In the second week of July my wife and I spent 5 days on vacation in the Hudson River Valley. It is a place several friends and family members have visited and recommended and it is reachable from our home in Baltimore in a 4 – 5 hour drive. Our primary interest was in visiting Franklin Roosevelt’s home, museum and library in Hyde Park, NY near Poughkeepsie but there are a broad range of attractions and accommodations on both sides of the River between Westchester County north of New York City and Albany.
We found very attractive accommodations on the west side of the river in Milton, NY at the Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa. The Inn is located on a 75 acre site overlooking the Hudson bisected by a stream with a small waterfall and several ponds with ducks, geese and swans. Accommodations include a main house dating to 1764 with 10 rooms and a number of houses and cottages. Breakfast is included and there is a very nice farm-to-table restaurant on (Henry’s), as well as event space, including a great outdoor wedding venue overlooking the Hudson. A farm and animals provide food for the restaurant and another diversion for guests. There is an exercise room, indoor pool and spa. We stayed in the Sage Right room in the main house, which comes with a queen bed, gas fireplace, refrigerator, patio with views of the Hudson and bath with combination whirlpool tube and shower. The room was attractively furnished with antiques but a bit cluttered with limited closet and drawer space. There was no way to control the air-conditioning temperature in the room and we ended up having to run the gas fireplace to maintain the room temperature as a reasonable level – nothing environmentally conscious in that.
We ate at Henry’s, the on-site farm to table restaurant, our first night and liked it so well that we ended up having light suppers two additional nights during our stay. Both the food and the wait staff at the restaurant were excellent and the menu offers lots of appetizer/small plate options as well as substantial entrees and different white, red and rose sangria nightly. The owners of Buttermilk Falls also own a bakery and cafe, called Frieda’s, a few miles from the Inn on Milton’s main street. It provides the baked goods for the Inn and Henry’s and also offers good breakfast, lunch and take away/picnic options.
We maintained an active but measured pace during our trip, blending visits to historic, natural, and art attractions and the Culinary Institute of America with time at the Inn for afternoon tea, reading and relaxation. We spent more than half a day on our first full day visiting Franklin Roosevelt’s home, Springwood https://www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm, and the adjoining Presidential Library and Museum https://fdrlibrary.org. The house is large but surprisingly modest and comfortable compared to other Gilded Age mansions. The library and museum, the first Presidential library, were designed by Roosevelt himself and have excellent exhibits chronicling Roosevelt’s life as well as housing his personal study and being a repository for Presidential archives. The museum exhibits are very well designed and many are interactive.
Day two we parked on the western approach to Walkway Over The Hudson and crossed the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge spanning 1.28 miles over the Hudson River http://walkway.org/visit/. The bridge is a converted rail span built in the nineteenth century. The walkway is free of charge and provides great views up and down river with the east end landing in Poughkeepsie, which offers some restaurant options. You can enter and exit the walkway at-grade on both sides of the River and there are also elevator and stair options on the Poughkeepsie side but the elevator to the Poughkeepsie waterfront wasn’t working the day we visited. Information panels along the walkway acquaint visitors with the River and the history of the bridge and the area.
Day three we drove south to Storm King Art Center, a 500 acre sculpture park located in Cornwall, NY https://stormking.org/about/. Storm King offers a vast array of monumental and smaller sculpture on an attractive rolling site. We very much enjoyed and were impressed by the art but believe Storm King should offer more tram service options to help visitors get around. A tram circulates through the site but only about once an hour. We walked more than two miles and by no means saw all of the sculpture. More frequent tram circulation and shuttles between parking, dining, and shop/museum locations so you can concentrate your walking to see the art would make Storm King much more accessible to visitors. There is a bike rental option that you may want to try but we did not discover it until we were on our way back to our car. If you visit, be prepared to walk and bring water and sun protections with you.
Day four we returned to Hyde Park to tour Val-Kill https://www.nps.gov/elro/index.htm, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage home and we also visited Top Cottage, Franklin’s personal retreat https://www.nps.gov/hofr/planyourvisit/top-cottage.htm. The Roosevelt home, Springwood, Val-Kill and Top Cottage are all administered by the National Park Service. A visitor’s center and the Roosevelt Library and Museum adjoin Springwood but Val-Kill and Top Cottage are located on separate nearby sites. You can drive yourself or take a shuttle bus to Val-KIll from the visitors center but Top Cottage is only reachable by a strenuous 1.5 mile hike from Val-KIll or by shuttle. Val-KIll was acquired by the National Park Service at the time of the bicentennial and is dedicated to Eleanor Roosevelt personal accomplishments, not her role as First Lady. Val-KIll offers attractive grounds, a small gift shop and welcome center, an orientation film about Eleanor’s life and a tour of several rooms in Val-Kill and the adjoining Stone Cottage, which also houses some exhibits. We very much enjoyed our visit to Val-Kill but it’s offerings are much more modest than those of Springwood and the Roosevelt Library and Museum.
Top Cottage was designed by Franklin Roosevelt to be his retreat after completion of his second term and only saw limited use as he went on to serve a third and a portion of a fourth term as President. It has almost no original furnishings and the volunteer docent who we toured with had only limited information to offer on the property. Top Cottage is only open limited hours and should not be a high priority for a visit. We got there by hiking a somewhat steep and rocky trail from Val-Kill but arrived in time to catch a tour and were able to return to Val-KIll on the shuttle.
Two nights during our visit to the Hudson River Valley we dined at restaurants operated on campus by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Advanced reservation, best made exactly 30 days in advance, are a must and can be done on OpenTable.com. The CIA operates five restaurants, four of which are open for dinner – American Bounty with a focus on the seasons and products of the Hudson Valley, Bocuse a French restaurant named for the most famous chef in France, Paul Bocuse, Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici and Al Forno Trattoria offering authentic regional Italian cuisine and Post Road Brew House http://www.ciarestaurantgroup.com/new-york-restaurants/. We tried both American Bounty and Bocuse but preferred Bocuse, which is a bit more upscale and where we had a table next to the glass enclosed kitchen. A signature item at Bocuse is lavender ice cream made fresh at your table using liquid nitrogen to deliver hand-churned ice cream in only about five minutes.
There is a lot more to see and do in the Hudson River Valley including wineries, local farms, cute small towns, cruising the river and West Point but we intentionally did not try and squeeze too much in so we had time to relax and enjoy the picturesque setting as well as tour some sites.