, in the spirit of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps program. The Hyde Park Trails Committee will be holding its second annual Seth Lyon Volunteer Work Day in memory of a dedicated trail volunteer, taking place this year at Hackett Hill Town Park. If you’d like to participate, call (845) 229-8086, extension 5, or e-mail Kathleen Davis at You can check out and for more details.

The Worldwide Day of Play encourages children to get up and get active. The flagship event, hosted by Nickelodeon, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, will take place on September 24 in Washington, DC at President’s Park. But local affiliates of the participating national organizations will be sponsoring related events all over the country, so visit to find out where to look for excuses to play outside somewhere near you!



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