Leaf peeping is a big reason skads of city dwellers leave the urban jungle behind for the Hudson Valley, the 10-county swath of eastern New York State that follows the Hudson River from northern West Chester County up to Albany.
Autumn reigns in the Hudson Valley — Photo courtesy of Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau
But there are plenty of other reasons to visit this neck of the woods any old time. It’s drop dead gorgeous country, with views of dramatic peaks and valleys, lush woodlands, and farms in between artsy communities; vistas that inspired the Hudson River school artists more than a century ago. And prime growing conditions combined with a plethora of talented chefs has created a culinary zeitgeist that makes a road trip to the Hudson Valley a tasty proposition indeed. Figure in the shopping and artsy destinations along the way, and a visit to the Hudson Valley adds up to one terrific getaway.
Here are just a few of the things you must see, taste and experience along the way.
CIA Tour and Dinner at Bocuse
Join one of the daily tours led by earnest young chefs-in-training for a behind-the-scenes look at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The 2800 or so students on campus spend $34,000 to earn an associate's degree, more for a bachelor's, and you get to see them at work, making bread and pastries, cutting veggies and simmering soups.
Delcious meal created by CIA chefs — Photo courtesy of CIA/The Bocuse Restaurant
Even better, taste the results of their labor at five different student-staffed restaurants, from the casual Apple Pie Bakery Café and St. Andrews Cafe to the fine dining, reservations-only American Bounty, Ristorante Caterina de-Medici and the newish Bocuse, a sophisticated regional French restaurant that replaced the more formal Escoffier. You’ll be asked to review the experience – on iPad at Bocuse, pen and paper everywhere else – to give students much desired feedback on front and back of the house service and quality. Prices are competitive with similar restaurants off campus, but the sense that you’re supporting future top chefs leaves a very good taste in your mouth.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Located just up the road from the CIA, this newly renovated museum opened in June after $35 million in upgrades, including new interactive video tables and screens with digital “flipbooks,” and access to artifacts including the crutches the President used because of paralysis due to polio. It's notable that the New Deal president enacted the Federal Food stamp program in 1939 in response to the Great Depression, a program now called SNAP that feeds more than 45 million needy Americans every year.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Taste is the reason Dan Barber is a leading figure in the farm-to-table movement. Barber co-owns two restaurants, Blue Hill New York in Manhattan, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a Rockefeller estate-turned-farm located about an hour’s drive from Newark in Pocantico Hills. At the height of the growing season, the farm’s 23,000-square-foot greenhouse and 80 acres of pasture land provides as much as 80 percent of the ingredients used in Barber’s kitchens. Diners at the farm choose from a changing five ($148) or nine ($208) course farm menu, which always starts with a selection of just harvested, lightly dressed baby vegetables to set the tone for the meal.
Storm King Art Center
Located just an hour north of New York City, this eye-popping monumental sculpture landscape stretched over 500 gorgeous Hudson Valley acres gets only 80,000 visitors a year. You can take public transportation and a short cab ride to the New Windsor destination or even better, drive and spend the day. Rent bikes, picnic or snack at the onsite café, wander pathways lined with trees and native grasses, a verdant background for more than 100 contemporary sculptures by the likes of Lichtenstein, Calder and Moore. Named for the nearby mountain, this place is just fantastic. You won’t want to leave – and the autumnal views will be astounding.
Built in 1884 as a foundry and forge for manufacturing steel railway wheels, this industrial site was later used as a glue factory until it closed in the 1990s. The 18,000-square-foot space in Hudson, NY is now an arts and performing space that hosts film, music and other cultural events. The space is used year-round for fun happenings like the November Farm+Flea market.
Rustic surroundings at Basilica Hudson — Photo courtesy of Basilica Hudson
In the lower Hudson Valley, reserve a sleep at Storm King Lodge, a lovely B&B with twin, queen and king rooms and a cottage for rent near the Art Center, DIA Beacon, West Point and outlet shopping. From $160.