The Hudson River acts as a backbone for the quaint towns dotting its shores. Their rich and diverse histories, small-business oriented cultures, and breathtaking landscapes are informed by the river’s attributes: a vibrant energy, rhythmic pulse, and constant flow that’s both timeless and renewing. Depot towns like Cold Spring and Peekskill bustle with culture, West Point seems to hold ancient secrets in the cracks of its stone-facade buildings, and Bannerman Island’s mythic castle, which punctuates the Hudson Highlands midriver, is an icon for the region’s pervading magic. The river towns do not only offer exciting things to see and do—they offer an experience of the spirit of the Hudson Valley. Relax
Experiencing the Hudson Valley’s beautiful natural landscape is a great way to unwind. The four-mile-long Hudson Valley Rail Trail weaves through the Hamlet of Highland and connects to the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Nearby Schunemunk Mountain and Mount Beacon offer hiking, climbing, camping, and, for the snowy months, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
If the fresh air isn’t soothing enough, there are cutting-edge resorts, spas, and accommodations running the gamut from luxury hotels to quaint bed and breakfasts. The eco-friendly Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa in Milton uses only natural, organic products and solar and geothermal energy. Cromwell Manor Historic Inn in Cornwall offers the full spa package including fireside massages, yoga classes, and chiropractic care. But, what places like Inn on the Hudson in Peekskill lack in spa care, they make up for in private terraces overlooking panoramic views of the river—a therapy unto itself. Recharge
The Hudson Valley has become a wellspring for culinary activity. Served out of a truck or under a chandelier, the food is creative, flavorful, and often local. The Peekskill Brewing Company offers a dozen homemade craft beers including Zeitgeist, a Berliner Weisse style, and the Eastern Standard IPA. For dinner, go casual with tacos at Tito Santana Taqueria in Beacon, or more formal with escargot at Brasserie Le Bouchon, a family-style French restaurant in Cold Spring.
After refreshing with some world-class cuisine, get a jumpstart on your holiday shopping. Cold Spring is an antique mecca with more than 25 shops along its Main Street. Whether it’s vintage clothing at Blackbird Attic in Beacon, jewelry at Arthur Weeks & Sons in Peekskill, or bicycle supplies at Bryan’s Bikes in Cornwall, you can find something for everyone on your list. (See our holiday shopping guide
The Hudson Valley’s diverse culture is matched by its historic roots. Since Henry Hudson sailed the river in 1609, notable people have settled along its banks. Perhaps most notably, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s estate is in Hyde Park, where he commissioned the construction of America’s first presidential library—now the most-visited attraction in Dutchess County.
A diverse offering of museums preserve various aspects of historic Hudson Valley. The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall works to protect the ecology and the indigenous species of the region, and West Point’s United States Military Academy, the nation’s oldest service academy, is home to a military museum and the restored Fort Putnam, used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Revel
After the spa, the trail, the pub, or the museum, enjoy an evening of world-class entertainment. Catch one of the five Hudson Valley Philharmonic shows scheduled for the 2012-13 season at Poughkeepsie’s 1869 Bardavon Opera House or internationally renowned jazz with your Sunday brunch at the Falcon in Marlboro. Bard’s Fisher Center hosts innovative and provocative performances year-round, and the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Company will put on a production of “A Christmas Carol” throughout the month of December at the Boscobel mansion in Garrison. (See our seasonal events roundup
If you’re looking for a top-caliber college sporting event, catch an Army Football game at West Point. (Army takes on Air Force at home on November 3 and Temple on November 17.) The Black Knights, an NCAA Division I team, offer a show not only on the field—including the longest enduring rivalry in college sports, the Army-Navy game—but also in the surrounding spectacle, like the West Point parachute team jumping the game ball into Michie Stadium.
Whatever your taste, the Hudson Valley’s river towns have the perfect recipe. With endless permutations and combinations of nature, history, and culture, a visit will feel as dynamic and satisfying as your favorite meal.