The hubster and I have been escaping to New York’s Hudson River Valley this summer ever since realizing we had all the beauty, delicious food, and landscapes of of an east coast Napa Valley just two hours from home. Can I just tell you… new favorite place in the world. The Valley starts out north of New York City and stretches up alongside either side of the Hudson River in a series of small towns. Our first visit started out as a quick day trip away from the city and turned into three days hopping all over the Valley like there was no tomorrow. We found out is that it’s actually an incredibly easy vacation for almost anyone, and it can be done on a super affordable budget. If we were planning a trip for you (and if we know you, chances are we are), here’s what we’d tell you to see.
Bumble & Hive – Rhinebeck, NY
Rhinebeck is a super cool town, and Bumble & Hive is one of the best little boutiques we saw there. Honey, anyone? Yes, please! We were also this close to snatching up the artwork on sale, mostly because whose home doesn’t need more photos of cows and barns? We ended up holding off, but the honey from Bumble & Hive would make great birthday or Christmas gifts for loved ones. And the honey bar (above) is a great place to pick out flavors. (Also I want to do that rooster thing in my kitchen.)
Hoffman’s Barn Sale – Red Hook, NY
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Rhinebeck is the most amazing antique store in the world: Hoffman’s Barn Sale. We found out about this place from Country Living Magazine, and obviously we had to go. Hoffman’s is exactly what it sounds like: a giant barn-like structure full of used stuff. Imagine giant mason jars and glassware for $2 or less or huge used windows for $7 or shutters for $4 or even beautiful old fireplace mantles for $100, plus bigger things like furniture, rugs, antique cars and plows, and more. We spotted stuff from the barn sale in upscale boutiques nearby. Pinterest junkies would pretty much be in love, and that’s exactly how we felt, which is why we went there twice in one day. Totally worth it.
Me Oh My Pie Shop – Red Hook, NY
Me Oh My Pie Shop is known for their pies and desserts, but they also serve $10 dinners, including roast chicken with mashed potatoes. The hubster paid a dollar more for a full chicken pot pie and took a chocolate cream pie home for dessert (big enough to feed a horse). We stopped by after sunset, but if we did it again we’d get here for an early dinner and then head north to Saugerties.
Just twenty six miles north of Red Hook (home of Hoffman’s) is Saugerties, New York. Saugerties is a great place to end the day, especially if you show up on the first Friday of the month, when the whole town essentially comes out for First Fridays.
‘Cue – Saugerties, NY
We grabbed a bite to eat at ‘Cue, which is modeled after rural roadside BBQ shacks across the country, with a ginormous patio for eating in front. All of the meat is smoked on site throughout the day, and they work seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms into the menu for specials. The prices are super fair, the vibe is super fun, and the food is super good. On our visit, it was too early for dinner, but we got a smoked chicken leg and brisket and some sides to split. The hubster almost took one of their local strawberry shortcakes, but his self-control got the best of him.
Saugerties Lighthouse – Saugerties, NY
To get to Saugerties Lighthouse we had to check the tide schedule and then make a half mile stroll from the parking lot through a nature path (which is totally underwater when the tide is high) to the lighthouse. Once we got there, we saw why reviews say it’s one of the most beautiful places ever. The lighthouse was turned into a bed and breakfast in the 90s, but the outdoor space is still open to the public to hang out for free. We spent hours relaxing on the giant deck in back with other visitors and listening to the water lap up against the stone until the sun set. It seriously felt like heaven.
Also in Saugerties: Miss Lucy’s Kitchen (farm to table restaurant) | Tango Restaurant and Cafe (South American food) | Lucky Chocolates (organic, fair trade chocolate, ice cream, and sugar-free / dairy-free ice cream by organic nectars!) | First Fridays | Orpheum Theater (movies under $10 on Thursdays)
Warwick is a small town in the southern part of Ulster County. The main street is lined with cafes and antique boutiques, including lots of gluten-free friendly places like Sugar Shack (which serves gluten-free French toast, sweets, and omelets all day long) and Noble Pies (which serves sweet and savory pies and has a selection of gluten-free pies and sweets on hand everyday, along with sugar-free pies by order). We fell in love with this place and could spend days just roaming around.
Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery – Warwick, NY
The hubster and I got engaged in Napa Valley, and ever since then wineries have been some of our favorite places to visit. Warwick Valley Winery is known as making one of the best hard ciders in the country. We split a tasting of six flavors for only $5.00 and picked up gourmet snacks in the shop. They also have a cafe on site for lunch. You could spend half a day soaking in the views from the outside patio, or after Labor Day you can go pear and apple picking on the grounds.
Pennings Farm Market – Warwick, NY
After our visit to the winery, we ran into a local who told us we must visit Pennings Farm Market for dinner. By day Pennings is a farm market with a pretty amazing selection, like maple-sweetened fruit yogurt and fruit-juice sweetened jams and pumpkin butters, but by night it turns into a restaurant and bar. We ordered organic burgers (they have gluten-free buns, which = win), fries, and salad and were so stuffed we had to bring some back to the hotel. Pennings was slammed by 7:30 PM, so next time we’d get there by 6:00 PM and check out the drive-in theater down the street afterward for only $10. They also have apple picking in the fall!
A Day Away Kayak Rentals – Kingston, NY
The Hudson River Valley is known for it’s outdoor adventure stuff, and after researching kayaking spots in the Hudson we settled on A Day Away, which is the most affordable and seemed the best for beginners. We followed the road way out into the country, signed the waiver, and put our life vests on (and at this point I’m already thinking how many amoebas are in that water?) when the owner tells us he’s going to have us climb into the kayak on the back of a trailer, drive us down a path, and then back us up into the water and let us go. Something like this, only that might have just been how it felt in my head. Once we were in the water we could paddle around to a small waterfall in one direction and a little island in the other before returning to the dock. I liked that we were blocked in on both sides so we couldn’t go too far and the water was super peaceful and not choppy. The hubster and I shared a kayak for $30.
Also in Kingston: Kingston Parks Movies (free outdoor movies under the stars) | Adams Fairacre Farms (the Hudson River Valley’s answer to Whole Foods) | Broadway Lights Diner (A diner with a Greek flair. We ate dinner here on one of our trips and loved it.)
Water Street Market – New Paltz, NY
We grabbed a bite at the Bridge Creek Cafe at New Paltz’s Water Street Market before heading out to kayak, but we also eyed the Kosiner Brother’s Organic Hot Dog Cart, which had gluten-free buns and browsed the giant antique center.
Fishkill Farms – Fishkill, NY
The second outdoorsy activity we wanted to get in was berry picking, so we headed to Fishkill Farms based on a recommendation from another local. Fishkill Farms is a huge ecological farm with almost year-round fruit picking and events. We visited at the height of berry and cherry season, and we picked currants and blueberries to bring home and took a tractor tour of the cherry fields before we wimped out and ran back to the shade indoors. They also have a grill on site that serves hotdogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, and grilled corn as well as an ice cream stand and a farm store with local products.
On our way home we stopped at the Peekskill train station to sit on a stone pier and watch the sun set over the Catskill Mountains. The best part about the Hudson River Valley is that so much of it is breathtaking just by virtue of the mountains, river, and valley, that you can spend days just taking it all in and not actually spending much at all. All of the above activities could be done in a three day, two night trip to the Valley for as little as $300. We use Priceline’s name your own price feature to book two or three star hotels for as low as $55 a night in the town of Fishkill, and we save on food by loading up on the complementary breakfast at the hotels and then grabbing yogurts at Adams Fairacre Farms to top it off, and also bringing a ginormous bag of us-friendly food like oatmeal and fruit and snacks such as Caveman Cookies and Quest bars for between meals. Though who can pass up Cracker Barrel every now and then?
Now it’s your turn. What’s one of the most beautiful or exciting places you’ve ever been?
Header by Stephanie Oh.