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Visit the Hudson River Valley

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 10/30/2009 - www.Littleviews.com ]

>>  When vacationing, its "location location location" that matters. And when you vacation in New York, you definitely will have a wide-range of locations to enjoy.

United States residents will find New York State as thrilling (if not more) than many exotic global destinations. English is our local language, with Spanish a popular second, making it easy to travel about and be understood . . .

. . . if you visit the US from another country, you'll find that New York State has it all - New York City! - Beaches! - The Hudson River (one of the world's principal rivers)! - Mountains! - Gorges and waterfalls! - Lots of great, locally produced wine! - And as you head north of New York City, you'll enjoy rural-America and its famous hospitality!

View from 9 West along the Hudson River

The purpose of this article is to acquaint you with the scenic wonderland that follows the shores of the Hudson River, starting on highway 9 West, which begins just north of Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Surprisingly, scenic New York, with its mountains, valleys, and waterways, is just minutes outside of New York City. It is so close, in fact, that in preparation for this article, I took all of its pictures within two and a half days of travel, returning home each night.

While the Hudson River has equally dramatic locations on both sides, my photographic mission was constrained to a two-week, peak color period, during which time, for the sake of convenience, I chose to stay on the west side.

View of the Hudson River from Bear Mountain State Park

You might want to "discover" the Hudson River Valley by simply driving up one side, then down the other, stopping where your interests lead you. You'll find that many of the towns you pass are quaint, state and local parks are inviting, small museums are entertaining and informative, and truly homemade food is quite tasty! (The reason you can find tasty, homemade food in this area is that franchise restaurants are generally limited to larger cities, such as Kingston.)

Try to drive on roads that hug the river. While the scenic route along 9 West is near to the river, for your maximum experiences (and best vistas), you need to find riverfront streets. These community roads, unfortunately, are usually too small to appear on state maps. To identify them, refer to printouts of small town maps made from online map services, or from Microsoft's Streets & Trips.

For an example of the level of detail you might need to locate ports and parks, click this [ portion of the Kingston map ]. Of course, information gathered from the links provided at the end of this article will also help guide you.

View of a Hudson River town

As you drive north along 9 West, you'll see mountains in all directions, reinforcing the fact that you are truly in a valley. Small bridges abound along this route, as well as vistas of massive bridges that span the Hudson River itself.

Cruises - by the week or day

The best way to acquaint yourself with the river, of course, is by boat. If you own a boat, even a small, trailable boat, access to the Hudson River is easy. If you don't, you can choose from among numerous, public boating options.

American Cruise Lines, American Spirit on the Hudson River

If you adore long river cruises where you experience the interplay of light on the water throughout the day and the surprises each turn of the Hudson River reveals, spend a week on one of American Cruise Line's vessels (www.americancruiselines.com). Their fall, peak color adventures combine cruising on ships like the American Spirit, above, with guided shore tours and dining. This particular vessel was docked for the afternoon at Kingston before heading out for its next port of call.

Note: Littleviews represents the American Cruise Lines.

River Rose, a Hudson River tour boat in Newburgh, NY

If you want to spend just a few hours on the river, many river towns (including New York City) offer day cruises, some complete with dinner. Pictured above is The River Rose, one of two ships owned by The Pride of the Hudson Boat Cruises & Charters (www.prideofthehudson.com) that operate out of Newburgh.

The Commander, a historic Hudson River tour boat

The Commander, a famous 1917 steam boat pictured above, is another example of a day cruise boat, most of which operate between May and October. For a complete list of day cruise companies, visit the Historic Hudson River Tours site at www.hudsonriver.com/cruises.htm. For more information about the historic Commander, visit Hudson Highlands Cruises at www.commanderboat.com.

Places to Visit

The pictures for this article were taken over two and a half, non-consecutive, bright, sunny days during a peak color period between October 12th and 24th.

As my husband and I returned home every evening, we can't recommend lodging. If you want to stay in an area on a moment's notice, you'll find modern motels clustered around intersections on NY State Highway 87, a highway that closely parallels 9 West. Local lodging is also available in small river towns, but in many cases, you have to do some research in order to find it.

Note: There are many interesting towns not covered in this article that you may want to visit. One, for example, is West Point, a military school located in a significantly historic river fort. To visit its grounds, you must take a guided tour. For more information, check West Point's site at www.usma.edu/visiting.asp.

Bear Mountain State Park:

Bear Mountain State Park

The Bear Mountain State Park, one of the most popular in the nation, is amazing and surprising year round. When we visited on Saturday, October 24, for example, we were passed on a trail by hundreds of people happily chugging beer from huge steins in celebration of Octoberfest. This was a "tasting" event as tastings are meant to be!

Always check for events in this park, especially on weekends. Besides festivals, you'll find craft and food fairs, as well as street markets. Music, of course, is frequently featured. The following are some additional reasons to visit:

    ~ Huge swimming pool with a fantastic kid's area ~ Zoo with friendly, informative attendants ~ Hessian Lake (pictured below) ~ An ice rink, which opens in November and remains frozen no matter what the outdoor temperature ~ River frontage, including launch areas and fishing ~ Nature trails, which are very well marked ~ Plus hiking, biking, vista viewing, scenic drives, camping, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
Bear Mountain State Park

Newburgh NY:

Archways, a major mural in Newburgh, NY

The City of Newburgh is just north of West Point and south of the Catskill mountains. Its beautiful riverbank features ferry crossings, river tours, the vista of the Newburgh Bridge (I-84), numerous riverfront restaurants, a clean public rest room, and a large park with scenic views. The best time to visit is during the summer season and on fall weekends when travelers enliven the area.

Pictured above is a portion of "Archways," a recently completed mural developed by muralist Garin Baker. This mural consists of three, life-sized archways (including rendered stone) that is installed on the east side of the 9 West bridge. Scenes depict today's residents intermixed with historical images.

Take a close look at the picture! The pedestrians are part of the mural.

Kingston NY:

Hudson River Maritime Museum, The Mathilda

Kingston was the first capital of New York in 1777. Today, it features several historic areas, including the port on Rondout Creek that is now home to the Hudson River Maritime Museum (www.hrmm.org) and The Mathilda (pictured above), one of the ships on exhibition.

Side of the Hudson River Maritime Museum

Vistas of the Catskill mountains and valley area abound, attracting artists and photographers alike throughout Kingston and nearby Esopus. If you perfer humorous shots, however, have your friends pose behind one of four characters that stand next to the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

Kingston, NY's historic district

Kingston's port, which is particularly busy in the summer and on fall weekends, is located in an attractive historic district where you'll find good restaurants and interesting shops. Through the end of October, you can also collect stacks of Hudson River tour information from a large, well-stocked visitor's center, as well as ask the center's volunteers questions.

Tip: We enjoyed lunch at Ship to Shore, which is open year around. It has excellent food and a laid-back atmosphere.

Catskill NY:

Catskill, NY

Catskill's docking area at the Historic Catskill Point is located just south of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge (I 23) and across the river from a lush, hardwood forest.

Wall of History, Catskill, NY

This October, the Greene County Council of Arts transformed a barn at the Catskill dock into The Wall of History, giving the building the look of an 1800s art gallery. Paintings, rendered in a number of different styles, are displayed on all exterior walls. All depict great moments in Greene Country's history, with Don Boutin's "Rip Van Winkle" over the main door in honor of the famous snoozer who enjoyed napping in the Catskill Mountains (then called the "Kaatskills"). The gallery is open during the season and during special events.

Peebles Island State Park:

Pebbles Island State Park

Just north of Troy is the Pebbles Island State Park, which sits at the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers and marks the official beginning of the Erie and the Champlain canals. The development of these canals brought tremendous wealth via shipping to Albany, Troy, and their surrounding communities, making the area, at one time, the wealthiest in the nation.

If you've never seen canals and the canal locks that once made intercontinental shipping possible, this is a nice place to do so! Here, you'll find a beautiful visitor's center, complete with picnic tables, and a wide sidewalk fronting the lovely Mohawk River.

Troy NY:

Troy, NY, port

Running out of time to take pictures, we zipped through Albany, the capital of New York State, in order to reach Peebles Island State Park and Troy before sunset. When you visit this area, however, I recommend that you slow down to explore historic Albany.

Troy itself is part of the Albany geographic area, with historic buildings in its business district having been erected during the 1700 and 1800s. Unfortunately, because we were anxious to catch the last light of day, we had a hard time finding its port due to our sloppy navigation.

Finely, we identified a street near the entrance of the Troy Green Island Bridge, pictured below. To take the picture of Troy's port (above), we drove west over the bridge, stopping to shoot from a pretty, shorefront park on the Albany side of the river.

Troy Green Island Bridge

Additional Information

New York State supports 169 parks, 35 historic sites, and thousands of campsites, beaches, and golf courses. If New York enjoyed year round warm weather, it would be a destination that could compete with tropical islands in terms of natural scenery and the abundance of water in the form of rivers, lakes, gorges, waterfalls, and ocean coastlines in the Long Island area.

In addition to New York's stunning state parks, many communities strongly support their own recreational areas, as you can see in this article's pictures. Although upstate New York's lush land is in high contrast to the density of buildings found in nearby New York City, all areas of the state are worth visiting for their aesthetic, educational, and entertainment values.

Links: Information provided through the following links will help you organize your adventures:

Questions? Ask Karen at Karen@littleviews.com

Article by Karen Little. Photos by Karen and Philip Little. First published on 10/30/2009. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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