If you’re a New Yorker looking for a quick weekend getaway, you can head in the four directions: East to Long Island for a wine tour (on my list); south to Atlantic City; west to Amish country (though that is for the hardcore pretzel and chocolate lover); [UPDATE: my mother has asked me to point out that going to Amish country to gawk is in poor taste. She has a point.] and, of course, north to the wide world of delicious dining and outdoors that is upstate New York.
So when Mike and I wanted to get away, we decided to try the northern route, and chose Poughkeepsie as our spring weekend destination.
It’s reachable by train. One $39 round trip ticket on Metro North and you are on your way upstate, with views of the Hudson River right out your window.
A deliciously decadent Champagne room at Le Petit Chateau for $250 a night is less than the $400-a-night rooms (at least!) in nearby Mohonk, and comes with a king-sized bed piled high with gold pillows, and a complimentary bottle of champagne chilled for our arrival. In fact, this was the deciding factor for which town we would choose. This adorable B&B has other, less expensive rooms like the Rhone and Loire rooms, and brings in a chef to cook up an organic and local breakfast. Outside in the backyard, you can lounge by the pond and watch the carp flick their tails in the shallows, and drink in the fresh air and sound of birds.
The proprietor, Valerie, is an expert on all things to do in Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie. She’ll direct you to the best restaurants, and reveal little-known quiet nature spots around town. Think of her as your maitre d’ of romance. And take it from us – we learned the hard way – her advice should not be ignored.
The new Walkway Over The Hudson is a decommissioned train track that arches high over the Hudson. In 2009, it rose from the ashes of a 1970′s fire into a pedestrian walk with gorgeous views. Or try one of the other park walks through the woods nearby to burn off all of the calories you imbibed the night before.
The Culinary Institute of America, whose beautiful campus houses five award-winning, student run restaurants, is within walking distance of Le Petit Chateau. At least three other restaurants with delicious, experimental fair and expertly-mixed cocktails dot the town, like the Karma Lounge, and Crave (Watch out! Crave’s chef likes to sneak pop rocks into his delicious desserts and see if you notice.) We also enjoyed the offerings at a brand new Italian deli, Simply Italian, with house-made mozzarella, cured sausages, cannolis, and delicious spreads (in the top picture).
The Vanderbilt Mansion is more than just the ridiculously overdone “summer cottage” which has “only” 54 rooms, complete with all of the furniture and oil paintings. After you are done with the tour, wander out back and set up with a picnic. Or walk to the south of the property to see the gardens, the waterfall, and the Gothic stables the size of an apartment building. If you are more interested in presidential history than the playhouses of the super-rich, you can visit Roosevelt’s presidential library, or Eleanor Roosevelt’s estate.
It’s not a walking or biking town. The sidewalks tend to disappear on you, there are hardly any walk/don’t walk signs, and public transportation is nonexistent. I recommend you bring a car, if you can. While we threw convention to the wind and walked whenever we were able, climbing over a wall at the Vanderbilt estate to get to the road, getting honked at by surprised drivers, trekking three miles from the Italian deli back to the B&B, or just walking a half mile from the train station to our first dinner at Crave, we mostly took a cab from place to place, or bummed a ride off of Valerie. Which leads me to my next con…
The cab drivers are insane. Our first cab driver chattered on and on about inane subjects. Our second all but refused to take us to our destination, telling us that a bar/lounge nearby was much better, and the neighborhood we were going to was dangerous. “I hope you guys brought a gun.” Oh please. We could tell this guy wasn’t exactly a taste maker, and he was wrong on both counts. The third showed up a half hour late and didn’t know where he was going. The fourth practically shoved us out of his cab while we were waiting for him to tell us how much we owed. They all made me miss Manhattan cabbies!
There is no shopping. Not that I care too much, I’ve given up shopping for fun. But I did drag Mike into a “vintage store” and then hot footed it out of there before the owner could lock us in the back room among the racks of terrible clothing and ugly figurines. (We heard that Rhinebeck, a town 25 minutes to the north where Chelsea Clinton had her wedding, is fabulous for shopping and eating.)
You may run out of things to do. Like we did, around 5pm on Saturday afternoon. We had done Vanderbilt Estate and the Hudson Walk in one day, and were at a complete loss for activities, besides eating. So of course, we decided to drink. (Hint: don’t got to the Food And Wine Bar. They are incompetent! Valerie told us not to go. Always listen to Valerie.)
While we didn’t have a bad weekend, and it was very relaxing and romantic, that may be because we are both very positive people. We loved Le Petit Chateau, but we would have loved it better if our highly-anticipated private cooking lesson hadn’t been canceled. We would have been able to move much more freely if we had our own car. And although there are some fabulous restaurants in town, Mike and I would say one night is probably enough to get your fill. Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie is the perfect one-day destination for a larger culinary and nature road trip.