On the East side of the Hudson River, the valley towns of Rhinebeck, Beacon, Cold Spring and Garrison embody small-town America. Each makes for a train trip less than two hours from Manhattan with a mix of outdoor activities, polish and funky artiness.
Explore the Hudson River Valley
The northernmost town, Rhinebeck, is a center for artists and writers and offers farm-to-table dining, antiquing and a New Age-y vibe. Lost-in-time Beacon is worth a visit for the groundbreaking Dia Beacon with its Andy Warhol and changing art collections. Cold Spring, another haven for antiques, also appeals to outdoorsy visitors with a strong orientation toward hiking and kayaking. Nearby Garrison brings you to the wonderful Boscobel House and Gardens Museum overlooking the river. Tours and activities in each town will depend on when you go and updated rules regarding Covid openings and hours, so be sure to check the websites to plan your day.
Rhinebeck, 90 miles north of New York City, has long been a favorite home for artists and writers whose muse is the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. With roughly a two-block-long main street, the town is eminently walkable with very cool, somewhat dignified boutiques like Oblong Books & Music or Winter Sun/Summer Moon for clothing, candles and yoga and talismanic paraphernalia. Leave time for digging through Rhinebeck’s many yard sales and for a one-mile hike at Poet’s Walk in nearby Red Hook to a beautiful river overlook.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr were among the many guests at Rhinebeck’s 1766-vintage Beekman Arms, the country’s oldest continuously operating hotel. Wilderstein, home of the Suckley family for more than 140 years, is a magnificent example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture with interiors by Joseph Burr Tiffany and landscaped grounds by Calvert Vaux of Central Park fame.
For something completely different, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome houses a collection of 1930s planes. For much-needed refueling, book a table at the cozy Le Petit Bistro. Set in a 180-year-old former church building, Terrapin offers everything from make-your-own-sandwiches to ahi tuna “scallops.” Bread Alone is the place to go for coffee, hearth-baked bread and terrific pastries.
The train trip on Metro North from Grand Central Terminal to Rhinebeck takes an hour and three-quarters.
Cold Spring, located 55 miles north of New York City, is blessed with an über-charming Main Street and Victorian homes with sweeping lawns leading to picture-perfect views of the Hudson River and Storm King Mountain. You can meander through antiques and crafts shops before wending your way to the gazebo by the river. Or, get “physical” and travel by canoe or kayak (there’s a relatively serene part of the river near the train station), and paddle south to the Constitution Marsh Audubon Sanctuary in nearby Garrison. Take Metro North from Grand Central Terminal for the 87-minute trip from Manhattan.
Easy hikes can be had at the one-mile Little Stony Point loop, which leads to a sandy riverside beach with exceptional views of the Palisades. For a more strenuous trek, you can follow a trail to Breakneck Ridge.
If you’ve decided to kayak, plan to spend some time can stop in Garrison, where you can visit Manitoga, the site of industrial designer Russel Wright’s environmental 11-floor home, Dragon Rock. A self-guided tour of the grounds’ four miles of trails makes sure that your day will be socially distanced. Three miles away, Boscobel Restoration, an 1808 Federal-period museum mansion along the Hudson River, also has hiking trails leading to a gazebo. For golf diehards, The Garrison offers terrific views of the Hudson Highlands and an 18-hole, 72-par public golf course.
After all your activity, make a well-deserved ice cream stop at the acclaimed Moo Moo’s Creamery for one of their changing rotation of 16 flavors.
If you prefer to make Garrison a full-day adventure, the train trip from Grand Central Terminal takes a little less than an hour and a half.
Another artsy day trip, Beacon will fill your day with its array of galleries and shops as well as Dia Beacon, a stunning museum for contemporary art. One of Dia’s three New York art sites, Dia Beacon houses a collection of mid-20th century pieces in cavernous rooms in a former Nabisco printing plant. Andy Warhol and such minimalists as Robert Ryman have entire galleries devoted to their work. A free shuttle runs from the train station to the museum.
In keeping with Beacon’s eclectic feel, don’t miss a stop at the Beacon Yankee Clipper Diner. Greek-American favorites are served in this original diner dating back to 1946.