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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…)

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Main Street, Rosendale. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we took a look at Germantown, a hidden gem East of the Hudson River. This week, we take a look at Rosendale, another hidden gem, one located West of the Hudson.

Where Germantown is more pastoral, Rosendale has a funky, artsy vibe to go with its small-town charm. Located in central Ulster County about 10 minutes north of New Paltz, Rosendale village is essentially a one-stop-light town along the Rondout Creek. But there’s a lot happening along the half mile stretch of Main Street.

Rosendale’s history lies within its abandoned cement mines. Well, not so abandoned. (more…)

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Hudson Valley Manor House, Germantown. Photo via Airbnb.com

With the increasing popularity of Hudson Valley towns and the subsequent influx of newcomers to the area, it’s getting harder and harder to unearth a hidden treasure every now and again. There are two places, however, that don’t get as much attention as their neighboring communities even though they deserve it just as much: Germantown in Columbia County, and Rosendale in Ulster County.

Germantown, a Hudson Riverside hamlet in the town of Germantown, is sleepy, idyllic, and rife with historic properties, such as the Hudson Valley Manor House, depicted above. It might not be the place to go for exciting nightlife (or much nightlife at all, for that matter, unless you count watching fireflies as “nightlife”), fancy restaurants, or tony shops.

But if you want old world charm, outstanding views of both the Hudson to the west and the hills to the east, and picturesque farmland, then it might be what you’re looking for in a Hudson Valley escape. (We’ll take a close look at Rosendale next week.)

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We are proud to announce that Brownstoner Upstate now includes listings from Houlihan Lawrence, the venerable real estate brokerage specializing in Westchester, Fairfield, Putnam, and Dutchess counties. This is a significant enhancement to Brownstoner Upstate’s real estate marketplace. Houlihan Lawrence has over 1,200 agents working out of 30 offices across four counties.

Whether you’re considering a move upstate or just looking for a country retreat, our selection of listings just got a lot bigger. Click through for a selection of some choice Houlihan Lawrence properties currently listed on Brownstoner Upstate. (more…)

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 Olana in Hudson, Frederic Church’s studio and home in Hudson. Photo by Rolf Müller via Wikimedia Commons

Nary a week goes by that doesn’t include a mention in the press about Hudson, N.Y. Why, earlier this month, Jetsetter.com included Hudson River city in its top 10 Coolest Towns. In Niche’s rankings, Hudson is in the top 23 best towns to raise a family in New York, certainly a far cry from its origins as a rough-and-tumble whaling town and Hudson Valley’s infamous red-light district.

With all the attention paid to its antique stores, galleries, restaurants, sauerkrauteries, and music venues, we sometimes forget that there’s a whole Columbia County outside of Hudson that’s pretty darn spectacular, especially in the summertime.

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athens ny

This posted originally ran on July 25, 2014. It has been updated.

Today, we want to show you around the Hudson River village of Athens in Greene County (west of the Hudson, about 2.5 hours from Brooklyn). It’s a worthy destination for a serene Memorial Day weekend getaway or a visit any time.

We went there just to explore the waterfront park since its recent upgrade, and overall, we came away feeling quite charmed by it all, even if Athens seems to suffer from that same eerie weekday quietness that other places around here do, as if the whole town is waiting for something to happen.

There are lots of empty storefronts with “for rent” signs in the windows, almost no cars driving around, and we encountered only two other people out walking. There is, however, a brew pub that emits the most tantalizing malty fragrance for two blocks surrounding its location, not to mention the most charming outdoor dining area on the waterfront that is connected to the historic Stewart House boutique hotel.

Other stuff we discovered on our jaunt: Athens has a town pool, a huge cemetery, and tons of great houses. Take a visual tour of the town after the jump.

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