We went on a bear hunt – and actually saw a bear. Two bears, in fact.
An hour’s drive from Manhattan is Bear Mountain State Park, which we’d happily recommend to families of any age.
We had such a brilliant day. Got up pre-dawn (ugh) and drove our rental car up the motorway deceptively called West Street, over the George Washington Bridge… and suddenly you’re in the countryside. The leaves are just starting to turn golden and orange, astonishingly beautiful.
After two months on one of the world’s busiest islands, it felt wonderful to see such long distances with practically no sign of man. You could just glimpse the Manhattan sky line in the very far distance, and the occasional suspension bridge crossing the Hudson River. Apart from that, just densely wooded hills and misty valleys. Brilliant. Both girls loved scrambling over the rocks at the summit, Perkins Memorial Tower.
Once we’d thoroughly explored the top, we nipped back in the car and drove down to the Trailside Museums and Zoo. The buildings looked very like Kellerman’s from Dirty Dancing, causing me to geekily hum “Join hands and hearts and voices, voices, hearts and haaaaaaaands” for a while. The zoo trail included part of the route taken during the War of Independence from us Brits, and a slightly bizarre life size sculpture of Walt Whitman up on a boulder.
Having got there so early, it was fairly empty and T and B could take their time exploring the zoo through the woodland. There was a beaver, a porcupine, a three-legged fox, some coyotes, and various eagles. Most of the animals appeared to have been injured and taken into keeping, though we’re not so sure about the two black bears in an enormous compound.
The girls’ other highlight was the enormous indoor Merry-Go-Round with beautifully painted woodland animals to ride for just a dollar each.
A brilliant family day out – we’ll be back.
We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day.
We’re not scared.
If you’re thinking of visiting yourselves, here are a few tips:
- Get there early. The view is not half so majestic when hoardes of people start waving their Selfie Sticks around
- If you’re driving from Manhattan, take the upper level of the George Washington bridge, not the lower. That way you can miss all the red lights and roundabouts and get straight on the Palisades Interstate Parkway north. It’s a beautiful, straight road so a good place to adjust to driving on the other side of the road. Tolls are $13, and parking is $8
- The whole route through the woodlands to the zoo is paved, so you could easily bring the stroller
- Great place for a picnic, there are tables dotted about and plenty of open lawns
This week’s highs and lows:
High: Seeing the leaves changing colour from the top of Bear Mountain. So brilliant to get out of the city for a day and see a bit more of the area.
Low: Realising the school moms thought I had bad gas when I said “full of beans”. They all looked a bit shocked and stepped back.