When we published our first Escapes piece, we were sipping warm cocktails in the dead of winter. Now, two months later, it’s… well, still basically winter. Peeks of spring have made their way to NYC over the last couple of weeks, though, and we know that sunnier days will come soon. While you wait, it can’t hurt to plan ahead for your next (long) weekend escape. Ahem, MDW, we see you.
This time around, we’re taking you to the gorgeous and accessible Hudson Valley. Many quaint small towns border the Hudson River north of NYC all the way up to Albany, but there are a few must-see destinations to start with if you haven’t yet explored the area. The best part? It’s so easy to get there that your friends won’t be able to make excuses or try to back out of the trip last minute. Insert evil cackle here.
Here’s our ideal three-day weekend itinerary to help you dip your toes into the delight that is New York’s Hudson Valley:
Wake up bright and early to catch the Metro North train from either Grand Central or Harlem 125th St. Tickets are reasonably priced — especially during off-peak times — and the train runs along the river, so you get some nice views along the way. In fewer than 90 minutes, you’ll arrive at Cold Spring, where a range of fun activities are at your fingertips.
From the station it’s a short walk up to Cold Spring’s adorable antique-store lined main drag, aptly named Main Street. To start your day, grab an indulgent and energizing breakfast at one of the several coffee shops you’ll walk past — Hudson Hil’s Cafe & Market is a favorite of mine. Don’t fill up too much, though, because you’re about to get some exercise!
I’ll give you three options:
- For the hiker who enjoys a challenge: head to Breakneck Ridge. The trailhead is about a mile away from Cold Spring’s city center, which is a nice warm up for the steep hike. Breakneck Ridge is such a popular hike, actually, that has its own Metro North stop if you’d prefer to skip breakfast and start your morning there. Despite the crowds, it’s a beautiful (but strenuous) loop and offers stunning views of the valley and river. If you’re willing to lace up your boots and get trekking, you do not want to miss it.
- For the less hiking-inclined (get it?) who still wants a dose of nature: stop by Hudson River Expeditions to rent a kayak. Yes, it is safe to float on the Hudson, especially this far north of the city. This local biz also offers canoe and paddle board rentals, and a few different guided tours. Depending on the time of day and tide level you can kayak in a cove and on a marsh — it’s nothing short of stunning.
- For the self-professed “city person”: Grab a reusable tote bag or two and get to antiquing! Trust me, this can become almost as much of an effort as hiking or kayaking. Cold Spring’s antique shops (like Once Upon a Time) are filled with treasure, and it can take hours to truly sift through the goods in each store. While at first glance it may seem like most items are out of your budget, with an ounce of perseverance you’re bound to find a shockingly affordable gem. From funky home decor and furniture to clothes and accessories to random relics of New York’s past, you won’t be disappointed in the vast selection. If you don’t believe me, just know that I once spotted fashion PR maven Kelly Cutrone doing her digging in a Cold Spring shop — how’s that for credibility?
After completing your activity or activities of choice, it’s time for food. I have a soft spot for Le Bouchon, a French brasserie that has some of the best moules-frites I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. The restaurant tends to get a bit crowded, but it’s worth the wait.
Whether you’re still hungry after lunch or not, walk over to Moo Moo’s Creamery for a scoop of homemade ice cream. I’m serious; I broke my months-long dairy hiatus just to have this ice cream. They offer a variety of delicious flavors, from a classic Vanilla to more adventurous choices like Nilla Wafer and Mexican Chocolate.
By late afternoon, walk back down to the station and take the Metro North a few stops north to Beacon, where you’ll be spending the night and the next day!
Quality lodging is easy to find in and around Beacon. If you’re looking for a luxurious hotel experience, consider booking a room at The Roundhouse. There are also some cozy inns and B&Bs, like Botsford Briar. If you’re not interested in a splurge, split an Airbnb with your friends and save some cash — to spend on food and drinks, of course. I stayed in this one with a group of eight and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The night we arrived, we chose to grab some groceries from Beacon Natural Market and made a big dinner in our rental instead of going out. Highly recommend!
No one will judge you for sleeping in after a long day of hiking, kayaking, and/or vintage shopping. Hit that snooze button and snore your heart out.
Once you’re out of bed, it’s time to pick your (glutenous) poison. NYC bagel snobs, hold tight — The Beacon Bagel on Main Street offers a huge selection of bagels and sandwiches that rival some of the city’s best establishments, including a classic bacon egg and cheese. There are also vegan-friendly options, which truthfully isn’t as common at even the best bagel spots in the city. If you’re favoring more of a sweet breakfast treat, you must try Glazed Over Donuts (also on, you guessed it, Main Street). The award-winning donut shop allows customers to build their own donuts (with your choice of glaze, toppings, and drizzle) which are then made to order. Drool.
Once you’re fully loaded with carbs, how about a stroll through a renowned contemporary art museum to walk it off? Head west to the Dia: Beacon, a sprawling space that sits right at the edge of the Hudson and used to be a former Nabisco factory. You might know of Dia: Chelsea, an exhibition space on W. 22nd street in Manhattan, but the Beacon outpost is filled with some type of Hudson Valley magic that just can’t be felt elsewhere. Short-term exhibitions rotate throughout the year, but there are also several long-standing collections that the Dia: Beacon is known for. A favorite of mine is the Sol LeWitt installation which consists of massive, incredibly intricate wall drawings.
After nerding out on all of the cool (and sometimes a bit silly) modern and contemporary art at Dia: Beacon, head back into town for some pre-dinner spirits tasting at Denning’s Point Distillery. This distillery truly has something for everyone — brandy, bourbon, whiskey, vodka, and gin. I’ll let you in on a little secret: as someone who isn’t a loyal gin drinker, their “Great 9 Gin” is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s fragrant and botanical and just plain delicious — so much so that I took a bottle home. And it’s actually not much of a secret at all, because I bring it up whenever the subject of gin cocktails comes up in conversation.
Finally, end your night at one of the many restaurants on Main Street. I’d recommend Dogwood, where you can eat a hearty but simple meal and have a cocktail while listening to live music. Bar hop on your way back to your hotel or B&B if you’re up for it — there are several enjoyable spots in the area that will entice you as you walk by.
After you check out, grab a plate of breakfast at Beacon Falls Cafe or one of the surrounding restaurants. They tend to fill up fast on weekend mornings, so try and show up early!
The next stop on our list is a bit of a journey, but is definitely worth the effort if you have an extra day to spare: the breathtaking open-air museum Storm King Art Center. While there’s no direct train connection to the town of New Windsor, you can get across the river somewhat easily from the Beacon Metro North Station. Here you can pick up an inexpensive Zipcar if you have a membership and book in advance. Otherwise, there are a few local taxi services that can take you over for a reasonable price. Storm King’s Visit page has all the details.
Once you arrive, the fun begins. Storm King encompasses 500 acres of lush green land. On its grounds, you’ll find a series of elaborate sculptures nestled among woods, meadows, hills, and a hop-on-hop-off tram that can take you through it all (plus footpaths if preferred). Though you aren’t allowed to touch most of the pieces, some are interactive, like the sculpture She by Mark di Suvero, which features a tire swing. Zhang Huan’s enormous copper and steel sculpture, Three Legged Buddha, is another favorite of mine. When you need a break from walking and art-viewing, you can simply find a spot for a picnic or power nap on the lawn.
You may not be able to see everything in just one visit, but you’ll certainly be swept away. It’s quite the fairy tale — even with the hordes of visitors that travel there throughout spring and summer.
Finally, when you’re good and tired, start your journey back to the city. You’ll most likely need to head back to Beacon to hop on the Metro North. At least the train ride is an opportunity to take a final nap (or, if you’re like me, to start planning your next Hudson Valley adventure) before you’re back to reality.