Hudson Valley Rail Trail WinterfestWinter is wonderful in the Hudson Valley Hudson Valley, N.Y. - Ah, the New Year. The holidays are over, time for indulging in some personal pleasures. Unwind in the Hudson Valley in your own way. There are plenty of activities for outdoor recreation or fireside sitting, or both! Slide your way into 2012 snow tubing down groomed lanes at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery. Rope tows take you back up the hill with a backdrop of the white capped Shawangunk Mountains in the distance. Sip hot chocolate by the open fire in the lodge, or bring your sled, skates and cross country skis for more snow fun. Another way to go downhill rapidly is at Thunder Ridge Ski Area in Patterson. Thirty trails range from slow and gentle slopes to meet the needs of the newest skiers and snowboarders, and advanced trails for the daring and adventurous. It's a family place where even toddlers can take to the slopes. All that crisp air can really make you work up an appetite, so head for the Hudson Valley Rail Trail WinterFest in Highland on January 14th. Bring the kids for chestnut roasting, marshmallow toasting, wagon rides along the trail, children's games and crafts, and ice carving demos. Twenty local restaurants compete in the Fire and Ice Chili Tasting Contest to win the coveted "Best of Fest" award. Warm up with hot drinks and a bowl full. Still hungry? The indoor alternative to WinterFest is the Albany Food & Wine Festival January 12th through 14th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. With over 30 innovative chefs and 250 global wine, spirit and beer suppliers, food and drink enthusiasts can watch dueling chefs in the invitational mystery cook-off. Try your best in the Slider Slam competition and stroll the booths to sample gourmet dishes from area restaurants. Too much to eat? Walk it off during the Winter Ecology Walks at Land Conservancy areas in Columbia County. Join ecologists as they guide you through different natural habitats and find out more about the land use history of this region. The first walk is January 21st, and more walks will take place in the weeks to come. The next day on January 22nd, Grafton Lakes State Park hosts its Annual Winter Festival and Ice Fishing Contest. Kids can sculpt the white stuff and enter the snowball-throwing contests. Dash through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh and then hop a dog sled for a trail adventure. Ice fishing may net you a prize in the competition, but everyone is a winter winner at this fun family event. Art galleries are a terrific way to unplug and The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in Poughkeepsie has a show that is aptly named. The solo exhibition Marco Maggi: Lentissimo is open from January 20 to April 1, 2012, an exhibition of 14 colorful new works by Marco Maggi. Named for the Italian word for very slow, Lentissimo explores the artist's relationship to time while inviting viewers in for quiet, careful observation. Music can also soothe the soul, and a concert by the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra at the Performing Arts Center in Purchase is just the ticket. On January 22nd they'll perform an overture by Vaughan Williams, Dvorak's Symphony #7, and Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major. It's a real treat since they are one of the most respected orchestras in Europe. But to really relax and get away from it all, book a weekend at Catskill Maison B&B in Windham. Built in 1782 as a wayward inn, the luxurious accommodations have breathtaking mountain views with many in-suite amenities. Breakfast is three courses with locally sourced ingredients, and you're just a mile down the road from Windham Mountain for great skiing. The Overlook Lodge in Bear Mountain State Park is another way to experience luxury close to fantastic outdoor recreation. Skate at the scenic ice skating rink and cross country ski before enjoying the gourmet fare at the newly renovated 1915 Café. Overlook has gorgeous views of the Hudson River and is within minutes of the Trailside Zoo, open all year long. Indulge yourself. The Hudson Valley has so many ways to enjoy winter indoors and out. Come on in, the scenery is beautiful and the snow is fine! Hudson Valley Tourism, Inc. is the 10-county region designated by I LOVE NEW YORK to promote tourism for the area. Counties include Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester.  The Valley welcomes over 20 million visitors a year who spend $3 billion annually. Regional information can be obtained from any of the county tourism offices, the Hudson Valley Tourism website,, or by calling 845-615-3860.    RESOURCES Snow Tubing. Thomas Bull Memorial Park, Montgomery. 845-457-4949,              Thunder Ridge Ski Area, Patterson. 845-878-4100, Hudson Valley Rail Trail WinterFest, Highland. 845-691-9911, Albany Food & Wine Festival, Albany. Winter Ecology Walks, Columbia County. 518.672.7994, Winter Festival, Grafton. 518-279-1155,   Marco Maggi: Lentissimo, Poughkeepsie. 845-437-5632 Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Purchase. 914-251-6200,   Catskill Maison B&B, Windham. 518-734-3232, Bear Mountain Inn, Bear Mountain. 845-786-2701,

# # #