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Discover the Hudson River Valley

by Kathryn Boughton

Cool, crisp days, brilliant foliage, a country road winding ahead - what could be better? And what better place to enjoy these pleasures than the spectacular Hudson River Valley?

The Valley extends 150 miles north from the top of Manhattan. Recognized as a National Heritage area, it offers history, scenic beauty, cultural events and a growing reputation for its food and farmers’ markets. Hundreds of antiques stores, craft shops and boutiques fill its towns and cities.

Henry Hudson may have been a drive-through tourist in 1609 when he explored the river while looking for a passage to Asia, but even he was not blind to the beauties of the region. He was just the first of a long progression of pilgrims to its environs, including presidents - FDR’s home in Hyde Park attracts thousands to learn about his remarkable life and leadership while the lesser-known Martin Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook is a treasure from an earlier time - actors, writers, national leaders and artists.

The Hudson River School flourished in the mid-19th century and fostered such noted artists as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Cole. Church’s fabulous Moorish mansion, Alana, overlooking the river in Hudson and Cole’s residence, Cedar Grove in Catskill are both open for tours.

Art colonies and craft villages flourish still in the little towns along the river, offering views of skilled artisans at work.

Also located in the river valley - all on the east side - are the mansions of the powerful Livingston family: Clermont in Germantown was occupied by seven generations of Livingstons, including Robert R. Livingston, Jr., who signed the Declaration of Independence and swore in George Washington, Montgomery Place in Annandale-on-Hudson, established in 1804 by Janet Livingston Montgomery, widow of Revolutionary War General Richard Montgomery, and Wilderstein in Rhinebeck, home to Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, a cousin and lifelong confidant of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Hudson River Valley beckons to those interested in outdoor adventure, from those who choose to trek the Appalachian Trail - just one of many trails to be found in the region - to white water rafters, rock climbers, boat cruises and anglers.

Bash Bish Falls in Mt. Washington, MA, site of Massachusetts highest waterfall, and Taconic State Park in Copake, NY, offer activities for campers and day visitors. Taconic visitors can bike or stroll along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, hike to Bash Bish Falls, or up Brace Mountain, the highest point in Dutchess County. The Iron Works Museum describes the iron industry at the site of the 1845 Copake Iron Works. Anglers can pull brown trout and other fish from the Bash Bish Brook or rainbow trout from the old iron ore mine pit.

All that activity builds an appetite that can be sated in a variety of ways. The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, trains some of the nation’s greatest chefs and is open to the public through on-campus restaurants and cafes. Additionally, gourmet fare can often be found in even the smallest villages.

Agriculture is exerting a growing influence in farm markets, wineries, breweries and artisanal cheeses. Food festivals for apples, cheese, garlic and many more attest to the growing interest in high-quality produce.

Notable are the Cascade Mountain Winery in Amenia, NY; the Hudson Chatham Winery; Sundog Cider in Chatham, NY; Hillrock Estate Distillery (by appointment) in Ancram, NY.

Wine goes with cheese and the Valley has its share. Among the artisanal producers is Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in Old Chatham, NY, which produces award-winning cheeses that appear on restaurant menus and in the cheese cases of the best specialty food stores throughout the country. It’s self-serve cheese and yogurt store is open to the public during daylight hours year round.

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