Home to countless historical sites, lush landscapes of mountain ranges, hundreds of acres of orchards and farms, and breathtaking architecture, Hudson Valley is one of the most relaxing destinations for those that need a dose of natural beauty or simply need a fun getaway.
With beautiful natural landscapes, lakes, and mountain ranges, Hudson Valley is a great destination for adventure seekers and lovers of the outdoors. One of its most popular attractions is Kaaterskill Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in New York. You can enjoy an easy hike or a dip in the pool.
There are tons of things to do in Hudson Valley, whether that be outdoor activities, visiting historic sites, or some leisurely sightseeing. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best activities in this region, so get ready to take notes, and let’s take a trip upstate to the Hudson Valley.
1. Bask in the Great Outdoors at Kaaterskill Falls
First on this list is Kaaterskill Falls. It wouldn’t be a Hudson Valley escapade without a trip to the tallest waterfall in the New York region, would it?
This breathtaking natural wonder is a two-stage waterfall whose cascades total 260 feet (79 meters) in height, 90 feet (27 meters) longer than Niagara Falls! You get to enjoy a comfortable hike about a mile and a half (2.4 km) long before reaching the waterfall.
If you’re not into strenuous hikes or want to take the whole family, including young kids, this is a great place to do so. Though the hike itself is pretty easy, remember to wear comfortable shoes and be ready for some moderate climbing.
The view is nothing short of spectacular. You get to feel like you’re transported to a faraway magical place. That in itself is something to enjoy.
Aside from hiking up to the waterfall, you can also enjoy a dip at the fall’s base, so make sure you have swimming clothes ready.
2. Go Touristy on the Hudson State Historic Park Walkway
If you’re going to the Hudson Valley, you definitely have to take your time to appreciate the Hudson River. And the best place to do that is on the Hudson State Historic Walkway. This 1.28-mile (2.06 kilometers) walkway was built on the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge and runs across the Hudson River, giving you the perfect vantage point for the best view.
This walkway is 133 years old, and the bridge on which it was built used to be a busy highway for the transportation of raw construction materials. Nowadays, it’s a popular spot among tourists and locals alike, so on your walk, you’ll likely find a few tourists taking pictures or admiring the river, as well as locals walking their dog or on an early morning jog.
When you come, make sure to enjoy your walk, take in the beautiful view, and feel that history right under your feet. From here, you not only get to admire the Hudson River but also enjoy a 360-degree view of the Catskills.
3. Check Out the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
Hudson Valley is not only known for its beautiful scenery. It’s also home to some really impressive mansions, one of the most awe-inspiring of which is the Vanderbilt Mansion.
This magnificent mansion was built in the Beaux-Art style, replete with antiques and interiors that boast of architectural prowess, and used to be the home of railroad magnate Frederick Vanderbilt.
It’s a fantastic place to visit if you appreciate architecture and history at the same time. This place will transport you back to the old glamour of the Gilded Age.
You can explore the mansion by joining guided tours on select days of the week. And one of the most popular things to do aside from standing in awe of its magnificent interiors and 54 rooms, is soaking up some sun at the Italian Gardens, which Frederick Vanderbilt himself loved the most about the mansion.
There are also picnic areas within the property, so take your kids with you or go alone if you would like some peace and quiet amidst the grandeur and lovely scenery.
4. Drop by the New York State Museum
Can’t get enough of history? Arguably the best place to explore the history of New York is the New York State Museum, the oldest and largest state museum in the U.S. The museum houses a wide array of artifacts – from scientific specimens to historical finds to pieces of art – which is a completely satisfying experience for the history-hungry soul.
The museum is massive, spanning 100,000 square feet (9,290 square meters), and contains over 16 million scientific specimens and about a million cultural artifacts that reflect significant periods in New York’s history.
If you want to learn what life was like in the Adirondacks centuries ago or the first inhabitants in New York, for example, you’ll find everything you need to know right here.
And it’s not just the ancient artifacts that can be enjoyed here too. There is an interesting piece here that kids will surely have a blast with: a carousel preserved from the 1900s. Let your kids have a go!
5. Have a Few Laughs at The Colony in Woodstock
For those who are looking for an enjoyable activity in the evening, you might want to drop by The Colony in Woodstock. Here, you can catch a comedy show or some band performances.
The thing that really attracts people to this cozy spot is that it’s close to Hudson Valley, so you can easily have a few drinks while enjoying some entertainment after a full day of gallivanting.
Also, the place is quite quaint, and you get to be up close and personal with the performers and even get to know them after the shows, which makes watching shows here a unique experience.
Aside from comedy shows and live music performances, The Colony also features art events. Located in Woodstock, which is known for its funky vibe, you’ll enjoy the electric atmosphere around here, especially if you’re into music, art, or great conversations over a beer.
So don’t worry if you’re coming to the joint by yourself!
6. Marvel at the New York State Capitol
This grand architectural marvel never fails to amaze locals and tourists alike. Even if you saw this view on a daily basis, it would be hard to get used to just how beautiful it is. With dramatic skylights, marble and granite columns, elegant chandeliers, and interiors fit for royalty, the New York State Capitol building’s every inch inspires awe.
The New York State Capitol building was built in the 1880s and cost about $25,000,000. Some of its most popular rooms include the War Room Assembly and Senate Chambers.
But most people consider the Million-Dollar Staircase the true highlight of the building. This stone staircase literally cost a million dollars and took 14 years to construct! The steps were the work of stonecutters who meticulously labored on the steps by hand.
And although you will hear plenty of stories about the building on the guided tour (as well as from other people, such as that there is a resident ghost in the Capitol building), an interesting story about this remarkable staircase is that Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used to reside here, would run up and down the staircase every day to exercise.
True or not, the stairs are definitely worth seeing! Thankfully, guided tours are free, and people are welcome inside the building from Monday to Saturday.
7. Spend the Night at Mohonk Mountain House
For a truly exquisite experience, spend the night at the Mohonk Mountain House. And if you think this resort hotel is just like any other, think again.
This hotel is one of Hudson Valley’s gems – a Victorian castle sitting on a 26,000-acre (10,522 hectares) area in the Shawangunk Mountains. In the late 1800s, this castle was but a quaint ten-room inn where people came to enjoy a peaceful retreat.
It was shortly after turned into the grandiose structure that still stands today by the Smiley family. It was intended to be a place where people can enjoy a relaxing vacation – but this time with the luxury, pomp, and classic elegance of old-world glamor.
Many people who are somebody have spent vacations here, including the Rockefellers. However, as you might expect, accommodations can be quite expensive at Mohonk Mountain House. A room can set you back around at least a thousand dollars!
But if you’re not prepared to spend that kind of money on lodgings, you can always still enjoy the resort’s amenities, play golf, or have a picnic (among many others) when you go as a day guest.
You can also go on a nature tour to enjoy hiking, paddle boarding, and even an eco-friendly spa experience. And after all that activity, fill your tummy with delicious farm-to-table meals.
8. Shawangunk Ridge and Mohonk Preserve
Want to escape the big city but don’t have much time? Take a trip up north to Shawangunk Ridge and Mohonk Preserve. It’s only a little over an hour’s drive from New York City, but it will take you to an amazing outdoor getaway that will make you feel like you’re far, far away from the city rush.
The Shawangunk Ridge is also fondly called The Gunks and is a popular destination for avid hikers, rock climbers, and lovers of wildlife. The hike is pretty comfortable, too, so don’t worry if you haven’t been keeping up with your workout before you go. Plus, the view from the Ridge is superb!
The Mohonk Preserve is 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) of wilderness where you can see everything you love about the outdoors. We’re talking about lush forests, cliffs, streams, hike trails, mountain biking trails, and even areas for snowshoeing and skiing in winter.
In summer, visitors enjoy swimming in the Split Rock Hole to cool off after a long hike.
And as always, when going hiking in a protected area like this (and, in fact, anywhere!), don’t forget to be a responsible visitor and minimize your impact as much as possible by leaving no trash or belongings behind and staying within the trails.
9. Feel Like Royalty at Lyndhurst Mansion
Ever wonder what it’s like to walk inside a castle? You don’t have to guess because Hudson Valley has arguably the most iconic Gothic Revival castles in New York. It overlooks the Hudson River and is surrounded by acres of manicured lawns and gardens.
Built in 1838, the castle was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and modern-day guests are welcome to explore the grounds as well as the castle’s interior on a guided tour. What will undoubtedly strike you first would be the impressive architecture of this country home fit for royalty.
But Lyndhurst Mansion is not only impressive on the outside. Aside from intricate interior carvings and exquisite details, the castle also houses a collection of valuable antiques and art pieces.
And if you enter the castle and think you may have seen it somewhere before, you may remember it from the television series Dark Shadows, which aired from 1966 to 1971. Don’t confuse it with the more recent movie starring Johnny Depp, though, because in that movie, Collinwood’s facade and interiors were completely made up.
10. Pick Fresh Produce at Fishkill Farms
There’s nothing quite like enjoying a meal made from ingredients that you picked yourself. And you can do that at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction. It’s a great family activity that can teach kids to appreciate growing their own food as well as the importance of organic farming. But, of course, in a more fun, interactive way.
Depending on what time of the year you plan to visit, you can pick berries, pumpkins, and apples. If you want to pick fruits, you can schedule your visit anytime from August to October. But make sure to book your reservation in advance because slots do run out pretty quickly. And more importantly, you won’t be able to get in without a reservation.
After a fun fruit or pumpkin-picking experience, you can have refreshments at the restaurant, where meals are made from freshly harvested ingredients. Do also try to check out their cider tastings for the full Fishkill Farms experience.
11. Experience the Breathtaking Opus 40
Take a trip to the town of Saugerties to experience one of the most incredible works of art. Opus 40, the work of then-professor and quarryman Henry Fite, is a 6.5-acre (2.63 hectares) environmental sculpture that was inspired by the Mayan ruins that Fite previously worked to restore in Honduras.
This massive sculpture of individual pieces, pedestals, and ramps was made completely by hand, a labor of pure passion. Initially, Fite only intended to create pedestals and ramps for the individual sculpture pieces that he wanted to feature in the area.
But as his work progressed, manually cutting and placing stone using traditional quarrying materials, he discovered that the entire structure, and not just the individual sculpture pieces, was an artwork in itself.
Fite named his masterpiece Opus 40, expecting that he would complete it in 40 years. Unfortunately, he died in the 37th year of working on the large artwork. It may not have been completed as Fite had intended, but it is quite remarkable as it stands, and already, in many regards, complete.
12. Camp at the Minnewaska State Park Reserve
Located on the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge is Minnewaska State Park Reserve, a haven for anyone looking for a complete outdoor getaway only an hour and a half’s drive from New York City. Here, you can go hiking, swimming, biking, and more!
The campgrounds are also pretty convenient here, especially if you’re a family with kids, as they come with restrooms, shower facilities, and even cooking areas. And if you want to bring your dog along, you can definitely do so as well, as long as you keep them on a leash and clean up after them.
Some of the main attractions here are the waterfalls that you can hike up to and the lakes where you can go swimming in summer.
Other activities that you can enjoy here are:
- Visiting Sam’s Point
- Shopping at the Visitor Center
- Going on a picnic
13. Tour the Bannerman Castle
If you’re interested in old castles and castle ruins, you should see Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island. This impressive structure was built in the early 20th century as a storage facility for military supplies, mainly munitions. Unfortunately, an explosion took place inside, causing massive damage to the building, which eventually led to it being abandoned.
Despite having been abandoned, however, the castle remains to be a spectacular sight, and the walls that still stand even add to the castle’s charm today. And the trip to Bannerman Castle can be quite an experience too. You can join a guided tour of the castle by crossing the Hudson River by boat or kayak.
But if you want a more thrilling experience, you can kayak your way to Pollepel Island and give yourself a self-guided tour. However, if you want to know more stories about the history of the place, a guided tour may be even more fun for you.