Enjoying A Kid-Free Hudson Valley Weekend
Tiny Traveler headed off on a group camping trip recently, leaving Rich and I with 48 hours of treasured grown-up time. We were overdue for a kid-free vacation but couldn’t stray too far. So we headed to Dutchess County, two hours from home in the Hudson Valley. We took advantage of our child-free time day to dive into the artisanal food and beverage scene burgeoning there.
Here is what we saw and did, and most importantly, what we ate and drank, on our parent-only vacation.
What To Drink
Dutchess County Cider
The Hudson valley launched its wine trail in the 1990s (it extends to both sides of the Hudson River). In recent years that has evolved in an artisanal beverage trail on the Dutchess side, with opportunities to sample and buy locally made wine, beer, cider and spirits.
Dutchess County Wine
We started our day in Millbrook, NY where a greenmarket had stands selling local produce, cheese, meat, baked goods and more. We sampled some crisp dry Pitchfork Cider, then popped into a deli for picnic provisions for later.
Next we heades to Millbrook Winery and Clinton Vineyards, two well established wine makers in the area. Clinton has a cozy tasting room and a wide expanse of lawn. If you want to picnic outside they’ll lend you a blanket and even sell you some simple provisions if you haven’t brought your own. The Seyval Blanc, rosé and peach champagne are tasty, fun summer wines for al fresco dining.
Millbrook has grown and grown since we last visited. They’ve just redone their tasting room with a series of small bars rather than one large one, so each server can focus on a small group. Upstairs you can buy wine by the glass (and other beverages) to enjoy on the deck overlooking their vines; downstairs there’s a grill in the warm weather. You can also pick up a bottle of your favorite wine from your tasting and picnic at tables overlooking a pond and more vines. We liked the dry Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay and Tocai Friuliano. If you catch nice weather you can also take a short hike and around their vineyards after lunch.
Dutchess County Bourbon
We could easily have settled in at Taconic Distillery for the rest of the afternoon if we didn’t have more to see and do. The tasting room has a cozy and welcoming vibe while a broad patio has picnic tables, a fire ring for cooler days and a gorgeous view. The patio good place to spend a Saturday afternoon with a cocktail, a deck of Uno cards and some BYO snacks. In addition to the excellent smoked Manhattan (see below) and other cocktails made with the house bourbon, rye and rum, be sure to sample the New York maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels; I guarantee you’ll bring a bottle home.
Next we headed to Dutch’s Spirits, on a farm that’s a little hard to find, but worth persevering for. This new (and legitimate) distillery and tasting room sits on top of Dutch Schultz’s sprawling bootleg distillery from the 1920s. Visit on a weekend in the warm weather and you can get a tour of the remains of some of the underground distilling works and the narrow tunnels that connected everything. The new tasting room, distilling operations (and the bourbon) are still a work in progress, but the bar is already a bright, open space. The house bourbon will be bottled later this year and in the mean time you can sample craft distilled beverages from 75 producers across New York State (and buy bottles of a few select ones).
To Take Home
If you want to bring something home stop by Boutique, Wines, Spirits, & Ciders, which makes a point of carrying local producers. They also offer special tasting events on some weekends.
What To Eat
Our overnight stay only allowed time for one nice meal, so of course we headed to the Culinary Institute of America. The cooking school now runs its own microbrewery—with very good beer—and opened the pop-up Post Road Brew House to highlight the beer and food that goes with it. The room is festive and the food what you expect from the CIA: We started with perfect, not-too-rich deviled eggs and springy asparagus with crostini. Rich had a proper French cassoulet while I had crispy roast chicken with spinach spaetzle and a savory fruit sauce. For dessert we shared a rhubarb crisp (an underappreciated fruit, imho). We saw fantastic looking burgers and mac & cheese going by, too. The chef told us the school might extend the pop-up’s life by making it the evening counterpart to daytime pastry shop Apple Pie when that moves into the same space over the summer. Fingers crossed!
If you can’t get reservations at the CIA (start early) don’t worry; Beacon, Rhinebeck and Millbrook are all cute Hudson Valley towns with interesting dining options. The latter has great old-school Millbrook Diner that’s a good bet for breakfast.
In Rhinebeck we’ve had a few good dinners on the bistro side of locavore-focused Terrapin. Local friends recommended Cinnamon for Indian food, Market Street for upscale Italian and Calico for its desserts.
What To See
History meets the outdoors
It’s easy to mix indoor historic sites with outdoor walks and bike rides in Dutchess. All the mansions have extensive grounds with walking and hiking trails.
We spent part of Saturday morning walking around the Inishfree Garden, about ten minutes from the Millbrook Winery, which offers a lovely two-mile path around a lake. On your way, stop and explore a small garden with stacked stones, small waterfalls, fountains and hidden bridges that reflect the former owner’s interest in Asian culture and have something of a fairy garden feel about them.
On Sunday we visited Hyde Park, the site of Franklin Roosevelt’s home and presidential library. Rich had never been to Top Cottage (below), which I think is the most special part of the estate, or the library, which I’ve seen before but still needed time to explore (read more about visiting Hyde Park).
If the gilded age is your thing you can tour the large, ornate Vanderbilt Mansion, or the even larger and more ornate Staatsburg Mansion. Both are examples of extremely conspicuous consumption in their owners’ time. And they each have extensive grounds that are lovely to walk around, especially Vanderbilt.
If you want more time outdoors, consider bringing or renting a bike. Rail trails on either side of the river are connected by the lovely Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie.
If you want to focus your weekend around Beacon, spend the morning at the DIA modern art museum on the Hudson, then have brunch at the eclectic, locally recommended Kitchen Sink. And then do an afternoon tour and tasting at Denning’s Point Distillery, where they are cooking up bourbon, rye, whiskey, gin and vodka.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the *Pougkeepsie Grand Hotel, a popular spot for guests to area weddings and a good central location for seeing points north and south. It’s very close to the Walkway, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum and Bardavon, a nice old theater that attracts good music acts. Our room had a river view (ask for a higher floor if you can). And both parking and breakfast were included. On the way to eat in the morning we found a nice, hidden away outdoor patio that would have been a great spot to sit with a drink from the lobby bar in the late afternoon or with coffee in the morning.
We’ve also stayed at the *Holiday Inn Express, just south of Poughkeepsie, which just finished a major renovation so their rooms have a nice, new feel. We like their breakfast and afternoon cookies, and there is a pool in summer. It’s right on route 9, which is also very handy for everything you want to do.
Which you choose depends on whether you prefer to be in or outside of town.
If You Take the Kids
While we enjoyed our grown-up, kid-free time there’s no reason you couldn’t do much of this weekend getaway in Dutchess County with kids along.
All the mansions, gardens and grounds are fine with kids. Small children will most like wandering around the garden at Inishfree, while kids old enough to be learning history can appreciate Hyde Park. Teens who have the Great Gatsby or other Fitzgerald are the best audience for the mansions.
Both wineries are kid friendly though you might consider skipping the tasting and just going the picnic-with-a-bottle route. I wouldn’t bring kids into the tasting room at Taconic but would be comfortable letting them run around the lawn or join my Uno game on the patio while I had a cocktail. Dutch’s owner has a small child and said he aims to make the place welcoming to families when it’s fully up and running.
Read more: Vacations in Dutchess County with kids.
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*Dutchess Tourism helped us to arrange this trip. We have received complimentary stays at the two hotels mentioned.