All along the 315-mile route of the Hudson River, from its source in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks to its ebbing into New York Harbor, you’ll find stunning landscapes, inspirational vistas and opportunities to rekindle your sense of wonder.
The river did, after all, inspire an entire art movement: the Hudson River Valley School.
What I love about the Hudson Valley is the many ways you can experience the beauty of the region. (No, you don’t have to march to the top of Storm King to get the big prize.)
With foliage season approaching, I’ve gone through my (pretty long) list of favorite places in the Hudson Valley and come up with a half-dozen that really shine in the fall.
The Hudson River Museum
The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers is a great first stop. The huge museum is right on the riverfront, and the glass walls make the view part of the experience. The museum is a repository for the storied history of the Hudson River. When you leave, you’ll probably see the Mighty Hudson in a new light. Test that out by taking a stroll on the Yonkers’ waterfront promenade.
Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park is more than just pretty hiking trails – though it has those, too. Drive up to the Perkins Memorial Tower, where views of the foliage go on and on. Kids love the carousel here; instead of wooden horses, they’ll get to ride the native wildlife – bears, deer, raccoons and the like.
The Bear Mountain Inn has been renovated, but don’t worry; it’s still rustic and still offers great views. Stay over, come for the Sunday brunch, or grab a drink in the lounge and gaze out the window, contemplating the meaning of foliage.
The Walkway Over the Hudson
The Walkway Over the Hudson, 212 feet above the river, is about as good as it gets for Hudson views. An abandoned railroad bridge that connects Highland and Poughkeepsie was transformed into a linear park for pedestrians; at 1.25 miles it’s the longest elevated walkway bridge in the world.
Kykuit, the Sleepy Hollow country home of four generations of Rockefellers, is the rock star of historic estates along the Hudson. It is jaw-dropping in so many ways: the house, the art collection, the garden, the outdoor art gardens, the mind-blowing views of the Hudson. Note that different tickets provide access to different sections of the estate. Make sure you get either the Landmark Tour or the Grand Tour pass – both include the landscape and sculpture gardens.
Olana was home to Hudson River School artist Frederic Church, who built the Moorish-style manse atop a hill near the town of Catskill. And he often painted the views he saw from his aerie. You can tour the house, filled with art – his and others – plus memorabilia from his extensive travels. But especially in fall, the best part of Olana is the grounds, which Church created in much the same way he painted. His undulating lawns and miles of carriage roads were designed strategically to reveal vistas from different angles and perspectives. It really is one of the most beautiful places in the Hudson Valley. Good work, Fred.
An Insider’s Guide to Hudson Valley
I live around here. I travel around the Hudson Valley a lot. I love taking detours, and I’m not averse to getting lost. Sometimes I’ll hear about a place in a passing reference, or a read a sentence in a newspaper. If it sounds interesting, I get there.
Here are my favorite finds.
Best Art Surprise
Union Church of Pocantico Hills looks like just another quaint country church from the outside. Enter, and you’ll see what sets this church, the longtime house of worship for the Rockefeller family, apart: The 10 stained glass windows designed by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, commissioned by the family in honor of Peggy and David Rockefeller.
Best Ruins in the Hudson
Bannerman Castle, located 1,000 feet off the eastern shore of the Hudson, was the home and arms storage area of Francis Bannerman. He died in 1918, before the elaborate castle, fashioned after one in his Scottish birthplace, was finished. Two years later, the ammunition exploded. Today you can take a boat or kayak tour of the island.
Best Overlooked Historic Hudson Estate
Wilderstein, a 1888 Queen-Anne-style mansion, was home to three generations of the Suckley family. Two sisters – cousins of Franklin D. Roosevelt – were the last to live here. They gave the president Fala, a Scottish terrier once known as “the most famous dog in the world.” The lavish home furnished by J.B. Tiffany (no, not the famous stained glass designer, though there is a surfeit of stained glass windows) is well worth a visit. The landscaped grounds, designed by Calvert Vaux, offer river views and are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Best Zen on the Hudson
The little town of Carmel is home to the largest indoor Buddha statue in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll find it at the Chuang Yen Monastery.
Best Final Rests
In Westchester, you can find quite a who’s who of Hollywood, sports, politics, industry and more at several beautiful cemeteries. Most moving is the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery: Established in 1896, it’s the oldest operating pet cemetery in the world. In 1923, the War Dog Memorial was erected to remember canines who served in the military.
Best Abandoned Iron Mine
Tahawus Tract, in the far reaches of the Adirondacks, is barely developed today, so you can imagine what it must have been like in 1827 when the Tahawus iron mining operation was established. A small village grew around the mining site for workers, but was eventually abandoned. The old buildings were then turned into sportsmen’s clubs from 1876 to 1947; Teddy Roosevelt was here in the middle of the wilderness when he got the news that President William McKinley had been shot. You can still hike to the ruins of the old shacks and iron mill.
Best Little Town You Never Heard Of
Waterford is picture-perfect and jammed with attractions and history, It’s the oldest continuously incorporated village in the United States, formed in 1794. The town is at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, as well as the Erie and Champlain canals, so you can’t turn around without running into some waterway or lock or bit of history. Famous for its Flight of Five Locks, connecting the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, the total elevation change of 169 feet makes it the highest combined set of lift locks in the world. The town celebrates its maritime heritage with the Waterford Steamboat Meet in May and the Tugboat Roundup in September.