Opened in 2003 in a former Nabisco factory, the DIA is a must for art lovers. The collection includes Warhol, Bourgeois, Chamberlain and Richter, with four massive Richard Serra installations forming an emotional center and definite highlight. The DIA is close enough to the Beacon train station that one can walk. But considering that the actual property of the art center is not large (it won’t take hours to explore), it’s best to have a car so you can end the visit with a meal in nearby Cold Springs. Closed on Tuesday.
Hiking the Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley offers incredible hiking, ranging from total beginner trails (basically scenic walks in a park) to challenging, steep terrain that includes some climbing. On the western side of the river, one scenic destination is the Minnewaska State Park, home to three lakes that make for beautiful vistas. On the eastern side of the Hudson, there are many trails with river views, including the easy, aptly named Poet Walk, and the difficult, hopefully not aptly named, Breakneck Ridge.
If you are driving up the eastern side of the Hudson, stop by Hudson River Outfitters, in Cold Spring, where a variety of maps and equipment is on sale. Or, for help narrowing down your options, visit Mike Todd’s incredibly helpful, charming Hike The Hudson Valley Website (www.hikethehudsonvalley.com). He explains each hike with humor, honestly and care, and —best of all — he has also created a Google Maps listing where each trail begins. It’s an invaluable online resource for exploring this region.
The hilltop estate of Frederic Church, one of the most famous and well-known painters of the Hudson River School, is must if you’re visiting Hudson or Rhinebeck. At its center is a whimsical, red-brick villa composed of myriad styles (Victorian architecture meets Middle Eastern flourish), and it has one of the most spectacular views of the Hudson Valley. Today the site is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the country’s few artist homes-estates that remains intact. You can walk around the property unguided but admission to the house is via pre-arranged guided tour only. Check the website for details.
Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture
For New Yorkers, this working farm-cum-gourmet-temple make a glorious first or last stop on a Hudson Valley visit. Everyone knows about Dan Barber’s two award-winning restaurants (once the Obamas had enjoyed a date night in the New York City location, even non-foodies were aware of Stone Barns’ existence). The original fine dining restaurants in the Pocantico hills, remains one of the U.S.’s top dining destinations (it’s the French Laundry of the East Coast).
But what even many New York City residents don’t know is that actually the best time to visit Blue Hill is during the day, when the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is open to guests. Particularly for kids, exploring the working farm and surrounding 80 acres, a slice of heaven. You can visit the animals, from wooly sheep and clucking chicken in the meadows to spotted piglets and their hefty parents roaming around a forest patch. You can stroll through the greenhouses and the fields where the bounty for Stone Barns is grown. You can stop for a coffee and home-baked good at the informal café. Or you can sign up for tours and workshops led by Barber’s dedicated team.
It’s so beautiful that at times, the setting can feel almost photoshopped to perfection. But it’s real and it’s available for perusing to everyone. Don’t miss the beautifully curated gift shop, stocked with an array of edible goods, kitchen utensils, children’s toys and local crafts.
Storm King Art Center
This incredible open-air museum and sculpture park was conceived in 1960 as a place to exhibit the works of painters by the Hudson Valley School. Today it has expanded into an enormous sculpture garden, with important pieces by Calder, Noguchi, Abakanowicz, Moore and Serra. Also notable is Maya Lin’s installation Storm King Wavefield, which she created in 2009. The grounds a large enough that the center offers bike rentals on a first come-first serve basis. Closed on Tuesday.
Town: Cold Spring
Located in the lower Hudson Valley, close to the Dia: Beacon, Cold Springs is a cute smaller town, with a handful of nice shops (don’t miss Apothecary) and restaurants. Walk down to the promenade along the river to see the Hudson in all its glory up close. Cold Spring is close to some good hikes, like the challenging and hilariously named Breakneck Ridge Trail.
The town of Hudson is known for its antiques shops, galleries and, now, restaurant scene. The action centers around Warren Street, which starts practically in the Hudson. The lion’s share of shops, cafes and restaurants start past 4th Street. Unlike Rhinebeck, Hudson has not been overly gentrified, so it has some gritty edge to it still, but there are also tons of young families who have moved here, so it’s an interesting mix of locals and visitors, especially on weekends.
The town of Rhinebeck, close to many great hikes, is fun for a lunch and afternoon stroll. It’s centered around the Beekman Arms, the self-claimed oldest inn in America, so the crowd tends to be more mature than in northern Hudson (many parents and grandparents of college students at the many schools in the area). Despite an influx of cool restaurants and shops, the town feels authentic and has largely resisted big brands moving in. The banks are local, the CVS was only allowed to build practically out of sight of the main road (and had to install a garden out front), and the size of the signage of the businesses is strictly regulated. Don’t miss such shops as Zephyr and Paper Trail. Restaurants to consider for lunch include Market Street and Arielle. The Local is only open for dinner, but has been garnering good reviews and is a nice option if you’re staying at nearby Old Stone Farm.
This distillery, a short drive from New Paltz and Minnewaska State Park, was founded in 2003 but it’s still the oldest distillery to produce whiskey in New York State since prohibition ended (and the first bourbon in the state). Some connoisseurs consider the product overpriced for what it is, but if you’re in the area, coming for a tour and tasting here is a lot of fun, and the setting of the Tuthilltown Gristmill, a landmark which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is scenic as well.
Walkway Across the Hudson
If the painters of the Hudson River School were alive today, they would surely have loved this relatively recent addition to the region. The longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, Walkway Across the Hudson spans the entirety of the gorgeous river, making for incredible views. Rising more than 200 feet and more than one mile long, the bridge is fun to explore on foot and on bike. To the east of the river, it starts at the level of Poughkeepsie (home of Vassar College) and to the west, it’s close to New Paltz. Either side offers good parking. The Walkway is open year-round.