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Photo via Brotherhood Winery

There’s no burying the lede when booze is involved, so let’s cut to the chase: The Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival is almost here. During September, the Festival takes up residence at the Dutchess County fairgrounds for a weekend and offers a glimpse of the best of food and drink the Hudson Valley has to offer.

If you know the Hudson Valley at all, you know that wine is a big deal up here. Not only is the Hudson Valley home to the oldest continuously operating winery in the country (Brotherhood Winery in Orange County, depicted above), it has been growing grapes long before the Napa Valley became synonymous with the concept of American wine. The French Huguenots, who moved to the Hudson Valley to escape religious persecution at the hands of Louis XIV, started grape growing back in the 15th century and to this day, wine remains one of the region’s biggest draws.

Let’s dive into a few favorite regional wineries, and if these leave you thirsting for more, check out the HV Wine & Food Festival in September.

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A plate from Swoon Kitchenbar, Hudson via swoonkitchenbar.com

The kind of food available in the Hudson Valley and Catskills might not be the only reason one would choose to spend time up here, but it’s certainly a huge consideration. Why? Because it’s a food-lover’s paradise.

Sure, we’ve heard plenty of complaints from transplants about the lack of good takeout and variety of non-American food types (every town should have a Thai place, in our opinion), but there’s no arguing with the abundance of quality farm-fresh ingredients available among the rolling agrarian fields and fertile soils of the river valley.

This week, we’re not even going to attempt to parse the options. There are just too many. Instead, we’ll provide you with a glimpse into the culinary heart of the Hudson Valley and Catskill mountains. If you want the whole picture, you’ll just have to come up here and have a taste.

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Seamon Park, Saugerties

Let’s cut right to the chase: A good public park says a lot about the community in which it’s located. If you can find a clean, well-kept park with plenty of vegetation, shady places to sit, and some engaging features, move to that town immediately.

Okay, we know it’s not quite that simple, but up here in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, we’ve got oodles of attractive public spaces where you can sit peacefully watching Nature TV as the kids blow off steam outdoors — kinda like they used to back in the old days.

And, most of the region’s parks have pretty great towns attached to them. In fact, the connection between the three public parks we’ll be featuring today and their respective hometowns is as strong as the summer sun. (more…)

The home of Kenyan Lewis in upstate, NY. andnorth.com

Kenyan Paris Lewis was a potential seeker — an enthusiast of a particular kind. An old tube radio became a DJ booth. A stack of vintage suitcases befit a night stand. A 35-foot royal spartanette trailer became an indoor movie theater.

“I just love everything old,” Kenyan said. “I’m attracted to broken things that just need repairing, or are in need of tender loving care.”

Kenyan met Meghan Auld years ago and their relationship, born from friendship, grew into a mutually beneficial partnership: she helped him build a website for his full-service design business, ByKenyan, and he showed her the art of prop and antique sourcing.

“Kenyan has an ability to walk into an empty room and just see,” Meghan said. “He doesn’t plan things out, he doesn’t draw them out, unless he has to. But, he can walk into a room and completely transform a space.”

The Manor was their home together. An impressive stone structure located in Stone Ridge, N.Y., it was once a refuge for patriot politicians and served as the New York State Capitol building for 30 days during the Revolutionary War. (more…)

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Long View Park, New Baltimore via ScenicHudson.com

One area of the Hudson Valley has been relatively ignored by those flocking north: Northern Greene County bordering Albany County on the shores of the Hudson River. Largely agrarian in nature, this location isn’t known for farm-to-table late morning brunches, hot towel barbers, or music festivals.

Instead, the riverside communities of New Baltimore, Coeymanns, Ravena, and Hannacroix have remained small and relatively free of the influx of New Yorkers on the opposite side of the river in Hudson, Columbia County.

But that doesn’t mean the area is free of charm. On the contrary, the inherent charms of northern Greene and southern Albany Counties lie in its natural beauty, historic architecture, and close proximity to the Hudson River itself.

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Main Street, Cold Spring. Photo by Daniel Case via Wikipedia

In theory, the thought of escaping to a faraway place seems pretty attractive. In practice, however, it could mean long drives (bordering on interminable with traffic) and more time away from home.

Want to stay within two hours of Brooklyn? Then two quaint villages await your perusal: Cold Spring in Putnam County, and Cornwall-on-Hudson in Orange County.

Cold Spring is your best bet in terms of travel. Take the Metro-North to the Cold Spring station which sits right in the center of town, at the bottom of Main Street.

The whole trip takes a little over an hour. From there, you can cab it to your accommodations. Drive time takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes.

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Sunset at North South Lake

Ask an upstater to direct you to the nearest swimming hole, and you might get an answer. Or, your request might be met with stony silence. Upstaters are notoriously secretive about their swimming holes, even though a quick search on the Internet will lead you to a wide selection of places to take a dip.

Still, when you stumble upon an undiscovered swimming hole that you can enjoy all to yourself, the last thing you want to do is blow it up. The good news is, there are plenty of places to swim in the Hudson Valley and Catskills that don’t require a compass, hip-waders, a head-lamp, or a weathered map with a giant X marking the spot.

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Photo of Delaware River by newyorkfishing.us

Drop the name “Henry Hudson,” and most people will immediately connect the 17th century explorer to its namesake, the Hudson River. But that wasn’t the only New York waterway that Hudson traversed during the early 1600s.

He and his crew on the Dutch East India Company expedition dipped their oars in the rapid, crystal-clear waters of the Delaware River, a portion of which forms the New York-Pennsylvania border in the Catskill Mountains. There’s a lot of beauty in those parts of the Catskills, located just beyond the reach of the Borscht Belt. Things have always been a little more rural and rough and tumble.

Take, for example, some of the Upper Delaware’s earliest settlers. Crowded out of their land in Connecticut, westward they pushed until they reached a tribe of Lenape and promptly purchased a 10-mile stretch of their land along the river they called Cushetunk (a Lenape word meaning “land of hogs”). Little did those settlers know they were on disputed turf.

While New York and Pennsylvania squabbled over where to draw the boundary lines, that scrappy group of Connecticut gents played finders-keepers and claimed the land as theirs. How’s that for an origin story? (more…)

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Byrdcliffe Theater, Woodstock, via Village Green Realty

One could consider Woodstock to be queen of the Catskills art colonies. Creativity, arts and music run through the Ulster County village’s very veins, from the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild perched atop a slope above town, to the Woodstock School of Art just outside of the village on Route 212.

Art galleries number close to the double digits, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Woodstock is pretentious. Its residents are down to earth and won’t have any problem if you decide to show up to brunch in yoga pants.

In fact, you probably saw lots of them at class earlier, since there are four studios within the town of Woodstock. The close-knit community is big into supporting local businesses and getting in touch with their spiritual side.

If that — coupled with a mountain setting — sounds like your cup of artisanal chamomile tea, we suggest taking the 2.5 hour drive and spending a weekend. (more…)

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As all American kids learn in school, Independence Day celebrates July 4, 1776, when the 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. That announcement was made through the Declaration of Independence, one of this country’s greatest and most powerful documents.

There are some modern doubts as to whether it was actually July 4th, or the 2nd, or even another date, but it really doesn’t matter. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail about the event, (which he thought was July 2) and said, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

“It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Americans took John Adams’ advice and have been celebrating Independence Day ever since. (more…)

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Stone Church, Cragsmoor. Photo used with permission from Friends of the Stone Church

As we continue our three-part series on art colonies in the Catskills, we turn our attention to the mountain hamlet of Cragsmoor in Ulster County. Never heard of it? Not surprising.

Other places with walkable Main Streets and charming locavore eateries get most of the attention, while Cragsmoor remains a hidden gem, tucked away in a remote spot near the top of the Shawangunk Ridge. (more…)

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Old Studio of Artist Hall, Palenville, N.Y. Via Wikipedia

It’s not hard to find the creative muse among the hills and verdant valleys of the Catskill Mountains. Artists have been doing it for ages; in fact, there’s a whole art movement based around the views of the Catskills from the Hudson Valley.

Painters from the Hudson River School like Thomas Cole, Frederic Erwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, and Asher Brown Durand all took inspiration from their surroundings, a legacy that continues with up-and-coming art communities in the Hudson Valley and Catskills like Kingston and Beacon. (more…)