Hudson Valley tourist sites expect lots of visitors this summer as travel heats up

·4 min read

The folks who run the Hudson Valley's tourist sites and the people in county tourism offices who send visitors their way are unanimous.

The summer is going to be a busy one, with many people taking to the road.

These tourism professionals say they are confident of that, despite gas prices now creeping over $5 a gallon and an economy being battered by some of the worst inflation numbers in the past 40 years.

"Our phone is ringing off the hook," said Mike Fisher of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, where the weekend air show season just got under way June 18 and will run through Oct. 16. "We're very optimistic."

At Legoland New York in Goshen, Matt Besterman offered a similarly rosy outlook.

"The season has been going great so far since we opened in April," said Besterman, the site's public relations manager.

Legoland already has had a number of days where the park was at capacity and couldn't admit any more guests.

They're coming from some considerable distances: all over the Northeast, and as far away as Virginia and Maryland. This will be Legoland's first full season, after a phased opening last year.

Legoland has also been able to staff about 1,500 of the positions needed to serve those visitors. They're known on-site as "model citizens."

Besterman said they still need to fill about 200 positions, and they hope to get that done at a couple of hiring events.

More: Your 2021 guide to parks, activities, live music in the Lower Hudson Valley

Claire Mawhiney, 7, from Oakland, NJ rides Rogue Riders at Legoland New York in Goshen, NY on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.
Claire Mawhiney, 7, from Oakland, NJ rides Rogue Riders at Legoland New York in Goshen, NY on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

For those planning to drive to places like Legoland this summer, Robert Sinclair Jr., senior manager of public affairs for AAA Northeast, said some relief might be coming at the pump soon.

When the price of crude oil hit $120 a barrel, that was the point when retail gas prices across the country started hitting record levels.

On June 16, Sinclair said the crude oil price had fallen below the $120 per barrel level, and gas prices should fall in response to that.

"But prices tend to rise like a rocket and fall like a feather, so some short-term relief might be had, but it may take a while," Sinclair said.

Lucy Redzeposki, director of economic development and tourism for Rockland County, said the county benefits from its closeness to New York City.

And, she noted, Rockland County has capped its share of gasoline sales tax at $2 a gallon, and expects to see many drivers heading up there from the city, or maybe even biking.

Travel is expected to increase in the Northeast this summer.
Travel is expected to increase in the Northeast this summer.

About one-third of Rockland County is parkland, so many will be heading there.

Stony Point alone offers the Penguin Rep Theatre for entertainment, a Revolutionary War battlefield for history buffs and a lighthouse among its tourist attractions

The four-story Palisades Center is not your typical mall and is popular with tourists, with attractions including indoor golf. And Bear Mountain at the north end of the county offers family attractions from swimming and fishing, to a zoo.

"We're expecting a lot of people who have saved up money they didn't spend during the pandemic," Redzeposki said. "We're poised for a very strong summer."

Some tourist attractions require more pre-planning, like the Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland in Ulster County. In addition to unlimited horseback riding, they also offer swimming and entertainment.

"We're booked solid through Labor Day already," said Steven Vittoria, their marketing director.

Noel Sanchez from Dominican Republic rides Rogue Riders at Legoland New York in Goshen, NY on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.
Noel Sanchez from Dominican Republic rides Rogue Riders at Legoland New York in Goshen, NY on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

But another local attraction for which Vittoria is also the spokesman — Splash Down, a water park in Fishkill — is also off to a strong start. It began opening only on weekends and just shifted to a daily schedule.

"The operation so far has been pretty strong," Vittoria said.

But he agreed that with gas prices and the state of the economy in general, "a lot of people are not going to travel too far. I think stay-cation is still a very important part of the language."

In Sullivan County, which relies heavily on tourism, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the hospitality industry.

But Sullivan County, too, is counting on a busy summer with lots of tourists heading their way.

The entrance to SplashDown Beach in Fishkill on May 25, 2021.
The entrance to SplashDown Beach in Fishkill on May 25, 2021.

Roberta Bryan-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Visitors Association, said the excitement already was building before Memorial Day.

"We're going to have a banner summer," said Bryan-Lockwood. "And with our location close to New York City, we expect a lot of cars to travel here."

Bethel Woods, whose stage was built on the site of the original Woodstock Festival, has a significant schedule of concerts through the summer, she said.

And the Delaware River, a popular site for boating, rafting and other water activities, will be as busy as ever, Bryan-Lockwood said.

The Forestburgh Playhouse is presenting another season of Broadway Under the Stars.

On any given weekend, there are at least a dozen events worth attending, and they are already drawing good numbers, Bryan-Lockwood said. She expects that to continue through the summer and into the fall, as well.

"It's so rewarding to see full parking lots," Bryan-Lockwood said.

Mike Randall covers breaking news for the Times Herald-Record, the Poughkeepsie Journal and the Journal News/lohud. Reach him at mrandall@th-record.com or on Twitter @MikeRandall845.

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: NY's Hudson Valley anticipates busy season for travel, tourists