The places to go to love the Hudson Valley for what it is—more than an arm's length from New York City.
New Yorkers will give you any number of directions if you ask them how to get out of the city for a few days.
They’ll say to take the LIE all the way to Montauk on the tip of Long Island (perfectly acceptable), or to hop on New Jersey Transit for a trip to the Jersey shore (just fine), or to head to the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes to really get away from the urban (nice!). And, hopefully, some of them will say: the Hudson Valley, dang it. One of those people would be me, and the simple reason is that its attitude reminds me of home—if Indiana, where I'm from, had lumbering mountains, a sparkling river, and fewer fast food restaurants.
I know, I know—everyone’s squawking about how it’s an extension of Williamsburg, or giving you their recommendation for the most rustic home goods store in Hudson. But if you peel just off the main drag, you’ll find the places that make the area special and worth a little exploring. Here are the places I go to get more than an arm's length away from Brooklyn, organized by the time it takes to get there (in a car, from New York City):
One hour to: Bear Mountain State Park and Peekskill
Eat: Stop at Birdsall House for comfort food. (Where else do you eat in Peekskill? I always just end up here.)
Drink: All the beers at Peekskill Brewery.
Do: The trails in Bear Mountain-Harriman State Parks aren't the most rigorous you'll encounter, but the views of the Hudson are unrivaled—and you can camp, too! The parks have multiple entry-points and are in close proximity to Peekskill Brewery (important—seriously). You can supplement your need for the outdoors with time in Blue Mountain Reservation, too.
One hour and a half to: Beacon
Eat: Homespun Foods, with its fresh sandwiches and hippie vibe, reminds me of a cafe in a really granola college town (and I mean that in the best way). Or order a burger at Max's on Main, a lively pub with a good beer list.
Do: Hike up Mt. Beacon, or take the backroads out to Fishkill Farms and pick apples. Get your fill of art by visiting Dia: Beacon and Storm King Art Center. If you are staying over for a night, Mt. Beacon Bed and Breakfast is cozy, affordable, and serves delicious food. And even if you don't have a car, everything's mostly within walking distance from the MetroNorth station.
Two hours to: Kingston
Eat: Slurp oysters on the back deck at Boitson's. Pick up sausages at Fleischer's (you can even take butchery classes, but it's not twee, I promise!). Walk along the Rondout and eat pancakes at Dolce. Stock up on wine at Kingston Wine Co.
Do: Kingston is a little scrappy, and that's the way I like it. But it's also historic, covered in stone houses and old churches—some dating from the 17th century. Visit the Hudson River Maritime Museum for a little tributary history. Do some antiquing. You're also close to the Dutchess Couty Fairgrounds, which always has something curious going on—plus one of my favorite kitchen stores, Warren Cutlery.
Two and a half hours to: Germantown
Eat: Grab a sandwich and provisions at Otto's Market. Stop by Montgomery Place Orchards for every type of fruit (and honey, and apple cider, and so many pumpkins, once they're here). Pull over for a burrito in neighboring Red Hook's Bubby's Burritos, or sit down for a hearty bowl of pasta at Mercato.
Drink: Get a beer at Gaskin's. Tool over to Tivoli for a few more options—like margaritas at Santa Fe, which are sizable and strong. 20 minutes down the road finds you in Philmont, at the low-key, beer-filled Main Street Public House (affectionately called Philmont Pub).
Do: Good weather means a picnic at Cheviot Point (pictured above). In the summer, head to the Spiegeltent on Bard College's campus for cabaret. Take to the Tivoli Bays during fall. And in the winter, hit Ro-Lin Lanes to bowl a few games. (You can even get your own ball drilled!)
Just shy of three hours to: Phoenicia
Drink: For a beer, head to Peekamoose Tavern, or order a martini at Ricciardella's.
There are so many incredible towns that dot the landscape of this lush region, and this is just my little slice of it. I want to know: Where do you like to go in the Hudson Valley? Tell me what I'm missing in the comments below!