If the Hamptons are where New Yorkers go to hobnob with swanky sunbathers, the Hudson Valley is where they travel for antiquing, camping, and washing away stress with quaintness. Harriman State Park attracts nature lovers from around the country, while Beacon is an artsy getaway with artisanal shops and interesting museums. Before you plan your trip to the region, check out our guide for where to go in the Hudson Valley.
History buffs and foodies both have good reasons to stop by Hyde Park, which lies 90 miles north of New York City and offers excellent views of the Hudson River. Fans of President Franklin D. Roosevelt can visit the FDR Presidential Library & Museum and Springwood, his estate that was also known as the “summer White House.” Daily tours of Val Kill Cottage, the former home and office of Eleanor Roosevelt, are available from May through October. The Vanderbilt Mansion, an impressively preserved 19th-century mansion once owned by the well-to-do family of Gloria Vanderbilt, is just a short ride away. (Shuttle buses are available between the two.) Gourmands will probably want to grab a bite at one of the restaurants at The Culinary Institute of America. The offerings include traditional French cuisine (at The Bocuse Restaurant) and farm-to-table fare (at American Bounty Restaurant) as well as more casual cafes. Make reservations in advance. Lodging in Hyde Park is limited, with a mix of fine budget choices, like the Roosevelt Inn, and slightly pricier B&Bs, like the Journey Inn.
Once a mill town, Beacon is now an artsy enclave that has several artisanal shops and abandoned sites worth checking out. The Dia:Beacon is probably unlike any other museum you’ve visited. Almost all of the sculptures and artwork are on a grand scale, including notable pieces created by Donald Judd and Richard Sera. If you’re inspired to buy a few of your own masterpieces, Beacon has several crafty boutiques around town, including Reservoir & Wood and the Hudson Valley Maker and Artisan Cooperative. If you want to stretch your legs even more, hike up Mount Beacon or check out one the abandoned sites around town. Bannerman Castle was once the arsenal for a thriving Army-Navy surplus business. Now, it’s an amazing crumbling structure located on an island just 1,000 feet from Beacon’s Hudson River shoreline. For a little maritime adventure, you can rent a kayak from Mountain Tops Outfitters. Several boutique hotels are also located in town, such as The Beacon Hotel and The Inn and Spa at Beacon.
In the past 50 years or so, Hudson has transformed from an industrial hub into a into a graceful bedroom community. The still-intact storefronts and homes that date back to the 19th century make this town of 6,000 residents an enchanting place to visit. Several of the local Queen Anne mansions and Victorian houses have been remade into B&Bs. Browsers, take heed: Hudson has over 50 antique shops, about 20 art galleries, and a main drag chock-full of artisanal boutiques and restaurants, like Flowerkraut and Lil’ Deb’s Oasis. Those who want a quick nibble of nature can take in the views of the Hudson River or trek up Stissing Mountain (which has beautiful views of the Hudson Valley).
Don’t come to Woodstock looking for the site of the legendary music festival. Max Yasgur’s farm is actually 50 miles away at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where artists like Steely Dan and Kevin Hart still perform. That said, there’s still a lot of groovy culture to enjoy in Woodstock proper. The area has long been attractive to artists, even before the beatniks and hippies popped up. The Woodstock Artists Association showcases contemporary artists, and has an archive dating back to the early 20th century that includes write-ups and recordings of previous creative conferences. Interested in shopping for crystals? Stop by Brightwater Gallery to pick up jewelry and accessories by Claire Francis Brightwater (who also happens to be a psychic). If you’re looking to connect with nature, put on your shoes and hike up Overlook Mountain. Stop by the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist monastery along the way, if you have time. The trek is a little over two miles and rewards folks with beautiful views of West Kill Mountain and the Hudson River. When you work up an appetite, head to Provisions, a new addition to the scene that serves up hearty food and sandwiches. Many of the places to stay in Woodstock tend toward fanciful B&Bs, like the Enchanted Manor of Woodstock and The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream.
Although a lot of people don’t think of New York’s state capital as a Hudson Valley town, it is. Albany was actually the first European settlement in New York, and is still one of the oldest-surviving. The New York State Museum traces the city’s Western history with archaeological digs as well as artifacts from Native American communities that pre-dated them. Tour the New York State Capitol building, a grand old structure with carved wood and polished marble that was completed in 1899. One of Albany’s first families, the Rensselaers, built the Cherry Hill mansion in 1787, and their descendants eventually bequeathed it to New York State. You can now peruse over 70,000 objects that have been a part of the family’s history. The city also has several impressive theaters, including the Palace and The Egg. Notable dining spots include Provence for innovative French cuisine, Cafe Capriccio for Italian food, and Jack’s Oyster House for fresh seafood. Chain hotels, like the Renaissance, are a big part of the lodging market in Albany, but interesting B&Bs like HideAway Haven can also be found.
Best known as the setting for that headless horseman tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the village of Sleepy Hollow is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the U.S. Author Washington Irving was inspired by the town’s Old Dutch Church -- completed in 1865 and still standing -- and its adjoining cemetery. But most of Sleepy Hollow, which lies about 30 minutes north of New York City, is more endearing than unnerving. The walkable downtown has several folksy food options like the Farmers Market at Patriots Park and Tarry Tavern. You can also get a taste of the good life in one of the local mansions -- John D. Rockefeller’s estate, Kykuit, or the Gothic Revival-style Lyndhurst Mansion. Of course, if visit around Halloween, keep your eyes peeled for a horseman and many horrifying festivities.
Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks
Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks are often lumped together, but they’re actually two separate destinations that border one another. Harriman is the second-largest park in New York State. Bear Mountain is only about 5,000 acres. Together, they offer over 200 hiking trails (including a section of the Appalachian Trail) and over 30 lakes that are great for swimming and boating. You can also camp, mountain bike, and, in the winter, ski down many parts of the mountains.
Just 50 minutes north of New York City, Cornwall is more artsy and inspiring than most commuter towns. The Storm King Art Center is a 500-acre outdoor art gallery where sculptures and art installations are set against a canvas of green hills and wildflowers. Keep in mind that some of the destinations around or near Cornwall have street addresses in smaller geographic designations. (Storm King is technically in New Windsor, for example.) A stop at Jones Farm, one of the few surviving small farms in the area, will feel like a trip back in time. Visitors can buy fresh produce and homemade pies at its country store. Storm King State Park (in Cornwall-On-Hudson) has several challenging hikes, and you may stumble upon artifacts left behind from early settlers who inhabited the area. For a little less strenuous workout, you can browse the speciality gift shops in the area, like Brid’s Closet and The Bonnie Brae. Most of the accommodations in the area tend to be motels and B&Bs, such as the Cromwell Manor Historic Inn and Newburgh’s Hampton Inn.
Part of Ulster County, Saugerties is chock-full of charming cafes, shops, and bed-and-breakfasts. Saugerties Lighthouse, part-landmark part-B&B, offers great Hudson River views, nature trails, and even a museum. Those who wish to stay overnight can do so in one of the two rooms here (book in advance). Also worth checking out: Inquiring Minds Bookstore, Hudson Valley’s largest independent bookstore, which has new releases, classics, and hard-to-find titles, plus a quaint cafe. At the Saugerties Farmers Market, visitors can stock up seasonal fruits and veggies, jams, artisanal breads and cheeses, desserts, and more. For more local fare, head to Miss Lucy’s Kitchen, where the farm-to-table menu highlights locally sourced ingredients.
Many New Yorkers speak of the Hudson Valley and Catskills as two distinct destinations, but a portion of the latter actually falls in the Middle and Upper Hudson Valley. Catskill Park, much of which is situated in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, is all about family-friendly fun (think hiking, camping, and fishing). For those who like to rough it, the Devil’s Path is one tough hike with almost-impossible vertical sections, slippery rocks, and the occasional black bear. At 4,204 feet, Slide Mountain is the tallest peak in the Catskills, but a lot shorter and easier climb than the Devil’s Path. If you prefer a less treacherous outing, shop at Antiques at Rick’s Barn in Roxbury or pick up some vintage threads at Mystery Spot. Just be sure to check the hours before you go. Accommodations range in the Catskills, from The Roxbury, a hip boutique hotel in Roxbury, to the cushy Stamford Gables in Stamford, New York. Keep in mind that there’s also a town named Catskill that’s very quaint, but shouldn’t be confused with the popular mountain range area.
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