Best of Hudson Valley 2009

It’s that time again, folks. For 23 years, we’ve brought you the Best of the Hudson Valley, soliciting your take on the region’s finest restaurants, shops, services, and people — and offering up a few choice picks of our own. Conjure up a category and you’ll likely find it somewhere on the following pages, from the tastiest shrimp-stuffed jalapeños to what you, dear readers, believe to be the greatest thing about living here. (Hint: it’s big, it’s blue, and it flows in two directions.) So without further ado, we present to you the biggest, the brightest, and the best our region has to offer



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FUN

Arts OrganizationDutchess County Arts Council Poughkeepsie
In tough economic times, artistic endeavors need support more than ever. This arts advocacy organization is known for its commitment to keeping the arts alive in the Mid-Hudson. The council assists individual artists and helps raise awareness of the value of the creative spirit — from dance and cinema to painting, music, writing, folk arts, and more. The nonprofit group also presents workshops, kids’ programs, partnership projects with schools, and a full calendar of events throughout the year. • 845-454-3222; www.artsmidhudson.org

(Non-rock) Mountain Music Festival

Belleayre Music Festival Highmount
Snow is but a memory when music lovers come to the mountain for this summer concert series. Motown’s Mary Wilson, a comedic operetta, and reggae legends the Original Wailers were on the ’09 program. “It’s an opportunity to see world-class entertainment in a very informal country setting,” says Executive and Artistic Director Mel Litoff. In the works for 2011: a new facility with a retractable roof and covered seating for 1,200. • 845-254-5600; www.belleayremusic.org

Trash Cans

Putnam County
Pretty sights in Putnam County: The historic district in Cold Spring; the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel; Fahnestock State Park, to name a few. And now — its garbage. Keep Putnam Beautiful, a county-wide program that promotes proper litter disposal, says “no” to trash in a creative way: with colorful, painted cans. County artists were commissioned to produce more than 40 eye-catching trash bins, which feature depictions of everything from elves and pizza slices to familiar Putnam scenes. • 845-278-6130; www.putnamcountyny.com/kpb

Boost For Literature

Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District Book Sale Poughkeepsie
Recant, Kindle owners! There’s hope for the paperback yet — thanks to the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library’s annual book sale. The June event offers 130,000-plus used books, videos, CDs, and other items at unseemly prices: $2 or less per item the first two days; $1 or less the third day; $5 for everything you can fit in a paper bag the fourth day; and absolutely free the final day. It’s all for a good cause, too — this year’s sale netted the library $67,000. • 845-485-3445, ext. 3306; www.poklib.org/friends

New Walking Trail

Roosevelt Farm Lane Hyde Park
In 2004, when it looked as though a Walmart might be built on the strip of land that links Franklin Roosevelt’s home on Route 9 with Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill retreat on Route 9G, local environmental group Scenic Hudson took action. They purchased the site, and donated it to the National Park Service in 2007. A 1.8-mile trail was subsequently constructed, which opened to the public in November 2008. The packed-gravel walkway wends its way through shade trees, wetlands, and past a gurgling stream; visitors are encouraged to use it for hiking, running, bicycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. • 800-337-8474; www.nps.gov/hofr

Bowling Alley

Lucky Strike West Nyack
Not your father’s bowling alley, this lounge has catering, plasma TVs, billiard tables, air hockey, and six lanes of roller ball — a version of candlestick bowling that kids or the strike-challenged might enjoy. The upscale alley is part of a national chain; after 8 p.m., the crowd is 21 and over. Be sure your bowling duds are in good shape: A dress policy makes the Palisades Mall venue “user-friendly for everyone,” says Manager Lance Davis.• 845-358-1602; www.bowlluckystrike.com

Historic Hotel

The Thayer Hotel West Point
Situated at the entrance to the United States Military Academy at West Point, the imposing Thayer Hotel is a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1926 to accommodate West Point personnel, it’s since gained worldwide renown as an elegant place to stay — and dine — in gorgeous surroundings. With its impressive chandeliers, leaded-glass windows, portraits of military figures, and 151 stately guest rooms ­— all with breathtaking views of the Hudson or the surrounding mountains — the Thayer has drawn high-profile guests ranging from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to President John F. Kennedy, and more recently, the cast of HBO’s The Sopranos. • 845-446-4731; www.thethayerhotel.com

New Arts Center

Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center Troy
The arts, technology, and science converge in this remarkable-looking $200 million building at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Built into the slope of a hill, its entire north wall is a curtain of glass. A 1,200-seat concert hall sits inside, surrounded by gigantic curving panels of cedar wood — creating the effect of an enormous ship’s hull or a quirky, outer-space pod. Viewed from outdoors, the “ship” has quite a presence, especially at night, when it is illuminated. EMPAC projects range from cutting-edge art, dance, music, and explorations of the “tetherless world” (aka the Internet) to scientific research into virtual reality, human/machine interfacing, and other pushing-the-envelope, Star Wars-esque topics. One cool upcoming event: Take a Day For Yourself. Danish artist Mads Lynnerup asked Troy residents to take a day off from their regular routine, then documented their freedom breaks on whimsical short videos and giant posters (Oct. 1-Nov. 29). • 518-276-4135; www.empac.rpi.edu

Innovative Farm Practice

Common Ground Farm, Stony Kill Environmental Center Wappingers Falls
Painted lettuce-green with images of squashes and carrots, the Veggie Bus mobile market brings fresh produce to area residents who otherwise might not have access. It’s just one of many innovative programs of Common Ground Farm, a working farm that leases land from Stony Kill Environmental Center in Wappingers Falls. From June through October, shareholders in the community-supported agriculture program claim their weekly haul of vegetables, herbs, and flowers; nonmembers can buy their produce at the Beacon Farmers Market on Sundays. This not-for-profit also offers fun community events including brunch in the fields on a summer day, campfire sing-alongs, and adult workshops on beekeeping, raising chickens — even natural lawncare. Summer dropoff programs for school-age kids give them a daily “haycation”: catching turtles in the pond, visiting the farm animals, working in the garden, and walking the trails. • 845-231-4424; www.commongroundfarm.com

Enhancement of Historic Homes

New art galleries at Olana and Boscobel Hudson, Garrison
As if we needed additional reasons to visit Olana (the Moorish-inspired home built by Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church in the late 1800s) and Boscobel (the 1808 Federal-style mansion erected by the States Dyckman family): Each is a standout example of architectural beauty, and each has an unrivaled view of the mighty Hudson. And now, each estate also boasts its own art gallery. Boscobel’s exhibition gallery, which hosted a show of Hudson River School works this summer, just ended its second season last month. At Olana, the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery’s inaugural exhibit, Glories of the Hudson, runs through Oct. 12 and features sketches Church made of views from his hilltop home (some of which have never before been seen by the public). • Olana: 518-828-0135; www.olana.org. Boscobel: 845-265-3638; www.boscobel.org

Lake Beach for Families

Lake Taghkanic State Park Ancram
You won’t know where to look first — at the lush forests or the sparkling water — when you visit this sprawling jewel in Columbia County. Swim, sail, fish, camp, bike, hike, throw a party under a pavilion, or just relax and dream about returning in winter with cross-country skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles. • 518-851-3631; www.nysparks.com

New Way to Tour the Hudson Valley

Segway of the Hudson Valley Poughkeepsie
Tired of the plodding pace of walking? Turned off by that cumbersome clunker of a car? Has Segway of the Hudson Valley got a mode of transportation for you! Zipping around town on a Segway Personal Transporter (or Segway PT) — a two-wheeled, scooter-like electric vehicle that averages about 10 miles per hour — is a seriously fun way to spend an afternoon. For $65, Segway of the Hudson Valley offers PT tours of downtown Poughkeepsie; for $5,350, customers can drive a brand new PT off the lot and into their own neighborhood. The company also brings the vehicles to special or corporate events anywhere in the Valley.
• 845-485-7349; www.segwayofthehudsonvalley.com

OUTDOOR FUN
(You May Not Know About)

Mountain Top Arboretum Tannersville
This “living museum” of trees and shrubs is located 2,500 feet above sea level in the high peaks of the northern Catskills. Both a garden and preserve, the site is an ideal spot for horticulturalists, bird watchers, or anyone who wants to enjoy some great views. • 518-589-3903; www.mtarbor.org

Tannersville Bike Path Tannersville
This 2.7-mile multiple-use path follows the bed of the old Huckleberry Railroad Line. The packed-gravel surface makes it an ideal place to bike, run, horseback ride, cross-country ski, or just stroll along enjoying the fall foliage. • 518-589-5850; www.greenetourism.com

Innisfree Garden Millbrook
This 150-acre public garden is modeled after Chinese landscape design. The bucolic setting includes streams, waterfalls, terraces, native plants, interesting rock formations, and a 40-acre glacial lake. • 845-677-8000; www.innisfreegarden.org

High-Flying Adventures

Trapeze Club at Stone Mountain Farm New Paltz
Run away and join the circus (for a day, at least) by taking an exhilarating two-hour class in trapeze-flying taught by professionals. Appropriate for anyone age 4 or older, the classes run from May through October. • 845-658-8540; www.trapezeclub.org

The Balloon Bed and Breakfast Hudson
Spend a restful night in a renovated Victorian cottage. Get up in the morning, and (if weather allows) take a one-hour hot-air balloon ride — with Champagne — around scenic Columbia County. That’s a vacation! • 518-828-3735; www.balloonbedandbreakfast.com

Skydive the Ranch Gardiner
The thrill-seeker’s ultimate rush: Step out of a plane at 13,500 feet, free-fall to 6,000 feet, then (with the help of your instructor) maneuver your parachute to a safe landing on the ground. Obviously not for the faint of heart. • 845-255-4033; www.skydivetheranch.com

Things to Come Out of the Quad Celebration (besides that bridge)

Walking History Game Children’s Media Project
Developed by a group of local scholars, educators, and youth, this elaborate “augmented reality” game integrates technology with real-world experiences to help kids explore Poughkeepsie’s waterfront and its history. Using handheld mini-computers equipped with GPS systems, players stroll around the city and examine its sights, listen to oral histories, learn about ecological issues and local culture — all via the device in their hand. The game is scheduled to be introduced at a special ceremony on Oct. 23; after that, the devices will be available for loan from the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum. • 845-485-4480; www.childrensmediaproject.org

Bridge Music by Joseph Bertolozzi
Bertolozzi, a composer and Poughkeepsie native, transformed the Mid-Hudson Bridge into an instrument. Using a variety of mallets, he struck various parts of the span — railings, girders, suspension ropes — and recorded what he heard. With the help of special software, Bertolozzi then composed a piece of music using only the sounds produced by the bridge itself. Unveiled as part of the Quad celebrations last June, you can hear this unusual composition on the bridge’s walkway (just push a button), on 95.3FM in the parks around the span, or on CD (which, by the way, made it to number 18 on the Billboard Classical Crossover charts). • www.josephbertolozzi.com

Readers' Picks

Fun fun fun!

Bed and Breakfast: Caldwell House
Salisbury Mills. 845-496-2954; www.caldwellhouse.com

Bike Trail: Hudson Valley Rail Trail
Highland. 845-691-8151; www.hudsonvalleyrailtrail.com

Community Theater: County Players
Wappingers Falls. 845-298-1491; www.countyplayers.org

Fair: Dutchess County Fair
Rhinebeck. 845-876-4001; www.dutchessfair.com

Golf Course: McCann Golf Course
Poughkeepsie. 845-454-1968; www.mccanngolfcourse.com

Green Initiative (tie): Hudson Valley Clean Energy
Rhinebeck. 845-876-3767; www.hvce.com

Green Initiative (tie): Scenic Hudson
Poughkeepsie. 845-473-4440; www.scenichudson.org

Hotel/Inn: Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz. 845-255-1000; www.mohonk.com

Place for a Wedding: Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz. 845-255-1000; www.mohonk.com

Hudson River Cruise: The Rip Van Winkle
Kingston. 845-340-4700; www.hudsonrivercruises.com

Indoor Venue for Plays and Concerts: The Bardavon
Poughkeepsie. 845-473-5288; www.bardavon.org

Karaoke (tie): Kitty McGuire’s Sports Bar & Grill
Wappingers Falls. 845-297-3462

Karaoke (tie): Mahoney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
Poughkeepsie. 845-471-3027; www.mahoneysirishpub.com

Live Music Joint: The Chance Theater
Poughkeepsie. 845-471-1966; www.thechancetheater.com

Museum: Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum
Poughkeepsie. 845-471-0589; www.mhcm.org

Orchestra: Hudson Valley Philharmonic
Poughkeepsie. 845-473-2072; www.bardavon.org

Outdoor Venue for Plays and Concerts: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Bethel. 866-781-2922; www.bethelwoodscenter.org

Park: Bowdoin Park
Wappingers Falls. 845-298-4600;
www.co.dutchess.ny.us/countygov/departments/dpw-parks/ppbowdoin.htm

Place for a Picnic: Vanderbilt Mansion
Hyde Park. 845-229-9115; www.nps.gov/vama

Ski Area: Hunter Mountain
Hunter. 800-486-8376; www.huntermtn.com

Thing About Living in the Valley: The Hudson River

 

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