Located about one hundred and twenty-five miles from lower Manhattan in Columbia County, NY, the scenic Hudson Valley has the power to quicken heartbeats, stocked as it is with farm-to-table eateries, outdoor music festivals, lush landscapes, and enough antique shops to impress even the most seasoned deal finder. But there’s a hidden side to Hudson taking place inside its mill buildings: a fertile underground of creativity up to lots of good. A story of purpose and re-purposing, no summer visit to this historic city is complete without a survey of the creative things taking place just off center stage.
Directly across from the Amtrak station – a historic hallmark in its own right – the lovingly restored Basilica Hudson is one of the most breathtaking multipurpose spaces in the northeast. In 2003, in conjunction with the Friends of the Hudson Foundation, rocker Patti Smith took to the then-dilapidated stage to sing at a benefit concert to support the Foundation’s efforts to block the construction of a cement factory on the waterfront in front of the two hundred year-old building. In 2011, the restored Basilica Hudson officially opened to host exhibitions, dances, concerts, film festivals, community fundraisers…on a recent visit, the massive “cathedral” section of the building was the site of a high school prom.
A fifteen-minute walk from the Basilica lands, you’re at the new headquarters of Etsy’s customer service. True to the crafty nature of their e-commerce trade, the group has done an impressive job re-purposing a historic cannonball factory into a multi-use space currently offering community yoga, a book club, and a spectacular outdoor garden slash event space. A stone’s throw from there, the Hudson-based memoirist, Chloe Caldwell, author of Legs Get Led Astray, hosts the Hudson River Loft Reading Series in a rustic-chic loft above her father’s participatory music store, Musica. Amidst a hanging garden of stringed instruments, piñatas, copper pots and bookshelves, an eclectic crowd gathers to hear writers and musicians from the Hudson River Valley and beyond in an intimate setting that encourages discussion and new friendships. Post-readings, nearby “Red Dot” offers something that most Hudson restaurants don’t: a gorgeous secret garden for end-of-day drinks.
There are reasons to leave the center of Hudson. We’ll list the best of them below. But if you’re looking for a weekend getaway where you don’t have to “get” anywhere far, downtown Hudson provides plenty of good cultural company. The Bardavon Opera House presents live music, dance, and The Met live HD performances all year, while The Spotty Dog Books and Ale combines literature, live music, readings, and hard-to find beers in the historic home of the Rip Van Winkle Hook and Ladder Company. Chef-owned DA/BA serves Swedish fare with no false notes: grilled octopus with ramps, perfect shoestring fries, and fiddlehead panna cotta. When it comes time to sleep, try to score the green room at the jaw-dropping landmark, The Inn at Hudson.
When you do feel ready to venture outwards, we recommend you do this. (And this. And this!):
- Olana: Picnic on the grounds of the Persian-inspired home of famed Hudson River painter, Frederic Edwin Church.
- Caramoor Center: Grab a blanket and score a seat at the American Roots.
- Russel Wright Design Center: Take a tour of the home, studio, products, furniture, and grounds of the pioneer designer, Russel Wright.
- Music Festival: On June 30th, go hear award-winning performers play gospel, bluegrass, and blues in a Mediterranean-style villa.
- Bard Summerscape 2012: Highlights from this 7-week festival of opera, dance, and theater include a film festival, France and Colonial Imagination, from July 12th-August 12th, and Spiegeltent, a re-occurring showdown of circus and bawdy cabaret from July 6th-August 19th.
- Columbia County Fair: If you’ve ever wanted to be part of a painted pony rodeo, you can have your chance and then some at the renowned five-day Columbia County Fair from August 29th-September 3rd.
Hudson Valley, NY