Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Ulster County, NY

  • Published 2023/03/30

Ulster County is in the heart of the lush Hudson River Valley, New York, with the scenic Hudson River on its eastern edge.

The county was named after the traditional Irish province of Ulster, and Kingston is its county seat.

Much of the county is within the Shawanguk Mountains and the Catskills, home to many gorgeous natural landscapes that offer various outdoor activities.

The county has fascinating historic sites and fun entertainment options besides natural attractions.

The county has endless tourist spots; listing everything here is impossible.

Why not discover them yourself or with family and friends?

After all, this spectacular place is a destination that adventure-seekers will love to explore, whatever the season.

Check out this list of the best things to do in Ulster County, New York.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Castle point at Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Cory Seamer /

Tucked away among the towering Shawanguk Mountains, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is brimming with scenic beauty and various outdoor opportunities.

The park spans over 22,000 acres, featuring dense hardwood forests, several waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, 35 miles of carriage roads, 50 miles of footpaths, clear streams cut into valleys, and sheer cliffs and ledges.

Visitors can enjoy great activities such as hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, swimming, scuba diving, boating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and rock climbing.

A waterfall at Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Jay Gao /

There’s also a campground fully equipped with showers, bathrooms, and cooking facilities to accommodate visitors who want to spend the night outdoors.

The park is just outside New Paltz and is only about an hour and a half from New York City.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of the best outdoor destinations you must not miss.

Trail with foliage at Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Andrew F. Kazmierski /

Challenge Yourself at Turtle Creek Golf Course at Garden Cathay

Along Plattekill Ardonia Road in Wallkill lies Turtle Creek Golf Course at Garden Cathay, one of the Hudson Valley’s hidden gems.

The family-owned golf course features a nine-hole public course that offers a challenging game for beginners and experienced players.

Golfers will enjoy playing in a picturesque setting with rolling hills, relaxing waterfalls, well-manicured fairways and greens, and crystalline pools.

If you want to loosen up and practice your swings before a round, head to its 250 yards long driving range, featuring a grass tee with ten stalls.

Turtle Creek Golf Course at Garden Cathay also has an on-course restaurant where you can eat after a game.

Enjoy your time on the green and admire the scenic views with your best pals at this golfer’s paradise from April to November.

Join a Boat Tour at the Hudson River Maritime Museum

Exterior of the Hudson River Maritime Museum

Brian Logan Photography /

Established in 1979, the Hudson River Maritime Museum is a fun tourist attraction, especially for lovers of all things nautical and history.

Nestled on the banks of the Rondout Creek in Kingston, this historical attraction preserves and showcases the maritime history of the Hudson River and its tributaries.

Marvel at its fascinating collections, including historic vessels, ship models, lifeboats, ice yachts, archival records, photographs, paintings, blueprints, and many more.

At the same time, see a 100-year-old shad boat and learn about America’s steam era of transportation and various industries on the river.

Book a boat tour to get out on the water and enjoy cruising aboard Solaris, its 100% solar-powered tour boat.

Marvel at the striking views of historic Hudson River lighthouses.

You can also learn boating and sailing because the museum is home to the Wooden Boat School and Sailing and Rowing Schools.

The Hudson River Maritime Museum also hosts several festivals and events yearly.

See a Movie at Rosendale Theatre

Exterior of the Rosendale Theatre

Gyrobo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Movie fanatics can watch a movie at the Rosendale Theatre on Main Street in Rosendale.

The original building on the site now occupied by the theater was a blacksmith shop in the 1850s.

The theater opened as the Rosendale Casino in 1905 and began screening films in the 1920s.

After it added a stage, the theater offered burlesque and vaudeville performances in the 1930s.

It became a full-fledged movie theater in 1949 with a screening of Blood on the Moon as its first film.

Rosendale Theatre Collective, a non-profit organization, has owned the theater since 2009 to operate and preserve it.

The historic Rosendale Theatre offers new and second-run films and performing arts events that entertain, educate, and inspire.

Conquer Your Fears at Skydive the Ranch

Free-spirited adrenaline junkies or those looking for a new adventure should look no further than Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner.

The skydiving center can give you a thrilling yet unforgettable experience of jumping off a plane from thousands of feet above the ground.

Have fun soaring over Hudson Valley with breathtaking views of the Shawangunk Mountains, the Catskills, and the Manhattan skyline.

Skydive the Ranch flies large planes that can take up to 11 adventurers; embark on this experience with your friends.

They offer tandem skydiving for first-time jumpers, where they’ll be partnered with licensed professional skydivers.

Skydiving isn’t for the faint of heart.

However, if you’ve got a brave soul, cross skydiving off your bucket list by visiting this one of New York’s premier skydiving destinations.

Bring the Family to Kelder’s Farm

World's largest garden gnome at Kelder's Farm

Angela Holmyard /

With loads of fun attractions that family members of all ages can enjoy, Kelder’s Farm is impossible to miss.

This 200-year-old family farm along U.S. Route 209 in Kerhonkson is a famous agricultural destination for families who want to escape life’s busyness.

Here, you’ll enjoy pick-your-own fruits like apples, strawberries, blueberries, and many vegetables, including tomatoes, pumpkins, and sweet corn.

Visit the big white barn for its farm market with an impressive assortment of locally sourced milk, canned goods, vinaigrettes, cheese, pies, oil, and more.

Take a scenic walk to the beautiful sunflower field and take a photo with Gnome Chomsky, the world’s third-largest garden gnome.

Alpaca pen at Kelder's Farm

Melissa Blair /

Enjoy the petting zoo, mini-golf course, jumping pillow, duck races, corn maze, candy cannon, fishing, fall hayrides, giant board games, playgrounds, and more.

If you get hungry, the farm also offers a variety of food, including pizzas, donuts, ice cream, and drinks.

Check out Kelder’s Farm for a fun outdoor experience with the whole family.

Its open season is from May through Halloween.

Enjoy Healthy Gourmet Dining at Aroma Thyme Bistro

If you love craft beers, fine wines, and boutique spirits, head to Aroma Thyme Bistro on Canal Street in Ellenville.

Established in 2003, Aroma Thyme Bistro prides itself on being a Certified Green Restaurant, dedicated to supporting locals for its innovative menu and a well-stocked bar.

This lively spot serves up farm-to-table, organic, and sustainable cuisine expertly prepared under the guidance of award-winning Chef Marcus Guiliano.

You can try the grilled grass-fed rib-eye steak, portobello mushrooms, chicken tikka masala, or pinsa romana, the latest addition to its menu.

The restaurant has one of the Hudson Valley’s best-stocked bars with 250 craft beers, 250 fine wines, and 250 boutique spirits.

It has received numerous awards, such as Best Ulster County Restaurant, Best Beer List, Wine Spectator Award Winning Wine List, Best Organic/Healthy, and more.

You’ll always find Aroma Thyme Bistro delightful because it offers many options for every taste and diet.

Visit the Saugerties Lighthouse

Exterior of the Saugerties Lighthouse

Nancy Kennedy /

As a Hudson River landmark, the Saugerties Lighthouse is a restored historic lighthouse built in 1869 as a navigation guide to ships passing the area.

The lighthouse includes a parlor, kitchen, museum, gift shop, keeper’s quarters, and overnight bed-and-breakfast lodge in the two-guest bedroom.

The Saugerties Lighthouse welcomes visitors and offers docent-guided tours to dig deeper into its history and early keepers.

Front porch of the Saugerties Lighthouse

Nancy Kennedy /

It also has a trail visitors can hike, a picnic area along the river banks, and panoramic views of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Mountains.

Check out this historical attraction in Saugerties and why it’s a popular destination.

Entrance gate of the Saugerties Lighthouse

KMarsh /

Camp, Fish, or Hunt at Sundown Wild Forest

A waterfall at Sundown Wild Forest

Colin D. Young /

The Sundown Wild Forest is whopping 30,100 acres, covering a massive swath in the southeastern Catskills.

This place has a varied topography and a spectacular mix of natural features, including mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and rivers.

Visitors can find popular hiking destinations like Ashokan High Point, Vernooy Kill Falls, Kanape Valley, and Denman Mountain Trail.

Nature trail at Sundown Wild Forest

Mad Hare Imagery /

Reward yourself with unparalleled views of the Catskill peaks and Rondout Reservoir by hiking to the Red Hill Fire Tower.

The wild forest is also famous for primitive camping, fishing, hunting, and snowmobiling and is home to various birds and wildlife.

The Sundown Wild Forest is in Denning, Wawarsing, and Olive in Ulster County and Neversink in Sullivan County.

Go Climbing or Cross-Country Skiing at the Mohonk Preserve

Another splendid natural treat in Ulster County is the Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz.

The nature preserve covers over 8,000 acres of forests, mountain ridges, fields, ponds, streams, and other unique, alluring features in the Shawangunk Mountains.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy many adventures at this natural paradise yearly.

Experiences include hiking 70 miles of carriage roads and trails, biking on historic streets, and climbing the world-renowned Gunks cliffs.

Spring Farm Trailhead is ideal for horseback riding, while groomed and natural terrain is a famous winter destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Besides endless outdoor exploration activities throughout all seasons, the Mohonk Preserve offers many educational opportunities.

Meet Rescued Animals at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

Pigs at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

EQRoy /

Animal lovers will love the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties.

With over 150 acres in the Hudson Valley, this non-profit organization serves as a home for farmed animals rescued from cruelty and abandonment.

Besides being a refuge for abused animals, it raises awareness against animal cruelty.

Welcome hut at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

EQRoy /

Catskill Animal Sanctuary offers guided tours and hosts various programs and events that educate visitors.

It also offers camps for children and overnight stays at its 200-year-old newly renovated farmhouse, The Homestead.

Moreover, it also accepts volunteers who wish to help care for the animals at the sanctuary.

Sheep at Catskill Animal Sanctuary

EQRoy /

Put On Your Game Face at Wood’n Wheel Family Fun Center

If you’re looking for a complex with indoor and outdoor attractions, you will love Wood’n Wheel Family Fun Center.

As its name suggests, this amusement center is perfect for families and kids.

It is conveniently located along Broadway, Route 9W, in Ulster Park, New York.

Put your game face on in the laser tag arena and redemption arcade, or try other indoor attractions like roller or skating and riding bumper cars.

For outdoor attractions, jump 22 feet on the bungee trampoline, climb a 26-foot rock wall, or try hillside tubing, outdoor inflatable adventures, and paintball games.

Wood’n Wheel Family Fun Center is also great for events like kids’ birthday parties.

Take a Scenic Stroll on the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park

People along the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Did you know that the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historical Park is the largest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world?

The historic bridge dates back to 1889, originally opening as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge.

The Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park crosses the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County and Highland in Ulster County.

Bicycle ride along the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park

365 Focus Photography /

Millions of people walk, stroll, bike, and skate on the bridge to soak up the stunning panoramic views of the Hudson River, its charming surroundings, and the sunset.

The bridge is free year-round except during special events, so seize the opportunity to enjoy this popular tourist spot.

Trail of the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park

365 Focus Photography /

Get Spooked at Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses

If you want a fun and scary experience, head to Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, one of America’s most famous haunted houses.

It has received many awards and honors nationwide.

AOL News named it #1 World’s Best Haunted Hayride in America, while HauntWorld also named it #1 in America for two straight years.

It also has appeared on Consumer News and Business Channel, The Travel Channel, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and more.

It’s set in a historic 1793 stone house, initially a horse exchange and tavern on a 65-acre property.

Ten attractions will scare you off your socks with jump scares, such as The Horseman’s Night of the Shadows, The Lunar Motel, and Evil Reaping: Dark Harvest Corn Maze.

This haunted house is skillfully created with creepy animatronics, amazing special effects, horrible costumes, an eerie atmosphere, plus well-trained actors.

Feel a heart-pounding and thrilling experience with friends and family at Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park.

Ride a Trolley at the Trolley Museum of New York

A trolley at the Trolley Museum of New York

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

One of the top attractions in Ulster County is the Trolley Museum of New York.

Downtown Kingston on the Rondout Waterfront has been its location since 1983.

It’s an excellent place to learn about the history of railways since it preserves and showcases some of the last trolley cars still operating in New York.

Interior of a trolley at the Trolley Museum of New York

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Enjoy various exhibits and displays of stationary trolleys and subway cars from the United States and Europe.

Likewise, enjoy an exciting excursion ride on a trolley that runs one and a half miles from downtown to the banks of the Hudson River, which offers a scenic view.

The Trolley Museum of New York also has a visitor’s center, gift shop, video viewing facilities, and observation areas overlooking the restoration process.

Interior of the Trolley Museum of New York

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Final Thoughts

Ulster County is truly a destination for discovery and the perfect place for adventure-seekers.

You will find fascinating historical sites, splendid natural attractions, and fun activities in this New York county.

Enjoy your excellent trip with the best things to do in Ulster County, New York!

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