Best Hudson Valley Fall Getaways and Vacations in 2012

Seven historic hotels and fall getaways that make it easy to celebrate the season


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vanderbilt house hotelA view of the Vanderbilt House from Main Street

Vanderbilt House Hotel (Philmont, NY)

If you can urge your car up the hill that is Philmont’s Route 217, you will be rewarded with the sight of the stately Vanderbilt House Hotel, which has been beckoning to weary travelers for 152 years.

In 1860, the Vanderbilt family built the half-inn, half-tavern directly across the street from the only railroad station around (which no longer exists today), and business boomed. Thirty years later, the property fell into the hands of a man named L. O. Mansfield, who hung a sign bearing his name over the wraparound porch and posed with his family for a photo beneath it. That picture is the reason Bob Mansfield — the current owner and L. O.’s great-grandson — bought the building in November 2009. “My grandmother sold the hotel in 1937 after my grandfather died. But our family always thought of that photo as ours,” he says. He stopped in the hotel and inquired if he could purchase the picture. “The owner said, ‘You can buy the picture, but you gotta buy the hotel first,’ ” Mansfield recalls with a laugh.

And so he did. Some renovations were in order, but Mansfield retained much of the turn-of-the-20th-century feel. As my sister and I hauled our luggage up the richly carpeted stairs, we both remarked on the cozy davenport sofas, billowing white curtains, and beautiful landscape painting in the lobby. When we got to the top floor we discovered eight guest rooms and a suite (which was under construction at press time). The doors are labeled one through seven, with the eighth bearing a large 12 — but it’s not misnumbered. “My father was born in that room, which at that time was room 12,” Mansfield explains.

Three rooms open onto a wooden deck draped with hanging plants and American flags. It offers a spectacular view of Summit Lake, which once served as Philmont’s reservoir. Adding to the charm is the thick forest surrounding the lake, and the view of the mountains.

Back inside, soft floral comforters cover the beds and tasty chocolates sit on the side tables. For those who need to stay in the know, HDTVs and Wi-Fi are ready to serve.

The original floors on both levels survived the renovation, as did the ceiling and a few doors in the tavern, which has three spacious areas for eating. The main dining room is painted a rich red; its most striking feature is the large glass window that faces the lake. Another option is al fresco dining on the patio, but we chose the rustic room by the bar. As we waited for our food, we were amused to see the vintage wooden ladders, skis, snowshoes, and wagon wheel adorning the space. There’s also a fantastic early 1900s telephone and an authentic World War II medal of honor.

And now to the food. My favorite options included the brandied pork tenderloin with apple and dried cherry jus, whipped potatoes, and vegetables. But, in keeping with the rustic theme of the room, my sister and I both went with a good old burger, heaped high with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and applewood smoked bacon — as well as a diet-busting portion of fries. If you happen to visit on a Tavern Tuesday, know that Mansfield himself will be your chef. And I must say, he’s a very good cook.

My sister best described our stay at Vanderbilt House: “This feels like a real house. I forgot we were in a hotel.”

Nightly rates are $125-$160, breakfast included.

To get there: 61 Main St., Philmont; 518-672-9993 or

Fall Foliage Report: Once you pass Poughkeepsie heading north on the Taconic State Parkway, the jam-packed lanes give way to a leisurely drive through the heart of the Valley’s foliage. And don’t just stay in the car: there are a few pull-off areas where you can get out and savor the view. For a more detailed report, visit

vanderbilt house

What to do

High Falls Conservation Area: A few miles down the road from the hotel is this 47-acre property that sports hiking trails leading to the 150-foot-tall High Falls — the highest waterfall in Columbia County.

Warren Street, Hudson: Just a 15-minute drive away, this snazzy thoroughfare showcases some fine shopping, including numerous antiques stores and boutiques.

Mac-Haydn Theatre (Chatham; 518-392-9292): September brings their production of Smokey Joe’s Café, a fun musical full of Lieber and Stoller hit songs.

Where to eat

Local 111 (Philmont; 518-672-7801): With a local farm-to-table approach, this 39-seat restaurant draws in crowds with dishes like grilled steak with preserved pepper puree, fried potato, grilled onion, and garlic butter; and risotto with peas, carrots, mint, chèvre, and almonds.

Skip to:
» Skytop Lodge (Skytop, PA)
» Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa (Saratoga Springs, NY)
» Oheka Castle (Huntington, NY)
» Great Stone Dwelling (Enfield, NH)
» 1850 House Inn and Tavern (Rosendale, NY)
» Grafton Inn (Grafton, VT)
» Vanderbilt House Hotel (Philmont, NY)


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