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Historic Hudson River towns, New York

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Did You Know … ?

  • The Walkway Over the Hudson (Highland to Poughkeepsie) is the world’s longest pedestrian bridge (1.28 miles).
  • West Point is America’s oldest continuously occupied military post (1779).
  • New Paltz’s Huguenot Street is considered America’s oldest street with its original houses (built 1705-1894).
  • Philadelphia Cream Cheese originated in Chester and has never been made in Philadelphia.
  • Westchester’s Saint Andrew’s Golf Club is the oldest golf club in America (1888).

‘Rip Van Winkle’ country

The Hudson River Valley has been appreciated for its beauty, natural and manmade, at least since the 1820s when the Hudson River School of painters found it inspiring and since the 1860s when America’s first travel guides touted the architecture. But it was vital to America’s wellbeing beginning considerably earlier.

The Hudson River Valley is a National Heritage Area, so designated for its nationally important history, culture and natural resources. The area extends from Yonkers, just north of New York City, to include Albany in the north.

The history part reflects the river’s pivotal role as a transportation artery. During the American Revolution, colonists had to control the Hudson, which is the reason West Point, built during the Revolution, and numerous forts overlook the river. General George Washington spent much of the war in the Hudson Valley with headquarters in Pauling, Newburgh and West Point. Tourists can visit these points as well as the state’s first capital, Kingston, where stone houses still stand despite the fact the British burned the town.

Aside from these and other colonial-era houses, the region is known for traditional farmhouses, mountain resorts and spectacular riverside estates. These, too, are on the tourist circuit, but the best known are those outsized homes built by the wealthy, including the Rockefellers, Roosevelts and Vanderbilts. Others were homes to writers (Washington Irving and Edna St. Vincent Millay) or government figures, including the first chief justice, John Jay, and President Martin Van Buren.

The valley’s appeal is also rooted in a current lifestyle characterized by art colonies, theater and other performing arts; farm-to-table dining, and, for recreation, ready access to the river, inland mountains and forests.

To that last point, active travelers favor the Hudson Valley for chances to paddle a kayak, cycle or ski on a mountain and hike for an afternoon — or much longer. The first stretch of the Appalachian Trail, from Bear Mountain to Arden, N.Y., opened here in 1923.

Finally, the natural beauty lends itself to sightseeing that ranges from a sedate river cruise to a journey over the treetops on a zipline or, still higher, in a balloon.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Immerse yourself in motorcycle lore at the Motorcyclepedia in Newburgh. The 85,000-square-foot museum features more than 300 motorcycles built since 1897.
  • Accept the challenge of mountain biking at Hunter Mountain. There’s a zipline there, too.
  • Hang gliding and skydiving are options, at Ellenville and Gardiner, respectively. Or, spend more time overhead in a hot-air balloon.
  • On the ground, hike part of the Appalachian Trail. Do your rock climbing in the Shawangunk Mountains.
  • Make the Halloween scene in Sleepy Hollow, home to the fictional Headless Horseman. Billed as the scariest, not suited for children or the faint of heart, the “haunted” Horsemen’s Hollow event at Philipsburg Manor features a team of actors and state-of-the-art special effects. Other options in the area: storytelling, reenactments and cemetery tours. And there’s a lot more.
  • Charter a sailboat and take it out on the Hudson. Take lessons if necessary.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend the Harvest Festival in September at the Knickerbocker Mansion in Schaghticoke. Tour the home and attend the event’s midday chicken and biscuit dinner. Or, make that an October visit for the Souper Dinner and a ghost tour.
  • Learn of the valley’s military history. Costumed interpreters help at the New Windsor Encampment, the first encampment of Washington’s army during the Revolution. Or, check the schedule for musket, camp life and cooking demonstrations at another Revolutionary War site, the Stony Point Battlefield.
  • Go cross-country skiing or downhill skiing, your preference.
  • Pursue an interest in the Hudson River School of Painting, America’s first art movement, at Thomas Cole National Historic Site, the home of its founder, in Catskill, and at Olana, home and studio of painter Frederic Church in Hudson.
  • Attend the springtime Rip Van Winkle Wine and Cheese Festival in Catskill, which BTW also features breweries and distilleries. Also, visit America’s oldest operating winery (1839), Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville. Then, eat at a Culinary Institute of America restaurant.
  • Paddle a canoe or kayak at North South Lake State Park or elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, including the Hudson River itself.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Walk the grounds of America’s first Shaker settlement, now operated by the Shaker Heritage Society, in Albany. Pursue the theme at the Shaker Museum and Library at the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village. The library part of that is in Old Chatham.
  • Take a guided tour of West Point’s military academy. Also, at Orangeburg, visit the Camp Shanks World War II Museum, which remembers the hundreds of thousands of troops who shipped out for World War II from here and the 290,000 German and Italian prisoners held here.
  • Follow the money. Tourism promoters list more than 40 manor houses available for visits, sometimes with costumed hosts and sometimes for special events. They include Rockefeller and Vanderbilt homes plus those of President Franklin Roosevelt and the author Washington Irving.
  • Attend theater or a concert at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston. Or, come to the valley for the Caramoor Summer Music Festival in Katonah.
  • Shop for, or at least admire, local crafts in places like the Sugar Loaf Art and Craft Village or the Webatuck Craft Village in Wingdale. There are a couple of pottery trails, too — the Albany Saratoga Pottery Trail and the Hudson Valley Pottery Trail.
  • Choose one of many options on the Hudson for a river sightseeing cruise. And tour the Capitol in Albany.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Travel Hudson Valley, Inc. at www.travelhudsonvalley.com