Nikki Goth Itoi
Moon Hudson River Valley author Nikki Goth Itoi grew up making maple syrup in the Catskills, and later studied in the Berkshires and got married in Rhinebeck. These days, she visits the region to enjoy winery tours in Dutchess County, fall foliage in the mountains, and lake time in the Adirondacks. We asked her to give us some tips on traveling to the Hudson River Valley and she was happy to help.
Discovering the Hudson River Valley with Nikki Goth Itoi
1. For those of us that don’t know, what regions of New York State does the Hudson River Valley consist of?
The Hudson River Valley encompasses several counties on both sides of the Hudson River extending from the northern boundary of New York City to the Catskill Mountains and the state capitol of Albany and the surrounding region, including Saratoga Springs—a gateway to the Adirondack Park.
2. What kind of climate should travelers expect? In which season do you recommend visiting?
The climate in the Hudson River Valley is moderate, with four distinct seasons and variations depending on elevation and proximity to the river. In spring, travelers can enjoy hiking, wildflowers, nature walks, wine tasting, and tours of historic riverside mansions. Summer brings opportunities for more outdoor activities—from “pick your own” fruits and berries to camping and river rafting. Fall is the time for leaf peeping as maples, oaks, birch trees and more put on their annual display of color. In winter, ski resorts open for downhill skiing and snowboarding, some with tubing, and groomed Nordic trails. Any time of year, visitors can stroll through historic towns, browse boutique shops, and savor local foods.
3. What do you consider the best place to stay on a budget?
If you don’t mind roughing it, camping is an economical and adventurous way to experience the wilderness areas of the Hudson River Valley. Ulster County and the entire Catskill region have many state, county, and private campgrounds where you can pitch a tent for a night or more. Backpacking is another great way to escape the crowds. If you prefer something more civilized, look for efficiency cottages or simple lodges in some of the more remote parts of Ulster, Greene, and Columbia counties.
4. What makes the Hudson River Valley historically significant?
The Hudson River Valley was America’s first vacation destination. Before the advent of modern transportation, people rode ships up the river in summer to enjoy cooler temperatures and a break from city life. The pristine setting inspired artists and writers of the Romantic period. Control of the river was at stake in the Revolutionary War battles at West Point, Kingston, and Saratoga.
5. Name a few highlights for visitors with limited time in the area.
For a quick day trip, I would head to one of the major museums or historic sites, ideally near a town where you could sample the local harvest before or after the tour. Dia:Beacon is a great option for modern art and the town of Beacon has a handful of outstanding eateries. Near Albany, you could spend a couple of hours at the Albany Institute of History and Art or the New York State Museum, or stroll through Washington Park for a break between business meetings.
6. What are the best grand estates to see?
Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, is by far the most impressive to me, with its formal gardens and expansive valley views, although I think Washington Irving’s Sunnyside near Tarrytown is charming in a more understated way.
7. For New York City residents, what are some of the best places for a weekend getaway?
The easiest getaways from Manhattan are a short train ride away. You could visit antique shops in Cold Spring, tour the working farm at Stone Barns near Tarrytown, or check out the new Walkway Over the Hudson, which connects Poughkeepsie and Highland.
8. What do you recommend for visitors wanting to see fall foliage?
Put on a pair of hiking shoes and hit the trails. There are many choices for all abilities, from flat rail trails to challenging summits in the Catskill High Peaks.
9. What revolutionary war sites are worth the visit?
I recently drove the 10-mile-long Saratoga National Historic Park for the first time and thought it was among the most picturesque sites in the region, plus I learned a lot too. The park reenacts the 1777 Battle of Saratoga along the rolling hills of a scenic interpretive trail. Biking would be an even better way to experience this outdoor museum. Save time to browse the wide selection of books about the Revolutionary War in the museum gift shop.
10. As a native of New York State, what’s your all-time favorite destination in the Hudson River Valley?
My favorites include any riverside seat on the MetroNorth train, the classic bowling alley/ice cream soda fountain at the Winter Clove Inn, and a particular lookout rock high up on the trail that leads to the 4,000-foot summit of Blackhead Mountain in the Catskills.
For more information, buy a copy of Moon Hudson River Valley.