Best of the Hudson Valley 2008


(page 10 of 16)

Fun (continued)

* denotes Readers' Picks


Doggone Place to Volunteer

Guiding Eyes for the Blind Canine Development Center
We’ve listed this worthwhile organization — which breeds and trains guide dogs for the visually impaired — as an editor’s pick. But it was nominated by the volunteers themselves — over 100 of them signed a petition to tell us how much they enjoy helping out at the center. Over 1,000 people throughout the Northeast (many of whom live in the Valley) give their time and talent gratis to the organization: they raise and train the pups, help new owners learn to work with their dogs, take care of administrative tasks, and (of course) keep the kennels clean.

Way to Pass the Time While Waiting for Your Flight

Albany Airport Gallery
Albany International Airport

Ease the stress of airline travel — visit the third floor of Albany International Airport and check out what’s on view at the Airport Gallery. For the past 10 years, the space has been mounting exhibits in a wide range of themes. Their most recent show, Locally Grown, showcased works by 22 contemporary artists from the Valley and Capital Region. Throughout the terminal, travelers also can admire site-specific installations of sculptures, prints — even poetry.

Catskill Mountain Railroad -- choo choo!
Catskill Mountain Railroad — choo choo!

Best Scenic Ride

Catskill Mountain Railroad
Mt. Pleasant to Phoenicia
At present, you can take a 12-mile round-trip jaunt along Ulster County’s scenic Esopus Creek aboard this rail line (which uses a corridor that dates back to the 1860s). Both environmentally friendly and naturally beautiful, a ride on this railroad harkens back to the late 19th century, when well-heeled visitors from the city traveled by train to the grand Catskills hotels. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the CMRR offers Fall Foliage rides on weekends throughout October.

Historical Exhibit

West Point Foundry at the Putnam County Historical Society Foundry School Museum
Cold Spring
Owned by Scenic Hudson, the West Point Foundry Preserve contains the remains of a once-thriving manufacturing site built in 1818. Recent archeological studies conducted by researchers from Michigan Tech have unearthed evidence of how the foundry functioned, and how its workers lived, during the 19th century — all of which is explained (via actual artifacts, photos, and interactive displays) at the Historical Society’s exhibit. After visiting the show, you can walk to the site (which is just a stone’s throw away from the museum) and see it for yourself (through Dec. 14).

Garden Tour

Secret Garden Tour, Putnam ARC
We love this annual June event for a couple of reasons. First of all, you get to visit a number of private gardens throughout Putnam County, each of which is in glorious full bloom. From formal plots to fields of wildflowers, each site seems to have a unique appeal — and an owner more than willing to describe the flora in detail. Secondly, this event is a fund-raiser for the Putnam ARC, an organization dedicated to serving county residents with disabilities. Cheers to supporting a good cause while having a good time!
845-278-7272, ext. 287;

Local Answer to Inside the Actors Studio

This fledgling Rockland County arts center has taken a page from James Lipton’s popular TV celebrity interview show with their “Conversations at Riverspace” series. WQXR radio host Elliott Forrest (who is also co-artistic director of Riverspace) does live Q&As with Hollywood A-listers. Last month, Forrest grilled Alec Baldwin; previous guests have included comedian Lewis Black, playwright Edward Albee, and actors Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner. And on October 18, director Jonathan Demme takes over the host’s chair to discuss the art of acting with none other than Ms. Meryl Streep.

Best Car Wash

Splash Car Wash
Brewster, Carmel, Mahopac
A car wash is a car wash — if you drive a ’79 Pinto with 250,000 miles on it. But if you really care about your car, Splash is the place to primp your ride. “We are a totally hand-wash, non-conveyor belt facility,” says Brewster Manager John Xidiaris. “It’s a lot safer, there’s nothing beating on your car.” That’s especially attractive for your antique-show car or your $400,000 Rolls-Royce Corniche. Each car gets the once-over from a customer care advisor, who recommends various options, such as tar removal or scratch repair, before the first sponge hits a fender. When the job is done, a quality control expert inspects the results before you pull off the lot. Xidiaris still remembers the first Ferrari that pulled in: “He told us, ‘Boy, am I glad you guys are here.’ ” Of course, your ’79 Pinto is welcome, too.
Brewster 845-279-9010; Carmel 845-255-5545; Mahopac 845-628-5547;


The Rhinecliff
Brothers James and David Chapman toiled for five years in a labor of love to renovate the classic 1854 Hotel Rhinecliff. Over the years it had also served as a rooming house and bar, before falling on hard times. Now, the Rhinecliff is a boutique country hotel featuring beautifully restored wood floors, historic beams, stone fireplaces, and a Victorian oak bar. Its nine guest bedrooms are totally modernized and offer balconies with a smashing view of the Hudson. There’s a banquet room and a newly opened brasserie–style bar/restaurant with a menu emphasizing local ingredients.

Cozy Cottage Getaway

Storm King Lodge B&B
If there was ever an ideal way to enjoy the Hudson Highlands’ majestic beauty, it’d be sipping a cup of coffee while surveying the sunrise from the window of a quaint, homey cottage, right? Storm King Lodge’s luxurious Guest Cottage can make that dream a reality. The dwelling, adjacent to the lodge’s renovated four-room carriage house, features two private suites (with a shared living room), a 30-by-60-foot pool, and — of course ­— a traditional, wood-burning fireplace.

*Sports Bar

Michael’s Sports Bar
Valley sports fans go wild here, where 15 TVs (and legendary hot wings) ensure that the game is always on. Play pool, hurl darts, and try the mic with friends any night of the week.

*Live Music Joint

The Chance Theatre
Once the home of a movie theater, this ever-expanding complex now includes the Platinum Lounge, where concertgoers enjoy their favorite groups in a low-key atmosphere. Famous acts that have rocked the Chance include the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and local favorites Just Surrender.

Place to Move and Groove, Latin Style

Tuesday nights at Pinto & Hobbs Tavern
This downtown Albany tavern, a burger-and-sandwich joint by day and evening, transforms into a dance fiesta come Tuesday night. DJ Rolo brings the beat well past midnight while host Christine Chin shows the all-ages crowd (known to include State Legislature politicos looking to scratch their salsa itch) the Latino way to shake it.

Place to Play Pool

New Paltz
Why choose between good pool and good food when you can have both? Here, patrons have seven full-size billiard tables, ping pong, pinball, and foosball at their disposal as well as access to Bacchus’ Southwest-style menu and long list of imported beers.

*Best Thing About Living in the Valley

The Hudson River
Enough said.

Reward for a Short Hike

The Saugerties Lighthouse
If “hike” sounds strenuous, don’t worry — the half-mile nature trail to this local landmark is an easy, breezy stroll (though you’ll want to wear sensible shoes). Birds and butterflies bob among wildflowers lining the trail, but what’s even more delightful is the lovingly restored lighthouse, set at the mouth of the Esopus Creek. The 1869 red-brick building is furnished as it might have been 100 years ago, with a little museum and a gift shop. Take a picnic and enjoy the views. Book ahead, and you can even stay overnight: it’s a quirky B&B, too.

cartoon guys on go-karts

Guys Day Out

Whether you’re planning a bachelor party or just need to spend some female-free time with your best buds, starting the day off at Grand Prix New York is sure to get your testosterone pumping. At this five-star indoor kart-racing facility that opened in Mount Kisco last January, friends can suit up and zoom around one of two tracks for just $25 per 16-lap heat. After that, head north to one of the three Men’s Room Barber Crew outposts in the mid-Valley. Take it down a notch by relaxing in one of their big leather chairs and enjoying an old-fashioned hot shave. Once you’re primped and preened, it’s time for a classic male bonding meal at Sapore Steak House in Fishkill: thick slabs of perfectly prepared beef served in a setting rich with dark woods and leather upholstery — sounds manly to us. And to top off the evening, drive over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to Hudson Valley Cigars in New Windsor. Step into their oversized humidor and inspect hundreds of cigars which have been carefully hand-rolled in the Dominican Republic and other exotic locales. But the best part is that the store is connected to a fun, Casablanca-style bar where you can eat, drink, and smoke. Yes, drink and smoke. Happy days are here again.
Grand Prix New York, Mt. Kisco. 914-241-3131;
Men’s Room Barber Crew, Poughkeepsie; 845-485-5332
Sapore Steak House, Fishkill. 845-897-3300;
Hudson Valley Cigars, New Windsor. 845-562-1762;

Girls Day Out

Nothing brings the ladies together like a little primping and pampering. Our suggestion? Start your dames’ day out with the $80, one-and-a-half-hour “signature break” at Marlene Weber Day Spa. A steamy aromatherapy foot bath and soothing hot shoulder wrap are followed by paraffin hand and eye zone treatments, and a 15-minute shoulder massage. Next, jump in the car and head to the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Tour the beautiful 1895 Mills Mansion and “ooh” and “aah” over the 65 rooms decorated in 16th- and 17th-century French style — plus 14 bathrooms. (Yes, ladies, it’s bigger than the Vanderbilt mansion and designed by the same architects. But if you get too envious, just remember that you don’t have to clean it.) Chat with each other while meandering along the waterfront walking trail or stop for snack in the picnic grove. Then, head north to the Emerson Resort & Spa in the Catskill foothills where you’ll feel oh-so-feminine at high tea, served from 2 to 4 p.m. each day. Try their fresh-baked pastries, scones, and finger sandwiches — and sip on the ever-changing selection of Harney & Sons teas. If you really want to splurge, spend the night and take advantage of the Ladies of Luxury two-night package, which includes an assortment of spa treatments and luxurious dining options. Prices for two start at $2,100.
Marlene Weber Day Spa, Poughkeepsie. 845-454-5852;
Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Staatsburg. 845-889-8851;
Emerson Resort & Spa, Mt. Tremper. 877-688-2828;

Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge

Idea About to Come to Fruition

Walkway Over The Hudson
After 16 years of promoting the idea of creating a pedestrian path across the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, the folks at Walkway Over the Hudson — with substantial support from the Dyson Foundation and several state and federal agencies — have finally begun construction on the project. Slated to be completed in time for the summer 2009 Hudson-Fulton Quadricentennial celebrations, the 25-foot-wide walkway eventually will link hiking trails on both sides of the Hudson — a boon for both the Valley’s outdoor enthusiasts and the tourism industry.

Idea That’s Finally Come to Fruition

River Pool at Beacon
Five years after plans for its construction were submitted to the state, the River Pool at Beacon officially opened to swimmers last July. The pool, 20 feet in diameter and between two and two-and-a-half feet deep, is situated off the north shore of Beacon’s Riverfront Park, and can hold 20 bathers. While many folks have expressed surprise at how small it is, everyone knows it was no small feat to get it built. Its innovative and environmentally friendly structure consists of a ring of rainbow-colored fiberglass seats anchored to the riverbed by rope, an underwater fence to prevent swimmers from drifting out of the pool, and a mesh netting floor stretched tight like a trampoline. The pool’s water, carefully monitored for cleanliness, has thus far been close to pristine. Thanks in part to Pete Seeger, who first called for the pool to be built, the Hudson’s come a long way in the last few decades (and, yes, still has a long way to go). The River Pool at Beacon is a quirky and imaginative example of just how much progress has been made.

illustration of a man and a bald eagle (cartoon)

Place to Spot a Bald Eagle

Croton Point Park
This 508-acre park, perched on a peninsula on the eastern shore of the Hudson, offers hiking, camping, swimming, cross-country skiing — and a better-than-average chance of catching sight of one of these magnificent creatures. It’s also known to birders as a prime spot to view grassland species like meadowlarks, short-eared owls, and red-tailed hawks. The park also features a nature center that presents public programs, including organized eagle fests. More eagles than ever now live year-round in the Valley; spotting one is usually easiest in winter, when the big birds flock to waterways like the Hudson, whose naturally flowing tributaries offer hard-to-find fresh water.


Up next: Best of the Hudson Valley winners in "Going Green"


You're reading about the crème de la crème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.


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