For Day-Trippers Only

Jared Paul Stern

Despite all that NYC has to offer, in the dog days of summer even die-hard Manhattanites feel like a bit of a breather—as long as they can be back in their favorite city by bedtime. There are a number of great day trips residents and visitors alike can embark upon, offering a variety of attractions that are hard to come by within City limits. Here are a few different ways to have an exciting getaway, with destinations up and down the Hudson River Valley and excursions into the Catskills. You'll want to get an early start, but even the farthest stop is only two hours away by car (other options for experiencing many of them include Amtrak, Metro-North and even boat).

Cruising up the Hudson River is a truly unique experience, not to mention a fitting way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its namesake Henry Hudson's historic journey. (For more on the anniversary celebrations, visit our NYC 400 calendar.) Classic Harbor Line has a pair of elegant, 80-foot 1890s-style schooners, Adirondack and Imagine, available for charter for sailing adventures up the Hudson. On occasion the Manhattan, its 1920s-style luxury yacht, also books cruises to up-river destinations like Bear Mountain State Park. For a really enchanting day, you can check out the Hudson's seven historic lighthouses. If chartering a yacht is a little out of your range but you still want to sail the Hudson, Outdoor Bound offers group excursions on the historic sailing yacht Ventura, originally owned by the founder of Citibank in the 1920s. The next trip, an amazing half-day of cruising on the river, is slated for August 16 and costs $69 per person. Check the schedule for other great river adventures, such as a kayaking trip to explore the abandoned castle on Bannerman's Island, north of Cold Spring. Alternatively, you can embark from a point farther up the river; Hudson Sailing in Kingston offers painting excursions showcasing the beauty that inspired the Hudson River School.

If you choose to go by land, the historic towns of the Hudson River Valley and various points in between offer innumerable options for a day's entertainment. Metro-North trains run frequently from Grand Central Terminal to as far as Poughkeepsie, while Amtrak stops at Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff and Hudson. By car, we recommend driving up the east side of the Hudson, where there's more to see, and returning down the west side. You can take the winding Taconic State Parkway or meander along Route 9 heading north; get on the New York State Thruway (I-87) or the scenic 9W for the return journey. One of our favorite things to do is visit the incredible historic estates that dot the banks of the river, built by politicians, artists, businessmen and socialites of yore. They represent some of the country's finest examples of architecture, landscaping and interiors from the early Federal period to the numerous styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some standouts are Jay Gould's Gothic Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, the awe-inspiring Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park and Hudson River School artist Frederick Church's Moorish castle, perched on an aerie overlooking the town of Hudson; these are just a few of the many estates that are now open to the public.

Drinking and Dining
On the way up the river, stop off at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which combines a working farm, restaurant and educational center run by restaurateurs Dan and David Barber of the excellent Blue Hill off Washington Square. Opened under the patronage of David Rockefeller, it features a seasonal American menu "celebrating the bounty of the Hudson Valley" in a Norman-style stone barn on the 4,000-acre Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Tarrytown. Most of the food is grown on the farm, facilitating the Barbers' mission to "find the shortest, simplest way between the Earth, the hands and the mouth." Continuing north, it's well worth detouring slightly into Catskill Park to go to the Bear Café outside Woodstock, one of our favorite restaurants anywhere outside of NYC. The innovative New American menu always features a large array of local, seasonal specials, and you can take advantage of the creekside setting with outdoor seating. Beekman Arms Inn in Rhinebeck dates from 1776 and is America's oldest operating inn. But your best bet is the cozy beamed-ceiling tavern for drinks, snacks or lunch. The Tuthilltown Spirits micro-distillery in Gardiner features the first New York farm whiskey tasting room since Prohibition. Discover its excellent Hudson Baby Bourbon, New York's first bourbon distilled from local corn, as well as its other spirits.

Short Takes
The artistically minded won't want to miss Dia:Beacon on the east side of the river, showcasing the Dia Art Foundation's renowned permanent collection of work from the 1960s onward, housed in a 300,000-square-foot historic printing factory. On the westward journey, be sure to stop by the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, an incredible outdoor museum on 500 acres that "celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature." Nature buffs will want to check out Kaaterskill Falls, the highest waterfall in the state, near Hunter. The dramatic 260-foot, two-tiered cascade has inspired generations of artists (especially the Hudson River School), writers and hikers. Nearby in Phoenicia, meanwhile, you can go tubing on the beautiful Esopus Creek. Town Tinker Tube Rental will rent you a tube for $12 and shuttle you to either a calm or white-water course. In New Paltz, the Mohonk Preserve's Shawangunk Mountains ("Gunks") are beloved by rock climbers, but if relaxing is more what you have in mind, visit the 30,000-square-foot spa at Mohonk Mountain House, a stone castle built in 1869 on 2,200 acres—more than twice as big as Central Park—with a lake, a golf course and stables. In addition to its 16 treatment rooms, the spa features an indoor pool and an outdoor heated mineral spring. And in the town of Hudson in Greene County, a secret resource for many NYC designers, 65 antiques dealers line the architecturally significant main drag, selling everything ranging from museum pieces to funky finds. Hudson is also home to the Claire Haddad Gallery, showcasing the new generation of Hudson River Valley and Catskills artists following in the footsteps of Frederick Church and his ilk. You can just browse or pick up a lasting reminder of your brief but enchanting excursion.