New York’s first capital is home to some of the most interesting historical & art attractions in the State – from museums to murals, find out the top 5 places to visit in Kingston, NY.
#1. Trolley Museum of New York
The Trolley Museum of New York has been a local institution & travellers’ favourite since opening in 1983.
The small museum has exhibits on the history of rail transportation, particularly in the Hudson Valley.
There are old photographs, videos & running train sets that the kids are bound to love.
You can look through the large windows to the restoration shed below & also wander down to have a closer look at some of the trolleys being worked on by volunteers.
For us here at DIY Travel HQ the highlight of the Trolley Museum of New York is taking a ride on of the restored street cars – it makes it #1 on our list of places to visit in Kingston, NY.
The trolleys depart from the museum & also just up the road at the T.R. Gallo Memorial Park.
It’s a slow & scenic 1.5 mile journey along the Hudson River to Kingston Point. Look out for the Rondout Lighthouse standing alone on the water.
It was rainy & misty when we visited though that just added to the atmosphere of days gone by…
It would be great if there was commentary along the way however the conductor did give us a brief speech when we reached the end of the line.
We were given 5 minutes to disembark & walk around.
We crossed the bridge into Kingston Point Park where there were lots of picnic tables – there are excellent restaurants in Kingston but this would also be a great spot for lunch. You could then take a leisurely stroll & return on a later trolley.
Back at the Trolley Museum, we explored the grounds further.
We wandered through a couple of the trains on display, including PATH car 143 that was saved from the ruins of the World Trade Centre terror attack.
There’s also a police car & wreckage that are going to be part of a new 9/11 exhibition.
Don’t miss a ride on the trolley – it was one of our favourite experiences on our Kingston weekend getaway from NYC.
Trolley Museum admission & trolley fare: $7.00
#2. Senate House
Kingston was the 1st capital of New York & played an important role in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
1 year after Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the elected representatives of the state met for the first time in this limestone building in 1777.
Later in the year, the British attacked & set fire to Kingston, forcing the government & residents to flee – the Burning of Kingston is commemorated every year in the city with festivities & historical reenactments.
The 1676-built Senate House survived & it’s now open to the public.
We took a guided tour of the 4-room building which was furnished as it would’ve been in the 18th & 19th centuries.
The kitchen & living room offered a glimpse of yesteryear & our costumed guide Erin added to the atmosphere. She was also really knowledgeable & passionate about the era.
We also visited the very room where the New York Senate first met. It’s always special being in the same spot where momentous occasions took place & that’s what makes the Senate House one of the top places to visit in Kingston, NY.
The Senate House State Historic Site also includes the Senate House Museum & The Loughran House.
The Senate House Museum tells the story of Kingston alongside the largest collection of the renowned local painter John Vanderlyn.
The Loughran House hosts exhibits & is a popular reception venue for weddings.
The Senate House State Historic Site is a wonderful place to visit in the heart of Kingston’s beautiful Stockade district.
Senate House Museum & Tour: $7.00
#3. 0+ Murals
Every October Kingston hosts the unique O+ Festival where artists are invited to create large-scale murals across Kingston in exchange for complimentary health care.
How cool is that?!
Besides watching artists at work on their murals, the 3 day event also features all sorts of music, art & wellness festivities in different venues around the city.
It’s an awesome time to visit Kingston but because the murals are permanent, you can view them year-round.
Armed with an O+ mural map from our accommodation at Best Western Plus Kingston, we did a self-guided walking tour in the Stockade District.
The historical area was the least likely place we would expect to find so much street art but the project really seemed to be embraced by local residents & businesses.
We loved everything about the art & community empowerment of the 0+ murals – put it on your list of the places to visit in Kingston, NY!
O+ Kingston Festival ticket: from $50.00
#4. Hudson River Maritime Museum
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is located in the Rondout area of Kingston.
It was the most important port between New York & Albany in the 19th century when coal was transported from Pennsylvania over the D&H Canal.
You can visit a few old the old locks at the D&H Canal Museum which is one of several attractions in Ulster County that are within a 30 minute drive from Kingston.
Prosperity in Rondout has ebbed & flowed over the years though the historic waterfront district is curently in a phase of revitalization – with the Hudson River Maritime Museum leading the way.
We were pleasantly surprised by the size & depth of the museum, especially as we’re no naval buffs.
There were exhibits of boat models of all shapes & sizes including steamboats, iceboats & tugboats.
We enjoyed learning about the industrial & maritime history along the Hudson River.
The “Lighthouses of the Hudson River” exhibit was particularly interesting as we are slowly checking them off our list.
So far we’ve visited the Little Red Lighthouse, Hudson-Athens Lighthouse and coming up next on our list of places to visit in Kingston, NY is the Rondout Lighthouse….
Hudson River Martime Museum Entrance Fee: $7.00
#5. Rondout Lighthouse
The Rondout Lighthouse that stands today is actually the 3rd version to have been built on the site.
The first one was constructed in 1837 & made of wood. It was damaged in a storm & replaced with a sturdier stone structure in 1867.
Sailors complained that the new lighthouse didn’t give off enough light to mark the entrance to Rondout Creek so a new brick lighthouse was built in 1913.
100 years on, it remains standing & it still functions as a navigational light on the Hudson River.
Weekend tours to Rondout Lighthouse run all through the summer & it’s one of the top places to visit in Kingston, NY.
Departing from the Hudson River Maritime Museum dock we loved the little pontoon boat ride out to the lighthouse.
There were old barges & tugboats along the narrow creek, birds tweeting in the trees & private sails enjoying the good life. It’s always so relaxing to be on the water!
At the Rondout Lighthouse we were met by a volunteer who showed us through the 3 floors of the tower.
Our guide was informative & entertaining as he talked about the various lighthouse keepers over the years, including the stoic Catherine Murdock who served for 40 years.
She took over the lighthouse after her husband died by drowning. Her next two husbands also drowned… our guide had some suspicions about that!
The 3rd level was a modern-style attic space that we didn’t expect to find in a lighthouse.
Squeezing up to the top, we reached the light beacon & observation deck where we enjoyed 360 degree views of the Hudson River.
While the interior of the Rondout Lighthouse was decorated with antique furnishings it felt a little rundown & in need of some TLC.
If you don’t manage to join a tour, you can see the lighthouse on the fantastic Kingston trolley ride.
Rondout Lighthouse Tour: $20.00
* We visited these attractions in Kingston as guests of Ulster County Tourism. We thank Fran, the Trolley Museum of New York, Senate House, O+ Festival, Hudson River Maritime Museum & Rondout Lighthouse for their hospitality.
Visited in September 2017