This is all about New York and you. You certainly know the urban excitement of New York City, but you may not know that two hours away by car, you’ll be intoxicated by the embrace of the Dutchess—namely, Dutchess County.
I am convinced that travel is healing because when you are engaged, learning, involved, encountering new things, excited, outside of your problems and symptoms, it is a great balm for your mental health. And driving trips put you in control, and minimize stress by allowing you to travel at your own pace.
So here is my list of the top things to do in the lap of the Dutchess:
1. For Art Lovers, there are only two words you have to know: DIA: Beacon. It’s the DIA art foundation’s collection of cutting edge art since the l960’s and it covers an astounding 240,000 square feet of exhibit space in Beacon, New York. I love the large yarn picture frames that are suspended in the middle of the space and enclose…nothing. You can walk in and out of the frames and ponder if you are the art, if reality is the art, or if emptiness is the art, or what, in fact, art is. https://www.diaart.org/visit/visit/diabeacon-beacon-united-states
2. For History Buffs, while you are in Beacon, board a small boat to visit Bannerman Island and its castle. I don’t want to be a spoiler about why there is a the ruin of an atmospheric castle on the island, but you will be regaled with a story that involves a child business prodigy, army and navy surplus, John Philip Sousa’s band, how to buy an island, one of the first mail order catalogues, and more quirk than you can imagine. And don’t miss the events that take place on the island. http://bannermancastle.org/visit-the-island.html
3. For Romantics, if you stay at the historic Roundhouse in Beacon, in a spacious, designerly room, you walk one minute to a sumptuous breakfast overlooking the falls. Patrons gaze into each other’s eyes, and hold hands across the table, inspired by the unexpected beauty of the view and the sound of rushing water. Across the street is a waterfall. Lunch and dinner menus are available to the public later in the day. https://roundhousebeacon.com
4. For Foodies, Kitchen Sink Food & Drink, also in Beacon, was named the best new restaurant last year by Hudson Valley Magazine. It’s down-home, friendly, extremely well prepared food in a comfy-cozy environment. This is as local as it gets. It’s right in the heart of Beacon, and small, so reservations are highly recommended. www.kitchensinkny.com
5. For Eco and Sustainability and Organic Produce and Garden enthusiasts, you will not believe the inventive, creative, under-the-radar farm for microgreens that is thriving indoors, in an office building in Poughkeepsie, at 216 Main Street. My guide, Rahman Moore, was in and out of prison, where he learned horticulture. But when he tried to find a job after he did his time, no one would hire him. Now he has advanced to become supervisor at the indoor farm where microgreens are grown for grocery stores and restaurants. And he's not alone. The farm hires inner city youth who can’t find work, and the goal is to hire l00 of them. Be sure to take a guided tour.
6. For Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt fans, or for those who are soon to become fans, Hyde Park is ground zero. My favorite part, for intimacy with Eleanor, was a visit to Val-Kill, her home. Eleanor is the only first lady to have her own national historic site, by the way. You’ll see the desk where she wrote 8,000 daily columns, the carpet where the Ethiopian Emperor sat and watched TV for the first time, and learn about all the notables like Madame Chiang Kai Shek, Gandhi, Nehru, and Churchill who came to visit this totally unpretentious abode. How about gas station glasses in the first lady’s house?! Was Eleanor a lesbian? What about FDR’s infidelities? The subjects are dealt with head on. And after or before Val-Kill, a visit to FDR’s house and museum is de rigeur. He was elected President four times, and a film and the engrossing museum exhibits illustrate why. He was an inspirational speaker; he opposed corporate greed; although born an aristocrat, he was a champion of the people; he supported social security, unemployment insurance, stock market reform; he introduced the WPA which not only put millions of (largely unskilled) people back to work, but provided work and outlets for artists, writers, and other cultural creatives. What presidential words resonate more today than his impassioned speech during a wartime period of despair: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?” ( www.NPS.gov/HOFR , www.NPS.gov/ELRO , http://www.FDRLibrary.marist.edu)
7. For Foodies who are visiting Hyde Park, head right away for the chateau that houses the New York branch of the Culinary Institute of America. Take a tour and find out about what the 2800 students are learning, watch them in the kitchen, ask as many questions are your taste buds require, and then dine in one or more of their five restaurants like the Ristorante Caterina. Go for lunch and order delights like the fava bean soup with spicy dandelion greens, or the three-pasta tasting, which includes risotto, gnocchi, and orecchiette. In the evening, try the fine dining specials at Bocuse Restaurant, and for dessert be sure to order the ice cream show, which is made table side. It has a salted caramel banana base, mixed with liquid nitrogen, hand-turned until it starts to smoke, and then sprinkled with chocolate chips. https://www.ciachef.edu/visiting-cia-new-york-hyde-park/
8) If you are a pancake person, the likelihood is that you are also a maple sugarite. But I’ll bet you have never been to a maple syrup tasting. It’s time to remedy that. Head over to Crown Maple Estate for an insider view on how modern organic maple syrup production works. After an informative and engaging tour, it’s time to taste simple sugar, golden, amber, dark, and very dark syrup. All of them have the same sugar content, but the lighter ones come out early in the season and the darker ones are extracted later. http: www.crownmaple.com
9) It’s a short drive to something that will please anyone with a passion for art, castles, recycling, nature, and sheer, joyous creativity. Wings Castle emerges out of the woods, and 85% of it was built with recycled materials over a period of 22 years. According to Toni Wing, “Peter and I started this a month after we married. We both wanted to live in a castle with a moat.” Peter, a visionary artist, gathered brick from an urban renewal project, beams from a falling-down barn, sewer pipes, and anything else he could get his hands on. Then, without any crew, he built the largest work of art in the Hudson Valley. You simply will not believe what you experience on the tour: a mini Stonehenge, a tunnel made from water pipes, a fireplace carved out of a stone Buddha, a 60-foot, three-story tower. If you want to stay in a castle, you can do that, too. A second castle is available as a B&B. And if you are tired of the stock market rollercoaster, you can buy the castle. Peter died in an accident, and it is a huge undertaking for Toni to maintain the property alone. http:www.wingscastle.com
10. For adventure lovers, or if you are interested in those things that fly above our heads and take us to exotic places, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is for you. For the former, you can actually fly in a 1929 New Standard D-25 open cockpit plane. Yes, open cockpit, as in “can you believe I am doing this!!??” You will feel like Snoopy in your goggles and helmet, as you soar over the verdant landscape for l5 minutes, and when the pilot tips the wings and does a maneuver called a “wing over” you will feel the chill and the thrill you were looking for. On the ground, you will discover marvels like a Fokker triplane (three wings), a l909 Bleriot that is the second oldest flying plane in the U.S., and the world’s most accurate replica of the Spirit of St. Louis (did you know that Charles Lindbergh flew without a front window?). www.oldrhinebeck.org
11. If you’re excited by where you stay and what you eat, while in Rhinebeck, you can bed down in the U.S.’s oldest inn. You’ll fall asleep with a smile, knowing that the Beckman Arms hosted top political celebs George Washington and Alexander Hamilton before you. And no matter where you stay, head over to Terrapin for really good eating. My fave appetizer was the truffled fig, brie and roasted shallot quesadilla topped with arugula; and my main, sautéed Hudson Valley duck breast with maple gastrique and accompanied by jalapeno cheddar grits, was so satisfying that I could skip dessert, thereby avoiding both calories and guilt. (www.terrapinrestaurant.com)
12. If art, nature, and architecture are your things, you’ll find all three at Olana State Historic Park, in Olana. Frederic Church (l826-1900) was a celebrated painter in the Hudson River School of Art– which pioneered the first landscape painting in America. His house on the hill, which he designed, includes many of his masterful paintings and features views from every window; visitors look out over forests and the mighty Hudson River. Eclectic treasures from his international travels are on display throughout the house, and graceful arches attest to the influence on his work and architectural design of the Middle East. www.olana.org
And now, one more thing: Bon voyage!
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Judith Fein is an award-winning international travel journalist, speaker, author, and blogger. Paul Ross is an award-winning photojournalist. Their website is www.GlobalAdventure.us