Upstate New York is a vast region that offers limitless choices for family fun. Utica, in central New York has several free family friendly activities that can be the highlight of a budget trip.

1. The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute 

Housed in a gorgeous Phillip Johnson building, the Museum of Art is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It features works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Jackson Pollack and Georgia O’Keefe.

The free museum has an interactive gallery for kids up to age 8, with art projects, books and a model of the museum that kids can decorate. The museum is connected to a Victorian mansion, Fountain Elms, filled with period furniture and housing the museum’s café.

2. Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art

The Wellin Museum, on the campus of Hamilton College, opened in 2012. The small museum offers free guided tours by student docents on Saturdays. Admission is always free.

fort3. Union Station

Check out the architecture highlights of historic Union Station.  The marble columns rival those of NYC’s Grand Central Terminal. The station serves Amtrak, regional bus lines, and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The station is across the street from The Children’s Museum of History, Natural History, Science & Technology.

4. Fort Stanwix National Monument

Fort Stanwix, in Rome, has an interactive visitors’ center and ranger-led tours, all free. You can see how soldiers lived during the French and Indian War – but note that the fort is neither heated nor air conditioned (the visitors center is comfortably climate controlled). If you are interested in cannons, the rangers might offer a demonstration.