View of the Hudson River Valley from the terrace of Kykuit
One of the drawbacks to spending most of my time in the city is that I don’t always fully appreciate the changing seasons. I spend my days surrounded by concrete (I don’t even have a patch of grass in my backyard) and tall, glass buildings. It seems like the only time that I actually notice the trees around here is in the dead of winter, when they are totally naked. Somehow, I catch them at their most depressing and miss out the lush greens and soft pastels of the spring and the intense reds and oranges of the fall that make them look like they are engulfed in flames.
This is one of the reasons that taking a fall road trip has become a tradition for Chester and me (besides the fact that we get a bit antsy if we don’t have some kind of adventure to kill the time between our big once-a-year vacations). We pick places that are short on travel time and that are long on small town charm, scenic views and color.
Last year, we visited New Hampshire and this year we made the even shorter trip to the Hudson River Valley, about 25 miles outside of New York City. We were a little early for the peak of the fall foliage season, but there was still plenty of gorgeous color to take in and lots to see and do.
Our first stop was the Village of Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane might be the first residents that come to mind when you hear the name of the town, but four generations of the Rockefeller family lived there, too. The family’s estate, Kykuit, is comprised of 40 rooms and sprawling gardens and is home to an impressive art collection featuring works by Picasso, Calder, Warhol and other notable 20th century artists. Access to Kykuit is only available as part of a guided tour. There are numerous options to choose from, depending on how much time you have to spend there and/or what you are most interested in seeing.
Our next stop was Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, burial place of Washington Irving, Andrew Carnegie and several members of the Rockefeller family. We took a guided tour of this site as well, which I would highly recommend (If you are not a scaredy cat like me, there is a night time tour option). Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the cemetery and the artists and sculptors who created the mausoleums and headstones. A bit of trivia: Parts of the original Dark Shadows film were shot on the grounds of the cemetery (as well as the nearby Lyndhurst mansion) so you’ll be able to see Barnabas Collins’ family tomb. These were the little details that I probably would have missed if I had been wandering around on my own.
Our second day started out with a stop at an orchard, were we devoured an embarrassing number of cider donuts. Chester’s expression was not at all exaggerated for this photo opportunity. He really was that excited about the donuts.
I also took a ridiculous number of photos of pumpkins. The little ones are my favorite.
Then it was on to West Point. Like Kykuit, it is only accessible as part of a guided tour. I’m not really a huge military aficionado (as opposed to my husband, who has whiled away many a Sunday afternoon watching the Military Channel), but I found the tour really interesting in terms of understanding the history of the institution and its role in educating our military leaders. Surprisingly, there is also some really beautiful architecture on the campus, including the gothic Cadet Chapel, which houses the largest pipe organ in the world with some 23,000 individual pipes. And, we had the perfect clear day to fully appreciate the “Million Dollar View” of the Hudson River near the cadets’ parade grounds.
Our final stop was Bear Mountain State Park. We didn’t see any bears, just another spectacular view. It was such a calm and peaceful spot. I on the rocks for so long that I got quite a case of windburn. I couldn’t help it though. The sun was just beginning to go down and everything was bathed in a beautiful shade of gold.
In terms of restaurant options, simple comfort foods seemed to be the name of the game throughout the area. But, that’s pretty much the kind of thing that you want to eat when you sit down at the end of a crisp fall day, right? If you go at this time of year, keep in mind that the towns in the area are pretty small and that fall is a busy tourist season. As a result, there may be wait times of at 45 minutes to an hour during peak dining periods. I wouldn’t say that we had anything particularly memorable or spectacular, but I can vouch for solid food at the following places:
Lubins-n-Links: Although this tiny shop features an extensive hot dog menu, its specialty is the lubin. Created by the owner, a lubin features beef that is slow-cooked until it’s so tender that it falls apart. There are endless options for flavor combinations and a variety of homemade toppings to choose from, including chili, cheese sauce, and onion relish.
Horsefeathers: A cozy, upscale pub with an extensive menu. I was pretty happy with my butternut squash soup and apple and cranberry chicken salad. Chester ordered steak, which was cooked to a perfect medium rare.
Thyme: We stopped here for brunch on the way to West Point. The menu was basic, consisting of a few egg dishes, salads and French toast, but well executed. And, we had the whole place to ourselves, which was nice.
Have you been on any fabulous trips so far this fall? What are your favorite places to take in all of the best parts of this season?