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Growth Spurt: Newburgh & Cornwall 

click to enlarge Grandma Clearwater at Jones Farm in Cornwall - KAREN PEARSON
  • Karen Pearson
  • Grandma Clearwater at Jones Farm in Cornwall

Nestled at the base of Storm King Mountain alongside the Hudson River, a close-knit community thrives in a family-oriented oasis. Friendly neighbors and large herds of children abound, the latter summoned home by the "5 o'clock whistle." The Town of Cornwall and its counterpart, the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson, are two of few remaining Sandlot-esque communities, where residents can count on one another to help out with the raking, organize a pickup baseball game, or borrow a cup of sugar. The local business owner is typically a popular middle school teacher or beloved sports coach. The EMS worker is a mother of a friend of a sibling. New neighbors are embraced, stickily cliché pies are exchanged, and a helping hand is always offered with a personal phone number.

Both the town and the village revolve around Hudson Street and Main Street, where local concerts, a farmers' market, and sidewalk sales take place. The main strip is dotted with family-owned restaurants, designer boutiques, and specialized craft stores, the economic hub fueled by a focus on the local and sustainable. The restaurants offer a broader set of cuisines than you'd expect from a small New York suburb, from homemade Mediterranean specialties at Tina's Basket to the local, unprocessed bounty of the aptly named Fresh. Italian, German, and Asian eateries are often booked to the brim with families after Little League games and day camps, the kids sporting team colors and fiddling with beaded friendship bracelets.

It isn't hard to work up an appetite when the surrounding forests, towering mountains, and the Hudson River beckon from the backyard. Scenic trails wind through Black Rock Forest and Storm King Mountain, both of which are open dawn 'til dusk to hikers and bikers. Aquatic adventurers can book a tour with Storm King Adventure Tours for a day on the river, exploring the surrounding marshes and Bannerman's Castle. For twice the view with none of the work, a winding drive on Route 218 jutting out over the Hudson offers heart-stopping views from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to West Point. As night falls, the Newburgh waterfront lights up, Melissa McGill's public art installation "Constellation" emerges from the ruins of Bannerman's Castle, and a quiet sea of stars rolls in gradually overhead.

The Newburgh Waterfront is the nightlife hotspot for the older crowd: If Cornwall is "The Brady Bunch," then Newburgh is more "Freaks and Geeks." The city is currently in the throes of a modern artistic and cultural revival, an influx of young creative types rewriting previously crime-ridden headlines.

Similar to Cornwall, Newburgh's epicenter radiates out from a single main street that stretches the length of the city. Broadway is home to or kitty-corner from a number of prominent art galleries, including Teran Studio, Ann Street Gallery, and a new "community workspace" called Space Create, a hybrid art gallery, conference center, cafe, bike rental hub, and collaborative space for resident artists.

The City of Newburgh is shedding its criminal cocoon, evolving into a colorful amalgam of artistic endeavors, coffee shops, and hip hole-in-the-wall cafés and music venues, notably The Wherehouse, Newburgh Brewing Company, and Cafe Macchiato. The popular coffee shop 2 Alices, a Cornwall favorite, recently opened a second location on Newburgh's Hudson Street equivalent. A solid cup of coffee and a tasteful soundtrack are never more than a block away from Broadway.

With the largest historic district in the state, a stroll through Newburgh sheds light on its history as an industrial hub, a commercial port, and the "birthplace of the republic" during the Revolutionary War. Along with Washington's Headquarters, Newburgh is home to the Ritz Theater, where legendary performers like Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball debuted precelebrity. A number of museums covering a variety of subjects are scattered throughout the city, notably the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, the world's largest private holding of original culturally significant documents; and the Motorcyclepedia Museum, a more kid-friendly option that houses more than 500 motorcycles in every shape, size, and color. (There's also Orange County Choppers, a complex including a retail shop, café, and bowling alley dedicated to the works and legacy of the Teutul clan of motorcycle manufacturers.)

The social, cultural overlap in Newburgh is most evident in its food scene, mixing high-end restaurants like the newly established Blu Pointe and the classic Italian Cena 2000 with delectable, melt-in-your-mouth $1.50 tacos from Ixtapa Taco Truck. Dozens of ethnic food options are guaranteed to sate any palate, ranging from fresh, vegetarian Ayurvedan dishes served by Bliss Kitchen to traditional Peruvian cuisine at Machu Picchu.

Bring your appetite, an artistic streak, a sense of adventure, and the kids. Explore. Learn something. You're guaranteed to stay awhile.

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