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Natural Inspiration in the Hudson Valley and 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. You can travel many scenic routes up, down and across the river, and stop at farm markets and wineries, browse antiques shops, and hike to hidden waterfalls.

DAY ONE: KINDERHOOK, ANCRAM and CRARYVILLE

Kinderhook is a hotbed of early history and worth a day's exploration. Take your first step back to simpler times at Luykas Van Alen House. Built circa 1737, it gives a real feel for how many shop owners and farmers lived their daily lives, and is a fine example of the Dutch architecture prevalent in the Hudson Valley. Nearby, the Vanderpoel House of History, a fashionable Federal home of a lawyer and politician, reveals a more elegant style of early 19th-century village life. Visit the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse (circa 1850), in use until the 1940s too.

One of two trailheads (open year round for hiking) is at the back of the Van Alen property, and runs about a mile and a half. Popular with outdoor enthusiasts, the Kinderhook Dutch Farming Heritage Trail is also wonderful for fans of farming and agriculture in New York State. Along the way, a community-supported farm, Roxbury Farm, brings living off the land up to date via modern organic farming, and you'll walk on a portion of Old Post Road, still an important route to move goods to market today. At the trail's end, you'll connect to Wayside Loop Trail, which circles around the grounds of the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site and Nature Area. The Columbia County Museum & Library, originally built as a Masonic Temple in 1916, houses many fascinating exhibits and resources too.

Lake Taghkanic State Park in Ancram offers year-round outdoor beauty and activities, from campingboatingfishing, hunting and swimming to cross-country skiing, ice skating and ice fishing. While in the area, you may want to visit the Ancram Opera House, a 1919 Grange Hall transformed into a community hub for cultural events, yoga and more, or peruse the schedule at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center in Craryville. Just 20 minutes from Ancram, the center covers 130 acres of gorgeous landscape and offers formal retreat programs, workshops, accommodations and public classes and meditations. Rather go golfing instead? Copake Country Club on Copake Lake is the place to tee-off or to simply enjoy a meal or a cocktail at sunset.

DAY TWO: KINGSTON and YORKTOWN HEIGHTS

In Kingston, the first capital of New York State, history emanates from the bluestone sidewalks and stone houses, throughout four historic districts. On the corner of the historic Stockade District, take a cozy step back into Early American Dutch rubble architecture over a delicious meal at The Hoffmann House (a National Historic Landmark, circa 1711), or visit the Old Dutch Church on Wall Street, which is especially picturesque when tulips are blooming in the springtime. Stroll around the bustling uptown shopping district, where the past and present co-exist energetically: the streets are filled with hip new eateries, funky shops and even music venues like Backstage Studio Productions (BSP), a former vaudeville theater which now hosts live music, gallery shows and special events like the Woodstock Film Festival, Wall Street Jazz Festival and the O+ Festival. Downtown, by the water, you'll find impressive architecture in the mansions and storefronts overlooking the Rondout Creek, now occupied by restaurants, shops and art galleries. Visit the Hudson River Maritime MuseumTrolley Museum, take a walk on the promenade or book your ticket (from spring through leaf peeping season) for a Hudson River Cruise!

A little more than an hour south, visit Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Yorktown Heights. You'll find over 40 special events each year, from festivals to walkathons, even dog shows, so it's not just for swimming, fishing, boating and winter fun like ice skating and fishing. Yorktown Museum offers an insider's view of an 18th century home and an early Mohegan Indian settlement.

DAY THREE: TARRYTOWN to YONKERS 

The Historical Society of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow gives an overview of several landmarks to visit in these lovely communities just 40 miles north of Manhattan. Linger for a pleasant stretch of time -- an afternoon or a week -- amidst the numerous natural attractions offered at three waterfront parks, two boat clubs and many restaurants. Maybe you'd like to rent a kayak or canoe, or just enjoy the sunset from the shore?

Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) and its scenic vistas have inspired generations of photographers and artists. Over 1,400 acres of outdoor pleasure await you there, from hiking and snowshoeing to birding and horseback riding. Stroll on over to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to tour the fields and pastures, visit the farmer's market (Sundays), learn more about sustainable agriculture, and enjoy a light snack or a multi-course farmer's feast made from the freshest possible ingredients.

The Hudson River Museum/The Andrus Planetarium in Yonkers is a lively hub of exploration and ideas. Art, history, ecology and astronomy are the focal points; they also host festivals, performances and more to pique your interest. Nearby, the Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site is an architectural highlight and museum, and you'll find many other attractions such as hiking or biking along the Old Croton Aqueduct, which winds 26 miles from Croton to the Bronx line.

Or, create some new history and try your luck at Empire City Casino, where you'll find 5,300 of the hottest slot machines, harness racing, and a variety of eateries.

Related Links:

Ancram Opera House - Ancram
Backstage Studio Productions (BSP) - Kingston
Columbia County Historical Society - Kinderhook
Copake Country Club - Copake Lake
Dutch Farming Heritage Trail - Kinderhook
Empire City Casino - Yonkers
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park - Yorktown Heights
Friends of Historic Kingston
Historical Society of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow - Tarrytown
Hoffman House Tavern - Kingston
Hudson River Cruises - Kingston
Hudson River Maritime Museum - Kingston
Hudson River Museum/Andrus Planetarium - Yonkers
Kinderhook Dutch Farming Heritage Trail
Kingston
Lake Taghkanic State Park  -- Ancram
Luykas Van Alen House - Kinderhook
Old Croton Aqueduct - Dobbs Ferry
Old Dutch Church - Kingston
Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site - Yonkers
Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center - Craryville
Rockefeller State Park Preserve - Pleasantville
Roxbury Farm
Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture - Pocantico Hills
Yorktown Museum - Yorktown Heights

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