Our Empire Pass will strike back with trips to these 9 New York State Parks

I recently made the mistake of counting the screens in my house. It’s not an insane amount, but it certainly isn’t a plan for mental health, either.

There is a TV in the living room, another in my son’s bedroom, three laptops, three iPhones and two tablets. My daughter briefly had a TV, but in the 2021 hottest move ever, she broke it throwing another screen at her – my wife Vera’s cell phone.

If I took the Hot Tub Time Machine in 1986 and curated this inventory for 7-year-old Grant, that would seem completely over the top considering our second TV at the time was a 13-inch lime green set with bunny ears. a canal across the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. (Its main advantage was that I could watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune an hour earlier, then step out into the living room and impress all the adults with my fake knowledge of random topics like the Roman Empire and powerful drinkers with an innate ability to correctly guess a sentence based on a single letter.)

While by today’s standards 10 screens for a family of four flies right under the cuckoo’s nest, that’s still enough to drive us a little crazy on occasion, especially 14 months after the start of this era of working from home while primarily taking social distances.

This is why it has been more important than ever for us to force ourselves to get outside and be active, even if that means watching my kids go through screentox weaning for 30 minutes at the mere thought of moving their feet and breathing there. ‘fresh air.

Keeping in mind our desire not to let the little ones fall into Youtube or Nintendo Switch coma, we found ourselves taking day trips or more spontaneous mini-vacations that revolve around full fuel. air. A trip to a farm stand can turn into a hike in a local park and then into a full day.

Last weekend, with no plans in place and with the fear that we might fall into bad habits, Vera and I decided on one day’s notice to book a hotel room in the upstate and to heading to Minnewaska State Park outside of New Paltz in Ulster County on our shared day off. of my work.

When I checked if I could pay for parking with a debit card, I noticed a link to the Empire Pass, which may sound like something that helps you skip the lines at Star Wars Land at Disney World, but it’s actually an annual. passes to access our national parks. While I’m sure my son would prefer the former, it is the latter that will ultimately save us in a galaxy far removed from electronics.

So we spent $ 80 to motivate us to get out and experience the natural beauty of New York State this year. It’s actually something we’ve done anyway with the return trips to the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks in recent years, but now it’s something we can do in a more formal way.

“We only have to use it eight more times to get more than our money,” Vera immediately noticed, a sure sign that while I was memorizing Jeopardy’s questions growing up, she was doing her real math homework. .

With that basic equation in mind, I’ve put together a list of the nine state park tours I would love to do this summer to beat the system and cut New York State by $ 10 in 2021. A few -some will be new to us as a family. , others will be returns to personal favorites.

Here they are with the region designated by the state in which they are grouped (for Long Island, I have listed the hamlet).

Starting point

Minnewaska was a great jumping off point for this year’s state park adventure. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Minnewaska State Park Reserve, Palisades region

We are so glad we decided to take this trip. Just three hours from the East End, this is a must visit that can easily be completed in a day. It has over 50 miles of trails, many of which are very accessible for hikers of all skill levels, but just enough of the elevation we lack on Long Island. We ended up walking almost four miles which, considering we were accompanied by a 7 and 4 year old, is roughly equivalent to completing a triathlon in a lava pit.


My little ones are walking around Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Bayard Cut Arboretum, Great River

For my money – and I don’t get too much, so take it slow if you prove me wrong – this is Long Island’s best state park property. Designed by iconic landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1886, it remains a magnificent site. Perfectly landscaped and featuring a simple lakefront loop around the historic mansion, plus additional hiking trails to explore, it makes a great afternoon from anywhere in Suffolk or Nassau counties.


We cannot stress enough the quality of Watkins Glen. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Watkins Glen State Park, Finger Lakes Region

It is hands down the best park in the Parpan clan. The Gorge Trail is simply beautiful and is unlike anything else you will see in the Finger Lakes or just about anywhere else in New York City. We love to take a long weekend of a trip here, with visits to wineries and nearby towns like Ithaca, which is home to our favorite farmer’s market.

The closest

Orient Beach State Park is good old fashioned family entertainment. (Photo from the Northforker file)

Orient Beach State Park, Orient

When my family comes to a park, Vera and I want nature and the kids want a playground. This is one of the main reasons that Orient Beach is one of the best places for us. It has an expansive play area on the bay and offers the best access to a park by looking at the ferry terminal with one eye and making sure you don’t run into wildlife with the other.


Prepare your passport for travel to the Canadian border. (Credit: Peter Miller / Flickr)

Niagara Falls, Niagara Region

I visited here once with my parents when I was 18 and while they were going out and experiencing the haze I mostly slept in the hotel room. For 24 years now, I wanted a second chance. This time, I will be determined to make sure my own children get the most out of it. It’s on the summer vacation must-see list.

In autumn

An aerial view of Bear Mountain State Park. (Credit: Dave Overcash / Flickr)

Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades region

The fall months are a great time to visit this area, and from the elevation of this particular park, you can enjoy some great hiking views of the fall foliage. Plus, it’s a quick hit through New York City, making it an easy trip for same-day return.

In summer

Montauk Point Lighthouse. (Photo from the Northforker file)

Montauk State Park, Montauk

There are few, if any, iconic Long Island landmarks other than the Montauk Point Lighthouse, located in this state park. It’s so easy to visualize and when you arrive it takes your breath away. My heart might be on the North Fork, but it’s too easy to fall in love with Montauk.

Great heights

What a spectacular sight. (Credit: Ani Od Chai / Flickr)

Gateway to Hudson State Park, Taconic area

I’m not sure many people realize that the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world is in Poughkeepsie. At just over a mile and a quarter long, the bridge is 21 stories tall and should create a thrill while leading to some spectacular views.

The big one inside

Indoor camping at Wildwood State Park. (Credit: David Benthal)

The cottages at Wildwood State Park, Wading River

Ever since we wrote about them in the magazine, I have secretly dreamed of staying inside Wildwood’s new cottages. I have been here several times, having grown up a few miles away. I have even camped here before. But I have never lived so tall. And hey, you can even plug in the devices during this trip!

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