Hudson Valley Great Dates
Tired of the bar scene? Make Valentine’s Day (or any day) a unique experience: Take your special someone on one of the Valley’s Great Dates
Forget Netflix and the couch. Here are 10 fun and interesting activities — from skating and snowshoeing to shopping, dancing to massage, bowling to opera — sure to impress your sweetheart (along with fabulous places to dine afterwards).
Great Date #1: High School Redux
Like your braces, pimples, and locker combination, your days of canoodling with your sweetheart under the gymnasium bleachers as a DJ plays “Stairway to Heaven” might be gone for good — but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your inner 10th-grader.
Bowl a few frames at Lucky Strike (there’s a DJ booth and neon lights, unlike the analog lanes of your youth), take a turn on the 60-foot indoor Ferris wheel (two bucks a ride), and get cozy in the dark of the IMAX Theatre (the Steven Spielberg-produced I Am Number Four looks promising) — all at that seminal high school date locale, the mall. (In this case, it’s the Palisades Center in West Nyack — 845-348-1000; www.palisadescenter.com). Just make sure to get home before curfew.
Great Date #2: Hudson on the Hudson
The city of Hudson is an entertaining place to bring a date. After a modestly priced brunch at the Red Dot Restaurant (try the eggs Benedict served on latkes), hit the vaunted Warren Street antiques shops — nothing says “I love you” like a vintage rolltop desk or lusterware pitcher. (The thoroughfare has a number of art galleries, clothing and furniture stores, and gourmet food emporiums, too.) Next, head six miles south to tour the sprawling grounds of Olana, the former estate of Hudson River School landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. The sumptuous Persian-style mansion — designed by the artist and Calvert Vaux (who helped plan the layout of Central Park) — is open for tours year-round; we recommend making a reservation. Picture that.
Great Date #3: High Note, High Brow
Opera gets hi-tech on Saturday afternoons with the “Lunch & Learn” program in Poughkeepsie and Kingston. After enjoying an exclusive prix fixe lunch — at either the Artist’s Palate in Poughkeepsie or Frank Guido’s Little Italy in Kingston (845-340-1682) — followed by a talk by Marist College music teacher Leslie Gerber, head to the Bardavon Opera House or Ulster Performing Arts Center, respectively, for live big-screen broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan. On the bill: the Met premiere of Nixon in China, by composer and conductor John Adams (Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. at UPAC); Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, featuring the legendary Placido Domingo (Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. at UPAC); and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, with scintillating soprano Natalie Dessay (Mar. 19 at 1 p.m. at the Bardavon). The proverbial fat lady will be singing in hi-def, so you can leave those opera glasses at home.
Great Date #4: Everything Zen
Become One Plus One with the Universe at River Rock Health Spa in Woodstock. The Couples Zen Package offers each of you 90 minutes of heated stone massage (with aromatherapy) followed by Swedish or deep tissue massage; you can even choose a side-by-side treatment room. The package concludes with candlelit tea for two in the spa’s private dining area. Afterwards, revel in the beauty of the glorious ’Gunks as you cruise to Ellenville and dine at that popular vegetarian/vegan outpost, Aroma Thyme Bistro, where holistic cuisine has never tasted so good.
Great Date #5: Fire and Ice
It’s a romance-movie cliché: Arm-in-arm, the two lovesick leads, scarves wrapped around their necks, trace figure-eights across the ice-skating rink (this usually appears as part of the “falling in love” montage). Why not do this for real? Head to the outdoor Bear Mountain Ice Rink or the partially enclosed Pavilion at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, strap on your skates, and make like Michelle Kwan. Afterward, warm up in front of the fireplace at Chef Peter X. Kelly’s renowned Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar in Congers (Gourmet says the New American entrées served there elicit “infantile coos of bliss”), or at Chef John Novi’s romantic Depuy Canal House in High Falls (housed in a 1797 stone tavern, it’s the sort of place where you’d pop the question).
Great Date #6: Shoeing in the Woods
One of the more romantic spots going — especially during the winter — is Clarence Fahnestock State Park in Putnam County. The site offers two designated trails for snowshoeing (you can rent the shoes — $7 a pair for an hour, or $15 for the day), as well as nine miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and a tubing hill. After taking in the beauty of the season in the deep woods, head to nearby Cold Spring for a cozy dinner in front of the marble fireplace at Le Bouchon — the moules au curry are c’est magnifique. And nothing says romance like saying romance en Français.
Great Date #7: Rimbaud High
They don’t call it Poet’s Walk for nothing: a stroll this lovely makes even the most artless among us wax poetic. Get your Keats on while promenading along two miles of swoon-worthy trails — with unparalleled views of the Hudson River and Catskills — at this Scenic Hudson-owned park in Red Hook. Washington Irving did; legend has it that the view of the river from this spot inspired him to write “Rip Van Winkle.” Afterward, repair to America’s oldest operating inn, the august Beekman Arms (George Washington slept here — and so did Chelsea Clinton’s wedding guests) for a Hudson Valley Cattle Company dry-aged New York strip steak (read more about Valley steakhouses here) and a bottle of Millbrook Vineyards Hunt Country Red (read more about Valley vineyards here).
Great Date #8: Get into the Groovy
Ever since Ralph Whitehead and Hervey White came to town in 1902, Woodstock has been synonymous with art — so much so that its name was co-opted by the hippie organizers of a certain three-day Aquarian Exposition 43 miles away, 67 years later. What better place to absorb some culture than in this seminal artsy small town? Start with breakfast at Oriole 9 (they serve up one of the tastiest plates of eggs you’ll ever have), then while away the afternoon at Galerie BMG; the current “New Artists” exhibit features silver prints from Jennifer Schlesinger’s haunting “Object Diaspora” series. In the evening, feast on thin-crust pizza, pumpkin ravioli, and similar contemporary Italian fare at Cucina. Peace, love, and happiness indeed!
Great Date #9: Eat, Cook, Love
Looking for a delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon à deux with your main squeeze? How about a two-hour couples cooking class, taught by award-winning chefs, followed by an elegant four-course meal and wine pairing in the cozy dining room of an historic inn? Vintage Hudson Valley offers just that, on three upcoming Saturdays: February 5 at the Rhinecliff, in Rhinecliff; March 5 at The Ritz-Carlton Westchester, in White Plains; March 26 at Valley at the Garrison, in Garrison. The word yum comes to mind (914-591-4503; www.vintagehudsonvalley.com).
Great Date #10: You Can Dance (If You Want To)
Whether you prefer East Coast or West Coast swing, country two-step, the fox-trot, or the hustle, Just Dance 5678’s one-hour sampler class ($15) will have you and your significant other cutting a rug like a Dancing with the Stars contestant in no time. “It opens up this whole other world,” says Diane Kurtz, the studio’s co-owner. “You’re not just parents or grandparents. It’s one night a week you can go out and have fun.” The class is held at various venues throughout Orange County (as well as in Fishkill in Dutchess County). And it’s not just for couples. The studio’s singles events — held twice a month in Middletown — have an impressive track record for sparking the flames of love. “We’ve had five marriages in three years, of people who met at our class,” Kurtz says. After honing your skills, hoof it down to the Elephant Bar at Schlesinger’s Steakhouse in New Windsor and dance the night away.