New York City is a teeming metropolis, but it is also a gateway to the tranquil Hudson River Valley, with orchards, vineyards, fine restaurants and stately homes that have afforded escape to some of the great names in American history, including Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Roosevelt. There are several delightful hotels that offer comfort and hospitality, if not always the last word in luxury.
Stretching 315 miles north from New York Harbor to its source in the Adirondacks, the Hudson saw its role as a trade artery magnified with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. This connected the river to the Great Lakes, ensuring that New York eclipsed Philadelphia as the largest city on the Eastern Seaboard. But the economic tide ebbed, and during the 20th century the Hudson Valley fell into decline. Fortunately, the past few years have seen a tremendous renewal spurred by relatively inexpensive real estate, a revived agricultural base — stimulated in part by the farmers markets of New York City — and the appeal of the river itself, now cleansed of industrial pollution.
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Set off from Manhattan toward Westchester County. Stop at Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Sleepy Hollow, known for its architecture and gardens and also for the art collection assembled over several generations, with sculptures by Picasso, Henry Moore and Alexander Calder.
The area’s Rockefeller legacy also includes the Union Church of Pocantico Hills, with stained-glass windows by Chagall and Matisse, and the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, a nonprofit farm that runs programs on sustainability.
If time allows, be sure to visit Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving, America’s first great literary success.
From Bedford, drive northwest for an hour to the town of Beacon. Be sure to catch a glimpse of the river flowing grandly between tree-crested hills on your route.
Beacon once boasted a strong manufacturing economy, which left a legacy of substantial real estate. The town’s turnaround began in 2003, when the Dia Art Foundation purchased a building where Nabisco had once printed boxes for its cookies and crackers. Dia:Beacon proved to be a draw for urbanites in search of affordable getaways, and the town is now full of shops, galleries and restaurants.
Heading north, skip the main highways and head toward Poughkeepsie on the scenic local roads. At Poughkeepsie, an old railroad bridge has been transformed into a popular footbridge, the Walkway, which spans the Hudson — more than a mile wide at this point — and affords magnificent views from a height of 212 feet.
Twenty-three miles north of Beacon, go to Hyde Park, site of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Presidential Library & Museum, the Vanderbilt Mansion and The Culinary Institute of America, with multiple restaurants open to the public.
Stay the night at the secret (and rustic) farm-to-table hotel, The Duchess, in Straatsburg.
Press on to the town of Hudson, a once-dispiriting place that is now the poster child for renewal. Though 120 miles from the Atlantic, Hudson became an active whaling port after Nantucket seamen, fearful of retribution following the Revolutionary War, relocated there for safety. The small town became a major center for shipbuilding and whale oil processing.
Today, the main artery, Warren Street, displays a wealth of restored Greek Revival and Federalist townhouses, plus numerous antique shops and galleries. The Hudson River School of painting began in Hudson, and the homes of its two progenitors, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, sit almost directly across the river from one another.
Start your morning with a tour of the United States Military Academy at West Point. From here, travel 36 miles to the southwest to Glenmere for a leisurely afternoon.
The 18-room Gilded Age property suffered from years of neglect and decline before being spectacularly reborn with an investment of $30 million and a renovation that lasted for several years. You will be greeted by the striking sight of a Tuscan villa with pale-blue shutters set amid a classic Northeastern landscape. Formal gardens are strewn with vine-covered arbors, and a broad lawn spills down to Glenmere Lake.
Request a late checkout from Glenmere to continue taking advantage of the picturesque, extensive grounds and offerings like tennis, croquet, a heated outdoor pool and a magnificent full-service spa. Finally, make your return to Manhattan.
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