20 Things Every Valleyite Must Do
Consider yourself a true Valley girl (or guy)? From frolicking with fish in the Hudson to hobnobbing with horse owners in Millbrook, these 20 activities separate the real-deal Valleyites from the city transplants and weekend wannabes.
1. Kayak to Bannerman Island
Its real name is Pollepel, but most people know it as Bannerman Island, named after Francis Bannerman, a wealthy munitions dealer who built an imposing Scottish castle on its shores in the early 1900s. All turrets and stone walls, a 1968 fire left the place a haunting ruin, which can be seen to best effect from the water. Several local companies offer paddle tours that circle around the island, so you can explore this river landmark up close.
2. Go sledding at Mills Mansion
Generations of mid-Valley denizens have steered their Flexible Flyers down the western lawn at the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. The estate has an unobstructed view down to the Hudson shoreline — making it the perfect place to slide when the white stuff flies. Not only will you enjoy a good, long ride (the steep hill goes on forever), but the sight of the icy river below is spectacular. Don’t forget the hot cocoa.
3. Visit North-South Lake
Perched on an escarpment 2,200 feet above sea level, these lakes near Haines Falls loom large in the Valley’s history. The site was a popular subject for the 19th-century Hudson River School painters. By the 1870s, city swells were flocking to the famed Catskill Mountain House to take the country air; the house’s former location is just a short walk from North Lake. It’s a walk worth taking: you can see five states from the promontory.
4. Get Rowdy at a Renegades game
Don’t worry if you don’t like baseball — the between-innings antics will entertain you as much as the play on the field. Balloon
races, dance contests, T-shirt giveaways, visits by the popular mascots Ricky and Renee (and their “baby,” Rascal) keep the fans in the seats even when the Minor League team is in the basement.
5. Catch a concert at Trophy Point
Recipe for a great Sunday evening: Bring your lawn chair and a picnic dinner to Trophy Point, the outdoor amphitheater
overlooking the Hudson at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Relax and enjoy a concert by the academy’s accomplished
musical groups while you admire the drop-dead sight of the sun setting over the river. Want to make it extra-special?
Go when the band performs Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, accompanied by real cannon fire. An incredible, only-in-the-
6. Be hip on the Newburgh waterfront
Newburgh’s revitalized riverside area is the place to see and be seen. Torches on the Hudson, with its Aqua Bar and 6,000 gallon
aquarium, likes to compare its ambience to Miami’s South Beach. The outdoor tiki bar, dance floor, and patio at Front Street attracts
throngs of warm weather partygoers. Gully’s, a barge-turned-restaurant, is also a popular hangout, and the Blue Martini has made a name for itself (both literally and figuratively)
with its specialty drinks.
7. Eat at the CIA
No, we’re not taking about spies. Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America is one of the nation’s premier cooking schools; their
students get on-the-job experience by working in each of the five on-site restaurants. The Escoffier offers classic French fare and white-glove service; lunch at Ristorante Caterina De’ Medici is like spending an afternoon on a farm in Tuscany. Dishes made with regional ingredients are the stars at American Bounty, while more casual, family-friendly fare can be had at St. Andrew’s Cafe and the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe.
8. Shop in Sugar Loaf
Forget the mall: First organized in 1749, this unique village is home to a variety of craftsmen, artisans, galleries and other speciality shops (as well as restaurants and a performing arts center). From pottery to quilts to painted wood designs, there are handmade items by the score. The town also has a great atmosphere: many of the shops are located in Colonial-era buildings, and the friendly owners are a far cry from the sulky teens who wait on you at the mall.
9. See the air show at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Dedicated to reliving the early years of aviation, this museum takes its exhibits to the skies on weekends between June and October. World War I and Lindbergh era aircraft — including a 1909 Bleriot, the country’s oldest flying plane — swoop overhead, reenacting dogfights and daredevil barnstormer flights of yesteryear. Loud and colorful, it’s a Valley must-see.
10. Go to the ’Gunks
Listed by the Nature Conservancy as one of the earth’s “Last Great Places,” the Shawangunk Mountains are home to a huge variety of animals and plants. Well-loved by rock climbers, the mountains’ sheer cliffs are a dramatic reminder of their violent creation more than 270 million years ago. But these aren’t the only reasons to visit. Go for the views — of the Catskills to the north, the Hudson and its Highlands to the south and east, the rest of Ulster County (and beyond) to the west.
11. Find peace in Woodstock
Even though the famous festival was held about 50 miles away, you can still indulge your inner love child by visiting this funky
village. Long a home to artists, writers, and musicians, today the town is a tourist destination. Artsy shops and galleries (yes,
you can buy tie-dye here) stand cheek-by-jowl with restaurants of all persuasions. If the smell of patchouli doesn’t send you into
instant nirvana, a stop at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum — with their collection of works by area artists from
throughout the last century — should.
12. Visit one of the great estates
You’ve got more choices here than you can shake a walking stick at. Feeling presidential? Take in FDR’s Springwood or Martin Van Buren’s Lindenwald. Want to see how the other half (really) lived? Gilded Age beauties like Vanderbilt and Mills mansions stand waiting. A history buff? Stately Clermont was home to the Livingston clan (the 18thcentury equivalent of the Kennedys). Seen all these? Annual house tours offered by Hudson River Heritage and the Dutchess Land Conservancy take you inside some wonderful mansions that are now in private hands.
13. Go antiquing in Hudson
Close to 50 antiques shops are sandwiched along a five-block stretch of the city, making it a mecca for collectors and browsers
from throughout the Northeast. Furniture, art, porcelain, rugs, architectural pieces — can all be found here. (At a price, of course. But then again, haggling for the best deal is half the fun, right?)
14. Swim in the Hudson River
Why? Because you can. “The river is cleaner than it’s been in generations,” says Lori O’Connell of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “New York State has provided more than $430 million to benefit the Hudson since 1996, and the DEC has taken many steps towards making it swimmable.” Best spots to get your toes wet: the beaches at Croton Point Park and Kingston Point.
15. Watch July 4th fireworks over the river
From Haverstraw and Peekskill to Newburgh and Kingston, the river towns light up the summer night with sizzling pyrotechnics, often provided courtesy of Wappingers Falls’ own Legion Fireworks Company. Watching those exploding chrysanthemums
rain down from the sky, with the Highlands or one of the bridges as a backdrop — as they say, priceless.
16. Drink a glass of fresh local milk
Knock back a tumbler-full of Hudson Valley Fresh, which contains milk produced exclusively by Dutchess County cows, and
you’ll do more than sport a drippy moustache. You’ll help support local dairy farmers, an agricultural industry that’s been a mainstay of the Valley for generations.
17. See Shakespeare at Boscobel
The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival does the Bard proud. Performing outdoors on the grounds of the Boscobel estate, the troupe draws close to 25,000 theatergoers with their innovative interpretation of the plays. This summer, catch Richard III and
As You Like It in their brand-new theater tent.
18. Check out a horse show
Millbrook has been the stomping ground for the horsey set for years; their Horse Trials (held every August) present local and national-caliber riders competing in dressage and show-jumping events. The new kids on the block (they opened in 2004), HITS on the Hudson in Saugerties has shows on weekends throughout the spring and summer. Beautiful animals, skillful riders, idyllic surroundings — an unforgettable day.
19. Stink it up at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival
Legend tells us that garlic is one powerful substance; after all, it was used to scare off Dracula. But the “stinking rose” attracts upwards of 40,000 people to Saugerties every September to sample delicacies like garlic jelly, garlic granola, garlic coffee, garlic ice cream — even garlic dog biscuits. Best of all, profits from the Kiwanis Club-sponsored event help fund local groups and charities.
20. Hike to Kaaterskill Falls
Don’t let the word “hike” scare you. The half-mile-long trail to the base of Kaaterskill Falls is no big deal — but the waterfall certainly
is. At a soaring 260 feet, it’s the highest two-tiered waterfall in the state. Visit when the water level is high, and you’ll have trouble
hearing yourself think above the crash of the cascade. A great way to experience the Catskills without breaking much of a sweat.