Day 1: Albany, Olana State Historic Site, Bear Mountain
We will pick you up at 9:00 a.m. today at the Albany Airport or at the Hudson, New York train station. Our drive the first day brings us through the bucolic farmland and rolling hills of the Upper Hudson Valley. Our first stop is Olana Historic Site, home of Frederic Church, one of the leading painters of the Hudson River School, formed by the first American landscape painters in the 19th Century. At Olana, we’ll explore the 250 acre artist-designed landscape on interconnecting carriage paths with views of the Hudson River Valley. We’ll finish our outing with a tour of the magnificent Persian-inspired home housing collections of Church’s work.
After visiting Olana we’ll travel to the former whaling town of Hudson for lunch and a stroll around town. If you looked down Hudson’s Warren Street for the first time and thought you had landed in an Atlantic seaboard beach town, you wouldn’t be far from the truth. After whaling's decline and a subsequent period during which Hudson’s claim to fame (infamy?) was its red light district, it has experienced a renaissance of historic preservation and is now known for its antique shops. After our stop in Hudson, we’ll travel south to the Bear Mountain Inn stopping en route if time permits at Bard College’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts famous for its modern design by the architect Frank Gehry. Our ultimate destination is Bear Mountain State Park, where we’ll check into our rooms at Bear Mountain Inn’s Overlook Lodge with its idyllic view of the Park’s Hessian Lake, after which we’ll head out to the famous Great Jack o Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson. (The Blaze takes place during fall foliage tours.) We’ll see more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated Jack o’ lanterns as we meander through an historic, 18th Century riverside landscape. While marveling at the display, we’ll enjoy an informal dinner at the Café Blaze. Before heading to bed we’ll gather in the Lodge’s lounge to review the week’s planned adventures. Overnight in Bear Mountain, New York.
Day 2: Storm King Arts Center and West Point
After breakfast we’ll visit West Point. A few miles north of the Bear Mountain Inn, the Hudson flows through its narrowest and deepest stretch (more than 200 feet), creating the strategic military position of West Point. In revolutionary times, American forces strung a 40-ton chain 500 yards across the river to keep the British at bay. After the colonial victory, President Thomas Jefferson believed the young nation needed to build its own military capability and wean itself from dependence on foreign expertise. He signed the United State Military Academy into law in 1802. We’ll then head to Storm King Art Center for a picnic lunch and walk around the grounds. Widely celebrated as one of the world’s leading sculpture parks, Storm King Art Center’s 500-acre landscape of fields, hills, and woodlands provides the setting for a collection for more than 100 carefully sited sculptures created by some of the most acclaimed artists of our time. Although Storm King was originally envisioned as a museum devoted to the Hudson River School, by 1961 its founders had become committed to modern sculpture. We’ll return to the Lodge mid-afternoon making sure to leave time to time to play at Bear Mountain State Park. Choices include a massage in the main inn, a visit to the Park’s Zoo or renting a rowboat on Hessian Lake. We’ll also offer an additional hike in the Park in the late afternoon. Dinner tonight will be in the Inn’s fun tapas restaurant. Overnight in Bear Mountain, New York.
Day 3: Tarrytown, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Stone Barns Center and the Old Dutch Church
Those with energy to spare can start the day with a pre-breakfast walk right out the door from our lodge on the Appalachian Trail up Bear Mountain, the first leg of which was constructed in Bear Mountain State Park. After breakfast we’ll drive a half hour to Tarrytown, the hub of so much of the Valley’s culture and history. We’ll start our Tarrytown adventure with a cross country hike on the Old Croton Aqueduct trail and on carriage paths through the 1000 acre Rockefeller State Park Preserve, originally an estate of the Rockefeller family. The Old Croton Aqueduct is a State Historic Park and a scenic linear trail that preserves this civil engineering feat that provided water to the New York City for over 100 years. Our hike culminates at the well-known Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a farm and educational center dedicated to creating public awareness of healthy, seasonal and sustainable food. We’ll enjoy a tasty (and sustainable!) lunch at the Farm’s informal Blue Hill Café. After exploring the grounds of the Farm, we’ll stop by the historic Old Dutch Church and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery with the grave sites of Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler and William Rockefeller. After visiting the possibly haunted Headless Horseman Bridge, we'll return to the Lodge for relaxation and dinner. Overnight in Bear Mountain, New York.
Day 4: Canoeing in Constitution Marsh and Exploring Rhinebeck
Today we transfer to Rhinebeck after a day filled with adventure. We'll start with a scenic drive to the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center, where we’ll enjoy a naturalist led canoeing adventure in this lovely, protected marsh. Our outing will be carefully timed to coincide with the tides. The Hudson is a 150 mile long estuary that ebbs and flows with ocean tides, mixing salt water with fresh as far up as Kingston. The Algonquins called it “Muhheahkantuck” meaning the river that flows both ways, or great waters constantly in motion. We’ll be treated to tall grasses, meandering channels, and, hopefully, bird life, as we learn about the natural history of the area. After our canoeing trip, we’ll hike to the Boscobel estate for a picnic and a walk on the lawns and in the woods of this exquisitely sited property high above the Hudson with views of idyllic Constitution Marsh. Built between 1804 and 1808 on a riverfront site, Boscobel is considered to be one of the finest examples of Federal-style architecture in New York. Note: the canoeing outing is weather dependent. If the weather, the tides or duck hunting season preclude canoeing, we will still visit the lovely marsh and its gorgeous boardwalk, learn about the marsh and the river from naturalists, and then have the special treat of a house tour at Boscobel. We’ll stop in the charming town of Cold Spring and then drive to Rhinebeck, our home for the next three nights. Rhinebeck is an upscale enclave in an otherwise rural region. Victorian, Colonial, and Greek Revival buildings line several blocks of boutique stores, country inns and restaurants. Our inn is the 1766 Beekman Arms Inn, the oldest continuously operating inn in the U.S. Before dinner we’ll have time to relax in the inn’s cozy public rooms, take a nap, or explore the town. Dinner tonight will be in the Inn’s Colonial Tap Room with overhead beams and an open hearth fireplace. Overnight in Rhinebeck, New York.
Day 5: Mohonk Mountain House
After breakfast we’ll cross the Rhinecliff Bridge to the western side of the River and the village of New Paltz at the edge of the dramatic Shawangunk Mountains. Standing high above the valleys on either side, the Shawangunk Mountain range is a continuation of the ridge that is known as Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania and Kittatinny Mountain in New Jersey. Referred to affectionately by hikers and climbers as the "Gunks," the region offers an outdoor experience of great variety and beauty. We’ll travel to the Mohonk Preserve and hike on an historic carriage road underneath dramatic cliffs populated by rock climbers and peregrine falcons to the landmark Mohonk Mountain House Hotel, a famous and famously beautiful resort. The bold among us may also choose to hike the famous "Lemon Squeeze" Trail (the name says it all) to Skytop Tower. We’ll leave time in the afternoon for a visit in the quaint town of New Paltz, before heading back to Rhinebeck. (Those wishing to extend activities in the New Paltz area by a day may also choose a bicycling outing in New Paltz. We'll rent bikes and head out on a ride on the moderate grade of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, past an orchard and over one or two beautiful trestle bridges over the Wallkill River.) If time allows, we’ll stop on the way back to the inn to enjoy the Poet’s Walk, where we can channel the spirit of Washington Irving and other literary figures who reputedly walked here. In 1849, members of the Astor and Delano families, who lived in adjacent estates, commissioned German-born landscape architect Hans Jacob Ehlers to make improvements on these grounds. The classic wooded vistas, sunlit fields and thick forest were the main focus of Ehlers’ vision for the property. He fashioned a series of “outdoor rooms,” using stands of foliage and stone walls to break up the landscape, which includes rolling meadows, forests, and a ravine. Dinner tonight is in one of Rhinebeck’s many restaurants. Overnight in Rhinebeck, New York.
Day 6: On the Trail of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park; Culinary Institute of America; Walkway Over the Hudson
Hyde Park offers a strong lineup for students of history and fine cuisine, both of which we’ll get to experience today. For starters, the Franklin D. Roosevelt House National Historic Site, where the four term president lived all his life, houses FDR’s presidential library and museum. It is also the site of the quaint and unassuming Val-Kill Cottage, where Eleanor Roosevelt spent many quiet years after FDR’s death, and Top Cottage, the hilltop retreat, where FDR met with international heads of state. (Val Kill was named after the nearby stream known as Fall Kill, which means “valley stream” in Dutch. “Val Kill” is a combination of the Dutch name and its English translation.) These sites are all linked by hiking trails that wend up from the shores of the River, past the historic railroad station. We’ll tour FDR’s home and then continue our walk to Val Kill through a forest and across fields. Eleanor said “The greatest thing I have learned is how good it is to come home again” and this certainly rings true when one sees her modest and charming home, the only National Historic Site dedicated to the First Lady.
After all this food for thought, we will proceed to the Culinary Institute of America. Hyde Park has been home to the CIA, the oldest and arguably most prestigious culinary college in the U.S., since 1970. Set on a picturesque riverside campus, formerly the site of a Jesuit seminary, the CIA has produced many of the country’s prominent chefs. After touring the campus, we’ll enjoy a late lunch at the CIA Bakery Café. We’ll celebrate the week together (and the beginning of our bridge back to reality) with a walk on the Walkway over the Hudson, the abandoned railroad bridge that has been turned into a stunning linear park straddling the river and providing some of its most glorious views. We’ll toast each other and the week spent together at our farewell dinner tonight at one of the many restaurants in Rhinebeck. Overnight in Rhinebeck, New York.
Day 7: Farewell to the Hudson River Valley
After breakfast we’ll say good-bye to Hudson River Valley, and transfer an hour and twenty minutes back to the Albany Airport or the Hudson train station by 10:00 a.m