The height of fall color is one of the best times to visit the Hudson Valley. But if you can’t make it when the foliage is at its peak, the region still has more than enough natural and cultural treasures to offer to fill a three-day weekend.
The trip begins and ends in New York City and follows mainly smaller, scenic roads north about 130 miles on the east side of the Hudson River. (See sidebar for driving directions and for Web sites listing accommodations, restaurants and other information.)
Dutchess County, Beacon, NY. Dia:Beacon.
The Dia:Beacon museum, inaugurated in 2003, features the Dia Foundation’s renowned art collection from the 1960s and ’70s. The spectacular 300,000-square-foot glass, steel and concrete building, on 31 acres on the Hudson, was donated by International Paper —and is a great example of early 20th-century industrial architecture. Among the 24 artists whose works are on permanent display here are Joseph Beuys, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol and Robert Irwin. Allow at least two hours to see this exquisite space.
The Hudson Valley abounds in historic estates. Springwood in Hyde Park, the birthplace and home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, is one. Tour the large yet modest Colonial Revival-style home. Afterward, take in the Hudson on a stroll through the grounds, a 300-acre arborist’s dream.
Village of Rhinebeck
The charming town of Rhinebeck boasts the oldest hotel in America, the Beekman Arms, operating since 1766, as well as some of the best antiquing around—note the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair on Columbus Day Weekend. The village was founded in the late 17th century and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Poets’ Walk Park, in Red Hook
The 120-acre park, designed by landscape architect Jacob Ehlers in 1849, is an ideal place for a picnic brunch. With its magnificent views of the Hudson, and its open fields and forests, the park is a favorite of landscape artists. The place takes its name from the 19th-century writers, Washington Irving among them, who strolled its paths.
Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson
The Center for the Performing Arts, designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, is a must-see attraction as one of the few Gehry buildings in the Northeast. Circle the dynamic structure, whose undulating, brushed stainless-steel cladding shimmers as it reflects the landscape.
On a high bluff overlooking the Hudson in Columbia County is Olana, the Persian-style estate of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Church constructed the grounds of his 250 acre estate as if he were composing one of his landscape paintings, often incorporating the lush background of the Hudson and the distant Catskill Mountains into his picturesque views. Though the house is closed during 2006, the grounds are definitely worth a visit. The half-hour guided landscape tour shows off the exterior of the house and highlights the views of and from the estate as Church planned.
A wealthy whaling community in the 18th century, later an industrial town, Hudson fell on hard times in the late 1800s. But in the past 25 years, the town has seen a tremendous economic and cultural revival. Today Hudson is a major antiques center, boasting more than 70 shops. For the best antiquing, visit Warren Street, part of the city’s historic district. The street is also home to a growing number of galleries, bars and restaurants, and the Hudson Opera House, now a cultural and community center.
Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham
Just 35 minutes northeast of Hudson is the Shaker Museum. Here one can learn about Shaker life and culture and view a fine collection of Shaker furniture, oval boxes, textiles, craft machinery, art, tools and agricultural machinery.
Old Chatham Sheepherding Company
A little farther beyond the Shaker Museum is the largest sheep dairy farm in the United States, with more than 1,000 ewes and rams and an original Shaker barn. The farm makes some of the country’s finest sheep’s-milk yogurt and cheeses, all produced in small, handcrafted batches.
This idyllic site is the last stop on your trip, which is just an introduction to the region. Make sure to take some of the local farm goods home so the tastes of the Hudson Valley can linger for a while.