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Natural Inspiration in the Catskills

Published: Jan 23, 2014

The magnificent landscapes of the Hudson Valley have inspired generations of artists, authors, and statesmen. Along with historic homes designed by renowned architects and landscape artists, you'll find thriving art communities. As you travel a scenic route up and down the river, you can stop at farm markets and wineries, browse antiques shops, and hike to hidden waterfalls.

Day One

Dia:Beacon
This art museum on the banks of the Hudson gets rave reviews for its innovative programs and collection that spans the 1960s to the present. Exhibits range from fluorescent light works by Dan Flavin to Andy Warhol's 430-foot-long Shadows. While in Beacon, take a walk along Main Street. Since Dia:Beacon opened in 2003, many new art galleries, antique shops and restaurants have blossomed in the area.

Staatsburgh State Historic Site
Among the legendary estates along the Hudson, the former home of Ogden and Ruth Mills sits within what is now Mills-Norrie State Park. The park trails are ideal for hiking. Some historians say the mansion inspired The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton's classic novel. From the terrace you can take in the stunning views of the grounds she described as "a landscape tutored to the last degree of rural elegance." Nearby, the Dutchess Wine Trail 's three award-winning wineries are all within a half hour's drive of one another.

Day Two

Olana State Historic Site
The mansion and landscape designed by Hudson River School painter Frederic Church is perhaps his greatest masterpiece. He built this Persian-style fantasy on the same hilltop where, as an 18-year-old student, he sketched spectacular views of the Catskills and the river with his mentor Thomas Cole. After a tour, you can walk the trails and take in the views that inspired him. The city of Hudson still attracts many artists, as well as collectors and window shoppers. On Warren Street, you'll find more than fifty antique and art galleries as well as excellent restaurants.

Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site
After a trip up the Hudson River in 1825, Thomas Cole painted three canvases that led to America's first internationally admired school of art and a new pride in its natural wonders. From the porch of his former home in Catskill, you can see the mountain landscape that inspired the founder of the Hudson River School.

Kaaterskill Falls
This 260-foot, two-tiered waterfall has inspired generations of poets and painters, including Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper wove the falls into their stories. From Catskill follow Route 23A west to the Horseshoe Bend parking lot, about a mile before the town of Haines Falls. A short walk takes you to Bastion Falls (you can see it from the road). Hike a half-mile further to Kaaterskill Falls. A marked trail follows the stream through a forest to the base of the falls.

Day Three

Woodstock Guild/Byrdcliffe Art Colony
The famous 1969 music festival actually took place in Bethel (where the Museum at Bethel Woods is celebrating the 40th anniversary), but it was surely inspired by the spirit of Woodstock's thriving 100-year-old artist colony. Tour Byrdcliffe to see present-day artists at work and walk through the Arts & Crafts era cottages that once attracted visitors like Thomas Mann and Isadora Duncan. Check out the galleries and shops along Tinker Street and performing arts events like the renowned Maverick Concerts and the Woodstock Film Festival in October.

Storm King Art Center
In Mountainville, the ever-changing sky and landscape serve as a fascinating backdrop to 120 masterworks by internationally renowned artists. A walk around this outdoor sculpture museum on 500 acres of fields and woodland might inspire you to create your own masterpiece.

Related Sites:

Hudson Valley Official Tourism Site 
The Catskills Region Official Tourism Site     

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