When people think of New York, they think of Manhattan – the jungle of high rise buildings with every square inch of space filled with either people or buildings – yet outside Manhattan and New York, there are other worlds – a much quieter and quite beautiful world to explore in the Hudson River Valley, as well as Long Island – with the Hamptons, wineries, parks, lighthouses, mansions and beaches.
If you have the time, it is definitely worth the effort to travel out of New York to see these great places.
THE HUDSON VALLEY –
If you remember reading the story of ‘Rip van Winkle’ and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ written by Washington Irving (1783-1859) you might recall that Rip van Winkle fell asleep for many years only to wake up and find that his beard had grown and the whole world and people around him had changed. It’s a great story.
The story was based here in the Valley, and in many ways, coming out of Manhattan and travelling up the Hudson Valley creates a similar sensation. There’s a lot of history here and while the River is center stage, winding its way through the forests on each side of the Valley, its quietness is only interrupted by the roads and bridges that cross over the River and the big and small towns, farms and orchards that are located in and around the Valley. The historic State Capital of Albany is also located here.
The best time to come here is in the Fall (Autumn) when the forest leaves change colour, but all times of year the Hudson Valley is special.
The Hudson River is around 315 miles long and starts in the Adirondack Mountains in the north of New York State and flows to New York City, where it enters the upper Bay area around Battery Point in Manhattan. There are 17 bridges that cross over the River, and in times past, the River linked to the Erie Canal connecting the river and trade to the Great Lakes. The canal system is now called the New York State Canal System, and it is possible to both take cruises up the Hudson and also through the canal system – a great way to live and feel the River and the role it has played in the development of the Country.
There are many places to see – and these are just some of them –
Historic Homes of the Rich and famous – A number of Tycoons built their mansions in the Hudson Valley in the past, and many still do, so there are mansions for sale for upwards of 20 million dollars and more located here, but you don’t have to buy one to see how the rich and famous lived – there are quite a few that are open to see –
There are many other big historic mansions throughout the Valley – too many to list here, but to get a feel for life for some of the religious groups that settled in the Valley – see if you can see
Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz (see www.huguenotstreet.org ); Gomez Mill House Museum – the oldest Jewish Residence in the USA (see www.gomez.org on Mill House Rd, Marlborough; Shaker Museum and more than 100 buildings in Mount Lebanon built between 1787 and 1947. www.shakermuseumandlibrary.org .
If you can, stay in one of the smaller villages along the river like Tarrytown, Hyde Park, Kingston, Rhinebeck or in Poughkeepsie which is almost half way between NYC and Albany. Certainly if you stay in Albany, the capital of New York State – take a tour of the New York State Capitol Building, a 5 storey French Chateau style building set on three acres of grounds in the city. Albany itself has a population of around 800,000 people, so quite a big city, with the city dating back to 1614. Other places to see in Albany include the Albany Institute of History and Art – founded in 1791 and the Albany City Hall designed in 1882.
The City of Troy is just a few miles north of Albany – and is ‘The Home of Uncle Sam’ with a large sculpture erected in his honor. The city on the Hudson River and old Erie Canal dates back to 1789 and the City was once a thriving industrial town based on the River traffic with steel foundries making millions of horseshoes for the US Army as well as the steel used for the rail tracks in the New York Subway. It was here that a Troy meat packer, Samuel Wilson (1766-1854) sold beef in barrels in 1812 to the Federal Government for the US Army, each barrel marked with a distinctive ‘U.S’ branded on it. Soldiers then began to nick name the barrels as coming from ‘Uncle Sam’ and the name stuck. Some years later an artist, Thomas Nast (1840-1902) created an image of Uncle Sam, and then another artist, James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) added the top hat, long trousers and stars and stripes to the Uncle Sam character – creating what is one of the most recognizable character creations in the world, and the only one to represent a Federal Government in the world.
Troy City’s fortunes deteriorated once the River traffic fell as road and railroads replaced the barges that brought goods from the west and on to New York, but much of Troy’s original architecture remains around Monument Park, River and 2nd Street, and the city is in revival mode, making it a City worth visiting. Also look for the RiverSpark Visitor’s Center downtown to learn more about Troy.
Waterford is a small town/village just 12 miles north of Albany and it is here that the Mohawk River and Hudson River connect, with the ‘Waterford Flight’- a series of locks enabled boats to travel to connect to the New York State Canal System. The Erie-Champlain Canal Boat Company is located at 50 South Street (See www.eccboating.com Tel: 518- 432 6094) where you can hire canal long boats to travel along some of the 524 miles of lakes, rivers and canals.
Catskill Mountains – to the south of the middle Hudson River Valley cover an area of 700,000 acres of forest, and this is an area famous for its walking trails, biking areas, camping sites and skiing. The most famous small town here is Bethel (Population 4200) – which is the home of the 1969 music festival ‘Woodstock’. In Bethel you will be able to see the ‘The Museum of Bethel Woods’ – which contains a lot of the history that began from the days of Woodstock.
There is a lot to see and do in the Hudson River Valley, and hopefully you have the time to see and feel some of the history that makes this valley such a special part of the United States.