A short train ride just about two hours north of Manhattan lies a verdant world of rolling hills dotted with apple orchards, horse farms, vineyards, hiking trails, mom and pop storefronts selling locally made items and even an old-fashioned roadside drive-in movie theater. Tucked away among towering tree-lined drives are historic mansions with names like Roosevelt and Vanderbilt, as well stately homes of lesser known captains of the industry who retreat to Dutchess County to relax or ride to the hounds.
We recently took a day trip to Dutchess County to attend the 13th annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival www.hudsonvalleywinefest.com where we had the chance to taste wines produced from all over New York Stat and try artisinal foods, craft beers, a few spirits and dishes from area restaurant and food trucks.
You could spend a perfect day hopping the rails to immerse in the Dutchess County lifestyle but we recommend staying overnight. Why rush? Isn’t that why you left the city?
With so many options and places to visit, both Dutchess Country Tourism and Metro North offer brochures, suggested itineraries and special packages (“Gasless Getaways”).
Here is a sample of what we recommend:
Eat: The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park has four dining options: American Bounty, Apple Pie Bakery, Caterina de Medici and The Bocuse Restaurant. For a taste of history with your meal try The Tavern at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck and Stissing House Restaurant & Tavern in Pine Plains. Farm-to-table fare is everywhere as are casual gastro-pubs and small cafes run by CIA graduates. One of the best ways to experience the region’s dining bounty is during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week where many establishments offer prix- fixe lunches and dinners. (November and March).
Take home: Crown maple syrup from Madava Farms (Dover Plains), Krause’s and Oliver Kita Fine Chocolates (both in Rhinebeck), Bumble & Hive for a selection of honeys (Rhinebeck) and for the ultimate tea experience, Harney & Sons Store and Tea Lounge in Millerton. Adams Fairacre Farms, with locations in Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls, feature many locally made products as well as other fine foods, but nothing beats buying straight from the farm stand. Many farmers markets are open on Saturday mornings through December but check ahead since schedules vary by location.
Drink: Many vineyards offer tasting rooms, but some hours are seasonal so it’s best to call in advance. Recommendations: Cascade Mountain Winery in Armenia, Millbrook and Oak Summit Vineyards in Millbrook; and Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners. Information: www.DutchessWineTrail.com.
New York State distilleries and breweries are popping up all over the Hudson Valley (and elsewhere) thanks to new legislation passed in recent years. Millbrook Distillery in Millbrook (now open) and Dutch’s Spirits in Pine Plains (opening soon) are two to visit. In Beacon, which is a stop on Metro North, try The Hop Craft Beer & Artisinal Fare located on a delightful street lines with curio shops and more.
Stay: Bed and breakfasts and country inns abound. Some of our favorites are in the picturesque and walkable town of Rhinebeck, including: the historic Belvedere Mansion and Beekman Arms Tavern & Inn. Red Hook, another small pretty town, has a number of bed and breakfasts as do Beacon and Rhinecliff, both near the train.
Explore: October is prime leaf peeping season and the heart of the harvest with weekly events and festivals. Winter offers deals on hotels and dining, festive holiday bazaars, Christmas tree farms and a serene beauty.