Stretching from nearby Westchester County northward to Albany and Troy, the Hudson Valley is rich in sites recounting the history of the ancient River Indians and early Colonial settlers who called its bountiful land home. Here, you can explore the majestic wonders of nature that provided the muse for America’s first great art movement, the Hudson River School. A walk through the landscape along the Rip Van Winkle Bridge or Kaaterskill Falls might yield an exciting glimpse of fossils dating back to the Triassic or Precambrian eras, or score you a soaring, bald eagle sighting. Sumptuous inns, fabulous shopping and the delights of fine dining make a mere 48 hours in this lovely stretch of Upstate New York not nearly enough time to savor it all. If your passions include art, history and the natural world, the clock is ticking. It’s time to gas up and get your Valley on! A great weekend in the Hudson Valley is closer than you think.
Saturday – 10 a.m.
Start your day in American art’s birthplace
Nestled in the picturesque village of Catskill near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge is the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Cole’s invention of a quintessential, American art style was as unique and renegade as our new, fledgling nation. The father of the Hudson River School, Cole’s home was rescued from disrepair and turned into a museum, celebrating his New World vision. Cole and other artists in his camp, including Frederic Church and Jasper Cropsey, were heavily influenced by artistic romanticism and a passion for the natural world, fueled by the magnificent landscapes of the Hudson Valley which can still be enjoyed today. A visit to Cole’s home includes guided tours of locations depicted in his art, such as breathtaking views of the Catskill Mountains and majestic Hudson River.
Saturday – 1 p.m.
Shine a light on the steamboat era
Built in 1869, the Saugerties Lighthouse embodies the soulfully wild, romantic heart of a gentle, nautical time. A living museum, the Lighthouse also operates as a bed and breakfast for those who plan ahead; reservations are coveted and often made a year in advance. Reservations or not, all are welcome to explore the Lighthouse’s vast nature trails and historically preserved buildings, and to meet the Lighthouse Keepers who maintain the beacon of light which illuminates this edge of the magnificent, unchanged Hudson River as it appeared to steamboat sailors hundreds of years ago.
Saturday – 6 p.m.
Feed your appetite and eyes
Nearby Tatiana’s Italian Cuisine features more than just delicious seafood and homemade Italian specialties. Dinner at this earthy restaurant’s back balcony includes the unchanged view that inspired Cole’s painting, “River in the Catskills.” A perfect ending to your day, this family-run restaurant offers a welcoming respite for tired feet and hungry bellies.
Sunday – 10 a.m.
Learn about Colonial-Jewish America
Marlboro, New York in Orange County is home to Gomez Mill House, built on land purchased in 1714 by Spanish Inquisition survivor, Luis Moses Gomez. This section of the Hudson Highlands was the site of Duyfil’s Danskammer, an ancient, Native American ceremonial ground, referenced as early as 1609 in Henry Hudson’s ship diaries and notoriously coined as the Devil Dance Chamber. The land eventually became known as Jews Creek, with the Gomez family at its head. Today, this ancestral home is a museum and historic site open to visitors craving a peek into the early, day-to-day life of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish congregation of a bygone era and the thriving fur trade conducted in this region. The Gomez Mill House is the oldest residential home listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Orange County and the first known, surviving Jewish residence in North America.
Sunday – 2 p.m.
Soak up the local history and sunshine
Around five miles down the road is historic Newburgh, where you can spend a lovely afternoon strolling, sightseeing, dining and soaking up the atmosphere of the newly-refurbished Waterfront. Paddlewheel cruise boats and jet skiing offer up recreational excitement, or take a spoken tour of George Washington’s Revolutionary War headquarters on Liberty Street. Victorian Revival Buildings and Federal Style Row Houses accentuate Newburgh’s combination of old and new.
Sunday – 7 p.m.
Drench yourself in moonlight and music
Some of Newburgh’s best restaurant choices are affordable, colorful and casual. Check out the Haight-Ashbury style music scene and 50 varieties of yummy burgers featured on the menu at Liberty Street’s Wherehouse or Pineapple Larry’s Pub on Grand. End the evening with a moonlit stroll along the Hudson. No matter how you spend your day, at the end of it, you will regret not having more time to enjoy this majestic corner of New York State.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.