14 Ways To Devour The Hudson Valley

A perfect day trip from NYC, the Hudson Valley is 150 miles of country charm that can be reached within an hour or two of Manhattan. The area is a Shangri-La of culinary gems of agricultural bounty, CIA trained chefs, coveted black dirt soil, and passionate makers. 

The sprawling mountainous area is home to an eclectic variety of restaurants surrounded by farms, breweries, orchards, vineyards, dairies and the Hudson River. Restaurants aren't the only way to experience the epicurean delights that this region as to offer. The local spoils are showcased at markets, tours, high tea, pick-your-own farms, and so much more. 

There is no better way to get to know an area than to sample the local offerings. With hamlets tucked away in mountainsides and villages speckled along the river, it can be daunting to navigate. We put together a list of a number of different ways to taste the Hudson Valley.

Stick out your pinky for High Tea at The Borland House

The Borland House in Montgomery is a historic Bed & Breakfast in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Whether you're staying at the inn or popping in for a nosh, The Borland House is sure to impress. 

Every Sunday from 9-3, the parlor turns into a tea house. The first course is a pastry course featuring fresh scones with lemon curd and preserves made by Chef Anna, plus mini pastries made by Food Network chef Leah Brickley, among other delights. For the entrée course, diners can choose from traditional tea sandwiches to fried chicken with pearl sugar waffles and everything in-between. The finest teas are offered from Harney & Sons and Japanese tea company Ocean Teabag, whose tea bags are artfully designed as animals. The tea house abounds with a sense of coterie, with joyful conversation, collections of table books, and games such as backgammon and chess.

Get a spot on the Hudson Valley Farm & Food Tour

Don't know where to start on your Hudson Valley culinary experience? Let the professionals take care of everything. The Hudson Valley Farm & Food Tour is a day trip focusing on homegrown eateries and the farms supporting them. This tour will take you to a variety of restaurants, markets, orchards, wineries, farms, distilleries, and specialty shops like Glazed Over Doughnuts, Edgwick Farm Cheese, and Scarborough Fare Olive Oil — all in six hours! 

This is a mixture of a walking and bus tour hosted by knowledgeable guides that will fill you in on the nitty-gritty of each stop and the history of the entire area. In addition to the intriguing insights and lore your guide will offer, you will also learn the origins of the local fare straight from the farmer's mouth. The offerings change seasonally, as everything is farm fresh. The tastes you will enjoy are varied and hearty — and you will not leave hungry.

Try many Hudson Valley wines in one place at Paul Brady Wine

The Hudson Valley has been making wine for eons (in fact, it lays claim to the oldest winery in America, Brotherhood Winery). It is a lot of fun to go winery hopping, but if you want to taste what the Hudson Valley has to offer in one convenient location, check out Paul Brady Wine in Beacon. Paul Brady was formerly the brand ambassador for the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and worked to elevate the visibility of New York producers in the global wine market. He is still doing that with Paul Brady Wine, but in a different way. 

One part shop, one part wine bar, all parts excellent—both the shop and bar feature only New York wines, beers, and spirits. Flights are available so you can try several wines from local producers. From Fjord, Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery, Wild Arc Farm, Millbrook, and Benmarl — there are plenty of different wines to try from each of these celebrated local producers. Paul even makes his own line of wines under the same name along with some of his local winemaker friends. Enjoy them all with charcuterie boards made by Kitchen Sink restaurant.

Go on a winery tour

What could be more fun than going on a winery crawl with friends? Having someone else drive you on a winery crawl, that's what. The Little Wine Bus is a safe and fun way to see the area and check out a number of different wineries in one shot. With pick-up service in NYC, it couldn't be easier. Each tour includes three winery visits with five to six tastings per stop, cellar and vineyard tours, lunch and dessert, as well as goodie bags that include snacks, water, and winery literature. At the end of the tour, a platter of cheese, crackers, fruit, and hummus is provided. 

The fun doesn't only include the wineries — the bus ride is a blast as well. Your guide is knowledgeable about the area and wineries and will keep you entertained with facts and tidbits. There is a raffle for each tour, as well as the option to do bus karaoke or to watch a movie on the way back. Guests can even provide their own music or film if they like. It is totally customizable if you are looking for a more chill experience. Just relax between stops and take in the bucolic hills and farms flanked by the imposing Shawangunk mountains (locally called the 'Gunks). If you prefer to visit solo, check out the Orange County Craft Beverage Trail to plan your visits and possibly win prizes.

Hit up the farmer's markets

Nearly every town in the Hudson Valley has at least one farm (and most have a bunch), so you can expect most towns to also have a farmer's market. Some are small and just feature the basics — fruits, veggies, local meats, eggs, and cheese. Others feature these things and more. Bakeries, crafts, live music, fish mongers, locally made honey, soaps, beer, wine, spirits, CBD products, pet food, pickled products, coffee ... the list goes on. It's a great way to taste the Hudson Valley's bounty in one locale. 

The produce grown locally is crazy good and will make store-bought goods taste anemic. Here is a list of some of the top farmer's markets in the area. Some are worth visiting for the scenery alone — the Kingston Waterfront Farmer's Market overlooking the mighty Hudson and the Cold Spring Market on the Boscobel House and Gardens grounds are two stunning examples. The Pawling Farmer's Market prides itself on being family-friendly, even offering a petting zoo. So prep those tote bags and hit the markets!

Visit the farms in the coveted Black Dirt Region

Ever heard of soil so coveted that it is illegal to sell? The farm area called the "Black Dirt Region" is considered one of the most fertile farm areas in the world because of its miracle soil. Just driving through the 26,000 acres is wild. The contrast of the pitch black soil against green pastures looks cosmic. So what is the region famous for? Onions and ice age Mastodon bones. 

The dirt is the remnant of a glacial lake that melted 12,000 years ago, leaving sulfur and nitrogen-rich jet black soil that produces the world's best onions. The sulfur boosts pyruvic acid, which gives onions and garlic their spice. Before alliums were grown here, the deep glacial lakebed held the bones of Mastodon and other extinct ice-age giants. Next time you are at the American Museum of Natural History, look at the plaque under the Mastodon, and you will see "Newburgh, NY" as the dig spot. 

"Drowned Lands" is another term locals use for the area. Drowned Lands Farm Brewery is an homage to the soil and the terroir it offers them. So drive through this otherworldly land, pick up some onions from one of the farm stands, a beer from Drowned Lands, and contemplate the earth's history.

Pop into some of the world's best cideries

Get to the core of the HV by visiting its most celebrated cider houses. The Hudson Valley is home to dozens of cideries, from large national brands like Angry Orchard to smaller boutique cideries like Metal House. Styles run the gamut from bone-dry, sweet, sparkling, fruit (other than apple), oaked, and unoaked. 

This food-friendly beverage is excellent paired with local cheese and cured meats. Many cideries have a tasting room that also serves light bites. Some have vast outdoor spaces with picnic tables, food trucks, lawn games, and fire pits. Angry Orchard even boasts a massive treehouse lounge. Since hard cider is such a vast beverage in the area, many shops will sell a plethora of cider options next to their beer and wine. For example, Craig Cavallo, cider expert and co-author of "American Cider," co-owns Golden Russet Café and Grocery in Rhinebeck, where you can sample a variety while noshing on lunch. Many restaurants will also feature a cider section alongside their wine lists.

Experience the future of food at CIA

No, not that CIA, the yummy one. Hyde Park in Dutchess County is home to the Culinary Institute of America, where the finest chefs hone their skills. The college was the first to teach culinary arts in the United States and has the largest staff of American Culinary Federation Certified Master Chefs. On campus are four restaurants where students can cut their chops under the tutelage of honored chefs. American Bounty Restaurant is a love letter to the Hudson Valley, using local produce to prepare American classics. The Bocuse Restaurant is a modern French resto, The Ristorante Caterina de' Medici is Italian, and The Apple Pie Bakery Café is a laid-back bistro. 

There is a brewery in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery and a coffee roastery on-site (still waiting for a CIA winery). On-campus pop-up restaurants are a fun way for students to see what it is like to open and run a restaurant firsthand. See what these budding chefs are cooking before they appear on "Master Chef."

Pick your own fruits and vegetables

Why buy your produce from the grocery store when you can pay to do manual labor for it? We don't know why, but it's a fact that people love to pick their own fruits and veggies. There is just something about getting your pickers, filling up a basket with goodies, and having a baking sesh with them. Nothing gives more autumnal vibes than picking apples with family, friends, or a significant other. Because there are so many farms in the area, there is a robust U-pick program. The offerings change with the season — berries in June, stonefruit in July through September, tomatoes in the middle of summer, and then in the fall, you can pick eggplant, peppers, apples, pears, and pumpkins. 

DuBois Farm also has a tavern and farm stand, so it's a nice place to spend the day. Fishkill Farms is excellent for fruit and berry picking, and you can even sip on their cider, bottled under the name Treasury Cider, while picking. Rose Hill makes wine and cider that pickers can sample while picking, and they also offer pop-ups, live music, events, and classes. Greig Farm — go for the strawberries, stay for the goats. There are plenty of spots to get your fill!

Take a cooking class

A fun group or date experience is taking a cooking class together. You learn a skill, and you get to eat what you make! Many different places offer cooking classes in the area — here are just a few. 

The Culinary Institute of America provides a range of classes — there's family-friendly offerings, holiday classes that focus on baking and making appetizers and cocktails for guests, traditional cooking classes, and even a wine and beverage class. Zwilling Cooking Studio has an array of classes that include knife skills, Asian street food, a taste of the Middle East, high tea, and kids classes. Bluecashew in Kingston is a cool cookware shop that teaches hands-on cooking classes. Kate Sonders Solomon is a private chef that teaches lessons in your home or at a rental location. She offers classes for kids, adults, and corporations. Hats off to the chef — you!

Work for your brews with a bike or boat tour

The beauty of the Hudson Valley is as much of a draw as the regional craft beer. Why not take in the views and burn a few calories before you enjoy your brews? Forget the walking tours and lean into the outdoorsy vibes of the HV with a bike tour or a kayak tour. With Hudson Valley Craft Brewery Bike Tours, you will bike 35 miles through gorgeous scenery on the "Old Put" bike path, eat a provided lunch, and end at Captain Lawrence Brewery to claim your refreshing reward. 

Another way to take in the sights before taking in some pints is Mountain Valley Guide's Paddles & Pints. This tour is a 4-hour kayak trip on the mighty Hudson that stops at two breweries. Enjoy pints at both Two Way Brewery in Beacon and Newburgh Brewing Company, all while taking in the incredible backdrop of mountains against the river. Hopefully your arms will be able to hold your pint glass after all that paddling!

Dine at the best upscale restos in the HV

With graduates from the CIA and other amazing chefs in the Hudson Valley, it's no surprise that there are a plethora of incredible restaurants. Here are a few examples. 

Liberty Street Bistro, owned by chef Michael Kelly, is Newburgh's upscale neighborhood resto. The restaurant side serves New American cuisine using classic French cooking techniques and the bar serves drool-worthy burgers and small plates. If you are looking for a fancy meal with river views, Shadows on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie is the place. Grappa Ristorante in Warwick offers incredible Italian cuisine with Soho bistro moods. In search of a killer wine list and world-class eats with a cozy ambience? Gaskins in Germantown has got you covered. Authentic Norwegian cuisine in the Catskills might sound like a tall order, but chef Henning Nordanger's take on American comfort food at Henning's Local in Cochecton Center is just that. In New Paltz, you can find rustic, Italian countryside dishes that will blow you away at A Tavola Trattoria.

Grab dinner at the best farm-to-table spots

The Hudson Valley practically invented farm-to-table. There are a range of supper clubs on local farms, restaurants that have their own farms, and restaurants that source all of their ingredients locally. The Hudson Valley is lauded for its produce the world over, so it is a no-brainer to keep it local and "know thy farmer." 

With famed spots like Blue Hill at Stone Barns at the helm, merging fine-dining and farm fresh ingredients grown on-site since 2004, the region saw an opportunity for transparent dining and it blew up! From there, spots like Blooming Hill Farm upgraded their brick-oven pizza service into a full-service restaurant, and Henry's at the Farm took their ingredients from on-site organic Millstone Farm to new heights. 

Meanwhile, places like Farm to Table Bistro in Fishkill, Crew in Poughkeepsie, and The DeBruce in Livingston Manor garnered fresh interest due to their strict policies of using local ingredients.

Commune with the locals at the best watering holes

Sometimes you just want yummy pub food and a low-key atmosphere. Take a note from the locals and check out these joints. 

The Wherehouse in Newburgh boasts walls and ceilings covered in vinyl records, 24 taps, 50 types of burgers, numerous types of wings, and local flair. From the outside, Quinn's in Beacon looks like an Irish pub, but it's really a low-key hang that serves Japanese soul food. Weekly jazz sessions give it a chill ambience. Dogwood in Beacon is a great spot to see a band or sidle up to the bar for a bev and bite. It's the type of place that makes you feel like you're at a house party. 

Snug Harbor in New Paltz (affectionately called Snug's) will make you feel like a local in no time. A friendly bar with great food and bands and a warm atmosphere that will make you keep coming back. Lastly, Snapper Magee's in Kingston is, in their own words, a "dirty little rock and roll dive bar." Go for the cheap brews, stay for the old-school jukebox, pool table, darts, and live music.