The Mountains cradling the Hudson River are not intimidating as a name like Storm King would suggest. The tall walls of fall foliage wrap the little river towns like a scarf. Independent shops, art galleries and cafés dot the walkable streets. Bountiful farms, orchards and wineries lay just beyond the towns. Many restaurants in the area proudly source ingredients almost exclusively from the valley. Hiking trails through forests, up mountains, and along cliffs lead to panoramic views. Hudson Valley embraces both the old and the new serving as a backdrop for opulent estates of the gilded age and modern conceptual sculpture. It’s a great place to spend a long weekend and take in the very best parts of the fall season.
Set up camp in a centrally located town that is walking distance to a street lined with specialty shops, art galleries and cafés. We didn’t stay there, but I loved The Roundhouse in Beacon. It’s a beautifully restored hotel nestled in a waterfall right on the river. Beacon is centrally located in the valley so other destinations are just a quick drive away. I’ve also heard good things about River Town Lodge, which has more of an Ace Hotel vibe. Of course AirBnB is a great option; a few tiny houses are available in the area that would make a weekend trip feel like a wonderfully cozy adventure. I’m also in love with this cabin.
Art All Around
Hudson Valley features two of my favorites things: modern art and nature. Experience both at Storm King Art Center. Storm King Art Center contrasts oversized modern sculpture against a scenic natural background. Tree lined paths surround the garden of art. Tooling around the park on a rented bike allows visitors to see the towering sculptures at all angles, experiencing a different perspective at each turn. At Storm King Andy Goldsworthy’s 2,278 foot Storm King Wall winds throughout the park and Maya Lin’s Storm King Wavefield turns a hill into an ocean.
In Beacon, Modern sculpture museum Dia:Beacon features a collection of thought-provoking trompe l’oeil in a more industrial setting. Installation pieces fill rooms of a former factory on the banks of the Hudson. The museum showcases paintings, photography, sculpture and mixed media pieces of artists from the 1960s to today.
For more classic art and architecture Hudson Valley features 27 historic estates. Many of the opulent homes feature original furnishings and art, European-style gardens and a few history lessons. We only toured the immaculately preserved Vanderbilt Estate and Gardens but I would have also loved to visit Kykuit, Lyndhurst, and Olana. Lyndhurst Mansion even offers a backstairs tour that shows all the servant staircases, workspaces, and living quarters.
Specialty Shopping in Cold Spring
Hudson Valley features town after town, each one seeming more quaint and charming than the last. My favorite, Cold Spring, has some of the best shopping. We started our day in Cold Spring with breakfast at Hudson Hil’s Café & Market. The café uses the best ingredients all sourced from Hudson Valley. The exposed brick walls provide an inviting backdrop making the café feel more like having breakfast at a friend’s house. The market sells specialty food items, baked goods, and local meat and diary products.
For some self-care supplies I recommend stopping by Cold Spring Apothecary. The shop is enticingly calm and relaxing. House-made natural hair, skin care, and cleaning products line the shelves. The boutique’s salon offers spa services like facials, massages and hair styling and treatment.
Old Souls sells a blend of perfectly curated outdoor apparel and gear, home décor and gifts. Walking into the shop feels like stepping into a cabin in the woods—the whole place smells like pine and cedar and waxed canvas. I loved the selection of camp classics like thick socks, Stanley thermoses, and brightly colored backpacks.
Exploring New Paltz
Downtown New Paltz caters to the college crowd and the I wish I was still in college crowd. Headshops, a gluten-free bakery, cafés, Mexican street food, and record stores line Main Street. It’s a great place to grab lunch and explore. The town is very walkable but parking is scarce. We ended up parking far from the main street and walking into town. Serendipitously, while making our way to the Main Street Bistro we stumbled upon the historic Huguenot Street District. I am an absolute nerd for American history and had no idea that New Paltz had this little hamlet of early American life. The Huguenot’s fled from religious persecution in France and settled in Hudson Valley in the 1600s. Guided tours of the pre-revolution homes offer a look into life of the settlers and their descendants.
On the edge of the Shawangunk Ridge Mountains teetering over Lake Mohonk sits the Mohonk Mountain House. The Smiley Family built the grand hotel in 1869 and still owns it today. Five United States Presidents, Gilded Age titans of industry John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, and countless other notable celebrities have set up camp at the castle-like lodge. While I could never afford to actually stay at the Mountain House (the standard nightly rate is $900 per night) it’s still a treat to explore the campus and stay for a meal. Across the lake, the Mohonk Preserve offers hikes for all experience levels, rock climbing, bike trails, and more. Day passes cost $15.
With dozens of craft breweries lining the river, local beer flows liberally through the Hudson Valley. Drinkers can plot a course for tours, flights and pints on the Hudson Valley Beer Trail. Hudson Valley Magazine offers a comprehensive guide of every single craft brewery in the valley. Beacon hosts an annual Beer Festival every September showcasing both craft brews from the valley and all of North America.