These Are the Hudson Valley's 10 Counties (and What Makes Them So Great)

With counties as diverse as the people who live in them, the Hudson Valley has something for everyone.



 

Albany

With the opening of the gleaming new Capital Center in downtown Albany — a 159,000-square-foot convention space-cum-state-of-the-art concert venue — more visitors than ever will storm this county in search of fun. Our top picks? Explore the city’s vibrant restaurant culture, museums, and historic sites. Check out one of the many annual events, like the Tulip Festival in May. Take in the panoramic views at Thacher State Park. Hop on the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway, which connects with the New York State Canalway Trail.


The Annual Albany Tulip Festival in Washington Park, Photo courtesy of Discover Albany

 


The Empire State Plaza, Photo courtey of Discover Albany

 

Renssealer

We’ve all heard the buzz about Rensselaer’s metamorphosis into a world-class science and technology region driven by STEM startups. Troy, the county seat, is even home to its own Children’s Museum of Science and Technology. But that’s just one sound byte: Leaf-peepers flock here for the unforgettable foliage vistas of Grafton Lakes State Park and Petersburg Pass on the Taconic Crest Trail. Waterfall “collectors” visit Barberville Falls, Mount Ida Falls, and Buttermilk Falls, among many others. Tip: A brand-new trail system linking Troy’s Burden Pond Preserve with falls along the Wynants Kill is in the works.


Downtown Troy, Photo by Ben Frantz Dale

 

Greene

Home to the highest Catskills peaks, Greene is also the birthplace of the Hudson River School movement. Today, scenery-seeking artists are joined by skiers, hikers, and just plain sightseers — many of them checking out the new, improved view from the old Catskill Mountain House site, thanks to a recent DEC pruning project. Follow the Catskills Beverage Trail to craft breweries and distilleries, stopping along the way to visit the many locally owned shops and eateries in Tannersville, Catskill, Hunter, and Windham.


Photo courtesy of Hunter Mountain

 

Columbia

Sixty percent cropland, this area’s gently rolling countryside overflows with roadside produce stands and, naturally, farm-to-table cuisine. Dutch-rooted Kinderhook, artsy Ghent, antiquey/boutiquey Hudson, and culture-conscious Chatham all make wonderful roadtrips and appeal to the second-homeowner population. The forward-thinking Solarize Columbia County initiative taps into the residents’ environmentally geared mindset. More must-sees: Clermont State Historic Site, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Steepletop, Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, and the Shaker Museum.


Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Photo courtesy of National Park Service Digital Image Archives


Hudson Hall at the Historic Hudson Opera House, Photo by Robert Umenhofer

 

Ulster

With world-class climbing at the Gunks and skiing/snowboarding at Belleayre (now boasting the Catskills’ only gondola), there’s a lot to keep outdoorsy types occupied in this neck of the woods. This county also packs a lot of destination towns, from funky New Paltz to historic Kingston, family-friendly Saugerties, and quirky Woodstock, with its spiritual vibe. Take a tour of the Byrdcliffe Art Colony, founded in 1902, the precursor of the hippie culture found there today.


The Kingston Waterfront, Photo courtest of Ulster County Tourism

 

Dutchess

In the heart of the valley, this dynamic county has been in the news for initiatives that include a planned sake brewery at the CIA and a mixed-use retail/residential “redevelopment” on the former IBM campus in East Fishkill. Metro-North and Amtrak make it an easy ride to destinations like Beacon, Pawling, Poughkeepsie, and Rhinebeck. And while these towns and cities get all of the hype for attracting young families from NYC, Dutchess is also a good place to be a senior with spanking-new community centers and recreation programs, as well as free classes at Bard, Marist, Vassar, and Dutchess Community College.


Downtown Rhinebeck, Photo by Daniel Case

 

Putnam

Pastoral Putnam seems sleepy at first, but there’s actually a lot to see and do: The Appalachian Trail and Great Swamp run through it, along with the bicycle-friendly Putnam County Trailway. Clarence Fahnestock State Park is your ticket for swimming, hiking, or snowshoeing, while Thunder Ridge Ski Area offers day and night sessions on 22 trails. Agri-tourist attractions include Tilly Foster Farm (including a restaurant and exotic chickens) and Green Chimneys Farm & Wildlife Center. For dining, Cold Spring and Mahopac offer plenty of choices, and in the summer a riverview pre-Shakespeare picnic on the lawn of Boscobel, in Garrison, is a must-do.


Fahnestock State Park

 

Westchester

Bordering NYC, the Hudson River, and the Long Island Sound, this strategically located county is home to corporate masters of the universe, but many artists and performers live here, too, not to mention talented restaurateurs. Upscale shopping centers and sweet boutiques also strike a balance, and it’s a go-to spot for filmmakers drawn by idyllic river towns. Niche rates 10 Westchester communities in the top 20 suburbs in New York State for 2017, and its schools are also highly ranked.


The City of White Plains, Photo by Steve Carrea

 

Rockland

Federally designated as a Preserve America Community for its many thousands of acres of preserved parkland like Bear Mountain and Nyack Beach State Park, Rockland also rocks for its waterfront and sidewalk dining, golf courses and country clubs, mom-and-pop shops, and historic sites, including the oldest pub in America. Groups like the Rockland Business Women’s Network and Rockland Business Association actively support the lively business scene, a mix of health, retail, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, construction, and research.


Bear Mountain Inn

 

Orange

Now that Stewart International Airport has been rebranded with the words “New York” before the name to draw visitors beyond congested city airports, Orange’s economy is poised to take flight — and its many attractions ranging from West Point to shopping mecca Woodbury Common Premium Outlets will gain an even greater audience. Rest assured, nature is very much a draw to this bucolic county, home to the Wallkill Valley Black Dirt Region and the scenic Heritage Trail, which passes through Monroe, Chester, Goshen, and long stretches of farmland. Orange County is also the home to the future Legoland New York park and hotel and is the closest county to the newly opened Resorts World Catskills, in Sullivan County’s Monticello.


Photo Courtesy of Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets