The Top 10 Hudson Valley Tourist Attractions
We asked Hudson Valley tourism directors: What are the most popular sites in your county?
Photo courtesy of NYS Parks and Historic Preservation
Bear Mountain State Park
A favorite of Valley residents and city folks alike, Bear Mountain State Park spans parts of both Rockland and Orange counties, and has everything from hiking, swimming, and ice skating to rustic-chic dining and overnight accommodations.
Drive up its scenic Perkins Memorial Drive and stop at the summit Perkins Memorial Tower, then stroll or hike in the park — the Appalachian Trail even crosses through it. Families will enjoy a ramble to the four Trailside Museums and the Bear Mountain Zoo (home to animals who aren’t able to survive in the wild) or a ride on the classic carousel with its hand-painted scenes of Bear Mountain and native wild critters.
Bear Mountain is approximately 5,000 acres and hosts more than 2 million visitors annually.
Photo courtesy of NYS Parks and Historic Preservation
The Bear Mountain Inn, built in 1915, is a destination in itself; visitors often combine its Sunday buffet brunch with an afternoon in the park or at the spa. If you get a hankering to sleep over, choices include 15 rooms and suites at the Inn, or 24 rooms at the modern Overlook Lodge; the Inn’s property also includes four rustic stone cottages, each with a common living area and six separate guestrooms with private baths.
Bear Mountain Inn: 845.786.2731, www.visitbearmountain.com
Combo tickets are available to visit both Crailo and the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.
Photo courtesy of Discover Albany
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Crailo State Historic Site
The Colonial Dutch heritage apparent in many parts of the Valley remains alive at Crailo, the historic home of the Van Rensselaer family.
Crailo (Dutch for “crow’s wood”), built in the early 18th century and named after the family’s estate in the Netherlands, was donated to the State of New York in 1924. It now serves as a museum featuring the history of early Dutch inhabitants of the Upper Hudson Valley, and offers a range of exhibits plus guided tours, outreach programs to schools — even hearthside cooking programs.
About 8,000 visitors head to Crailo each year, including those traveling from the Netherlands, to tour the house (mid-May through October) and participate in special programs and events year-round; past events have included a Yankee Doodle Band concert in the summer, and St. Nicholas Day in December.
Boscobel is a detailed reconstruction of the original 1808 mansion, which was demolished in the 1950s. It is built with architectural fragments from the original house and located 15 miles north of the original site.
Photo by Lauren Daisley
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Boscobel House & Gardens
Inside and out, Boscobel is a gem of the Hudson Valley.
The Neoclassical mansion’s interior contains a superb collection of furniture from the Federal period, including pieces by America’s most celebrated cabinetmaker, Duncan Phyfe. Outdoors, its 68 acres of gardens and grounds overlook Constitution Marsh and the Hudson River.
The grounds include public access to 68 acres of gardens (including manicured flower gardens and an herb garden), an apple orchard, a 1.25-mile woodland trail, and The Hudson River School Artists Garden, featuring outdoor sculpture.
From mid-April through December, Boscobel House & Gardens hosts house tours, talks by design experts, activities, and kids’ programs.
During the holidays it draws crowds who come to the Twilight Tours of the mansion. From June through September, it is home to the hugely popular Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, where plays (not just the Bard’s) are performed under a tent on the estate’s Great Lawn.
The Dutchess County Fair attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually.
Photo by Ingrid Kulick
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Dutchess County Fairgrounds
The 160-plus-years old, 162-acre Fairgrounds hosts events May through October, but it’s the Dutchess County Fair (Aug 20–25) chock-full of carnival rides, live music, agricultural and horticultural displays, farm animal exhibits, and exhibitors — that draws the most visitors.
Today’s fair is an offshoot of the Dutchess County Agricultural Society, dating back to 1841. It was first held in Washington Hollow (now a State Police barracks); over the years the fair sometimes took place in Poughkeepsie in the area of Mill and Catherine streets. The Ag Society eventually bought Springbrook Park and, circa 1950, renamed it the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, where it’s been drawing crowds ever since.
Other popular events at the Fairgrounds include the Country Living Fair (May 31), NYS Sheep & Wool Family Festival (Oct 19–20), and the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest (Sept 7–8). New events for 2019 include an “Oktoberfest Handcrafted at Rhinebeck” festival on Oct 5 and 6.
The name ‘Kykuit’ comes from the Dutch word for ‘lookout.’
Photo by Jaime Martorano for Historic Hudson Valley
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This former Rockefeller estate — now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund — features a grand, six-story home with fine furnishings, European and Oriental ceramics, and notable art, all set on beautiful grounds highlighted with landscaped terraces and gardens.
Finished in 1913, it was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family — beginning with John D. Rockefeller, once the wealthiest man in America — and is situated on a 250-acre section of a sprawling 3,400-acre family compound.
Former New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s 20th-century art collection, featuring works by Picasso, Moore, Calder, and other notables, is a big draw for visitors at Kykuit, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Since 1991, it has partnered with the nonprofit educational organization Historic Hudson Valley. Tours depart from nearby Philipsburg Manor.
Olana was named after a majestic European house in what is now Armenia.
photo by Beth Schneck Photography
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Olana State Historic Site
In 1845, artist Frederic Edwin Church — a pupil of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting — was sketching landscapes at the site near Hudson that later became his home, known as Olana. He went on to become a major figure in American landscape painting.
Today, the Olana State Historic Site is one of the few intact home-and-studio complexes of noted artists remaining in the U.S.; it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
The main building features an eclectic mix of Victorian and Middle Eastern motifs. Furnished much as it was during Church’s life, it also contains his art studio and nearly four dozen paintings by Church, his wife, Isabel Church, and his associates and friends.
Tours are offered of the main building and its award-winning landscaped property. The grounds are also open year-round for visitors to stroll on its lovely walkways and carriage trails.
An estimated 20,000-25,000 people visit the site annually.
Photo by Peter Aaron
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Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Art lovers know the importance of Thomas Cole’s home and studios in Catskill — it essentially marks the birthplace of American art, where Cole originated the world-famous Hudson River School of landscape painting. For those who don’t know, there’s a lot to discover.
The six-acre site includes the 1815 Main House; Cole’s 1839 Old Studio (pictured above); the recently reconstructed New Studio building; and views of the Catskill Mountains.
Guided tours of the home and studios are open to the public (book ahead; they often sell out); the site also offers exhibitions, lectures, digital story-telling installations, school programs, workshops, art hikes, and Sunday Salons presented once a month from January through April featuring top lecturers. The gorgeous landscaped grounds are open for the public to enjoy year-round, and the site hosts free community activities.
“Our goal is to regenerate Cole’s revolutionary creativity so it touches people’s lives today,” says Director Betsy Jacks.
Nearly 600,000 people are estimated to visit each year.
Photo by Michael Nelson
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Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Site
For 10 years now, visitors from all 50 states and from many countries have been flocking to the Walkway for the spectacular views and to get some fresh air as they stroll, bike, or skate across the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge.
A bridge at this location dates back much further, however. It was originally the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, first opened in 1889 to carry freight and passenger trains running from Boston to Washington, D.C. At its peak, about 3,500 rail cars rumbled across the bridge daily. A 1974 fire destroyed much of the bridge. It was left unused until it was rebuilt and reopened in 2009 as the Walkway, operated by a partnership between the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and the Walkway Over the Hudson nonprofit organization.
Stretching 1.28 miles between Highland and Poughkeepsie, the Walkway also plays host to popular daytime and evening events, including the annual Fourth of July celebration. It is pet-friendly and has an ADA-compliant 21-story elevator. “We strive to be the ‘friendliest park in the world,’” says Geoff Brault, the Walkway’s director of marketing and communications.
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United States Military Academy at West Point
Visitors come to West Point from around the globe for everything from Army sporting events to shows at Eisenhower Hall to outdoor concerts at Trophy Point.
But the surest way to get an overview of the USMA at West Point is to take a guided tour and visit its museum. The narrated bus trips outline West Point’s history, starting in 1778 when it served as a Revolutionary War military post. Depending on the tour, stops may include the Cadet Chapel, Trophy Point, the West Point Cemetery, and more.
To delve deeper, visit the West Point Museum, which boasts more than 60,000 artifacts, including items belonging to the likes of George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, even Napoleon Bonaparte. Look for the Recent Acquisitions exhibition in Spring 2019, as well as exhibits honoring the centennial of World War I, including the original situation map from General John J. Pershing’s headquarters in Europe.
The LED marquee mimics its original style from 1931.
Photo courtesy of Discover Albany
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The Palace Theatre
Over the years, everything from vaudeville acts to the Rolling Stones have appeared at the Palace Theatre in Albany.
Finished in 1931, the Palace was designed by John Eberson, the world’s top theater architect of the time, featuring Austrian Baroque design, a Czech-made brass chandelier in the lobby, and murals hand-painted by Hungarian artists. It soon became Albany’s premiere first-run movie house.
Like many large, urban theaters of its kind, the Palace went into decline after World War II and eventually closed in 1969. The City of Albany later bought the theater, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Its current incarnation was launched when, in 1989, the Palace Performing Arts Center, Inc. was created to rejuvenate it as a cultural and entertainment center.
Today it’s home to the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and features live shows (comedy, children’s theater, pop music) and — staying true to its roots — screenings of classic Hollywood films.