Here's Where to Experience Countryside Charm in the Hudson Valley
These communities offer a chance for residents to slow their lives down to a tempo their hearts can keep up with.
A river view in Germantown.
Photo by Daniel Case
These communities offer a chance for residents to slow their lives down to a tempo their hearts can keep up with — even if just on the weekends.
In Columbia County, winding roads take you past the river, the surrounding hills, and farm stands overflowing with seasonal produce. Around every turn, you’ll find a sacred space to pull over and enjoy a fresh peach or a pint of berries under a shady tree overlooking some majestic view.
Farm Fresh goods in Chatham. Photo by Debbye Byrum
As you wind into a Columbia County village like Chatham, you’ll be transported by Americana charms like slow-spinning, candy-cane-striped barbershop poles, and the evening glow of an antique marquee at the historic Crandell Theatre. It seems like every time the old clock tower clangs at One Main Street, a new weekender pops up in line to watch the corn kernels burst with steam within the old-fashioned popcorn machine inside the theatre lobby.
A food vendor in Chatham. Photo by Seth Davis
Emma Myers, who started going to Chatham from Brooklyn during her childhood summers, tells us that a “quintessentially American Main Street vibe” has been consistent since she was a kid. In recent years, Chatham has added some of the Valley’s current cultural touchstones like Chatham Brewing, the Chatham Berry Farm, and the Children’s Garden Summer Camp. According to James Male of HOUSE Hudson Valley Realty, “the housing stock ranges from magazine-ready cottages at around a half-million dollars to farmhouse palaces surrounded by white horse fences well into the millions.”
One of the smallest hamlets in the county, Germantown lures residents with its farmhouses sporting exposed beams and massive stone fireplaces, and 19th-century cottages in town, all with sweeping Catskill Mountain views.
In town, scrumptious food purveyors like Gaskins and Otto’s Market huddle in close with shops like Athabold Flowers, Lawlor’s Package Store (for wine and spirits), and “possibly the best restaurant/bar scene in Columbia County,” Male says.
Male tells us the town has drawn clientele from far-flung places, across the ocean, and high on the rungs of status: “I’m getting calls from people in France saying, ‘I want to live in Germantown!’” The town was originally founded by Palentine Germans in the early 1800s, and is still home to many of their descendants — as well as celebrities in the arts and entertainment world. The median home price in Germantown is $250,000, according to Zillow, but the most fleshed-out rural residences can fetch more than $1 million.
Left: Ghent tote bag photo by Zoraida Lopez. Right: Art Omi in Ghent. Photo courtesy of Art Omi.
Ghent offers more of those hidden farmhouses, as well as luxurious estates, dotted across an expansive 45 square miles of hills and meadows ranging from $350,000 to $3 million, on average. On any weekend, residents may pay a visit to transplants Mimi and Richard Beaven at the Made in Ghent farm store on A Little Ghent Farm to select delectable baked goods and prepared foods at brunch time before heading to Art Omi’s sculpture garden for a pensive stroll or bike ride, followed by an evening art opening at The School, operated by the prestigious Jack Shainman Gallery in nearby Kinderhook.
Windham Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Windham Mountain Resort.
Across the river in Greene County, neighboring ski resort towns Windham and Hunter offer cozy Catskill mountainside living. Regina Tortorella, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty, describes her recent clientele in Hunter as “younger professionals and more Brooklyn hipster,” often using trendy ’70s style A-frame houses as their base for living, skiing, and throwing social gatherings, while Windham — with luxury ski-in, ski-out homes — is more geared toward families and “Wall-Street weekenders needing a quick commute back to the city.”
Hunter Mountain's Oktoberfest. Photo courtesy of Hunter Mountain
Those A-frames in Hunter go for between $240,000 to $300,000, move-in ready, whereas in Windham you won’t get anything turnkey for under $350,000, according to Tortorella. Both towns offer impressive views and proximity to all of the outdoor sports and supporting cafés and bars that ski resort towns have to offer, but Windham's homes tend to be more remote. Tortorella said she is now seeing a trend of more contemporary homes in Windham with panoramic glass walls and infinity pools in addition to the usual log homes.
Above: Rosendale Trestle. Photo by Seth Colegrove; below: Delaware & Hudson Canal Museum. Photo by Bill Merchant
On the other (southern) side of the Catskills, folkies, farmers, carpenters, and all manner of craftspeople are buying in Rosendale, and its nesting hamlet High Falls in Ulster County. Large plots of land — with and without existing homes — set in dramatic natural scenes and in proximity to cultural and creative offerings are still widely available at some of the more affordable price points in the area. Local farmer Erika Brenner, formerly of Manhattan, paints a picture of the lifestyle: “We bought a small house within a 10-minute walk to ‘downtown’ High Falls. Even in the winter we will throw on our headlamps and crampons and walk into town for a drink. My favorite spot is The Spy; it’s always warm and bright on dark winter nights, and their cocktails are perfect.” Her husband, musician Mario Rincon, adds, “The music community in this greater area is diverse and welcoming and there’s no shortage of opportunities to engage as an artist or audience member. As history nerds, we enjoy living in such a historically fascinating town, and frequent the Canal Museum and canal walks. I think High Falls owes its charm to the well-preserved and restored buildings of its downtown.”