Three Days in the Hudson Valley

Within a few hours north of New York City lies history, culture, food, quiet farms, charming towns, and outdoor attractions with the Hudson River scenery as a backdrop. For three days in December along with 50 of my fellow colleagues and friends from the Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, D.C., we traveled up and down “America’s Rhineland,” primarily focusing on Dutchess County.

26 Reservoir Square
Greetings from 212 feet over the Hudson River! Since 2009, more than three million people have traversed, hiked, ran, cycled, and skated the 1.28-mile Walkway Over the Hudson, the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. Formerly the once-abandoned 1888 Poughkeepsie-Highland Memorial Bridge, it was the first railroad crossing over the Hudson River until a devastating fire in 1974 crippled it and later restored into the linear walkway and park complete with stunning views of the Hudson Valley. For a unique experience, ride the glass-enclosed, 21-story Walkway Elevator from the Poughkeepsie Waterfront to the top to begin your trek across.
6387 Mill St, Rhinebeck, NY 12572, USA
America’s oldest continually operating hotel since 1766, “the Beek” remains a symbol of Rhinebeck’s Dutch and English heritage and still retains much of its colonial charm and structure. It also is a fixture in American history having welcomed guests such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, Franklin D. Roosevelt (he began each of his gubernatorial and presidential campaigns from the front porch), and Bill and Hillary Clinton. According to Beekman Arms lore, George Washington stayed in what is now rooms 21 and 22 during the American Revolution. After hearing about that, I kindly asked the front desk for keys to take a peek, provided no one was staying there, and he lent them to me.
1946 Campus Drive
My CIA educational experience continued in one of the culinary world’s most famous classrooms. Named after France’s greatest chef, Paul Bocuse, the restaurant utilizes modern cooking techniques on classic traditional French fare. The multi-course meal we shared, prepared and served by aspiring young chefs was truly a delight. They showed off their skills first with an apple squash soup with mushroom foie gras ravioli followed with an entrée of strip loin of beef with oxtail bordelaise, marrow-encrusted endive, smashed fingerling potatoes, chanterelles, and gruyére foam ending with a chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream.
4079 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538, USA
The stable and coach house is often and least talked about during guided tours at Hyde Park. Hyde Park is home to the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The historic Hyde Park is just less than 2 hours away from New York City. Step into Springwood, the actual birth home and residence of Franklin while serving his 4-terms as president, beginning during the Great Depression up until World War II. History lovers will delight in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Step back in time at the Presidential Library and Museum, and fully immerse oneself in one of the pivotal moments of world history-- The Great Depression and World War II. Featured here is the stable, which is the least talked about part of the Roosevelt estate. While on the tour, I wandered off into the stable and stumbled upon collections of saddles encased in a glass-covered cabinet. The collections were from Franklin’s father, James, whose love for horses and the outdoors are evident in the way the photos of the father, young Franklin and the various photos of horses are displayed on the walls of the stable.
106 Valkill Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538, USA
Approximately two miles from FDR’s home of Springwood on the Hyde Park Estate, Val-Kill was the home of Eleanor Roosevelt from 1945 to 1962 and remains as she left it. A visit includes an introductory film and a guided tour of Val-Kill Cottage and Stone Cottage, where she hosted family and friends, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and many others. Though intimate and simple, this was the place where she cemented her legacy as a champion of human rights, social justice, humanitarianism, and world peace.
3 Beekman St, Beacon, NY 12508, USA
Housed in a former 1929 Nabisco box printing factory, the museum, which opened in 2003, is a must see for contemporary art buffs. Encompassing over 240,000 square feet, it showcases the Dia Art Foundation’s collection of Minimalist, Conceptual, and Post-Minimalist large-scale works from the 1960’s to the present. As you navigate through the exhibits, you’ll notice most of them are illuminated by natural light, courtesy of the building’s original skylights. Highlights include Andy Warhol’s shadow paintings; Louise Bourgeois’ imposing “Spiderwoman” sculpture; Richard Serra’s “Torqued Eclipse,” a series of vast circular metal sculptures; and Dan Flavin’s florescent light works.
6426 Montgomery St, Rhinebeck, NY 12572, USA
Housed in a former 1825 Baptist church, this New American restaurant features a casual-style bistro and fine-dining area devoted to the Slow Food movement. Chef/owner Josh Kroner combines classic French techniques with the flavors of Italy, Asia, and the American Southwest using organic, free-range, locally sourced fare. Come in for the Uncle Vinny’s rigatoni dish; and for families with kids, their acclaimed organic children’s menu.
47 McCourt Rd, Dover Plains, NY 12522, USA
Taking advantage of the 20,000 sugar and red maple trees surrounding their 800-acre Madava Farms property, located 90 minutes north of Manhattan, husband and wife Robb and Lydia Turner create arguably some of the purest maple syrup, which has graced some of the U.S. and Hudson Valley finest restaurants even appearing at President Obama’s Inaugural Lunch. Head inside the “Sugar House” and learn about the processes involved in the journey from bark to barrel combined with tastings of their certified organic syrup varieties - Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark - and a farm-to-table lunch. Wondering about the secret to its great taste? It lies in their advanced reverse osmosis machines that evaporate the water from the sap without heating it.
5720 State Route 9G
Art and nature lovers will be at home in this living museum, once the fanciful estate of Frederic Edwin Church, a leading pioneer of the 19th-century Hudson River School of art. Its 250 acres features a grand Persian-style mansion filled with his original sketches, paintings, and studies coupled with a diverse decorative arts collection from his travels around the world. Imagine being in one of Church’s canvasses by hiking on its five miles of trails offering striking views of the Hudson River, Catskill and Taconic mountain ranges.
1405 Co Rte 22, Ghent, NY 12075, USA
Surrounded by the Hudson Valley and views of the Catskill Mountains on 300 acres, one of the biggest draws to this internationally renowned arts institution is its 120-acre sculpture park. Known as The Fields, families, dog walkers, art enthusiasts, and even cross country skiers in winter wander unguided through rolling farmland, wetlands, and wooded areas while encountering an intriguing array of nearly 100 permanent and temporary sculptures by prominent contemporary and modern artists such as Richard Nonas, Beverly Pepper, Robert Grosvenor, Rob Fischer, and Philip Grausman. Also within the park lies Architecture Omi, which explores the interplay of architecture and sculpture through the creation of imposing physical structures.
59 Main St, Chatham, NY 12037, USA
Longtime friends Jake Cunningham and Tom Crowell have been making Chatham beer since 2007. Using no additives or fillers, just hops, barley, malt, yeast, and water, this dynamic duo creates regional award-winning beers that have found their way in restaurants and bars from Saratoga to Manhattan. Brews not to miss include the Maple Amber, Porter, 8 Barrel, and their most popular, the Farmer’s Daughter, an IPA made with rye malt from a nearby distillery. Feeling hungry? Pair your beer with The Grazin’ burger.
223 Co Rd 28A, Valatie, NY 12184, USA
No visit to the Empire State would be complete by visiting a family-owned farm. Agriculture is and will always be a driving economic force and a way of life, especially in the Hudson Valley. Bursting with staples such as apples, grapes, strawberries, cabbage, livestock, maple syrup, and dairy, many farms are proud to show off their operations through county fairs, farmers markets, and open houses. Here in Columbia County, A. Ooms & Sons in Valatie beckons families to a 2,000 acre working dairy and crop farm where visitors can hand-feed Holstein cows (there’s 450 of them), see state-of-the-art robotic milking machines, or climb onto John Deere tractors while learning about the four generations of the Ooms Family that have contributed to the farm’s success since 1950 and furthermore, their farming heritage which goes as far back to 1525 in the Netherlands.
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