Hudson Valley Insiders Travel Guide 2011
Pssst... it’s our Insider’s Guide! 39 tips to keep you in the know: secret gardens, one-of-a-kind deals, fabulous food, and more!
Photograph by Michael Polito
Can you keep a secret? Savvy locals (and most out-of-town visitors, too) know all about our well-established restaurants, cultural centers, and outdoor activities venues. But are you aware that you can make your own wine, see art house films, haggle with high-end antiques dealers, ride the country’s longest zipline, and view more Tiffany windows in one afternoon than you can shake a stick at — all right here in the Valley? Check out our compilation of more than 30 places to go and things to do that perhaps you don’t know about — but should.
Rock and Ribs
No surprise: Billy Joe’s Ribworks, the relatively new hot spot on the Newburgh waterfront, has already earned high marks for its savory, smoky ribs. Choose from either the beef or pork ribs (baby back or St. Louis cut), which are hand-rubbed three times, smoked for hours, then served “naked” or with house-made barbecue sauce. Other BBQ favorites — pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken — are also on the menu, as well as unusual appetizers like fried green tomatoes and Southern fried pickles. Along with the grub, Billy Joe’s live entertainment schedule is packing them in with local and regional bands appearing every Friday and Saturday night.
Insider’s tip: Catch tristate rockers Alice in Coverland on Nov. 11, Brooklyn-based Holla Back on the 18th, and Orange County’s own Junket on Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 23). Newburgh. 845-565-1560, www.ribworks.com
One of the great things about summer in the Valley is the abundance of outdoor flea markets and vendor-filled fairs, but they tend to flee (pardon the pun) as the weather cools down. There are, however, a handful of indoor ones left, such as the Middletown Flea Market — billed as Orange County’s largest indoor flea market — which is open during weekends year-round.
Insider’s Tip: Treasure hunters take note: look around and you’ll find everything from limited edition sports memorabilia to great home-theater electronics, even fine art prints — Military Art Outlet’s section sells prints of John Gould paintings featuring noteworthy Valley locales such as the New Windsor Cantonment and the old Beacon-Newburgh ferries. The market also holds occasional events, such as live wrestling bouts and karaoke contests with cash prizes.
The growing local trend of dubbing holistic therapies as “community” (such as community yoga or community acupuncture) generally means the provider provides a lower-priced version of his or her service. Kingston Community Acupuncture offers a sliding scale of fees from $20-$40 for treatments in a calming environment, with massage tables separated by dividers (the way they are in traditional Chinese healing clinics). There is also an option for a private treatment, which is slightly more expensive.
Insider’s Tip: The clinic has a shop where you can purchase a variety of all-natural, botanical salves crafted by local herbalists. Hyde Park-based Three Sisters Herbals creates a Magic Salve that treats everything from eczema and diaper rash to puffy eyes. If acupuncture’s not your thing, you can receive discounted shiatsu, Swedish, and other types of massage at the nearby Hudson Valley School of Massage Therapy in West Park. Therapies are performed by students under the supervision of licensed therapists.
Kingston Community Acupuncture. 845-339-5653, www.kingstonacupuncture.com
Hudson Valley School of Massage Therapy, West Park. 845-384-6592, www.hvsmassagetherapy.com
Kids of all ages can shoot for the moon and reach for the stars at the Lower Hudson Valley Challenger Learning Center. “Scientists,” “engineers,” and “astronauts” engage in authentic interactive space and mission-center simulations at this top-flight destination. The original Challenger space shuttle crew sought to extend the boundaries of human knowledge, teach, and inspire. The legacy continues as participants pursue math, science, and technology through simulated space adventures. Teamwork and problem-solving skills are just part of the fun and learning. Public missions to the Moon, Mars, and to a comet rotate monthly.
Insider’s Tip: Looking for an out-of-this-world birthday party? Check out two available packages: the Junior Party Mission, which provides children ages six to eight with activities, hands-on space-science projects, and a party room. For older astronauts, there is the Senior Party Mission, which is designed for ages nine to 99 and includes a briefing, team assignments, the mission, and a party room.
Airmont. 845-357-3416, www.lhvcc.com
Pastry Garden is well known for its rich chocolate sweets, creamy cheesecakes, and other baked delights, but — as with many gourmet cake shops — this decadence sometimes comes at a cost; the items are worth the money, but it adds up fairly quickly.
Insider’s Tip: To appeal to customers looking for an inexpensive way to satiate a sweet tooth, Pastry Garden’s two Poughkeepsie locations now offer a daily 99-cent special. Every day, a new treat is highlighted — apple or cherry turnovers, chocolate chip cookies, elephant ears, chocolate pretzels — and priced so low you can stock up on goodies for the week.
Poughkeepsie. 845-473-5220, www.thepastrygarden.com
Since its move from the Berkshires to Hudson just a few years ago, Club Helsinki — now known as Helsinki Hudson — has become a playground for musicians, artists, dancers, poets, and fans. The former historic industrial complex holds two performance spaces, a gallery, lounges, a restaurant featuring local fare, and a variety of other amenities.
Insider’s Tip: While Helsinki offers numerous activities and events during the week, Monday nights are a special treat: catch the latest up-and-coming talent during the weekly Monday Showcase, an evening of performances by musicians of all types.
Hudson. 518-828-4100, www.helsinkihudson.com
Hungry diners looking to experience a bit of Poughkeepsie history should pull up a chair at Alex’s Restaurant. This Market Street mainstay has been in business since 1915. Alex and Christopher Pappas (a pair of Greek immigrant brothers) started using the space first as a shoe-shine parlor, grocery, and farm stand; eventually, it became Alex’s Grill, the forerunner of today’s restaurant. A popular spot with downtown office workers, Alex’s serves a wide-ranging menu of breakfast and lunch items that pays tribute to the city’s diverse population: challah bread French toast and matzoh ball soup share the bill with souvlaki, hummus, enchiladas, and calamari. And the vintage photos of the Queen City that line the walls add to the historic charm.
Insider’s tip: Have a yen for an egg cream or a root beer float? Alex’s soda fountain offerings are numerous, and go perfectly with their chocolate black-and-white cookies (a fudgy chocolate cookie, with both white and chocolate frosting). To die for.
Poughkeepsie. 845-452-1125, www.alexsrestaurant.org
Looking for a red-hot museum ticket? Experience 300 years of New York volunteer firefighting history at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. Whether you are a fire buff, a firefighter, or just plain curious, you’ll find premier collections of apparatus, equipment, and gear. From lithographs, models, and trophies to an 1869 Clapp and Jones Steamer and 1939 American LaFrance “Scout” 500 series pumper, this place is sure to make a splash. Take part in interactive activities (such as an old-fashioned bucket brigade), romp around in fire gear, and get behind the wheel of a real fire truck and sound the siren. On a more somber note, visitors can peruse the exhibit Lest We Forget, which honors those firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Insider’s Tip: This is a lot of museum for your buck: Adults pay $5, children five and older just $2; the family rate (for two adults and two children) will run you $10 total. And although you may have missed the annual Dalmatian Day in October, you can still book a smokin’ group outing for enthusiasts of any age, as guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more. There is also a seasonal picnic area.
Hudson. 877-347-3687, www.fasnyfiremuseum.com
After countless years of living without a local supermarket, City of Poughkeepsie residents finally have a place to shop. And what a place it is. Spotless and well-stocked, the Associated Supermarket on Main Street carries all the essentials — as well as a huge selection of items you won’t find at Price Chopper or Hannaford. Mangoes, papaya, plaintains, cactus nopal (prickly pear), coco malanga (similiar to a yam), and other exotic fruits and vegetables, are all on display in the large, brightly lit produce section. One entire grocery aisle is dedicated to Mexican foods; another features Guatemalan, Jamaican, and West Indian fare. Want to make real Mexican tamales? They’ve got the masa flour and corn husks. Have a hankering for pig’s feet, tripe, or beef tongue? All here. An end-cap houses multiple brands of soft and hard tortillas, there’s an expansive selection of unique spices and specialty foods, and more types of rice than we could count.
Insider’s Tip: The prices are more than reasonable. On the day we stopped in, juicy green limes were 10 for $2; hard-to-find fresh cilantro was 89 cents per bunch; and chicken breast was on sale for less than $2 per pound.
Bouncing Off the Walls
With the weather cooler and the days shorter, soon the kids will be cooped up and grousing. What to do with all that pent up energy? Bounce it out! Bounce! is a 25,000-square-foot action venue that offers wall-to-wall trampolines, fitness classes, dodge ball games, foam pits, a healthy snack bar, arcade, and WiFi lounge. There’s even a separate trampoline area and inflatable zone for little jumpers, appropriately named Bounce! Jr. At press time, the complex was preparing for its soft opening in October, with a planned grand opening tentatively scheduled for November.
The center is co-owned by Tappan resident Michael Gross and Danny Fried, former owner of NYC’s China Club. “What kid do you know that doesn’t want to jump and bounce?” queries Fried. “It’s so invigorating.”
Insider’s Tip: Think you might put on a few holiday pounds? Now an Olympic sport, trampoline jumping can provide an strenuous but fun workout, burning between 400-500 calories an hour. So move over kids, we plan on bouncing into a healthier New Year.
Valley Cottage. 845-268-4000, www.bounceonit.com
What a Mitzvah!
The oldest Jewish dwelling in North America, the Gomez Mill House is all about tradition. In 1714, early American Jewish leader Luis Moses Gomez, who fled persecution in Spain, built a fieldstone blockhouse in Ulster County as an extension of his successful New York City business. The house was continuously inhabited for the next 300 years. Other notable residents including American Revolutionary patriot and county leader Wolfert Acker; 19th-century gentleman farmer and conservationist William Henry Armstrong; and 20th-century social activist Martha Gruening. Visitors can take part in experiential tours and interesting programs (particularly on Sundays) focusing on the former owners and on Jewish history — or just wander around the pretty grounds. The museum closes for the season on November 13.
Insider’s Tip: A new art gallery, scheduled to showcase two exhibits a year, opened on the third floor of this historic home last May.
Marlboro. 845-236-3126, www.gomez.org
VENI, VIDI — VINO!
Giovanni Pettreta’s ancestors had been involved in making wine in his Italian homeland since 1525. A 1980 earthquake, however, destroyed the family vineyard. Pettreta emigrated to the U.S., met and married his wife, started a family and a new career — but he missed working with the land he so loved. So he purchased 10 acres in Wappinger Falls, and the Santo Stefano Winery was born. Free of sulfates and chemical preservatives, Pettreta’s wines — Vino Petrino, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot (among others) — are produced using the age-old recipes of his forebears. Scheduled tastings are available, in addition to corporate events, weddings, and private parties.
Insider’s Tip: The Santo Stefano Winemaking Club offers its members exclusive benefits, including winemaking sessions (during which you, your family and friends can crush, press, and bottle together); access to oak barrels, corks, bottles, climate-controlled storage, and daily monitoring of your wine; customized labels; as well as first notification of special events held at the winery.
Wappingers Falls. 203-948-8235, www.santostefanowinemaking.com
Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center maintains a collection of more than 18,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and other works of art amassed during the college’s 150-year history. In the gallery, visitors can view works from antiquity to the present day — including prints by Rembrandt, landscapes by Frederic Church and Asher Durand, and paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollack — that you wouldn’t expect to find outside of a big-city museum.
Insider’s Tip: Drop by for “Late Night at the Lehman Loeb,” which takes place at the art center every Thursday evening from 5-9 p.m. Take in the artwork as well as music and dance performances, poetry readings, and other special events and surprises. And it’s all free. (While you’re at it, check out the First Sunday free tours at SUNY New Paltz’s Dorsky Museum, and the Neuberger Museum’s First Wednesday programs at SUNY Purchase.)
Poughkeepsie. 845-437-5237, http://fllac.vassar.edu
According to Fodor’s, the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair is one of the best-known and best-loved antiques shows in the nation. Held twice a year (on Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends) inside the exhibition buildings at the Rhinebeck Fairgrounds, this antiques extravaganza hosts somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 dealers — most from the Northeast, although some travel from states as far away as Michigan and Kentucky. The show focuses on American furniture and accessories — as well as jewelry, silver, glassware, ceramics, decorated stoneware, Oriental rugs, architectural elements, textiles, folk art, paintings, prints, photographs... The list is endless. From china to tchotchkes, you’ll find it here.
Insider’s Tip: Dealers often bring their most interesting and unusual pieces to Rhinebeck; plan to line up with the early morning crowds to get the best selection. And don’t be shy about asking for a better price; most dealers expect to haggle, and mark their goods accordingly.
Rhinebeck. 845-876-1989, www.rhinebeckantiquesfair.com
Second chances is the name of the game at Surviving Sisters’ Boutique, established by heart attack survivor (and proud heart-health advocate) Kim Miller. The quaint shop — which specializes in products made locally and throughout the U.S. — offers six rooms filled with gently used clothing and footwear, home furnishings, jewelry, trinkets, and collectibles.
Insider’s Tip: Although billed as a fashion haven for teens and kids, the upper floor’s small — but impressive — fur coat collection will delight glam-fans looking to relive the golden days of Hollywood. And on weekends when the weather is pleasant, enjoy the shop’s Community Tent Sale, where donated or unsold items are only $1 each.
Hyde Park. 845-229-0425.
There’s big news on the cultural scene: Tangent Theatre Company, a troupe of professional actors and other stage types, performs readings and full productions of contemporary works in the northern Dutchess village of Tivoli. Founded in New York City in 2000 by Valley natives Andrea and Michael Rhodes and Keith Teller, the group began staging “pub theater” readings in the area about three years ago. These free readings of well-known dramas (including Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, American Buffalo by David Mamet, and Doubt by John Patrick Shanley, among others) take place about once at month at the Black Swan, a popular Tivoli watering hole. Last August, the group mounted a well-received production of A Zoo Story in the Carpenter Shop Theater, a 50-seat space on Broadway that is its new home.
Insider’s Tip: On November 10-13, Tangent presents its inaugural NEWvember Play Festival, a showcase of rehearsed readings of six works by promising playwrights; see all six for just $30. Or enjoy a pint and a play (for free) when members of the company read David Mamet’s Bobby Gould in Hell at the Black Swan on December 4.
Tivoli. 845-230-7020, www.tangent-arts.org
According to the law of lunch-onomics, when flavor and quality of food increases, cost usually does too. But the wraps, panini, and other dishes at Sugar and Spice Café — an unassuming deli-café tucked into the Poughkeepsie Plaza on Route 9 — are flavorful, filling, and reasonably priced.
Insider’s Tip: For less than $10, the hungry masses can order a satisfying meal. We like the Mediterranean panini: grilled eggplant, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and balsamic reduction with a side of lightly seasoned fries. Or, have a quick bite to-go — a slice of quiche, soup of the day, and a cheesecake brownie (one of the many sweets available) for around the same low price.
Poughkeepsie. 845-471-4603, www.sugarspicecafe.com
GEORGE AND JAZZ
How would you like to have a pint at the same tavern where George Washington probably had one? Built in 1668 and still going strong, The ’76 House is one of America’s oldest taverns. This National Historic Landmark serves lunch and dinner daily (and brunch on Sundays).
Insider’s Tip: Every Wednesday night, the tavern hosts the 76 Jazz Series, featuring live music by a well-respected jazz quintet. And from 8-11 p.m., have a little culture with your cuisine: live models pose for would-be artists to draw (so don’t forget your sketch pad).
Tappan. 845-359-5476, www.76house.com
AWAY FROM IT ALL
Covering close to 6,000 acres in Putnam and Dutchess counties, the Great Swamp is one of New York State’s largest wetlands. The area is best known as a bird-watchers paradise: Nearly 200 species — redwing blackbirds, bitterns, waterthrush, ravens, as well as ducks, geese, herons, and kingfishers — make their home there; you can often catch of glimpse of beavers, otter, and mink, too. The swamp is also a prime spot for canoeing and kayaking.
Insider’s Tip: Between April and October, Great Blue Outfitters — an outdoor equipment store and rental center in Patterson — offers full- and half-day kayak trips in the Great Swamp. Great Blue transports you to the swamp, rents you the necessary equipment, schools you in basic kayak/canoe techniques, then guides you around the area (if you choose; self-guided trips are also available).
Patterson. 845-319-6172, www.greatblueoutfitters.com
From hiking and skiing to rock climbing, kayaking, and skydiving, the Valley has long been known for the wide variety of activities it offers for outdoor enthusiasts. Now we can add “zipline canopy touring” to that lengthy list. Ziplines are cables that extend between two platforms located at different elevations. Riders sit in a harness that’s attached to the cable by a pulley; once they step off the higher platform, gravity “zips” them down to the lower station. Popular in many parts of the U.S., zipline tours often provide wonderful views of the surrounding area — along with a healthy adrenaline rush.
Over the last few years, ziplines have come to the Valley in a big way: No less than three venues now offer these high-flying adventures. With more than four miles of lines — some of which are close to 600 feet above the ground — the Hunter Mountain SkyRider Tour bills itself as the longest and highest zipline in North America (and second longest in the world). Set up in the trees at the base of the ski area, the Catamount Aerial Adventure Park in Columbia County offers 11 ropes courses of varying degrees of difficulty, which are navigated using bridges, ladders, and ziplines. And Big Bear Ziplines offers eight courses through 50 acres of woodland right off Route 9G in Hyde Park.
Insider’s tip: First-time zipliners should be sure to “dress appropriately for the weather,” says Big Bear owner Dieter Beisiegel (both Big Bear and Windham are open year-round). “And bring a camera.”
Windham: 518-263-4388, www.huntermtn.com;
Catamount (Hillsdale): 518-325-3200, www.catamounttrees.com;
Big Bear (Hyde Park): 888-947-2294, www.bigbearziplines.com
With the increasing popularity of digital music sales, it’s hard to find a good, old-fashioned record store anymore. For those who still enjoy “tangible music” — reading a CD’s liner notes, admiring the artwork, and hearing a record player’s unmistakable hiss — there are still plenty of small shops throughout the Valley, some of which have been thriving for years, while others have just opened recently. Here are a few that take it a step further, doubling as an art gallery, offering lessons, even selling vintage pinball machines.
The vinyl revolution is making a comeback, and Wright Gallery Records offers a broad selection of LPs to sift through; however, they will also convert your old records (and cassettes) to CD for only $5. Check out their in-store performances, too.
Kingston. 845-331-8217, www.wrightgalleryrecords.com
For 25 years, Rock Fantasy has been known as Orange County’s hard rock, heavy metal, and classic rock superstore. Beyond their selection of music and apparel, check out their vintage pinball tables on display for sale or play — the store is also the home of the Orange County Pinball Club.
Middletown. 845-343-7300, www.rockfantasy.com
DMU Music offers a variety of professional sound and DJ equipment, but their record selection spans everything from hip hop to reggae to bachata, including a variety of hard-to-find classics. DMU also plans to offer DJ classes through their Spin Tech DJ Institute, featuring lessons by renowned local musicians.
Newburgh. 845-561-6797, www.dmumusic.com
Cool cats can tip their hats — and buy them — at Blue-Byrd’s Haberdashery & Music. Established by Maureen Byrd and John Allen Blue, the shop is a peaceful marriage of music and millinery: discs from Billie, Dylan, and even local artists take center stage, while caps, cloches, and fedoras line the walls. Pick up harmonicas, suspenders, and posters, too.
Kingston. 845-339-3174, www.blue-byrds.com
Jack’s Rhythms has been a New Paltz village staple for decades. The shop carries a variety of new and used records and CDs, but don’t leave without skimming through their impressive book selection, which includes some hard-to-find reads.
New Paltz. 845-255-1082, www.jacksrhythms.com
Rhino Records originated in California but established a hip reputation when it moved to the college town of New Paltz. The shop is small, but they cram a large number of vinyl and CD recordings inside. Look around and eventually you’ll find a case of super-cheap cassettes and CDs. Be sure to stop at their wall of local artists before you leave.
New Paltz. 845-255-0230, www.rhinonewpaltz.com
Darkside Records & Gallery might be the new guy in town, but it’s already gaining a loyal following of music enthusiasts. When you’re done rifling through crate upon crate of new and used records, CDs, and 45s, peruse the works of local painters and sculptors hanging on the walls.
Poughkeepsie. 845-452-8010, www.darksiderecordsandgallery.com
WINDOWS OF THE SOUL
A little-known fact is that Louis Comfort Tiffany (1844-1933), master of Art Nouveau lamps and opalescent objets d’art — and son of Charles, world-famous Fifth Avenue jeweler — began his career as a landscape painter influenced by the Hudson River School artists. Another well-kept secret is that there’s a cache of his amazing stained-glass windows concentrated in Troy.
Most of the city’s Tiffany windows were acquired in the 1890s, and represent Troy’s unprecedented financial growth during the American industrial revolution. “Troy’s institutions had the money at the right time — it was the Silicon Valley of the 19th century,” notes P. Thomas Carroll, executive director of Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, and official host of Troy Tiffany Tours, a three-hour inspection of Troy’s abundant Tiffany windows.
Windows depicting both biblical and botanical scenes, which use “crackle” textures and Tiffany’s “drapery glass” technique, are all on view. At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, tour attendees will see six jewel-toned windows and a brass-and-jewel-glass altar railing. The 1899 “St. John’s Vision of the Holy City,” an acknowledged masterpiece at St. John’s Episcopal Church, is believed to be the first landscape window ever installed in a church.
Held in September, Tiffany Treasures is a Hudson River Valley Ramble event. Troy’s Oakwood Cemetery hosts a Ramble event on the same day, which highlights the eight Tiffany windows in its opulent Earl Chapel and Crematorium.
Insider’s Tip: Missed the tour and feeling ecumenical? Many venues are closed during the week due to expenses. Should the spirit move you, however, you can grace the open doors of these churches on most Sundays to sneak a peek.
Troy. 518-274-5267, www.hudsonmohawkgateway.org
MAKING MOM PROUD
Lesleigh Weinstein and Danny Wise know your mother. Maybe not personally, but that’s the premise of Just Like Mother Used to Bake, their Sullivan County-based baking company that prides itself on goods that taste, well... just like mother used to bake. From classics like Grammy’s cinnamon buns and Aunt Ellie’s coffee cake, to less conventional items like chocolate-walnut bobka bread and Good As Gold chocolate-pecan cookies, you’ll swear you never left home.
Insider’s Tip: Not limited to Ma’s recipe book, Weinstein happily tries her hand at made-to-order treats. (Anti-Valentine’s Day cake, anyone?) She’ll also show up the commercial brands with her take on Twinkies, Yodels, and Hostess cupcakes: Our editors once commissioned “Poppy Tarts” — a homemade version of everyone’s favorite toaster pastry — which became a big hit when they debuted at a local farmers’ market. Individual treats average about $2.50 to $4 a pop, with discounts for batches and larger orders.
Bloomingburg (Sullivan County). 845-733-1102, www.justlikemotherusedtobake.com
It’s no secret that the proliferation of big-box chain stores has sounded the death knell for many smaller, mom-and-pop businesses, both here in the Valley and around the country. But not so in Rhinebeck, where the A.L. Stickle Variety Store is still going strong. Founded by Alfred Lee Stickle way back in 1946 (and currently owned and run by his grandson Matt Stickle), this Market Street landmark is a throwback to the five-and-dime stores of yesteryear. Items for sale are priced by hand, and displayed in bins or glass partitioned counter racks (no plastic shrink-wrap here); vintage advertising signs and a unique aroma (caused, says Matt Stickle, by “65-year-old dust and mothballs”) add to the old-time charm.
Shoppers will be hard pressed not to find what they’re looking for here — Stickle says there are about 10,000 items in his inventory. Looking for a bar of Lifebuoy soap? A new top for your Thermos? Knitting wool? A bow compass? Oilcloth for your picnic table? A Slinky? All of these — and hundreds of other notions, toys, and everyday items — are here for the asking. First-time visitors to the store “have a feeling of nostalgia,” Stickle says. “It takes them back to their childhood, and the days of the old dime stores.”
Insider’s tip: Check out Stickle’s Facebook page for the weekly “Friday Favorite.” Matt chooses a different item from the store each week, does some research on it, and adds it to the page. Recent items have included a “drinking bird” toy, mosquito coils, and a toothpaste tube squeezer.
Rhinebeck. 845-876-3206, www.alstickle.com
The region’s horticulturists know all about 12-acre Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, and the stunning Italian Garden on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park. But the Valley has a host of equally beautiful — but less well-known — landscapes representing every period of its history. Accessible by boat from West Point, the Anna B. Warner Memorial Garden on Constitution Island is a faithful recreation of this 19th-century author’s house garden; it includes a 50-yard walkway with borders overflowing with marigolds, petunias, and other colorful plantings; guided tours take place one day each summer. Bellefield, located on the grounds of the Roosevelt Historic Site in Hyde Park, was designed in 1912 by Beatrix Farrand, a renowned landscape gardener who designed gardens at the White House in the early part of the 20th century. This telescoping garden, whose color scheme includes shades of pink, white, mauve, and purple, is flanked by fieldstone walls and a hemlock hedge. Most impressive of all, though, is Wethersfield Garden in Amenia. Sited on a hill that affords views of the Catskills and Berkshires, this garden is part of the former country estate of financier/philanthropist Chauncey Stillman (1907-1989). Designed by landscape architect Evelyn Poehler, the three-acre formal garden was inspired by the Italian Renaissance, with intricately designed “rooms,” marble and bronze statuaries, and an allée of towering beech trees.
Insider’s tip: With any luck, you’ll encounter a peacock, with feathers fully displayed, during a stroll along Wethersfield’s Peacock Walk.
Warner Garden, Constitution Island: 845-446-8676, www.constitutionisland.org
Bellefield: 845-229-9115, www.beatrixfarrandgarden.org
Wethersfield: 845-373-8037, www.wethersfieldgarden.org
Billed as a “free-speech theater that neither censors nor endorses,” the Downing Film Center shows indie, foreign, and classic films in a unique art-house setting. And because it sits right along the lively Newburgh waterfront, it’s the ideal place to have a dinner-and-a-movie date night, followed by a romantic stroll along the Hudson. Tickets are $8.50, with discounts for seniors, students, and members.
Insider’s Tip: Make reservations, especially for highly anticipated films and special events; the intimate theater has fewer than 60 seats. Also, bring a little extra money for concessions — beyond the usual soda and popcorn, they also offer fine coffee and baked goods. Coming up this month: We Were Here, a fascinating documentary about how society dealt with the personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Newburgh. 845-561-3686, www.downingfilmcenter.com
If movies and boutique shopping are more your taste, Upstate Films in Rhinebeck and Woodstock offers indie and foreign movies in theaters set in the middle of these trendy towns, whose busy streets are lined with shops, bistros, and galleries. Both locations host special events, such as panel discussions, director Q&As, and silent films with live music accompaniment.
Woodstock: 845-679-6608; www.upstatefilms.org
With locations in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Saugerties, Mother Earth’s Storehouse — the Valley’s premier health-foods store — is well-known for its stock of all-natural eats and healthy living products: everything from organically grown fruits and vegetables to gluten-free pasta and sugar-free chewing gum.
Insider’s tip: Home cooks, take note: Stop paying sky-high prices for jars of herbs and spices at the supermarket (which will probably lose their flavor and aroma long before you use them up). At Mother Earth’s, fresh (and often organic) herbs and spices are available by the pound. Need just a teaspoon of cinnamon for your pumpkin pie? Then that’s all you’ll pay for, saving you some serious cash.
Saugerties: 845-246-9614, www.motherearthstorehouse.com