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Vacation Hudson Valley

Tourist Guide

Hudson Valley
History, Hiking and Proud Towns

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor once called Hyde Park home
Sculpture of President FDR and Eleanor on the grounds at Hyde Park


Eveready Diner is one of the best breakfast joints in the Hudson Valley
Eveready Diner

Just less than 20 scenic miles away from New Paltz is Hyde Park. This town of 20,000 people is dripping with history, architecture and foodie culture. Cross the Hudson and (as you arrive into town) you'll notice the profusion of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt related signage. Hyde Park is, in fact, the former playground of presidents past. Hyde Park is special today because Gilded Age tycoons had the foresight to make certain that the historic buildings and wonderfully landscaped parks would be preserved for future generations, all which can still be visited. This makes Hyde Park a stunning example of Gilded Age charm and natural beauty; a place that lends itself to exploration. As home to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Hyde Park has a disproportionate number of outstanding eating choices for a small New York town, with local cuisine ranging from classic American to experimental Asian.

The Eveready Diner is well loved by locals and hungry travelers and the best choice for a hearty breakfast to prepare for a day of exploration. The made to order waffles are the best you'll find anywhere and go great with a bit of locally grown fruit or some powdered sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth. The classic diner breakfast menu is well done, and there are enough options to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. You'll leave thoroughly stuffed and the chatty waitresses can help you get anywhere you need to go.

Springwood, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's former home
Springwood, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's former home

A short trip across the highway by car will leave you at the jumping off point to begin your investigation into the town's most famous resident, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's former home. Begin with a viewing of "A Rendezvous With History," a short documentary that has wonderful nuggets of history regarding the lives of the Roosevelt's and will provide a solid background for exploring the Hyde Parks historic sites. Springwood, Roosevelt's former home, is a massively impressive estate and the National Park Service guides give an informed and quirky tour of the building and grounds. After your tour, exploring the 300-acre grounds will bring you in contact with some of the finest landscape gardening on the East Coast.

After absorbing the beauty and history of Springwood, you'll be inspired to visit the Hyde Park Antiques Center. Take a quick walk up the road and have a look at this multi-dealer, one-stop antiques bazaar. Furniture, silverware, art and jewelry are in abundance here.

Dedicated foodies have to make a quick stop at the CIA campus, which is dominated by red brick and neo-classical architecture. Hit up one of the on-campus restaurants for lunch: American Bounty, which is staffed by advanced students and overseen by staff chefs, has a seasonal menu of American fare. Luscious New England clam chowder might be on the menu one day and pan-roasted duck breast another day. If Italian is more your style, Ristorante Caterina de' Medici (also on the CIA campus) offers an extensive menu of Italian delights. If you're still around at 4 p.m., you can take a tour of the campus (tours are $6).

The Vanderbilt Mansion was built in 1898
Vanderbilt Mansion

The Vanderbilt Mansion is one the most stunning examples of Gilded Age excess that has survived to the present day. The beaux-arts mansion house, designed by noted NY architects McKim, Mead and White, is perfectly situated atop the east bank of the Hudson River. Built in 1898, the 54-room palace is a fine blend of European style and American ingenuity. The anecdote filled tours offer a sense of the history of the home and the Vanderbilt family through generations. When the tour ends, exploring the wildly varied grounds is a treat for nature lovers. The home's elevation reveals wide-open views up and down the river and far across the Hudson Valley. A short walk down a well-planted trail leads to the formal Italian gardens. A large selection of rare roses, old growth trees, fountains and fields are masterfully arranged. Benches and statues are cleverly placed to create an outstanding environment for relaxation, and this is a truly wonderful place to do absolutely nothing but watch the world go by. The gift shop at the visitor's center is the best in Hyde Park and stocks everything from sculptures and prints, to classic toys as well as an outstanding selection of books on gardening and horticulture.

Try to stay in town for dinner. If you're still craving Italian, hit up Coppola's, which has a few other outlets in the area. The Hyde Park version has been serving up old school Italian-American fare since 1961. Come for the generously topped Neapolitan pizzas and the crispy baked calzones; stay for the decently priced (and decidedly tasty) red wine. And if you just can't get enough of the restaurants at CIA, stick around for dinner and eat at Escoffier, the school's in-house French restaurant, where student chefs and their instructors cook up Gallic delights like duck leg confit, cocoa-crusted pork tenderloin and shallow-poached halibut in a saffron broth.

For a nightcap, stop by the Hyde Park Brewing Company to nurse a pint of local brew — try the Bohemian-style Winkle Lager — and, if it's a weekend night, listen to some live music.


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Bannerman Castle, a historic ruin on the Hudson

(Updated: 09/16/11 SS)

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