Trekaroo Family Travel Blog kids. trips. tips. Wed, 29 Nov 2023 00:17:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trekaroo Family Travel Blog 32 32 9953755 12 Places to Enjoy Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Wed, 29 Nov 2023 00:17:45 +0000 New York’s Hudson Valley fall foliage is a site to behold. Just a short drive away from the biggest metropolis in the country, here are 12 spots to enjoy it.

The post 12 Places to Enjoy Hudson Valley Fall Foliage appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

As the fall season arrives, New York’s Hudson Valley undergoes its annual transformation from the vibrant greens of summer to the warm, golden hues of autumn. As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop, visitors from all over flock to the region to witness the Hudson Valley fall foliage in all its fiery glory.

Whether you’re looking for a scenic drive, the perfect fall hike, or to explore a historic estate, let me be your guide. So grab your favorite sweater and read on for the best fall foliage destinations in the Hudson Valley.

Explore more of the state. Here are our favorite places to experience New York fall foliage.

Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Destinations

1. Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Hudson Valley fall foliage can be found at Minnewaska State Park

Just an hour and a half north of New York City lies Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Situated along the Shawangunk Mountain ridge, this park is a prime spot for experiencing the vibrant fall foliage of the Hudson Valley.

This expansive park boasts a diverse natural landscape, with numerous waterfalls, lakes, and dense hardwood forests. With 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths, there are ample opportunities to appreciate the autumn scenery through biking, walking, or hiking.

Some of the best views within the park can be found in the Sam’s Point Area, the highest point of the Shawangunk Mountains. Here, experienced hikers can enjoy sweeping views above the treetops. 

Be aware that this section of the park can get crowded, especially in October when the foliage peaks. There’s a small parking area, so arriving early is advisable if you want to explore this beautiful part of New York State.

2. Croton Gorge Park

HUdson Valley fall foliage at the Old Croton Dam
Old Croton Dam by Jkc916

Covering 97 acres, Croton Gorge Park is a popular spot for picnicking and hiking is an ideal Hudson Valley fall foliage destination. Old Croton Dam was constructed in the 1800s to supply water to New York City. While the city’s needs soon grew too demanding for the reservoir, the structure remains today and has been transformed into a public recreation area.

The best way to experience the fall colors at Croton Gorge is by hiking to the top of the old dam. There you can look down onto the spillway, as well as appreciate the autumn colors reflected in the reservoir. This easy two-mile hike is perfect for families with young children looking for an outdoor fall outing in the Hudson Valley.

3. Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park in the fall

Harriman State Park is the second-largest park in New York State and covers over 46,000 acres of diverse landscapes. With 200 miles of trails and 31 lakes and reservoirs, it’s a sprawling haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you’re seeking fall foliage, head to Harriman for some incredible hikes a stone’s throw from New York City. Some of the best hiking trails for leaf peeping include Long Mountain and Anthony’s Nose, which provide sweeping views of the Hudson River and the surrounding forests. 

4. Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park via Jason

Directly adjacent to Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain State Park is one of the best destinations for fall foliage in the Hudson Valley. Located just 30 miles north of New York City, the park is the perfect place for city dwellers looking for an easy leaf-peeping day trip.

To get to Bear Mountain State Park, drive along the Palisades Interstate Parkway. This 42-mile stretch from the George Washington Bridge along the Hudson River Palisades is especially scenic in mid-October when the fall foliage peaks.

Once at Bear Mountain, the best views can be found at Perkins Tower, a 40-foot-tall stone lookout tower. You can easily reach the tower via car and park at its base, then ascend the steps to get to the tower’s lookout. 

If you’re looking to get some exercise in as well, the Bear Mountain Loop hike, accessed from Perkin’s Tower, is a straightforward and moderate trail that will reward you with even more views of the vibrant fall colors. 

5. Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve in the autumn

The Mohonk Preserve, with a sprawling 7,000 acres of forest and an extensive network of 70 miles of trails, provides a range of opportunities to immerse yourself in autumnal beauty. 

The preserve has five different trailheads with hikes catering to hikers of all experience levels and fitness. If you’re looking for a moderate and family-friendly hike, consider the Millbrook Ridge Loop. This trail follows wide, level carriage roads and rewards hikers with sweeping views across the Hudson Valley from the top of the Shawangunk Ridge. 

If you want to turn your trip to the Mohonk Preserve into a fall weekend getaway, then consider treating yourself to a weekend at the nearby Mohonk Mountain House. This all-inclusive resort has retained its early 1900s charm with an all-wood interior, cozy fireplaces, and ample places to sit and stare out across the lake. 

6. Boscobel House and Gardens

Boscobel House and Gardens
Photo via NY Tourism

The Boscobel House and Gardens is a historic house museum with a remarkable collection of art from the Federalist period. The house and grounds offer a captivating setting from which to appreciate the Hudson Valley’s fall foliage.

What makes Boscobel a must-visit are the breathtaking vistas it provides. Visitors can take in magnificent views of the Hudson River and Constitution Marsh, as well as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The grounds of Boscobel are open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 9 am until sunset. If you’re interested in delving deeper into history, guided tours of the house are also available. Advanced tickets are required for the grounds and house tours. 

For some of the best leaf peeping, walk the Frances Stevens Reese Woodland Trail of Discovery. This tranquil, mile-long journey through the forest, complete with river views, provides stunning fall vistas.

If you’re visiting with children, be sure to pick up the free Boscobel Activity Booklet. This booklet is designed to engage and entertain kids throughout the grounds with fun activities, scavenger hunts, and bite-sized pieces of local history. 

7. Storm King Art Center

Storm King art and Hudson Valley Fall Foliage
Storm King Art and Fall Foliage by Stanley Zimney

For a unique way to experience the fall foliage of the Hudson River Valley, head to the Storm King Art Center. Covering a vast 500-acre expanse, this is the country’s largest outdoor sculpture park. 

This impressive outdoor museum provides visitors with captivating views of hills, meadows, and forests. What sets Storm King apart are its outdoor art installations, which seamlessly integrate with nature. This one-of-a-kind art-meets-nature experience is enhanced by the backdrop of autumn’s vivid colors.

Be sure to book tickets in advance so you don’t miss out on this extraordinary Hudson Valley experience. 

8. Walkway Over the Hudson

12 Places to Enjoy Hudson Valley Fall Foliage 5
Photo by Christopher Ramirez

The Walkway Over the Hudson is a remarkable site for admiring the fall foliage in the Hudson Valley. This steel cantilever bridge spans 1.28 miles across the Hudson River, connecting Highland on the west bank to Poughkeepsie on the east. Rising 212 feet above the Hudson, this bridge holds the record as the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.

From the Walkway Over the Hudson, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the Catskill Mountains and the surrounding landscape. This exceptional vantage point offers sweeping views of the surrounding foliage, making it a unique and accessible spot for leaf peeping.

The Walkway is free to enter and is designed to be ADA-compliant, ensuring that visitors of all abilities can enjoy the stunning fall spectacle and Hudson River views.

9. Olana State Historic Site

12 Places to Enjoy Hudson Valley Fall Foliage 6

The former home of Hudson River School artist Frederic E. Church, the Olana State Historic Site offers a splendid opportunity to revel in the Hudson Valley’s fall foliage. Located in Greenport, New York, Olana boasts stunning views of the Hudson River and beyond, along with many picturesque trails that visitors can explore at leisure.

Access to Olana’s 250-acre landscape is free, welcoming visitors every day from 8 am to sunset. Designed by Frederic Church himself, the landscape features five miles of carriage roads, which are perfect for walking amid the fall colors. 

To learn more about the artistic legacy of the site, you can purchase a 45-minute guided tour of the house where you’ll explore the home’s art-filled, lavishly decorated rooms, including Church’s painting studio. It’s a chance to delve into the work and life of one of America’s foremost landscape artists while also enjoying a magnificent fall setting.

10. Trophy Point at the Military Academy, West Point

12 Places to Enjoy Hudson Valley Fall Foliage 7

Trophy Point at West Point Military Academy is one of the most famous local spots to take in the Hudson Valley’s fall foliage. This scenic overlook on the academy’s campus offers an iconic view of the Hudson River as it winds through a series of bluffs. The location has inspired numerous 19th-century works of art, highlighting the natural beauty of the region.

Trophy Point is also home to the Battle Monument, one of the largest columns of granite in the world, dedicated to soldiers who died in the American Civil War. The point also once served as the site of West Point graduation ceremonies, adding to its significance in the academy’s history. 

If you’re seeking an accessible and awe-inspiring place to experience the Hudson Valley’s fall beauty, then head to Trophy Point for stunning views that don’t require hiking.

11. Kykuit Estate

12 Places to Enjoy Hudson Valley Fall Foliage 8
Photo by GSZ

The Kykuit Estate, a historic Rockefeller estate, is another captivating place in the Hudson Valley to witness the fall foliage. This grand estate, which served as the home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, stands as one of the top cultural attractions in the region. Overlooking the Hudson River, Kykuit boasts panoramic river views perfect for capturing the change in seasons.

The heart of the estate is a 40-room historic home constructed in the early 1900s. To explore both the house and its lovely grounds, you must join a guided tour. 

The estate is renowned not only for its remarkable architecture and planned gardens but also for its incredible art collection, featuring works by renowned artists such as Andy Warhol. For those who want to experience the changing fall colors with a side of history and art, Kykuit Estate is the perfect opportunity to experience all three.

12. Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge Hudson Valley

Breakneck Ridge is one of the most popular hikes in the Hudson Valley. Located in the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in Cold Spring, NY, this exhilarating hike has some of the region’s best fall foliage views.

Despite being popular, this advanced hike is not for the faint of heart. A 5.5-mile hike that ascends 1,250 feet in just under a mile, it’s a challenging one that requires lots of rock scrambling to reach the breathtaking views at the end.

As you hike up, you’ll encounter multiple cliff overlooks and ever-expanding views, making this hike a truly unforgettable experience. However, it’s essential to note that this trail is steep, characterized by rock scrambling and demanding terrain. Therefore, it’s not suitable for young children and is best tackled by experienced hikers. 

For those up to the challenge, the effort is certainly worthwhile, and you’ll be rewarded for your hard work with spectacular views of the Hudson River and the vibrant fall foliage.

Tamar is an avid traveler who loves to explore the world with her husband and two kids. She is passionate about helping busy parents plan culturally rich vacations with their children, even with limited time off. You can read more of her work at

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Christmas in Branson- 15 Fun Things to do in Branson at Christmas Mon, 27 Nov 2023 13:40:00 +0000 Christmas in Branson is magical! Ride to the North Pole on Branson Scenic Railway, visit Silver Dollar City, drive thru light shows, watch holiday shows, & more!

The post Christmas in Branson- 15 Fun Things to do in Branson at Christmas appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the magical Ozark Mountains. Christmas in Branson starts the day after Halloween and continues into the new year with heart-warming shows, twinkling lights, and festive celebrations. 

Start with an old time Christmas experience at Silver Dollar City. Or take a ride to the North Pole on the Branson Scenic Railway. When it gets dark, bask in the glow of one of the many drive-thru light shows, or take yourself on a tour of the magnificently decorated trees of the city. A Christmas in Branson promises to be a holiday to remember.

Christmas in Branson

“Lights of Joy” Christmas drive-thru

Christmas in Branson includes the Light of Joy Christmas drive thru

Journey through a mile and a half of twinkling light displays. Animated lights and LED storyboards make the experience exciting and interactive. 

Along the way you could be transported to Santa’s workshop, drive through a Christmas tree forest, or even see what Christmas is like for bugs. The displays change annually to keep the event fresh and exciting year after year. 

On select weekend nights, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos. There is no cost for taking pictures with Santa, but they invite you to donate to a local charity in the spirit of the season. 

Lights of Joy runs daily from November through the first week in January from 5pm to 11pm.

Let There Be Light Drive-Thru at Promised Land Zoo

Let There be Lights Drive Thru at Promised Land Zoo in Branson at Christmas

Glittering lights line a two-mile trail through the Promised Land Zoo during the Let There Be Lights Drive Thru experience. See brightly lit LED renditions of your favorite animals, along with traditional Christmas themes and, my favorite, rainbow tunnels of lights.

Along your route, keep your eyes open for some sleeping animals behind the displays. What makes this experience extra unique are the opportunities to get out of the car and interact with animals in the Candyland Courtyard.

This year there are three baby yaks to pet before going inside the Animal Adventures Building to see more cuddly and creepy creatures. Santa is also waiting to make magical memories and take photos with your family.

This event runs all of November and December from 5pm – 11pm, although Santa and the Candy Cane Courtyard are only open on weekends.

Branson Ferris Wheel Light Show-Electrify

Branson at Christmas include a holiday light show at the Ferris Wheel

Taking a ride on the Branson Ferris Wheel is a perfect way to get a birds eye view of the city. But the Christmas magic happens in the evening.

Every night starting at 5pm the lights lining the Ferris wheel perform a choreographed show set to Christmas music. It lasts just five minutes and repeats every hour on the hour through the holiday season.

Winter Wonderland at Branson Landing

Winer Wonderland in Branson

Starting November 4th, get ready for Branson Landing’s transformation to a winter wonderland. Garland wrapped street lights blink festive colors, toy soldiers guard the fountain, and a huge 63-foot Christmas Tree fills Branson Landing’s town square. Throughout the evening, the tree comes alive with synchronized light shows and animations.

Across the square, check out the Branson Landing Fountain. Every hour, on the hour, the fountain shoots geysers of water up to 120-feet in the air choreographed with lights and fire to holiday songs and family favorites. 

While at Branson Landing, head to Branson’s Festival of Trees, open November 3-December 3, 2023. This shop is full of artfully decorated Christmas trees, donated by local businesses and individuals. The trees are available to purchase with the money benefiting Christian Action Ministries in Taney and Stone County.

Christmas Tree at Titanic Museum

Christmas at the Tutanic Museum in Branson
Photo Courtesy of Branson Titanic Museum

Standing sentinel outside the Titanic Museum is a 25-foot tall Christmas Tree. The tree shines red in tribute to the children lost to the Titanic. Inside the museum, guests discover 10 more green trees, decorated for the season, and hundreds of red teddy bears, a symbol adopted to remember the 135 passengers and crew members of the Titanic under the age of 15.

Visiting the Titanic Museum is one of our favorite things to do in Branson with kids!

Did you know Branson is America’s Christmas Tree City? In addition to the ones I mentioned here, there are lots more to discover. Take a tour around town to check out all the unique displays using this helpful guide put together by

Experience the Christmas fun at Westgate Branson Woods Resort

Christmas in Branson includes fun at the Westgate Resort

As one of the best resorts in Branson, MO, the Westgate Branson Woods Resort makes a festive homebase for your Christmas in Branson. Bright Christmas lights and decorated lamp posts line the entrance, while elegantly decorated trees, poinsettias, and stunning holiday decor adorn the lobby. 

Westgate Branson always has a line-up of family-friendly activities, and during the Christmas season they become extra jolly. Families can write letters to Santa and make their own Gingerbread Ornaments or Holiday Gnomes in the Activity Center. Also, every weeknight evening, guests can take a holiday excursion on a Westgate shuttle through the Lights of Joy Christmas Drive Thru next door. 

On Christmas Eve, Westgate Branson Woods Resort hosts their annual Breakfast with Santa. Join Santa for a delicious meal in the Grand Pavilion. Your tickets include a photo with Santa and a holiday coloring activity.

Christmas on Showboat Branson Belle

Christmas Show on Branson Belle

Cruise around the picturesque Table Rock Lake while being fed and entertained aboard the Showboat Branson Belle. Each Christmas season the showboat presents two festive options to put visitors in the holiday spirit.

During the Christmas Show, feast on a freshly prepared three-course meal, while entertainers sing and dance to fun holiday songs. The master of ceremonies keeps the fun going with his humor and magic. Between acts, explore the boat and bask in the beautiful scenery.

Or bring the whole family on Santa’s Pancake and PJs cruise. Before leaving the dock, families are invited to visit the Captain in his wheelhouse for a special gift, find the Sugar Plum Fairy of a sweet treat, and write a Christmas list while getting their faces painted by Santa’s helpers. Once you set sail, get ready for a magical show full of stories, sing-a-longs, dancers and more, all while eating a delicious breakfast. 

The Christmas Show starts November 4th and performs several times a day through December 30th. Santa’s Pancake and PJs cruise runs Saturday and Sunday mornings, December 9-23, 2023.

Dolly Parton’s Stampede Branson Christmas Show

Dolly Parton Stampede Christmas

During the holidays, Dolly Parton’s Stampede transforms into a Christmas wonderland, featuring towering Christmas trees, falling snow, and traditional Christmas carols. While families feast on a four-course-meal, the arena comes alive with beautiful horses, daring acrobats, and powerful singing voices. 

The show invites the audience to get involved in an epic battle between the North Pole and the South Pole by cheering for their team of horses, audience volunteers, and even pigs in races and stunt competitions. 

The highlight of the night is the live nativity. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus descend into the arena on a manger stage, then are surrounded by live animals as the shepherds bring their sheep and the wise men enter on camels to worship the baby Jesus. 

Dolly Parton’s Stampede Christmas Show begins October 26, 2023 and continues through the first week in January.

Branson is a town full of unbelievably talented performers and hundreds of holiday Christmas concerts and shows. Be sure to check out the shows at Shepherd of the Hills and Silver Dollar City mentioned below. To find an extensive list of all the shows this season check out

Christmas at Shepherd of the Hills 

Christmas at Shephard of the Hills historic farm
Photo by flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Some of the most popular Christmas events in Branson take place during Christmas at Shepherd of the Hills historic farm. Starting November 1st, the farm transforms into a Christmas wonderland with festive shows and attractions.

The North Pole Adventure is a magical walk-through adventure featuring visits with Santa, Christmas activities and rides, and thousands of sparkling lights. Take a hayride through the Trail of Lights, zip down Rudolph’s Rowdy Coaster, and challenge yourself on the Big Elves Ropes Course. 

Shepherd of the Hills also presents three Christmas dinner shows this year. Enjoy a Christmas feast while watching Whodunnit Hoedown; A Christmas Mystery, A Christmas Story, or A Shepherd’s Christmas Carol. 

Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City at Christmas in Branson, MO

Over 6.5 millions lights line every branch and board through Silver Dollar City. The decorations, seasonal foods, and festive entertainment have given this park the honor of being named the nation’s Best Theme Park Holiday Event five years in a row. 

In the town square, a towering 8-story animated Christmas tree shines in sync with the surrounding lights as Christmas music plays. Cross the bridges through a tunnel of lights into Midtown where over 1.5 million lights illuminate the area, lighted reindeer fly overhead, and more lighted photo-ops await. 

The sweet smells of Red Velvet Funnel Cake, Candy Cane Crunch Kettle Corn, Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls and more fill the air around the park, beckoning families to indulge in the culinary delights of Christmastime. Can’t decide what sounds best? Purchase a Christmas Tasting Passport to get a sample of five of the exclusive flavors of the season. 

Although the rides are fun, make sure to plan time for all the holiday shows.  Broadway quality shows like Coming Home for Christmas and A Dickens Christmas Carol warm your heart, while shows like Frontier Fa La La Follies and Tinker Junior’s Toy Shop delight all ages. And don’t miss Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade which occurs multiple times a night.

Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City starts November 4th and continues through the end of the season.

Polar Express at Branson Scenic Railway

Branon Scenic Railway
Branson Scenic Railway via Branson CVB

Don your pajamas and take a ride to the North Pole to visit Santa on the Polar Express Train at Branson Scenic Railway. Along the way, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as you listen to a reading of The Polar Express. You’ll also be serenaded by Christmas Carolers and may even see the Hobo.

Once Santa Claus boards at the North Pole, he’ll stop by each car with a special gift for every child. The entire trip lasts about an hour and a half.

Tickets for the Polar Express open for purchase in April and sell out quickly, so make sure to plan ahead. The train runs select days in November and almost every day through December.

Snow Tubing at Wolfe Mountain 

Christmas in Branson- 15 Fun Things to do in Branson at Christmas 10
Photo via Snowplex Park

Unfortunately, you won’t find much snow during your Christmas in Branson, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some snow tubing. Snowflex Park at Wolfe Mountain is the largest synthetic tubing run in the USA. Zip down 400 feet of this soft, snow alternative any time of the year.

The track is large enough that eight tubes can run side-by-side. Anyone ages three and up can ride, although children three through six must be accompanied by an adult. 

Santa Adventure Land at Seasonal Encounters

Santa Adventure Land

Get ready for some Christmas fun at Santa Adventure Land. Start off writing a letter to Santa, then head to Mrs. Claus to make cookies. Stop by the elves to learn their special techniques in toy making before meeting with the big guy himself. 

After all your meet and greets, play in some life-like, Branson-style snow. There are also outdoor games, a petting zoo, camel rides, and pony rides.

Santa Adventure Land is open most days from mid-November to December.

Polar Express FlyRide at Beyond the Lens

Beyond the Lens Branson

Beyond the Lens allows visitors to take a virtual journey to the North Pole on THE POLAR EXPRESS FlyRide. From a suspended full-motion seat, slide, dip, and turn along with the runaway train in this holiday classic story. The giant four-story screen and effects like wind and scents create a realistic railway experience.

THE POLAR EXPRESS ride opens November 1st and will be available through January 7, 2024.

Kringle’s Christmas Shop

Kringle's Christmas Shop in Branson

You don’t have to wait for the holidays to start celebrating Christmas in Branson. Kringle’s Christmas Shop is open year round at Branson’s Grand Village. Find the perfect ornament to remember the year, get inspired from the beautifully decorated trees, or marvel at the ornate nativity sets available for purchase.

Fridays and Saturdays, November 4th- December 23rd, Santa is on-site, ready to receive kiddos Christmas lists and take a photo. 

Where to Stay for Christmas in Branson, MO

Westgate Branson Woods Resort

Westgate Resorts Branson
Photo Courtesy of Westgate Resorts

The accommodations at Westgate Branson Woods Resort are perfect for families. Westgate’s spacious one bedroom suites in Branson, MO sleep up to four, while the two-bedroom suites can accommodate up to eight. Most rooms feature separate bedrooms, living areas, and fully-stocked kitchens. 

Westgate Branson Woods Resort is bursting with amenities families love. Around the grounds you’ll find activities like mini golf, a playground, and three fun pools, including a heated indoor pool. Everyday the activities team hosts crafts and social activities like the S’mores Social or family game night.

Westgate Resorts Branson
Photo Courtesy of Westgate Resorts

When you get hungry, head to the Marketplace for a Starbucks pick-me-up, a slice of pizza, or a yummy treat. The Marketplace is also a great place to grab a souvenir and a fun hangout place. Families can gather around the fireplace and play checkers, or head outside to the gas fire pits to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings.

The resort resides within the picturesque Ozark mountains and hiking trails surround the resort. A short trail (just over half a mile long) meanders along a creek to a small but beautiful waterfall. Keep an eye open for the resident deer who like to nibble the grass on the resort hills.  

Disclaimer: The author was a guest on a media trip hosted by Westgate, however, all opinions expressed here are her own. 

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family Thu, 16 Nov 2023 22:54:00 +0000 There are many great things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas on family vacation from visiting the national park to mining for gems. Here are our top picks for families.

The post Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

Until I visited, I wasn’t very familiar with the town of Hot Springs beyond its namesake national park. During my recent visit however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are so many great things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas on a family vacation!

Hot Springs is located in central Arkansas, about an hour west of Little Rock in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains, which happen to be one of the only east/west mountain ranges in the country. If is most known for its hot springs, which have been attracting visitors for hundreds of years, in hopes that the waters could help heal a wide variety of ailments.

But what many don’t know is that this incredibly scenic mountain town is steeped in fascinating history featuring some of the most notorious individuals of the early 20th Century. Al Capone, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth, and Mae West are just some of the people who have their names tied to a town that was in many ways “Las Vegas” before Las Vegas even existed.

From history to nature to digging for treasure, Hot Springs has so much to offer families who might be coming to check another national park off their list, but quickly discover that this destination is much more than the park.

Did you know? Hot Springs National Park is one of only two national parks located in the “Path of Totality” for the solar eclipse which will take place April 8, 2024. The other is Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

Explore more of the state! Here are some of our favorite things to do in Arkansas with kids.

The Best Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas on a Family Vacation

Take a Ranger Led Tour and Visit the Hot Springs National Park Museum

things to do in Hot Springs Arkansas with family include visiting bathhouse row

Hot Springs has been a national park for over 100 years. The Fordyce, a former bathouse on the park’s famed Bathhouse Row, houses the national park’s visitor center and museum. This bathhouse has been restored to its early 20th-century appearance, allowing visitors to step back in time and see what a bathhouse experience was like during the heyday of the spa industry in Hot Springs.

The Fordyce Bathhouse operated from 1915-1962. Business declined sharpely when Arkansas governor Winthrop Rockefeller but the kibosh on illegal gambling in town. While you can tour the Fordyce at your own pace, I think it is best to add a free ranger-led tour to your experience as well. Be sure to watch the park video before touring the museum to help orient yourself as you explore the park and town.

Sitz bath and Steam Box Hot Springs National Park
Sitz Bath and Steam Box

Highlights of the museum include treatment rooms featuring the same old-fashioned tubs and teatment equipment used in traditional bathhouse “prescriptions”, gorgeous stained glass artwork, an early 20th Century gymnasium filled with equipment that will make you giggle, and the originaly Fordyce spring on display in the basement.

Trekaroo tip: Don’t forget to grab a Junior Ranger booklet at the Fordyce. Upon completion kids will be sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive the coveted Hot Springs National Park Junior Ranger pin! They also have Adventure Backpacks for kids to check out.

Visit a Display Spring and Stroll the Grand Promenade

Hot water cascade at Hot Springs National Park
Hot water cascade

Most of the springs in Hot Springs are capped and look like green metal boxes on the side of Hot Springs Mountain, but there are still a couple display springs which you can visit to see the mineral spring water reaching the surface in a more natural state. Two of these display springs are found behind the Maurice, which is adjacent to the Fordyce.

There are also a few thermal fountains along Bathhouse Row, as well as a hot water cascade next to the Arlington Lawn just off the Grand Promenade. If you would like to bottle some water to bring home, bring some empty water jugs over to the jug fountain near the park administration building and fill ’em up!

Did you know? It takes 4,500 years for rain to trickle through the cracks in the brittle rock of the Ouachita Mountains and emerge from the hot springs. That means the water coming from the springs today fell as rain around the same time period as when the pyramids were being built in Egypt!

Grand Promenade Hot Springs National Park

The Grand Promenade is a wide, brick-paved walkway that runs along the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain just behind Bathhouse Row. It has been a popular place for generations to enjoy walking while taking in the views. It is about a half mile long and a nice way to stretch your legs in between visits to the area’s indoor attractions.

Hike One of the Hot Springs National Park Trails

Peak Trail Hot Springs National Park
Peak Trail

While the historic bathhouses dominate most visitor experiences at Hot Springs National Park, there are actually 26 miles of hiking trails to explore. They range in difficulty from easy to strenuous and many of them begin just off the town’s main drag, Central Avenue, and wind their way into the deciduous forests that line the mountains that surround the city.

Several of the trails go up and around Hot Springs Mountain, which is where the hot springs originate. The Sunset Trail covers about 10 miles of the Ouachita Mountains that surround the town. If you are hoping to see wildlife, head to the trails on West Mountain side which are more quiet and less traveled.

Climb to the Top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower and Enjoy the View

Hot Springs Mountain Tower

The Hot Springs Mountain Tower sits atop Hot Springs Mountain and stands at 216 feet tall. Visitors can take an elevator ride to the glass-enclosed observation deck at the top. From there you can enjoy 360-degree views of the city of Hot Springs, Bath House Row, Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita, and the Ouachita Mountains.

You can take the short (0.6 miles) but steep Peak Trail from behind the park visitor center and hike up to the tower, or simply drive up Hot Springs Mountain and park in the lot near the tower. Admission to the tower is $13 for adults and $9 for kids 5-11. Children under five are free.

Experience a Tradional Bathhouse Experience at the Buckstaff

Buckstaff Bathhouse

The Buckstaff Bathouse opened in 1912 and is the only traditional bathhouse still operating of the original eight on Bath House Row. If you love history and are interested in the opportunity to experience
the services that were offered over 100 years ago, make it a priority to visit! Teens as young as 14 are welcome in the Buckstaff.

The traditional bath includes a whirlpool mineral bath with loofa scrub, steam towel wrap, steam box experience, sitz bath, and a 20-minute full body massage. You may wear a swimsuit, but it isn’t required.

I have to say, while I probably wouldn’t make this traditional bath experience a regular occurence, I am really glad I did it. It was very neat to step back in time and I just had to laugh at how silly I felt with my head sticking out of that metal steam box. The staff was wonderful and the experience was something I will never forget.

You can purchase massages and baths separately or in the traditional bath experience package. There are also facials and massages available by appointment.

The Buckstaff does not take reservations for baths or massages, so I suggest you show up an hour before they open in the morning or around 12:30 to be one of the first treated after the lunch break, especially during the busy summer season and on weekends. I also recommend that bring along some cash to tip- these folks work hard!

Have a More Modern Spa Experience at Quapaw Baths

Quapaw Baths

If you are looking to enjoy a modern spa experience on Bathhouse Row, the Quapaw is for you! There are no steam boxes or sitz baths, only contemporary treatments akin to what us spa-goers are used to. Like the Buckstaff, guests be at least 14 to enjoy the services.

Most services are reservation only, with the exception of the mineral water pools. The pools are $25 to access, which makes them an afforable experience for those wanting to soak in Hot Springs’ famed waters.

This spa offers a wide variety of masssage and facial options, as well as private baths and the opportunity to enjoy their thermal mineral water steam cave.

Enjoy Rootbeer, Beer, and Seltzer at the Only Brewery in a National Park!

Superior Bathouse Brewing

Superior Bathhouse was once one of the famed healing spas on Bathhouse Row. After it closed down, the building sat vacant for 30 years. Thankfully, tuba-player-turned-microbrewer Rose Schweikhart worked her way through all that famed federal red tape to convert the building into a brewery and restaurant while still maintaining its historic integrity.

In addition to being the only brewery in a national park, Superior Bathhouse Brewery is also the only brewery that uses thermal spring water to create its brews! Like many breweries these days, this is a family-friendly establishment with homemade rootbeer to entice the kids and non-drinkers in your group.

There are mainstays on their beer menu as well as seasonal concoctions, and a few different beer flight options that allow to you sample several of their beers at once. There is even an option to get a flight to sample all 18 of their beers (I suggest you share it with a friend). If you are not a friend of gluten, try their mango seltzer which is made onsite.

Food options include burgers, salads, sandwiches, loaded potatoes (with the most amazing bacon ever!), and even entrees for the pups if you have brought Fido along. I suggest asking for a spot on their lovely outdoor patio if the weather is nice.

Mountain Bike the Northwoods Trail System

Northwoods Trail System
Photo via Visit Hot Springs

Hot Springs is a mountainous place so it is no surprise that it has become quite up and comer in the mountain biking community. Northwoods is home to over 30 miles of bike trail and it is located just five minute from downtown Hot Springs!

The Northwoods system has four different parking areas which allow for sccess to green, blue, and lack single track trails. The Cedar Glades trailhead at Cedar Glades Park has a bike skills park. The park also has nature trails for hiking, a playground, disc golf course, and even a radio controlled airplane flying field!

If you don’t have your own bikes you can rent them (including kid’s bikes) from Hot Springs Bicycle Touring Company.

Explore the City-Owned Side of Dowtown

things to do in Hot Springs Arkansas with kids
Photo via Arkansas Tourism

The main drag in downtown Hot Springs is Central Avenue. This street is lined with shops and dining in historic buildings on one side, and the bathhouses of Hot Springs National Park on the other.

There are lots of little places to pop into including the Gangster Museum of America, the Pancake House, and the Ohio Club which I highlight below. Beyond those places, I also recommend visiting the Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium, It’s about Rocks, Buffalo Clothing Store, and Kollective Coffee and Tea which serves fantastic caffeinated beverages as well as a variety of tasty treats for those of us who have dietary restrictions like Celiac or being vegan.

This portion of town is bustling during the daytime, but most shops do shut down around 5pm, so plan on getting your shopping done early. Restaurants and bars do stay open later.

Learn About Hot Springs History at the Gangster Museum of America

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 21

Before there was Vegas, there was Hot Springs. Gambling and bootlegging brought visitors to the town just as much as the healing waters did in those days. This was considered neutral territory where notorious gangsters like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Owney Madden came to soak in the waters and partake in some of the more nefarious persuits.

Touring the Gangster Museum of America helped me realize just how much history this small town has to offer. We toured seven galleries with a great guide who shared stories and brought Hot Springs’ colorful history to life. There a several galleries to tour, including an antique casino.

There is also a gallery dedicated to Hot Springs’s baseball history. Did you know that Hot Springs was once home to Major League Baseball Spring Training? Cy Young, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner all partipated in Spring Training in Hot Springs, which was once home to seven baseball fields.

The Gangster Museum is located right on Central Avenue just across the street from the national park. If you love history and great storytelling, make it a priority.

Check Out the city’s Baseball Trail

Babe Ruth Playing Baseball in Hot Springs

Hot Springs’ thermal baths and mild climate made it an attractive location for Spring Training during the early 20th Century. Players believed that the mineral-rich waters aided in recovery and preparation for the baseball season.

Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner all partipated in Spring Training in Hot Springs, which was once home to seven baseball fields. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Stockings, and Cincinnati Reds are just some of the teams that trained there, especially in the early 20th Century.

Hot Springs has developed a Baseball Trail which can be toured for free via a smartphone app. The trail offers an educational experience, where visitors can learn about Hot Springs baseball history, the training routines of early baseball players, and the cultural impact of the sport on the city. Some locations along the trail feature interactive elements, such as audio recordings, exhibits, and multimedia presentations.

Have Breakfast at the Pancake Shop

Pancake shop in Hot Springs Arkansas

If you have breakfast in one place in Hot Springs, it should be the Pancake Shop. This breakfast joint has been an institution on Central Avenue since 1940. Pancakes are as big as your plate and are either buttermilk or buckwheat with tasty toppings like apple, blueberry, and banana.

If pancakes aren’t your thing, they have terrific omelets as well. The orange juice is squeezed fresh and the ham steaks are center cut. This is the down home cooking you expect when visiting Arkansas. No wonder there is usually a line to get in!

Thankfully you can browse in the Savory Pantry artisan food boutique next door and they will call your name inside once your table is ready.

Dine Where the Gangsters Dined at the Ohio Club

The Ohio Club in Hot Springs Ak

The Ohio Club is filled with history and a fun place to eat right on Central Avenue. It has a long and colorful history, dating back to the early 1905. As a matter of fact, it is the oldest bar still operating in Arkansas.

The Ohio Club was a popular gathering place for famous gangsters, politicians, and celebrities during the city’s era of illegal gambling and bootlegging during Prohibition. Gangsters such as Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, and Lucky Luciano were known to have frequented the Ohio Club and both Mae West and Al Jolsen performed there. Bullet holes can still be spotted in the restaurant’s original tin roof!

The food here is casual, and the menus specializes in burgers and sandwiches. Be sure to leave room for their funnel cake fries for dessert. The Ohio Club has an extensive cocktail menu, so order something fun while you are there!

Note: The Ohio Club is closed on Wednesdays.

Mine for Crystals at Avant Mining

one of the best things to do in Hot Springs Arkansas is go quartz mining

Arkansas is well-known among rockhounds as a major destination for crystal collecting and Avant Mining is the best place to find quartz treasures you can take home.

Avant is located in the Ouachita Mountains where silica-rich water and millions of years of compression have created some of the world’s largest and finest deposits of quartz crystals. This mine has gained a big celebrity following, with athletes and actors who are household names paying thousands of dollars to mine the most exclusive and prolific quartz pockets around.

Thankfully, you don’t need thousands of dollars to access the quartz. For just $25 per person you can spend all day digging in the dirt for crystal treasures. Everyone finds a treasure of their own and there is something so exciting about discovering a piece of quartz! I’m not going to lie, it is pretty addictive!

Quart at Avant Mining
Quartz in the soil at Avant Mining

If the weather is warm, be prepared for a day in the full sun. Many folks bring pop-ups for shade as well as hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You may even want to pack a picnic lunch to eat by your car. You can bring your own tools or borrow some from the shop. Definitely wear close-toed shoes and clothes that can get dirty.

Whatever you find, is yours! I was amazed at the treasures I walked away with during my short visit. The crystals are so pretty and there are many people who believe in the healing power of quartz. My kids and I could easily spend hours digging through the dirt and rock for quartz crystals.

Mining with a View at Avant Mining
Mining with a View at Avant Mining

Avant Mining is about 40 minutes downtown Hot Springs but this is a day trip worth taking and will likely be the highlight of the trip for kids who love to look for treasures.

Their shop has great displays of crystals and stones from around the world, including the largest piece of turquoise in North America which was found in Arkansas. The staff is enthusiastic, friendly, and willing to share tips on the best way to discover something extra special and how to get it clean and sparkling for display.

One unexpected treat was the coffee shop onsite. There are trained baristas on staff who can brew up all different sorts of fancy coffee treats.

Before you visit check out the Avant Mining Instagram page to see Reels of some of their incredibly impressive discoveries.

Have Dinner in a Speakyeasy at DONS Southern Social

Pork Belly from DOns Southern Social
Pork Belly a la DONS Southern Social

If you have teens or tweens that are looking for a trendy and fun experience, you will definitely want to snag reservations for DONS Southern Social, a true speakeasy-style restaurant by acclaimed local chef Joshua Garland.

They will love that you will get a secret password and enter through one of two secret entrances (I won’t spoil any of the surprises). Once inside you will find a lively atmosphere and great, elevated Southern food. This spot is only open Thursday through Monday, and it is definitely popular.

Fried chicken, shrimp and grits, duck breast over polenta, and pork belly are just some of the dishes that my group raved about. The service was fantastic and they drinks are great as well. I suggest ordering a Sake cocktail which uses locally-made Origame Sake.

Save room for dessert. They always have something special to offer like chocolate chip creme brulee and bread pudding with hot caramel sauce. Yum!

Get Outside at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens Treehouse
Bob and Sunny Evans Treehouse

Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210-acre garden situated on the shores of Lake Hamilton. It was a gift from philanthropist Verna Cook Garvan who donated the gardens to the University of Arkansas system in order to preserve and enhance the Ouachita Mountain environment.

While you can (and should) walk the various paths that wind through the gardens, I also suggest taking a golf cart tour of the property. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who provided insights into the various plant collections, gardens, and the overall history and design of the area.

One of the Garden’s highlights is a lovely Japanese garden with an impressive koi pond. It is known to be one of the best Japanese gardens in the country. In the spring Garvan Woodland Gardens is also well-known for its impressive tulip displays.

tulips at Garvan Woodland Gardens
Photo by Eva Simpson

There are two architectural gems that you will want to visit while touring the gardens. The first is the magnificent Anthony Chapel. Designed by Maurice Jennings, it is a stunning glass and wood chapel that integrates modern design with the natural surroundings to make it a standout feature.

The other is the Bob and Sunny Evans Treehouse. The elevated, boomerang-shaped structure is surrounded by pine and oak trees and gives visitors a birds eye view of the surrounding scenery. It is fun to explore and the design is truly gorgeous. The Treehouse is part of the Evan’s Children’s Adventure Garden area which has a waterfall, cave, crawdad hole, and a maze made up of 3,200 tons of Arkansas boulders.

If you visit during the holiday season you will want to experience the impressive Holiday Lights experience when festive lights illuminate the gardens. The pathways, trees, and structures are adorned with colorful lights, creating a magical and enchanting atmosphere. It is definitely the most popular time of year to visit.

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

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Photo via Visit Hot Springs

Outside of the downtown area you will find lots of other fun things to do in Hot Springs with kids. One of the most popular attractions is Oaklawn, a Thoroughbred racetrack and casino.

The racing season runs from December through May and while kids may not place bets, they are very much welcome at the races. It is so much fun to pick a horse and then cheer for it to win!

The Mainline Sports Bar at Oaklawn has games the whole family can enjoy playing like shuffleboard, axe throwing, three top golf swing suites, and air hockey.

Magic Springs Theme Park

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 23
Magic Springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas shot for Stone Ward

If your kids enjoy visits to theme parks then you may want to visit Magic Springs. This is a combo waterpark and theme park, with a variety of rides including five coasters and about 10 water slides. There are also several rides for the little ones.

Magic Springs definitely isn’t Disneyland, but if you are feeling the urge to spend the day riding rides and water slide, this is the only place around to do it.

Mid-America Science Museum

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 24

The Mid-America Science Museum’s mission is to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through interactive exhibits, educational programs, and engaging activities.

The museum has a wide range of interactive exhibits designed to make science and technology concepts accessible and enjoyable. These exhibits cover feature physics, biology, astronomy, and the museum is known for its Tesla coil, which is used to demonstrate principles of electricity and magnetism.

Another opopular attraction is the Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, an elevated walkway that provides visitors with a unique perspective on the surrounding forest and offers opportunities for outdoor exploration. There are lots of things for kids to climb around on and explore.

The museum has a planetarium that offers astronomy programs, including shows about the night sky and space exploration.

Experience Lake Life

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 25
Lake Hamilton

Hot Springs is surrounded by several lakes, and the most popular to visit are Lake Hamilton and Lake Ouachita.

Lake Hamilton is a reservoir on the Ouachita River known for its boating activities. You can rent boats, jet skis, and pontoons from marinas around the lake. It is a popular place to fish for bass, crappie, and catfish.

Lake Ouachita is the largest lake in Arkansas and is known for its clear waters filled with striped bass and largemouth bass. It is is a paradise for boaters, with marinas providing boat rentals and slips. It is surrounded by over 1.8 million acres of Ouachita National Forest.

Discover the City’s Murals 

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 26
An Old Mural on Central Avenue

Hot Springs is home to several beautiful murals throughout town. They are fun to discover as you explore the city. There are over a dozen throughout the city and has a nice guide to some of their locations that you can use to experience them all.

One of the newest murals is “Remember” which was created in spring of 2022 by the artist Danae Brissonnet. It is a tribute to the nature, history and people of Hot Springs and located on 110 Central Avenue. Another mural you won’t want ot miss is “Black Broadway” which celebrates the Malvern Avenue
area which was known as Black Broadway from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Learn About the Clinton Connection to Hot Springs

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 27
By Brandonrush

While Former President Bill Clinton was famously born in Hope, Arkansas, he actually grew up in Hot Springs. His boyhood home is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and visitors can see the home (known as Birnbaum-Shubetz House) at 1011 Park Avenue.

While the city doesn’t seem too keen to promote its association with President Clinton much, there is a self-guided tour online where you can visit some of the landmarks in town that were significant to his childhood.

Where to Stay in Hot Springs with Kids

In the Trees

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 28
The Grasshopper Treehouse

After spending a couple nights in one of the brand new treehouses at In The Trees, I was ready to move in and not come home. This gorgeous new resort is made up of treehouses and cabins spread out over 500 acres in the Ouachita Mountains, just a couple minutes from the heart of downtown.

Don’t let the word “treehouse” lead you to believe this is a rustic experience; in fact it is anything but!

I stayed in the Grasshopper, a luxury treehouse with one bedrom with a king bed, a loft with a queen bed and two twin lofted beds, and two full bathrooms. There was also a full kitchen, dining area, fireplace, and an expansive deck patio with seating. But, the best part was the private hot tub that sat lofted in the trees with incredible mountain views.

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 29

I loved that I could easily visit all the “goings on” in town and then slip away into the privacy and tremendous beauty of the forest. Most treehouses can sleep six people, making them perfect for families. They are continuing to build more and more cabins and treehouses throughout the property.

Best Court Cottages

Best Court Cottages

If you are looking for something more historic and “in town”, check out Best Court Cottages. Best Court has been in business since 1933, and their renovated cottages still have all that charm from the ’30s. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio used to stay at this property during their love affair!

Best Cafe, the restaurant adjacent to the lodging, also happens to be one of the best breakfast spots in town. The chef behind Best Cafe, Joshua Gardland, is the same person behind the DONS Southern Social. Their Confit Pork Belly Skillet Hash is ridiculously good. I’ve heard great things about the Creme Brulee French toast as well.

The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa

Over 20 Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with Family 30

The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa is perhaps the most historic hotel in all of Hot Springs. It sits prominently on the corner of Fountain Street and Central Avenue, and his been hosting mobsters, celebrities, and visitors hoping to soak in the famed hot springs since 1924. Four US Presidents have stayed here over the years.

The Arlington is just a short walk from Bathouse Row and in the heart of downtown. There are some rooms in the hotel where hot springs mineral water can piped directly into a tub and shower! The property is undergoing some updates right now so check with the hotel before booking to make sure you won’t be inconvenienced during your stay.

Thank you so much to Visit Hot Springs for hosting a media tour so that the author could research and deliver an unbiased article about Hot Springs to Trekaroo readers. All opinions are her own.

The Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage Thu, 16 Nov 2023 01:23:17 +0000 The Adirondacks are ablaze with color during the autumn. Here are 10 of our favorite places to enjoy Adirondack fall foliage.

The post The Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

If you’re planning to visit the Adirondack Mountains this fall, then you’re in for a treat. With over 9,000 square miles of forest, mountains, and lakes, the Adirondack fall foliage is some of the best New York State has to offer.

As October approaches, the mountains are ablaze in shades of orange, yellow, and red. Leaf peepers in the Adirondacks are greeted with stunning vistas of fall foliage spanning as far as the eyes can see. This remarkable display is one of the many reasons to head to upstate New York this fall.

Here are more place to enjoy New York fall foliage.

Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage

Lake Placid

Adirondack fall foliage in Lake PLacid

Lake Placid is most famous for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics. While it’s one of New York’s top winter destinations, it’s also a great place to take in the fall foliage. During autumn, the town offers many seasonal activities, including the Flaming Leaves Festival in October. This celebration of all things fall has live music, crafts, and an array of local food and beers.

For a different perspective on the fall colors, adventurous travelers should consider taking to the lake’s waters in a kayak. This peaceful activity allows you to witness the bright colors of the foliage in all directions. 

For some of the finest fall foliage views in the Adirondacks, head to the top of the 128-meter-tall Olympic Jumping Complex. From here you’ll have 360-degree views of the lake, mountains, and bright fall colors as far as the eye can see.

Lake George

Lake George Fall

The town of Lake George, located on the southern tip of the lake of the same name, is rich in history and scenic beauty. As the site of a historically significant battle during the French-Indian War, visitors can learn about the battle while exploring Fort William Henry

One fun way to admire the vibrant fall colors is by taking a steamboat cruise along Lake George. The Lake George Steamboat Company, which has been in operation for over 200 years, offers daily fall sightseeing and dinner tours. 

For those seeking more adventurous ways to appreciate the autumn beauty, there are many scenic trails you can access directly from the town. You can hike or horseback ride through the forests, immersing yourself in the fall colors.

The Prospect Mountain Trail offers a challenging hike with panoramic views of Lake George and the surrounding mountains. The 5.5-mile trailhead is located on Smith Street in Lake George Village. Cat Mountain is part of the Lake George Land Conservancy and another nice place to hike.

Autumn is also a great time to take a scenic hot air balloon ride over the lake, where you’ll have a birds-eye view of the blazing foliage.

The Wild Center

The Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage 34
Photo via The Wild Center

Part nature reserve, part outdoor adventure park, The Wild Center is dedicated to nurturing a love for the natural wonders of the Adirondack mountains. This superb destination is perfect for  families looking for a unique fall foliage experience. 

The center has playgrounds and outdoor activities suitable for children of all ages, but the highlight is the Wild Walk. This trail of bridges takes you into the treetops of Adirondack forest. Along the way you can visit a four-story tree house, swing on bridges, clamber over a spider’s web, or even climb into the full-sized bald eagle’s nest replica.

The Wild Center also offers a web of woodland trails along their vast 115-acre property, and is a memorable place to appreciate the autumn beauty of the Adirondacks.

Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Adirondack Scenic Railroads
Photo via Ithaca Barbie

Discover the fall beauty of the Adirondacks by riding the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. This scenic journey that takes you between Utica and Old Forge, passing through lush forests and over rivers, all blanketed in vibrant fall colors. 

Most of the train rides last between one hour and 90 minutes, perfect for those looking for a family-friendly fall activity. The railroad also offers special fall-themed rides, including a Haunted History Evening Excursion and a Pumpkin Train. 

Echo Cliffs on Panther Mountain

Echo Cliffs of Panther Mountain
Photo vai Jenica26

The hike up to Echo Cliffs is a short but steep journey that rewards hikes with panoramic views of the southern Adirondacks blanketed in vivid fall foliage. Located near Piseco Lake in the town of Arietta, this moderate hike features a 1.2-mile round-trip trail with an elevation gain of 670 feet.

As you hike, the forest will captivate you with its awesome display of autumn colors. At the summit, Echo Cliffs itself is a flat, open portion of rock with a sheer drop of several hundred feet. From this vantage point, you can gaze out at the wide, uninterrupted view of Piseco Lake and the surrounding wilderness, savoring the fall colors that blanket the landscape.

Indian Head

The Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage 35
Photo via TheDetailedTraveler

Another great Adirondack hike for viewing the fall foliage is to Indian Head. The summit offers spectacular views of Lower Ausable Lake and the Lower Great Range. This breathtaking sight resembles a Norwegian Fjord, and is particularly breathtaking during the month of October. 

While this 8.2-mile out-and-back trail is a long one, the first 3.3 miles are gentle and easy with minimal elevation gain. The last mile is the most gruelling, with a steep 730 foot ascent, but you’ll be rewarded with the most beautiful views in the entire Adirondack Park.

If you’re interested in hiking to Indian Head this fall, be sure to plan ahead as a permit is required during the peak months between May 1 and October 31.

Saranac Lake

The Best Places to See Adirondack Fall Foliage 36

Saranac Lake is a hidden gem of the Adirondacks that is full of natural splendor and a thriving local arts scene. The charming town of Saranac Lake is brimming with eye-popping autumn views and numerous great viewpoints for admiring the colorful scenery. 

Saranac Lake also boasts a burgeoning local arts culture. During your visit you pop into the many galleries scattered throughout the town, which feature works of many talented local artists. 

Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway

Whiteface Mountain Adirondacks

The drive along Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway offers captivating views of the Adirondacks in all their fall splendor. Whiteface Mountain is New York’s fifth-highest peak at 4,867 feet. This monumental landmark looms over the nearby peaks, offering spectacular views of the entire region.

The scenic road leads directly to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, rising over 2,300 feet in just five miles. At the peak is a castle, a restaurant, a gift shop, and even an elevator carved into the mountain. From the end of the road, hike the one-fifth of a mile Alpine Nature Trail to the mountain summit. There you’ll have views spanning across New England and as far as Canada.

The stunning views make this road one the of the best Adirondack scenic highways to drive in fall. The road closes during the winter months, and sometimes earlier in inclement weather. Be sure to check the conditions on the website before planning your visit.

Jay Covered Bridge

Jay Covered Bridge in the Adirondacks

Not far from the town of Lake Placid is the iconic Jay Covered Bridge. The last remaining covered bridge in the Adirondacks, this wooden covered bridge stretches 175 feet over the East Branch Ausable River. The bridge was originally built in 1857 and fully restored in 2007 to preserve its historic charm. 

The Jay Covered Bridge is open to pedestrians and bicycles, allowing visitors to walk across and explore its picturesque surroundings. The bridge is located within the Douglas Memorial Park complex, making it an excellent destination for outdoor recreation, picnicking, and enjoying stunning views of the river and fall colors. 

As fall creeps across the landscape, the bridge becomes a perfect backdrop for photographers looking to capture the vibrant colors of the season. 

Route 86

Ausable River State Route 86

Meandering through the heart of Adirondack Park is New York State Route 86. This scenic state highway offeris 39.11 miles of an in-your-face fall foliage spectacle. The roadlinks Franklin County to Essex County and is renowned for its mountain views that epitomize the beauty of the Adirondacks. Along the way, travelers can stop at many pull-outs to revel in the vibrant colors of autumn that cloak the landscape.

One of the most captivating stretches along NY 86 is the Wilmington Notch, found between Lake Placid and Wilmington. This portion of the road closely follows the Ausable River and provides mesmerizing glimpses of tumbling rapids and towering mountains. 

Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or hunting for the best fall foliage in New York State, Route 86 and its remarkable fall views make for an unforgettable journey through the heart of Adirondack Park.

Tamar is an avid traveler who loves to explore the world with her husband and two kids. She is passionate about helping busy parents plan culturally rich vacations with their children, even with limited time off. You can read more of her work at

Find More Fall Foliage Near You!

California Fall Color
Utah Fall Foliage
Texas Fall Colors
Georgia Fall Foliage
Arizona Fall Color
Oregon Fall Foliage
New England Fall Road Trips
North Carolina Fall Colors
Washington Fall Foliage
Iowa Fall Colors
New York Fall Foliage
Colorado Fall Foliage
New Hampshire Fall Foliage
Vermont Fall Foliage
Maine Fall Foliage
Michigan Fall Foliage
New Jersey Fall Foliage
Tennessee Fall Foliage
Minnesota Fall Foliage
Wisconsin Fall Colors
Pennsylvania Fall Foliage
Fall Foliage Maryland
Catskills Fall Foliage
Virginia Fall Colors
Berkshires Fall Foliage
Duluth Fall Colors
Seattle Fall Colors
Massachusetts Fall Foliage
The Best Christmas Events in Orange County, CA for 2023 Wed, 15 Nov 2023 19:52:00 +0000 Christmas in Orange County is filled with festive fun! Here are the best Christmas events in Orange County 2023, from Disneyland to boat parades & so much more!

The post The Best Christmas Events in Orange County, CA for 2023 appeared first on Trekaroo Family Travel Blog.

While we may not have snow on the ground and lights in our palm trees, Christmas in Orange County is still something to get excited about! There are lots of great Christmas events in Orange County in 2023, from train rides to see Santa to boat parades and more! Use this guide to plan your perfect holiday seaosn.

You also won’t want to miss our guide to 30 fun things to do in Orange County with kids.

Christmas Events in Orange County 2023

Orange County Boat Parades

Christmas events in Orange County include holiday boat parades
Photo via Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

So much of life in Orange County revolves around its proxmity to the coast, and Christmas boat parades are an important tradition to those of us living in OC.

In South County, Dana Point Harbor plays host to the 48th Annual Boat Parade of Lights on December 8, 9, and 10, 2023 at 6:30pm. This year’s theme is “Candy Land”.

Beginning November 15, you also won’t want to miss the annual light display at Dana Point Harbor which features over 700,000 lights, including the popular “Merry Kiss Me” arch and a giant lighted whale sculpture.

Up in Huntington Beach, the 60th annual Huntington Harbour Boat Parade will take place December 9 and 10, 2023 at 6pm and this year’s theme is “The Power of Music”.

The granddaddy of them all is the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, now in its 115th year. The parade winds around Newport Harbor, and the parks and shoreline around Lido Park, Balboa Island, and the harbor side of Newport penninsula are always packed with people.

This year’s parade will be held Wednesday through Sunday, December 13-17, 2023 and begins around 6:30pm each night. You can purchase tickets to view the parade from aboard one of the lighted boats and even rent out an entire yacht if you want! There are several restaurants that offer “dine and watch” packages and reserved seating is available at Newport Sea Base.

Heading to LA? Don’t miss our complete guide to Christmas events in Los Angeles Metro. What about San Diego or Palm Springs? We have Christmas guides for those destinations as well!

Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train

Irvine Park Railroad Orange County Christmas events
Photo via Irvine Park Railroad

If you have young children, the one Orange County Christmas event you won’t want to miss is the Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train. This event sells out fast, so book your ticket early! It runs November 24 – December 23, 2023.

Families will board the train and take a ride to the “North Pole” where kids get off the train to tell Santa what they want for Christmas and take a photo. Then they will get back on the train and pass by Christmas lights and displays, as well as the tunnel of lights, until they make their way back to Santa’s Village.

At Santa’s Village there will be more lights to enjoy, as well as cookie decorating, ice fishing, moon bounce, carnival games, and Rudolph racers.

Lighting of the Bay at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort

Newport Dunes LIghting of the Bay is one of the popular Orange County CHristmas Events
Photo via Newport Dunes

This year the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort is hosting the Fire and Ice Festival November 24, 2023 – January 1, 2024. They will host one of the largest outdoor skating rinks in all of Orange County, have an Igloo-style bar serving festive drinks, fire dancers on Friday and Saturday nights,live entertainment, and fire tables and S’mores kits available daily.

The resort’s nightly bay lighting will continue through New Year’s Day. Througout the season there will also be a holiday tree lot.

Winter Fest OC

Winter Fest Orange County Christmas Events
Winter Fest OC

Winter Fest OC is back for another year at the Orange County Fair & Event Center from November 24, 2023 to January 7, 2024. Tickets should be purchased in advance online.

Winter Fest OC is home to the only outdoor ice skating trail in Orange County, nine lanes of ice tubing slides, a snow play area, ice bumper cars, carnival rides and games, character meet and greets, and seasonal food for purchase.

There will also be seasonal cocktails, wine, and beer in the all-new holiday lounge, a holiday market, live performances, a nightly tree lighting with snow flurries, and plenty of festive photo opportunities throughout the light-filled experience. 

This year’s event features the all-new “North Pole Journey” immersive walk-through experience, ice skating, a nine-lane 150-foot-long ice tubing slide, ice bumper cars, carnival rides and games, character meetand greets, and seasonal food for purchase.

Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Bazaar

Crystal Cove beach tree

My favorite Christmas tree in all of Orange County is the Christmas Tree on the sand at the Crystal Cove Historic District. This year there will be a tree lighting and holiday bazaar on December 2nd.

Visitors can shop for gifts from local artisans during the Holiday Bazaar, take pictures with Santa at 4pm, enjoy cookies and cocoa via The Beachcomber, make a holiday craft, and enjoy holiday tunes courtesy of the Corona del Mar High School Madrigal Singers. The tree lighting will happen at sunset.

Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy

Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy
Photo via Visit Laguna Beach

A tradition in Laguna Beach year after year, the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy is an Orange County Christmas event that art lovers will not want to miss. This year it runs from November 17 – December 17, 2023 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10am – 7pm.

Enjoy thousands of lights and decorations, purchase handcrafted gifts designed by over 100 artists, listen to live music and carolers, enjoy puppet shows and visits with Santa.

There are fun crafts, art demonstrations, and beautiful displays that kids and parents enjoy, but what we enjoyed the most is getting to throw clay on a pottery wheel and watch the glass blowing demonstrations.

Capistrano Lights

Mission San Juan Capistrano hosts Capistrano Lights
Photo via Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano will host Capistrano Lights on select days December 2- 30, 2023. There will be perfomances by carolers, visits and pictures with Santa, community Christmas trees throughout the grounds, and extended evening hours to enjoy the mission bathed in lights.

At 5:05pm there will be a nightly Christmas tree lighting and music program as well as community trees, kids crafts, and sweet treats for sale. Tickets can be booked online.

Heritage Hill

Candlelight Walk in Heritage Hill Historical Park Lake Forest
Photo via Orange County Parks

Christmas comes to Heritage Hill Historical Park in Lake Forest with the annual Candlelight Walk for two weekends December 8 – 10, 2023 from 5 – 9pm. There will be more than 1,000 luminarias lighting the park’s pathways. Strolling carolers and musicians help set the holiday scene. There will also be holiday crafts for kids, refreshments, and a visit with Santa Claus! 

Holiday Lights will also take place at Heritage Hill December 15 – 17, 2023 from 5 – 9pm. This is an opportunity to wander throught the lights and take holiday photos. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome.

Hikari- A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms has one of the best Orange County Christmas Events
Photo via Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms in Irvine is hosting an after-dark wagon ride and walk-through event called Hikari: A Festival of Lights, November 24 – December 30, 2023. This farm is well known for its u-pick strawberries, melons, veggies and pumpkins throughtout the year, but come Christmas, they have set up a trail of lanterns and lights to explore.

There will be crafts, games, a petting zoo, a produce stand, a holiday market, and plenty of photo opps. They also have a Christmas tree stand. The Tanaka Grill will be open as well if you would like to grab dinner and there will be live music on the weekends.

Ticket prices vary by time selected, and military (active duty or retired) are admitted for free. Tanaka Farms made our list of the best pumpkin patches in Orange County.

Holidayz at the Great Park

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Photo via City of Irvine

The Great Park in Irvine was slow to come into its own, but in the past couple years it has become a great Orange County destination for families. This year it will host Holidayz at the Park from December 2, 2023 to January 7, 2024.

There will be holiday-themed events, displays, and lights. Palm Court will be a great place to take holiday photos complete with holiday lights and an airplane taken over by the Grinch, a nod to El Toro Marine Base which previously occupied the space.

The Artist Studio will be a pop-up museum with various winter themed backdrops perfect for picture taking. It is open Fridays from 5 – 9pm and weekends from 12 – 8pm.

Illuminate Irvine takes place December 2nd from 3 – 7pm and includes holiday activities and music. Attendees are encouraged to donate a new, unwrapped toy. There will also be a holiday market during this event and the next day from 10am – 7pm in Great Park Hangar 244.

There will also be various holiday-themed class to sign up for, and a pajama party drive-in movie night on December 10, 2022. 

Holidays at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente

Casa Lumins Holiday Walk

Throughout December, Casa Romantica, the home of the founder of the city of San Clemente, has several activities and experiences for all ages, and plenty of marvelous ocean views.

Casa Nutcracker will be performed December 7th and 8th by the Orange County Ballet Theater. It is an abridged version with a runtime of one hour and twenty minutes, making it great for children. Casa Kids Cookies and Cocoa with Mrs. Claus takes place on the 9th at 10:15am.

Casa Romantica will be hosting Christmas at the Casa December 15 – 21, 2023 which will include crafts for the kids, lots of lights, and S’mores. Check the event calendar for more details.

Orange County Christmas Events at Theme Parks

Christmas at the Disneyland Resort
Photo via Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Resort

Chistmas at the Disneyland Resort is probably the largest of all Orange County Christmas events. From fabulous seasonal food to vibrant holiday decor and spectacular shows, it simply can’t be beat. The official Disneyland Christmas 2023 season runs November 10- January 7. 

More than 126,000 sparkling lights drip down Sleeping Beauty’s Castle like icicles, and vibrant holiday decorations trim nearly every nook and cranny of the park. The ever-popular “Christmas Fantasy” Parade starring Santa Claus puts us all in the Christmas spirit. Disney traditions continue with Disneyland’s “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks show which is capped off with a snowfall finale.

Several attractions get holiday makeovers like “it’s a small world” Holiday, Haunted Mansion Holiday, Mater’s Jingle Jamboree, and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl. World of Color-Season of Light as well as Disney California Adventure’s Festival of Holidays are seasonal experiences you won’t want to miss either.

Read our comprehensive guide to Christmas at Disneyland Resort for all the details.

Knott’s Merry Farm

Knotts Merry Farm

Orange County’s original theme park is Knott’s Berry Farm. This theme park hosts Knott’s Merry Farm November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024.

The entire park is transformed into a classic holiday festival, with thousands of twinkling lights, seasonal cuisine and treats, and plenty of holiday entertainment.

There is a Christmas Crafts Village, Santa’s Christmas Cabin, a light show in Camp Snoopy and a nightly tree lighting ceremony.

This event celebrates with the “Home for the Holidays” musical revue, “Merry Christmas, Snoopy” ice show, “Snow and Glow” light show, plus parades and carolers.

Orange County Holiday Shows

“A Cinderella Christmas” at the Laguna Playhouse

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Panto theatre is basically an interactive musical theatre production using classic fairy tale stories with modern scripts that twists in pop songs, dancing, and interaction with the audience, tying it up with a big red Christmas bow.

In the 2023 Christmas season, enjoy performances of “A Cinderella Christmas” at the Laguna Playhouse December 7-29, 2023. My daughter and I attend a Panto performance at the Laguna Playhouse every year and have always enjoyed every moment. It is perfect for kids of all ages.

Golden Tickets can be added any child’s ticket for an additional $50 each. This will give children a special onstage sing-along experience during the performance and a gift bag.


Nutcracker Ballet

Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa will be hosting American Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker which will take place December 8-17, 2023. There will also be a special performance of Nutcracker for kids on December 2, 2023. All of these shows are popular and will sell out, so book your tickets early.

The Festival Ballet Theatre will also be performing Nutcracker shows at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. There will an abridged version designed with young kids in mind Friday, December 8, 2023 at 9:30am & 11:30am. The full version will be running December 9 – 24, 2023.

There is also a special Nutcracker Tea Party which takes place before the show. Show tickets can be purchased with the tea party add-on for an additional fee. There will be finger sandwiches, sweet treats, tea, lemonade, and champagne. Children will be gathered to listen to the story of The Nutcracker and visited by some of the characters from the ballet. There will be plenty of great photo opps as well.

Outdoor Ice Skating

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Photo via Pasea Hotel

In 2023, two outdoor ice rinks will be located in Huntington Beach- Oceanfront Ice Rink at Pasea Hotel & Spa and Surf City Ice Rink. Pasea’s Oceanfront Ice Rink features special holiday cocktails, s’mores kits, and even VIP firepits. It will be open December 14, 2023 through Janaury 2, 2024. Tickets can be purchase in advance.

Ever dreamed of ice skating on the beach? The Surf City Rink will be at Plaza Pier at the bease of the Huntington Beach Pier. The rink will be open November 25th – January 8th and tickets can be purchase in advance.

The outdoor ice rink at Irvine Spectrum Center will return for another year. It is located next to the Ferris Wheel and giant Christmas tree. This year the rink will be open November 3, 2023 through January 7, 2024.

Speaking of the giant Christmas tree, it will come alive with a choreographed light and music show every 30 minutes, from 5 pm until 11 pm throughout the Christmas season. There will also be pictures with Santa available November 24 – December 24, 2023 at Santa’s house over by Old Navy.

Remember there is the outdoor ice rink at Winterfest OC as well as the one at Newport Dunes which were both mentioned in separate sections above.

Christmas at Orange County Resorts

Ritza Carlton Laguna Niguel Christmas tree
Photo via Visit Dana Point

Orange County is a major vacation destination and our resorts tend to go all out for the holidays.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel hosts a tree lighting ceremony on November 19, at 4pm to kick off their seasonal Christmas on the Coast festivities. Their lobby is fully decorated for the Christmas season with several trees and an impressive gingerbread display.

They have holiday teas Monday through Thursday at 2:30pm November 27 through December 14, 2023 at RAYA. These are very popular and should be reserved in advance. They also host gingerbread building, teddy bear tea, and holiday storytelling.

The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast is another wonderful place to visit during the holidays. It is always decked out in elegant holiday fashion. Look for Santa Storytime and strolling carolers on weekends in December.

You can also book holiday high teas throughout the season at this resort, as well as a special Sparkling Princess Tea & Storytime on December 30, 2023. There are several special experiences schedule throughout the season including ornament making, wreath making, chocolate tastings, painting class, cookie decorating, and Nutcracker tutu school.

At the Great Wolf Lodge of Anaheim, there are several special events and experiences taking place for 2023. Check out our guide to Christmas at Great Wolf Lodge for more information.