15 Local Activities for Culture Lovers
Tour the Tides
All the gorgeous shoreline views in the world don’t compare to actually getting out on the water. Departing from Kingston, Hudson River Cruises offers two-hour narrated sightseeing tours that take you past the Rondout and Esopus Meadows lighthouses, waterfront mansions, and historic estates. (May through November 1, East Strand St., Kingston; 845.340.4700; www.hudsonrivercruises.com)
Learn Albany history and see magnificent riverside homes, industrial sites from bygone times, and wildlife up close from the decks of a Dutch Apple Cruises boat, designed to mimic the Hudson River dayliners of decades past. (141 Broadway, Albany; 516.463.0220; www.dutchapplecruises.com)
Head to Eden
Admire 15 acres of beautifully tended display beds at Stonecrop Gardens, the longtime Putnam County home of Garden Conservancy founder Frank Cabot and his wife, Anne. Specialty alpine, bog, woodland, and water gardens, a cliff rock garden, and an enclosed English-style flower garden are all part of the charming mix. They also sell seeds of rare plants. (April through October; 81 Stonecrop Lane, Cold Spring; 845.265.2000; www.stonecrop.org)
Another must-see is Innisfree Garden in Dutchess County (above). This internationally acclaimed Chinese cup garden features a walking path meandering through rocks and over bridges around a lake. (362 Tyrrel Rd., Millbrook; 845.677.8000; www.innisfreegarden.org)
Enjoy Art Alfresco
A little off the beaten path, The Fields Sculpture Park/Art OMI presents the large-scale work of internationally recognized artists in an outdoor setting that is as compelling as the sculpture itself. Free and open year-round, the site is a great way to get outdoors in any season. (1405 County Rte. 22, Ghent; 518.392.4747; www.artomi.org)
If you’ve only admired Storm King Art Center (below) from the perspective of the NYS Thruway, it’s time to get a closer look at this 500-acre spot, with more than 100 sculptures, and a tram service to whisk you around. (April through November; 1 Museum Rd., New Windsor; 845.534.3115; www.stormking.org)
Bet you didn’t know that our first president spent more time at Washington’s Headquarters (below) in Newburgh (1782 to 1783) than any other place during the Revolution. (84 Liberty St., Newburgh; 845.562.1195; www.parks.ny.gov/historic-sites). Or that one of the last Revolutionary War standoffs in the Northeast took place at Stony Point Lighthouse and Battlefield in the picturesque Rockland hills (44 Battlefield Rd., Stony Point; 845.786.2521; www.parks.ny.gov/historic-sites). You could spend weeks in Sleepy Hollow country exploring Historic Hudson Valley venues like Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate; Washington Irving’s Sunnyside; and Philipsburg Manor, a 18th-century site that tells the story of slavery in the colonial north (www.hudsonvalley.org). Learn about colonial Dutch culture at Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer and view exhibits of archeological finds from the Fort Orange excavation in Albany (May through November; 9 1/2 Riverside Ave., Rensselaer; 518.463.8738; www.parks.ny.gov/historic-sites).
Cover Your Tracks
Covered bridges aren’t just for Madison County. We’ve got a few of our own in full working order. Built in 1857, the Buskirk Covered Bridge is the only surviving covered bridge in the state that joins two counties, Rensselaer and Washington (Rte. 67, Buskirk). In Ulster County, we’ve got five of them (not all open to the public), a favorite being the 1844 Perrine’s Bridge over the Wallkill River (Route 213 near Route 32 S at Rosendale/Esopus). It’s thought to be the second-oldest covered bridge in the state (the oldest is the 1823 Hyde Hall in Cooperstown). For more information, visit www.nycoveredbridges.org.
Celebrate Our State
Allow yourself a few leisurely hours to check out the New York State Museum (below), the oldest and largest state museum in the country. You’ll not only learn history in a fun, engaging way, but you’ll also see cool displays like the Fire Engine Hall; a circa 1912 made-in-New-York carousel you can ride for free; and the recently opened Ice Ages exhibit, which features fossils of Ice Age mammals, including mammoths, caribou, moose, and whales (222 Madison Ave., Albany; 518.474.5877; www.nysm.nysed.gov).
Step outside onto Empire State Plaza and check out the abstract art collection found throughout this boldly designed architectural complex (above ground and in the concourse below), considered the most important state trove of modern art in the country — and, as a resident of NY, it belongs to you (Empire State Plaza, Albany; 518.474.2418; www.ogs.ny.gov/plaza). Before you go, grab a tour of the Capitol building, a late 19th-century architectural marvel, famous for its Million Dollar Staircase (www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov).
Reach for the Stars
At the Hudson River Museum & Planetarium in Yonkers, you can sit under a 40-foot-diameter dome and explore the night sky with terrain-mapped images of our solar system combined with Earth weather visualization features. Spectators explore the universe near and far, whether zooming in on Apollo moon landing sites, flying through the rings of Saturn, or venturing to exo-planetary systems beyond the sun (planetarium shows, weekends only; 511 Warburton Ave., Yonkers; 914.963.4550; www.hrm.org).
Tune In to Music History
Visitors from all over the world come to the Museum at Bethel Woods at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (below) to walk the original 1969 Woodstock Festival site. Explore a gallery with psychedelic memorabilia (including a magical mystery bus) and watch footage of the hippie heyday. The Pavilion Stage is also a great place to see a concert. (200 Hurd Rd., Bethel; 866.781.2922; www.bethelwoodscenter.org).
Tour the Hyde Park Mansions
Visitors get a true sense of the famous folk who once lived at this trio of trail-laced Hyde Park estates. Take a ranger-led tour of Springwood, the Roosevelt family home, then head across the lawn to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum for a crash course in the New Deal and more (4079 Albany Post Rd.; 1.800.FDR.VISIT; www.fdrlibrary.org).
A rustic yet refined hideaway, Val-Kill (Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site) is where this famous First Lady got some of her best thinking done (below). (106 Valkill Park Rd., 845.229.9422; www.nps.gov/Elro). Just up the road, Vanderbilt Mansion portrays the upstairs-downstairs world of gentry and servants against a backdrop of classical gardens, with the river sparkling beyond (119 Vanderbilt Park Rd.; 845.229.7770; www.nps.gov/vama).
Go Antiquing & Boutiquing
Ready, set, shop! Start in Nyack for a dose of retail therapy: Colin Holmes has room-like vignettes with classic home furnishings and seasonal accessories (87 Main St.; 845.358.2565; www.colinholmesnyack.com). At P.Ross, find fashion-forward shoes designed by the owner herself (89 Main St.; 845.348.1767; www.prossboutique.com). Crystals on the Rocks specializes in semi-precious gems and minerals and handmade jewelry (11 S. Broadway; 201.747.4748; www.crystalsontherocks.com).
Up the river in Cold Spring, a 19th-century picture-postcard village, you’ll find 20-plus dealers offering diverse collectibles under one roof at Cold Spring Antiques Center (77 Main St.; 845.265.5050; find them on Facebook). Once Upon a Time Antiques has cool finds like cameras and record players (159 Main St.; 845.265.4339). Specialty seekers also like Archipelago at Home for its artsy gifts and furnishings (119 Main St., 845.265.3992; find them on Facebook).
More than 50 antiques businesses offer a high-end selection in Hudson. Head straight to Warren Street and check out Red Chair on Warren for retro French, Swedish, and Belgian furnishings (606 Warren St.; 518.828.1158; www.redchair-antiques.com). Just a few doors down, Finch brims with Mid-Century Modern and contemporary décor of all sorts (555 Warren St., 518.828.3430; www.finchhudson.com). Then stop in at whimsical dual-identity destinations like Flowerkraut (722 Warren St., 518.821.6716; www.flowerkrauthudson.com), a nexus for both flowers and lacto-fermented sauerkraut, or Mutiny, a home and menswear source (438 ½ Warren St.; 518.653.5260; www.mutinyny.com)
Have a Brush with Painters
The Hudson River School painters put the Valley on the world art map. Thomas Cole’s Cedar Grove in Greene County is a must-visit not just for the opulent Federal-style main house, but also to see the recently opened outbuilding, a replica of the artist’s studio (218 Spring St., Catskill; 518.943.7465; www.thomascole.org). Less than 10 minutes by car on the other side of the river in Columbia County, Olana State Historic Site (above), Frederic Edwin Church’s Moorish fantasy castle is so popular, you best book a tour reservation to see the house, though you can wander the 250-acre grounds dotted with carriage trails for free. (5720 NY-9G, Hudson, 518.828.0135; www.olana.org). Let’s not forget Hudson River School master Jasper Cropsey, who now has works at the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See where he took his inspiration at Ever Rest, his Westchester home and studio (49 Washington Ave., Hastings-on-Hudson; 914.478.7990; www.newingtoncropsey.com).
Edward Hopper House, the childhood home of the realist painter of 20th century America is now an art center with exhibitions, programs, and events. (82 N Broadway, Nyack; 845.358.0774; www.edwardhopperhouse.org)
Hail a Chief
Walk the grounds at Lindenwald, President Martin Van Buren’s elegant 1797 Columbia County home, and connect to some major historic doings. While the sideburned son of a tavern owner was president of the US for only one term (1837-1841), his legacy is huge, as founder of the two-part political party system and Democratic party of today. Come see for yourself where the eighth president and former NY governor lavishly entertained politicians and later spent his happiest years as a gentleman farmer writing his autobiography. (1013 Old Post Rd., Kinderhook; 518.758.9689; www.friendsoflindenwald.org)
Go All Abstract
Flooded with natural light, Dia:Beacon is as breathtaking as the contemporary art it displays. Formerly a Nabisco box printing factory, the expansive, high-ceilinged space is the ideal setting for large-scale works by Louise Bourgeois, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, and other art world heavy-hitters. (3 Beekman St., Beacon; 845.440.0100; www.diaart.org). While in town, check out the galleries on Main Street, including Fovea (162 Main St.; 845.232.3443; www.foveaexhibitions.org), dedicated to photojournalism, and BAU: Beacon Artist Union, promoting local talent (506 Main St., Beacon; 845.440.7584; www.baugallery.com)
Deep in the Greene County woods, Mahayana Buddhist Temple surprises visitors with exotic Chinese architecture, complete with a pagoda. This retreat center holds events year-round (710 Ira Vail Rd., Leeds; 518.622.3619; www.en.mahayana.us). Everyone raves about the enormous Buddha statue in the temple at Chuang Yen Monastery in Putnam (above), but this spot is equally noteworthy for the beauty and tranquility of its grounds. Weekend events open to the public include services, meditations, and vegetarian lunch in the dining hall. Stay awhile: Retreats and camps are also available (2020 NY-301, Carmel; 845.225.1819; www.baus.org).
Stroll Storied Streets
Two National Historic Districts in Ulster offer popular walking tours. In New Paltz, there’s Historic Huguenot Street, comprising seven historic stone houses, a reconstructed 1717 Huguenot church, archaeological sites, and a burial ground that dates to the very first settlers who came here in the late 17th century, from what is now France and Belgium, seeking religious freedom. You can also download the free walking tour app from their website (88 Huguenot St.; 845.255.1660; www.huguenotstreet.org). Just up the road in Kingston, the Stockade District is a rare slice of history. Dating from 1658, it’s the oldest intact early Dutch settlement in the entire state. See stone homes, an old Dutch burying ground, and the courthouse site where the NYS Constitution got its start. (First Saturday of the month, May through October; corner of Wall and Main streets, Kingston; 845.339.0720; www.fohk.org)