By Patricia Canole
Did you know that New York State is home to some of the most incredible scenic driving routes and byways in the U.S.? Close to New York City is the Hudson Valley where Mother Nature reigns supreme. Explore the history of the state or ascend into the mountains, where commanding views of the Hudson Valley await you. So, pack up and get the wheels rolling. Here, some of our best suggestions for a fall getaway to learn, explore and enjoy the fall foliage season.
Located in Columbia County, is the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, home and farm of the founder of the Democratic Party and the eighth president of the United States. The mansion is also where Van Buren managed two presidential campaigns and entertained politicians and celebrities during the turbulent 1840’s and 1850’s. Nearby stop by Chatham Brewing for some of the state’s finest selection of beers brewed in the British tradition—using the best hops and malts available. And for the action-packed among us, there’s Catamount Adventure Park. Here, you’ll find an aerial forest adventure with 12 courses including two 2,000-foot zip line (there are 50) courses. Children from 7 to adult are welcome.
A must-see is the rolling hills and forested mountains of Bear Mountain State Park, where you’ll discover unforgettable views of the Hudson River Valley. A beautiful weekend can attract swarms of hikers who explore the wooded trails, which the park shares with adjacent Harriman State Park. This rambling wilderness of mountain peaks, dense forests, and beach-fringed lakes straddles the Orange-Rockland county line. A 21-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, snakes through both parks, traversing nine peaks before crossing the Hudson River via the Bear Mountain Bridge. Nearby are the Revolutionary War Grounds, where American troops fought for and took control of two forts. If historic sites aren’t for you, the park also offers a wildlife center, camping, golf, boating, and the Bear Mountain Inn and Restaurant. It’s a beautiful place to appreciate the history and beauty of Bear Mountain and its surrounding area.
Sleepy Hollow is rich with history, and here you will find Philipsburg Manor, a landmark of the Underground Railroad. After meandering here and discovering how it must have been working on an 18th-century farm, hop the shuttle to Kykuit. Incredibly this was the country home of the Rockefellers and is considered the crown jewel of Hudson Valley’s mansions. And who can ever forget the site of the storied Legend of Sleepy Hollow at Old Dutch Church, where the headless horseman’s tale began next door to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the burial site of the story’s writer Washington Irving.
Located in Orange County, Brotherhood Winery is one of the oldest wineries in the United States. Underground cellars were established in 1839 by Jean Jacques to ferment the first vintage wine. Today these are some of the largest cellars still in use. It’s fun to explore the mysterious vaults and well over 175 years of history as well. Don’t leave with savoring the award-winning wines in the splendor of the 19th-century Grand Salon.
Spend a day in Hyde Park, where history aficionados will want to stop at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. This Beaux Arts palace was built in 1898 by Frederick Vanderbilt, grandson of railroad magnate Cornelius. The estate is a monument to the wealth and success that made the Vanderbilts one of richest families in the 19th century.
A bit less grand, but certainly more historic is the Hyde Park estate of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. FDR, who served four terms as president, grew up in this Georgian colonial house—part of the family estate known as Springwood. The only home a president occupied from birth to death, it’s much like when FDR lived there. He entertained world-renowned guests Winston Churchill, King George and Queen Elizabeth, a first for sitting monarchs, and royalty exiled from Nazi-occupied Europe. The estate includes stables, trails, and the Rose Garden, where FDR was laid to rest in 1945 after deeding his beloved home to the American people as a National Park. Nearby sits the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, better known as Val-Kill, where Mrs. Roosevelt called home in her later years.
Make your final stop in Hyde Park at Culinary Institute of America, the nation’s premier cooking schools and where many of today’s celebrity chefs have trained and learned their craft. You have a choice of four different restaurants; however, it is recommended you make reservations.
A must for history buffs, is a stop in Putnam County. Here you’ll find Boscobel, an early-19th-century neoclassical Georgian mansion, was rescued from government destruction (it was sold at auction for $35 in the 1950s). It was moved piece by piece to its current location from Westchester County, and meticulously restored thanks to the generosity of the co-founder of Reader’s Digest. The decorative arts of the Federal period that fill the house are indeed impressive, but they have a difficult time competing with the extraordinary river and gorge views afforded from the lawns, gardens, and orchards. Many activities are held here including dancing to big-band music in the fall, and pre-Victorian Christmas Candlelight tours.
Take a stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson which connects Ulster County with Dutchess County with links to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. This is the longest elevated pedestrian walkway at 1.28 miles and is loved by hikers, bikers and all those who enjoy the outdoors. Scenic views of the Hudson River and surrounding fall foliage with great river views of the sunset await you. The Poughkeepsie State Park Entrance is located on Parker Avenue.
Enter into the genteel world of the Gilded Age where you will find the Village of Rhinebeck, with nearly 300 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Check out the Beekman Arms, one of America’s oldest continually operating hostelries (it was built in 1766). You won’t want to miss the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, where resident Cole Palen created a World War I-style airdrome for his vintage collection of aircraft. Starting with six derelict WWI planes, Cole made the Aerodrome into America’s first flying museum of antique aircraft and replicas, achieving worldwide fame. He believed, “It isn’t an airplane if it doesn’t fly,” and the non-profit Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum continues his work of collecting, restoring and exhibiting more than 60 aircraft of the Pioneer, WWI and Lindbergh Ages of aviation.
For more information related to The Hudson Valley, you can visit travelhudsonvalley.com.
WEST POINT The Thayer Hotel is a national historic treasure located on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Take in its commanding views of the Hudson from the hotel’s recently opened Zulu Time Rooftop Bar and Lounge, the only rooftop bar overlooking the Hudson River between Manhattan and Albany (the bar is open April through November).
NEW PALTZ An award-winning National Historic Landmark Resort and Historic Hotel of America, Mohonk Mountain House is a grand 265-room Victorian castle. Owned by the same family since 1869, the resort has afforded guests recreation and renewal of body, mind, and spirit in a beautiful natural setting since it opened. In addition to the award-winning Spa at Mohonk Mountain House, the resort features a wealth of year-round recreation including a spectacular Skating Pavilion, rock climbing, and 85 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Also on the sports menu are a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, and horseback riding. The glacial-formed Lake Mohonk is ideal for boating, fishing, and swimming.
COLOR YOUR WORLD
Unlike the rest of the country, the northeastern U.S. has a great variety of broad-leaved trees, which help give the region’s foliage a spectacular color range. In fact, New York State has almost as many acres of such trees as the rest of the Northeast combined.
The change in color from the bright greens of summer to the brilliant hues of fall follows a predictable pattern across the state. It begins high in the Adirondack Mountains in early September, and spreads out and down across the hills and valleys of the state, ending on Long Island and in New York City in early November. It takes about two weeks for the colors to complete their cycles in any given area, with peak brilliance lasting three to four days in any one spot.
During the fall season, I Love New York issues reports detailing the progression of colorful fall foliage across New York based upon information filed by the state’s officially designated “leaf peepers” who rate foliage color in their respective areas.
For a full foliage report for the entire state of New York, visit ilovenewyork.com.
THE APPLE OF YOUR EYE
The Hudson Valley is known for its tasty apples, and this season has yielded a bumper crop. Now that apples are ripe for the picking, growers are opening their orchards to pick your own. The best part, you don’t hav e to travel too far—set your sights on Orange Country (in most cases it’s approximately an hour by car, depending on your final destination).
There are more than 25 varieties of apples grown on over 1,000 acres, and the activities offered are just as vast. In the heart of Orange County’s apple picking country, the 3-day Sugar Loaf Fall Festival draws visitors from near and far. This year’s festival will be held on Columbus Day weekend, October 7th–9th. The event features food, craft vendors, live music, and lots of fun.
Here, some favorite pick-your-own orchards in nearby Orange County:
Pennings Orchard Pick your own apples and pumpkins daily. Activities include farm market, beer garden, pumpkin fields, hayrides, farm animals, and more (penningsorchard.com).
Soons Orchard More than fifty varieties of apples, apple cider, and vegetables. Enjoy homemade pies, cookies, and donuts. Fall weekends include hayrides (soonsorchards.com).
Apple Ridge Orchards Many varieties to pick while enjoying the breathtaking scenery. Tractor-pulled hay wagon rides, pet and feed friendly farm animals, and a corn maze (appleridgeorchards.com).
Apple Dave’s Free wagon rides and a puppet sh ow. There’s a winery, picnic area, farm animals, herb and rose gardens. Relax by the ponds, or sample the latest creations of the distillery and Applewood Winery (appledavesorchards.com).
Masker Orchards Drive right to the tree and bring your picnic gear for an idyllic day in the country. Live music, pony rides, country store. For the kids, there are barnyard baby animals, pony rides, and wagon rides (maskers.com).