Stretching 150 miles from the tip of Manhattan to Albany, New York’s Hudson Valley is a vast and varied region offering a multitude of experiences. With hundreds of miles of sandstone and granite cliffs, cattail-lined riverbanks, orchards, farmland and forests, the scale of its geography and the scope of its history are daunting. Easily accessible by train from New York City or as an autumn road trip, the Hudson Valley region has something for everyone. Here are some of my favorite highlights.
To say the Hudson River has seen its share of history is a gross understatement. Henry Hudson first sailed the river that would later bear his name in 1609 aboard the Half Moon. The centuries following brought even more key players in American history including George Washington and the infamous Benedict Arnold. You can explore the river’s history at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.
Today, the river is much easier to explore. In Poughkeepsie, you can walk across the river via the Walkway Over the Hudson. The 212 feet tall, 1.28 mile linear walkway spans the Hudson River and connects to bike trails on either end. When it opened in 2009, it claimed the title of the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.
Venture to West Point where countless figures in American military history received their training before leading the country in battle. A walking tour of the campus overlooking the river provides a glimpse into the history of the prestigious campus with some entertaining tales. Did you know General Douglas MacArthur’s mother moved into a room on the campus to keep tabs on him while he was in school?
Delve into American Presidential history at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. For more insight into the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, take a tour through Top Cottage, the Roosevelt country home. This is the home where the couple eventually retired and was the place where they entertained everyone from politicians to members of royalty.
Also in Hyde Park is Val-Kill, the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady. Eleanor Roosevelt moved to Val-Kill after her husband’s death. Val-Kill played a prominent role in Eleanor’s movement to provide work for rural workers and women.
If mansions are your thing, then the Hudson Valley is your dream destination. The region has 27 historic estates including the home to four generations of Rockefellers - Kykuit. Designed by Delano & Aldrich in 1913 for John D. Rockefeller, the estate is surrounded by exquisitely landscaped grounds and gardens. Inside, the walls are adorned with works by Chagall, Picasso, Warhol and many other renowned artists.
At the Philipsburg Manor a woodland path winds through the property by a gristmill, garden and farm which offer demonstrations to visitors. This 52,000-acre manor was created through a royal charter granted to Frederick Philipse I in 1693.
In Hyde Park, the Vanderbilt Estate sits on 200-plus acres and is one of the oldest Hudson Valley estates. The centerpiece of the site is the 54 room Beaux Arts mansion built between 1896 and 1899. The house showcases all the modern amenities only a Vanderbilt could afford at that time, including plumbing, forced hot air, central heating, and electric lighting.
The Hudson Valley has served as an inspiration to artists for centuries. Today art galleries are abundant in the villages and towns of the region. However, two of the most interesting art displays in the Hudson Valley are outside: the Empire State Art Collection and Storm King Sculpture Center.
Formed under Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, the Empire State Art Collection features 92 paintings, sculptures and tapestries created by artists of the 1960s and 1970s including Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell to name a few. It is referred to as the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum.
Another artistic highlight of the Hudson Valley is the Storm King Sculpture Center. Over 100 sculptures are displayed across a 500-acre farm amid woodlands, hills and fields providing a unique outdoor art experience.
As home to the Culinary Institute of America located in Hyde Park, it should come as no surprise that superb cuisine is a cornerstone of the Hudson Valley experience. Visitors to the CIA can tour the campus and dine in one of its restaurants to sample the creations of tomorrow’s best chefs.
Choose from a culinary journey through France at The Bocuse, or go with authentic regional Italian at Restorante Caterina de’Medici. If you want something more casual, you’ll find familiar foods with a CIA touch for lunch at The Post Road Brew House. Or sample the seasons of the valley at the American Bounty.
Want to get involved in the process? Day long cooking, baking and wine classes are available. Or for a more immersive culinary experience sign up for the multi-day Boot Camp Culinary Vacation.
The Hudson Valley is the oldest wine-making region in the country. Since the early 19th-century, Brotherhood Winery has been producing wines earning it the title of longest continuously operating winery. Brotherhood even managed to survive Prohibition by producing sacramental wines for the churches in the region. Explore the evolution of the winery and of wine-making in America with a guided tour followed by a tasting of the vineyard’s best vintages.
Above all, the Hudson Valley offers an abundance of nature. The Hudson Highlands State Park has nearly 6,000 acres of untouched land. Hundreds of hiking trails including the Appalachian Trail run through the park. Boating tours, kayaking and canoeing are also available. And if spotting wildlife—including rare birds—is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.
Have you explored the Hudson Valley?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Terri Marshall is a New York City based freelance writer whose work includes travel, spirits, and all things chocolate. Terri's work appears in several publications. She has been a featured guest on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel radio program and Denver's KZKO Radio Morning Express show. Terri will not hesitate to go to the source for great chocolate - even if that means hiking through the jungle and picking cacao pods herself.
Happiest when she's globetrotting, Terri has covered destinations all over the United States, Europe, and into Central and South America. Favorite adventures include reindeer driving in Norway and fishing for piranhas in the Amazon jungle of Peru. You can keep up with Terri's adventures on her website www.TrippingwithTerri.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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