The best places to visit in the Hudson Valley

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With a rich history, natural beauty galore, and a concentration of world-class cultural sites, New York’s Hudson Valley is the perfect escape from the fast-paced New York City.

Historic towns and villages still tell the story of its settlers, beginning with the Munsee, Mohican, and Mohawk nations through to Henry Hudson’s travels in the 1600s and the arrival of the Dutch and English.

Parks, nature reserves and hiking trails provide plenty of opportunities to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Here are our picks for the best places to visit in the Hudson Valley.

A look

Located in Westchester County, Peekskill is located on a bay in the Hudson River about 50 miles north of New York City (and accessible from the city via the Metro-North Railroad). This town borders Blue Mountain Park, a nearly 1,600-acre reserve with over 20 miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing docks, and the only Sportsman Center shooting complex (archery, rifle and pistol). ) found in a state recreation area.

Art lovers should visit the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a 12,000 square foot exhibition space. The Hudson Valley MOCA sponsors a sculpture trail that features more than 25 public works of art along the Hudson River and throughout the city.

The city of Troy is full of colorful 19th century buildings that are today boutiques, small shops and galleries © Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Troy

Located on the east bank of the Hudson River just north of Albany, Troy was once known as “Collar City” due to its expertise in producing removable collars for men’s shirts. While not getting as much attention as the state capital, the well-preserved 19th-century downtown of Troy contains a plethora of shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and taverns.

In addition to the necklaces, Troy’s other claim to fame is being the hometown of Samuel Wilson, the meat preparer who inspired the iconic Uncle Sam cartoon. There is an aluminum statue of the Uncle Sam by the river in remembrance.

The exterior of artist Frederic Edwin Church's Olana in Hudson, NY
Enjoy breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley on a tour of the beautiful Olana Estate © James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

Hudson

About 200 kilometers from New York City is this former whaling port and industrial town, which in recent years has become a haven for antique dealers, gallery owners and other artists. The mile-long main thoroughfare, Warren Street, offers a variety of vibrant cafes, vintage fashion boutiques, and some of the state’s best people-watching attractions.

About 10 minutes from downtown Hudson is the beautiful Olana Estate. Once the home of Frederic Edwin Church, a 19th-century painter whose dramatic landscapes epitomize the Hudson River School, the House on the Hill has captivated visitors for years.

Church acquired land and created the 250-acre landscaping on his own. The Persian-influenced Victorian mansion atop the ridge offers stunning views of the valley and the Catskill Mountains beyond.

Art Omi is another renowned artistic institution that includes a 120-acre sculpture and architecture park. The non-profit organization offers galleries, lectures, readings, dance and concerts that celebrate the interdependence of art and nature.

Rhinbeck

Among the many historic buildings in the charming town of Rhinebeck is the Beekman Arms & Delamer Inn, said to be the oldest operating hotel in the country (it has been welcoming guests for over 300 years).

Visitors can also visit one of the area’s most striking Golden Age mansions, the 65-room Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Another era of history comes to life at the old Rhinebeck Airfield, with rides aboard historic 1920s biplanes and weekly air shows featuring vintage WWI aircraft.

Like many towns in the Hudson Valley, Rhinebeck also has a vibrant arts scene. The Omega Institute is known for its yoga and wellness retreats, while the Dutchess County Fairgrounds hosts various events throughout the year.

Those looking for stellar views should head to Ferncliff Forest to climb the Fire Tower. The easy hike in the 200-acre park provides incredible views of the valley, especially during the fall foliage season.

Bikes in a shop in Saugerties, New York, decorated for the fall season
Saugerties is about two hours from Manhattan © James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

Sausages

Saugerties Lighthouse is located at the end of a thin peninsula jutting out into the Hudson for over 170 years, and even offers rooms to rent for travelers looking for unique accommodation.

On the western shore of the Hudson and next to the beautiful Catskill Mountains, Saugerties offers scenic natural areas such as Falling Waters Preserve, a 149-acre forest valley filled with waterfalls and river views.

Ten miles to the west is the charming town of Woodstock and its museum full of memorabilia celebrating this 1969 music festival (although the event took place 60 miles away in Bethel).

Don’t miss Opus 40, also known as “America’s Stonehenge”. This 6.5-acre stone sculpture park sits in an abandoned stone quarry and was built entirely with hand tools by artist and professor Harvey Fite of Bard College.

Cold spring

The historic village of Cold Spring sits on a dramatic bend in the Hudson River. The small main street is full of well-preserved 19th-century structures, now occupied by shops, restaurants and inns.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a town located directly across the river from the United States Military Academy at West Point, the town was a major producer of artillery and ironwork during the War of Secession. Today, the West Point Foundry Preserve offers nature walks amid the ruins of old industrial structures.

Bordering the 7,400-acre Hudson Highlands State Park, Cold Spring is also known for its scenic views and outdoor activities, all with views of spectacular Storm King Mountain.

Woman sitting on the edge of a cliff on top of a mountain overlooking the catskills in Woodstock New York.jpg
Vigorous hikes are rewarded with fabulous views of the Hudson Valley © Dan Hanscom / Shutterstock

Catskill

This gateway to the Catskill Mountains (and the setting for Washington Irving history Rip Van Winkle) was the home of the founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site explores the importance of Cole and his contemporaries as initiators of one of the first local art movements in the then young United States.

Nearby is the historic (and well-preserved) Main Street of Catskill, with its many shops, restaurants and inns, including the Magpie Bookstore, with a well-curated collection of second-hand books.

Other notable Catskill landmarks include the Hudson River Skywalk, connecting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site to Olana and the RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary, a 600-acre bird sanctuary made up of woods, shorelines and marshes.

Goshen

The Northeast’s first new theme park in 40 years opened in 2021 in Goshen, just 60 miles north of New York City. LEGOLAND New York is for ages 2 to 12 and features seven themed “lands” including Brick Street, Bricktopia, LEGO City, LEGO Castle, LEGO Ninjago World, LEGO Pirates and Miniland. A 250-room LEGOLAND hotel is located right next to the park.

Long before the opening of LEGOLAND, horse racing had drawn visitors to Goshen since the American Revolution. The historic Goshen Track opened in 1838 and still offers harness racing to this day. (LEGOLAND’s Miniland pays homage to its hometown with a LEGO version of the historic Goshen Track, including an interactive and lively ‘horse race’ that guests can control).

Sleeping Hollow

This historic hamlet just north of New York City enthusiastically embraces the “Legend” that made its name famous. Each fall, Sleepy Hollow draws inspiration from Washington Irving’s tale to create perhaps the world’s most impressive carved pumpkin exhibit, the annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze.

Jack o’lanterns are carved into every shape imaginable and are used in sculptures of life-size dinosaurs, stealthy sea snakes, ghoulish rides, and (of course) the headless horseman himself. Other nearby attractions include John D. Rockefeller’s Kykuit Estate and the sublime Blue Hill Stone Barns, which offer epicurean dining on a working farm.


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