The Hudson Valley covers a wide region of upstate New York, from Westchester County up to the state capital of Albany. The areas we'll be focusing on here, however, are the central areas in the counties of Ulster and Dutchess, which are especially renowned for their beauty and cultural richness. These areas are also close enough to New York City that, if you're visiting the city, it's easy enough to make a day trip upstate. Of course, the Hudson Valley makes for a great destination all its own.
Highlights of the Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley, which gets its name from the Hudson River, was made famous in the 19th century by the Hudson River School of painting, which produced majestic landscapes that can be seen in museums such as the Metropolitan in New York. Many of these paintings were based on scenes from the Catskill Mountains, which surround many picturesque upstate towns, such as Woodstock, Catskill and Tannersville.
Many people travel to the Hudson Valley for the mountains. The New Paltz area, which is home to the Shawagank Mountains, is a world famous destination for rock climbers. You don't have to be a rock climber, however, to enjoy a vigorous hike in this area.
Although the Woodstock music festival of 1969 did not actually take place in Woodstock, NY (it actually took place in the town of Bethel, 40 whole miles away), the town has nevertheless maintained its reputation as a hippie and counterculture mecca. It's a fun day trip where you can find tie-dyed clothing, vintage clothing and records and lots of cafes, bistros and art galleries. You can also hike up the mountain to a fire tower. Along the way, you'll also pass a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. If you're visiting the area in the fall, you should try to come during the Woodstock Film Festival.
The small but vibrant city of Kingston, right in between New Paltz and Kingston, has been enjoying something of a cultural renaissance over the last decade. Kingston, which was the first capital of New York, has a quaint uptown with many colonial buildings, as well as lots of great restaurants, shops and art galleries. If you're a fan of colonial stone houses, you can also find these in the towns of New Paltz, Stone Ridge and High Falls.
On the other side of the Hudson from New Paltz and Woodstock are many other charming towns and small cities. Rhinebeck is a town full of antique stores and also has many fairs and festivals in the summer. Further north, the city of Hudson is also a popular destination for antiques collectors. Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Hudson and many other towns along the Hudson also offer incredible views, especially near the river.
The Hudson Valley is a destination that's fun throughout the year. In winter, you can find great skiing. There's always spectacular foliage to appreciate in the fall. The summer is great for apple picking, lots of state fairs and festivals and more.
Where to Stay
The Hudson Valley offers accommodations of all types, including cozy B & B's, historic hotels, resorts and budget hotels.
One of the area's oldest and most elegant hotels, The Mohonk Mountain House, mentioned directly and indirectly in at least two Stephen King novels, is a place where you can stay or visit and go for a hike or play golf.
The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream is a nice place to stay if you want to be within walking distance of all the towns and restaurants of Woodstock. Kingston also has quite a few choices for places to stay, including the Best Western Plus and the Hampton Inn Kingston.
If you want to find a hotel in Dutchess County, the Beekman Arms-Delamater Inn in Rhinebeck, located right in the middle of the village, is a nice choice.
If you're into skiing, the premier place to stay is Hunter Mountain ski resort in the town of Hunter in Greene County, which is open throughout the year.
Tips For Visiting the Hudson Valley
- Transportation: Since the Hudson Valley is fairly spread out and composed of villages, small cities and countryside, you need a vehicle to get around. If you're coming from New York City or Albany, however, you could take a train or bus upstate and rent a car when you arrive. Trains stop in Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck and Hudson. Buses stop in New Paltz, Woodstock and Kingston among many other towns.
- Explore the Nooks and Crannies. In addition to the towns and cities mentioned above, the Hudson Valley has hundreds of charming country roads and tiny villages worth exploring. When you arrive, it's a good idea to get a map and spend at least a day driving around.
- Come during an event. Some events worth seeing include the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck (the Fairgrounds also has lots of other fairs and events throughout the year);
The Woodstock Film Festival (usually in October); if you're a fan of music festivals, one of the biggest in the Hudson Valley is Mountain Jam, which happens in Hunter every spring.