Delightful Fall Getaways 2006
Looking for a change of scene? You don;t have to go far. We've found five ideal escapes right here in the Hudson Valley, from a city B&B to an idyllic country retreat.
Delightful Fall Getaways
Summer may be over, but don’t stash your overnight bag just yet. Autumn is the very best time to enjoy the Valley — the leaves are changing, apples and pumpkins are ripening on the vine, and local cultural events crowd the calendar. We’ve found five great places to stay — from a sprawling mountain resort to a cozy city B&B — that are perfect for a weekend “great escape”
by Polly Sparling
Beaverkill Valley Inn
7 Barnhart Rd., Lew Beach (Ulster)
If escaping the mundane pressures of everyday life is at the top of your to-do list, this gracious country inn — nestled deep in the woods of the Catskill Park in Ulster County’s westernmost corner — is the answer to your prayers. Built in 1895 as a lodge for fishermen (who then, as now, flocked to the adjacent Beaverkill, a world-renowned trout stream), the three-story wood frame structure has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places by virtue of its huge (and comfy) wraparound porch, oak-accented interior, and cupola-topped roof. The inn is owned and managed by an association of area landowners, one of whom is conservationist Larry Rockefeller (grandson of John D. and nephew of Nelson).
The Scoop: Rustic but comfortable, the inn features a large living room, card room, and bar area on the first floor, as well as the spacious porch and a truly amazing clubhouse (more on that later). These spaces are well-used by guests, and no wonder: the 20 bedrooms are small and utilitarian, with none of the “essentials” (TV, phone, radio, air-conditioning) found at your average Super-8. What they lack in square-footage, however, they make up for with cheerful country furnishings (Laura Ashley printed wallpaper, brass beds with quilted coverlets) and the peaceful setting. For true relaxation, you can’t beat falling asleep to the sound of a mountain stream rushing beneath your window.
Atmosphere: Outdoor enthusiasts, rejoice — this B&B caters to you and your passion, whatever it may be. A few of the sports that can be enjoyed during your stay: fishing (one mile of the Beaverkill is reserved for private use by guests of the inn), hiking, biking (mountain and road), swimming (pool and lake), boating, tennis, and croquet (add skiing and ice skating to the list during the winter months). “We’re very family oriented, especially on the weekends,” says Lisa Michalowsky, who (along with husband, Esteban) is the inn’s caretaker. But lovebirds needn’t despair. “We encourage couples to come on a weekday — it’s quieter, and the rates are lower, too,” she says.
Amenities: Besides the huge made-from-scratch farmer’s breakfast, guests can opt for additional meals, all prepared by inn manager and chef Chris Jurgens. And although there is wireless Internet service, your cell phone won’t work out here — so you can forget about staying in touch with the office.
The most unusual feature of the inn is the clubhouse. For an additional fee, guests can avail themselves of this combination health club/rec center. Take a swim in the glass-enclosed indoor heated pool (“It’s really fun when it snows,” says Michalowsky). Or send the kids to the gigantic romper room, with toys and TV and no rules about who cleans up. Or play a little one-on-one with your spouse on the full-size indoor basketball court (yep, they’ve got one). Best of all, there is a self-serve ice cream parlor — come in and make yourself a sundae or a milkshake any time of the day or night. How great is that?
Special touches: There are fresh flowers on the dining tables, useful maps for fishermen and hikers, and a list of nearby antiques stores for those who count shopping as a sport.
Make a reservation if you: Daydream about running away from ring tones and e-mail, know the difference between a dry fly and a woolly bugger, or think the best weekends are those spent working up a sweat in the great outdoors.
Rates: $100-$325, double occupancy, includes breakfast. Rate varies depending on day of the week, time of the year, and inclusion of other meals. Additional $100 per day fee for use of the clubhouse (which is waived if two or more rooms are booked).
227 Montgomery St., Newburgh (Orange)
History, art and elegance converge at the Denniston House, the one and only bed and breakfast in Newburgh. Built around 1820 for lawyer-cum-legislator Goldsmith Denniston, the house has been in owner Nancy Billman’s family since her parents bought it in 1946. When her elderly mother decided to sell the four-story mansion in 1997, Nancy and her late husband, artist Peter Billman, left their South Carolina home and bought the property. After spending several years restoring it, they opened their doors in 2003 as a B&B and special-event space.
The Scoop: Located in the heart of Newburgh’s historic district, the Federal-style brick building has been thoughtfully restored, retaining much of its Colonial-era charm. The large parlor, library, and dining room have crown moldings, wide-board floors, fireplaces, and the gold-and-red color scheme that was de rigueur among the swells of the 19th century. Each of the four spacious guest rooms has a single queen bed and an adequate sitting area. Massive armoires are used for storage, since the closet in each bedroom has been converted into a small but tastefully designed bathroom complete with antique-style fixtures. Many of the furnishings throughout the house — from furniture and rugs to a collection of toy cars — are antiques. “A lot of it was in my mother’s family,” Billman laughs. “She never threw anything away.”
Atmosphere: Notwithstanding its city zip code, Billman remarks that “the most common comment we get is ‘It’s so quiet here, and so relaxing.’” Because the house is set back on a hillside away from the road, traffic and other noise is not noticeable when you’re inside. The clientele tends to be business travelers or vacationers looking for a stopping point close to the Thruway and Interstate 84. Others come to the inn “as a destination,” says Billman, “and then they spread out. They’ll do the wine trail, or the art trail to Dia:Beacon and Storm King, or the history/architecture trail. We have a lot of that in Newburgh.”
Special touches: Billman uses her walls as gallery space. Each month, works by a different contemporary Valley artist are on view in the common areas around the inn. (The public is also welcome to see the paintings on weekends by appointment.) The narrow front porch, with its wrought-iron accents, comfortable seating, and partial river view, is an ideal spot to while away an afternoon with a good book and a glass or two of wine. History buffs will want to see the secret trap door leading to a hidden room which was most likely used as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Amenities: A multi-tasker, Billman is a professional caterer as well as an innkeeper. She hosts small business conferences, weddings, and other events either inside or in the large and level back garden, which is surrounded by maple and ash trees as old as the house itself.
Make a reservation if you: Need a respite from the rat race; want a central jumping-off point for day trips to Manhattan or mid-Valley landmarks like West Point; get giddy over historic buildings and period antiques.
Rates: $165 per night, double occupancy, includes breakfast.
Sunny Hill Resort
352 Sunny Hill Rd., Greenville (Greene)
In bygone times, the Catskill’s resort hotels — offering families fresh air, outdoor activity, live entertainment, and three squares a day — were a vacation destination for tired city-dwellers. While most of these places have gone the way of the dinosaur, a handful remain. One of these is Sunny Hill. Three generations of the Nicholsen family have owned and managed this 300-acre playground in the northern Catskills over the last 60 years. The continuity shows — the grounds are beautifully groomed, the facilities up-to-date and spotlessly clean, the staff friendly and accommodating.
The Scoop: Sunny Hill’s 100 guest rooms are divided between seven motel-style buildings and three smaller lodges. Each has a private bath, TV, phone and air-conditioning; some include additional features like dressing areas, balconies, and fridges. But it’s unlikely that you’ll be spending much time in your digs. The whole point of a vacation here is to have fun, and the opportunities to do so — from golf and fishing to swimming and yoga — are virtually endless.
Atmosphere: During the summer months, “everything is geared around family and kids,” according to co-owner Gary Nicholsen. And keeping the little tykes happy is a top priority. There’s a day camp, arts and crafts activities, talent shows, organized baseball games, bounce houses and six different play areas — and that’s just a start. While the kids are kept busy, the adults have their own fun on the 18-hole golf course (a big draw), in the pool, and on day trips to Woodstock, Saratoga, Hyde Park and other nearby locales.
Amenities: During the spring and fall, theme weekend programs — including wine tastings, river cruises, and an international food fest — cater to adult interests. The resort also prides itself on their “Just for Fun” rides. A fleet of unusual vehicles (a fire engine, train, and several army trucks) take adults and kids for jaunts around the property. “People go nuts for this stuff,” says Nicholsen. “We have a lot of fun with it.”
Special touches: Evening entertainment runs the gamut from chicken barbecues and outdoor movies to adult mixers. Parents can relax and enjoy their own company knowing that the kids are happily occupied in their own (staff-supervised) activities.
Make a reservation if you: Want to take your kids to their own private Nirvana and get in a few rounds of golf while you’re at it, or if sleeping in is not part of your itinerary.
Rates: Vary depending on time of the year. Two-night fall weekend specials range from $250-$300 per adult, double occupancy, all-inclusive.
Spencertown Country House
1901 County Rte. 9, Chatham (Columbia)
Interested in mixing some gentle outdoor activity — think leaf-peeping and apple-picking — with heavy-duty antiquing? Then a stay at this lovely old inn neatly fits the bill. Originally a farmhouse, the building consists of three side-by-side additions which were built between 1803 and 1877. Consequently, both Federal and Victorian architectural elements — such as wide-board floors, leaded glass windows, and a fanciful cupola — have been incorporated. Besides the main house, guest rooms are located in a converted carriage barn, and there is a small two-bedroom cottage (which is used primarily for extended stays). Innkeepers Heather and John Spitzer have been welcoming out-of-towners here since 1996.
The Scoop: Decorated with antique furnishings like Windsor chairs, brass candlesticks, and a wonderful pair of 18th-century-style portraits, the first-floor public rooms have a true Colonial flavor. The 10 guest rooms (all with private baths) are similarly decked out, with chintzes and stripes and many period pieces — but the effect is comfortable and homey, not stuffy. A screened porch on one side of the main house offers a quiet spot for a nap, even on chilly days.
Atmosphere: Quiet but not funereal, relaxed but not comatose, you can feel your worries dissipate as soon as you walk into the inn’s cheery living room. “It’s interesting to see how people that you wouldn’t think have anything in common will sit together talking for a long time,” says Heather Spitzer. “People come in with these grouchy faces, and wind up laughing.” Most are from the tri-state area, and use the spot as a home base for jaunts to the antiques emporiums in Hudson and along Route 7 in Massachusetts, or for visits to historic sites in nearby Kinderhook or the Berkshires. And yes, there are winding country lanes and apple orchards aplenty in the surrounding area.
Amenities: Breakfast features locally-made marmalades and homemade breads, and the inn also offers afternoon tea. A variety of books, board games, and toys are scattered around the house, and a piano in one of the parlors gets lots of use. The carriage barn can accommodate small groups for business meetings and retreats.
Special touches: The Spitzers have a wealth of knowledge about the history of the house and the surrounding area, and don’t mind sharing it. They can also lead you to the best local restaurants, theaters, music venues, and other attractions which are making this section of the Valley a favored destination.
Make a reservation if you: Like to feel like you’re home when you’re away from home, or want to have the prototypical Hudson Valley inn experience.
Rates: $140-$235, double occupancy, for rooms in the main building and carriage barn; includes breakfast.