Fall Getaways 2010
Where to go and what to do: Six nearby spots where you can shop, dine, explore — and relax
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Valley scenic: The grounds at the Buttermilk Inn and Spa are almost preternaturally beautiful
Photograph courtesy of Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa Milton, NY
A little touch of Tuscany in the mid-Hudson Valley
By Jennifer Leba
I’ve never met a spa I didn’t like. Really. If there is a place where pleasant people rub my weary body and otherwise pamper me with exotic lotions and potions, then I would be hard-pressed to say I didn’t enjoy the experience. But a trip to the Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa in Milton offers a unique twist on more traditional destination spas. Part cozy country inn, part quirky organic farm, part high-tech green spa, a visit here simultaneously relaxes you while invigorating all your senses. You’ll also be charmed silly. After all, can you help yourself to an amply stocked refrigerator at Canyon Ranch? I think not.
Buttermilk Falls’ setting is key. Perched on 70 rolling acres that cascade gently down to the Hudson River, the ridiculously pretty property immediately brought back my fond memories of an afternoon spent wandering in the Tuscan countryside. Exquisite gardens and wildflower fields are dotted with meandering walking paths; an orchard area features cherry, pear, peach, and apple trees. You can stroll past two ponds where the friendliest gaggle of geese you’ve ever encountered will rush over to greet you — regardless of whether or not you have a scrap of food to offer them. (Should you be so inclined, the staff will happily provide you with some day-old bread to feed your new feathered friends.) And most guests happily take the path down to the river and the namesake falls (which should not be confused with the more famous Buttermilk Falls near Ithaca or the ones in western Ulster County).
The stunning views are naturally a big draw for the dozen or so weddings that are held on the property each year. Would-be brides and grooms are required to rent out the whole property for the weekend, creating a one-of-a-kind escape for their family and friends.
Guests are also welcome to check out the organic gardens, where broccoli, onions, garlic, potatoes, and a wide selection of herbs are growing — much of which will make its way into the bountiful breakfasts served up each morning. (My friend and I are still talking about the herb butter, and it has been more than a month since our visit.) You can also stop by the aviary house, where chickens lay the fresh eggs used daily in the kitchen. Don’t miss the llamas and goats or the chance to ooh and aah at the preening peacocks.
The inn’s 13 guest rooms — including the one above — are cozy and comfortable
Photograph courtesy of Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa
A quirky collection of buildings and carriage houses also punctuate the property. The main house, built in 1764, has been masterfully modernized, but bits of exposed stone walls and other original features are still visible, which helps the building retain its historic charm. The 13 guest rooms each have a fireplace, private bath, TV, and Internet capability, but are otherwise crammed full of unique features. The Grand Laurel is surely the most spectacular room I have ever had the privilege of calling home for a night. Stepping up into the California king-size canopy bed felt like I was crawling into my own private harem. The Winterberry room has soothingly rich sienna walls and double doors opening onto a private balcony with a view of the river; the Captain’s Room is decorated in full nautical regalia. There is also a carriage house with two separate suites. One, called the Maynor Flat, has a Southwestern flavor; the suite honors Dorothy Maynor, the famous African-American opera singer who owned the inn’s main house from 1953 to 1964. Two remote cottages, and the ultramodern Riverknoll House with three bedrooms and a spectacular deck, round out the accommodations (although a new cottage is in the works).
The spa itself is sleek and modern, and thoroughly committed to using only natural, organic products (including those made by Julique and Babor). But the main attraction is the indoor-outdoor, glass-enclosed mineral pool; almost no chlorine is used and Fastlane technology allows you to swim against a moving current. Let me tell you, it is a singular delight to have your mani/pedi done poolside. The pool, sauna, and steam room — which can be utilized with a day pass for $35 — are all heated using both solar and geothermal energy. The floors in the spa are also radiantly heated. Next summer, a new outdoor pool is scheduled to open.
But the big news at Buttermilk is the debut of its new restaurant this fall. While the name and chef were still up in the air at press time, the eatery — with 65 seats — will be open to the public for dinner. “It will be American regional with an international flair,” says manager Adam Glinert of the cuisine. “And there will be a strong emphasis on locally grown produce.” The facility will also morph into a teaching kitchen during the day, offering a variety of cooking classes.
This autumn might be the perfect time to visit. “It is just absolutely spectacular here in the fall,” says Glinert. “Later in the season, the river views open up even more. It’s just beautiful.”
220 North Rd., Milton 845-795-1310, www.buttermilkfallsinn.com
Where to stay:
The Inn at Twaalfskill
144 Vineyard Ave., Highland. 845-691-3605
Any one of the three large guest rooms in this historic 1902 home offers ultimate comfort and an easy walk to the Walkway Over the Hudson.
Where to eat:
The Raccoon Saloon
1133 Main St. (Rte. 9W), Marlboro. 845-236-7872
With great views of the Hudson, this eatery is a favorite of the locals. It’s rightly famous for its hefty hamburgers (served with homemade ketchup).
What to do:
The Gomez Mill House
Mill House Rd., Marlboro. 845-236-3126
The oldest surviving Jewish dwelling in North America can be toured until mid-November. Learn more about the history and role of American Jews as pioneers through many special events.
Franny Reese State Park
Located just south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, Scenic Hudson’s newest park (dedicated in October 2009) features more than two miles of woodland trails and impressive ruins of former estate buildings. But the Hudson River views make this a must-see destination.
Mt. Zion Rd., Marlboro. 845-236-2684
Pick apples at this family-run orchard, as well as peaches (in early September); take a hayride, picnic by the lake, and attend one of many festivals, including two in September (Peach & Fall) and three in October (Apple, Pumpkin, and a Halloween Costume Party).
1348 Rte. 9W, Marlboro. 845-236-7970
Check out this popular new live music joint that the New York Times called “an unlikely haven for jazz.”