The Best of Hudson Valley’s West Bank

Michael Neil O'Donnell

This charming upstate New York destination has been attracting weekenders to its east side for years. Here we explore the very best of what’s happening across the river in places like New Paltz, Milton and Gardiner.

The Hudson Valley, the historic area of New York State running up and down the mighty Hudson River, has dazzled travelers since the Dutch arrived and mapped the land in the 1600s, and most likely before then, too. The natural beauty is unrivaled—hills and mountains framing lush greenery, thick forests and open meadows. Agriculture flourished here, quickly followed by settlements and then grand country houses.

Weekenders, of course, want to see what the fuss is all about.

In the modern era, the east side of the river has gotten more attention, from the myriad antiques stores in the town of Hudson to the horsey set of Millbrook. Chelsea Clinton got married in the lovely town of Rhinebeck in 2010.

But for the more outdoorsy, adventurous type, the west side of the river is where the fun is to be found, from rock climbing in the Shawangunk Mountains to long walks in the sprawling sculpture park Storm King. The vibe is more casual and laid-back on this bank—bringing your dog and a bike might even seem like a requirement.

But that doesn’t mean culture doesn’t thrive. Architecture from centuries past is well cared for, as in the 17th-century Dutch stone houses of Kingston and the fantastic 19th-century buildings of Mohonk Mountain House, perched on a picturesque lake.

Edible culture may be the region’s strongest suit, as it’s dotted by farm stands that overflow with ripe vegetables and fruits—peaches and corn now, with apples and pumpkins coming soon. One meal at the new farm-to-table restaurant Hugenot in New Paltz will convince you of agriculture’s supremacy here, especially if it’s followed by a sip of a whiskey from the local Tuthilltown Spirits, maker of top-rated Hudson Four Grain Bourbon.

Here, nine ways to dig into the history and the bounty of the Hudson’s west bank.