SUMMER TRAVEL 2022 – The Hudson Valley is less than two hours from the Capital Region and filled with popular tourist attractions, including national historic sites and state parks devoted to presidents or people who were obscenely rich. Stunning views of the Hudson River are a plus.
But some of the best experiences are a few miles off the most beaten paths.
Just a short drive from the better-known attractions in Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park, the village and town of Rhinebeck, in Dutchess County, offers more than enough activities to fill a day.
The village, first settled by Europeans nearly 350 years ago, features a wide variety of shopping and antiquing, as well as numerous art galleries.
But for an experience unique to Rhinebeck, visitors might consider a trip a few miles out of town to see Colin Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum on Norton Road, north of the village. (It’s actually in the adjoining town of Red Hook.)
The aerodrome, operated as a nonprofit museum, offers a chance to see early 20th-century vintage biplanes and aircraft of World War I up close, and attend entertaining weekend air shows that feature fantastic stunt flying, as well as a bit of aviation-inspired comedy.
“As far as we know we’re the only people who do what we do, which is to use vintage planes and put on an authentic barnstorming air show every weekend,” said Mike Fisher, secretary to the museum board and a one of the air show announcers.
There were no shows in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, but in 2021 the show returned with strong attendance. A new marketing campaign brought more people from the Capital Region than had been seen in the past, Fisher said.
“In 2021, we had one of the best seasons we have had in recent years,” he said. “We attribute that to people wanting to get out again, and it being an outdoor activity.”
The museum owns about 80 vintage or replica airplanes, with roughly 20 being airworthy at any given time, Fisher said. The museum on the grounds also has 33 vintage automobiles and a a World War I tank, he said.
The live air shows will run on Saturdays and Sundays from June 18 to Oct. 16, with pre-show activities starting at 2 p.m. and shows at 2:30. On Saturdays, the theme is “History of Flight,” which highlights the pioneer era before World War I, World War I innovations and the “Golden Age of Aviation” in the 1920s and ‘30s.
The Sunday shows are highlighted by a simulated World War I dogfight featuring a villainous Black Baron of Rhinebeck and a supporting cast of antique automobiles. A 1909 Bleriot is believed to be the oldest regularly flying plane in the Western Hemisphere, but shows also feature a Fokker triplane and a precise replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane Charles Lindburgh flew across the Atlantic in 1927.
Adult tickets are $28, with children ages 6-17 admitted for $13, and senior citizens and military personnel for $21.
There will be a First Responders Weekend June 25-26, when police, fire, and rescue and emergency medical personnel are admitted for free, with identification.
Another hub of summer activity in Rhinebeck is the 147-acre Dutchess County Fairgrounds, located right on Route 9 a little north of the village. The 176th annual Dutchess County Fair will be held Aug. 23-28.
But like any county fairground, during the weeks when the fair itself isn’t running the grounds are likely to be rented out for other events intended to draw crowds.
This year, those events include the Barn Star Spring Antiques Rhinebeck, May 28-29; the Vintage Vibes Market, June 4-5, described as a combination of home décor, vintage-based jewelry, clothing and upcycled products made from repurposed goods; the Rhinebeck Crafts Festival, June 25-26; and the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest, Sept. 10-11.
Visitors interested in history, or those wanting Hudson River scenic views, might want to consider a visit to the Wilderstein Historic Site, with a prominent Victorian-era Queen Anne mansion and landscaped grounds designed by Calvert Vaux, a partner with pioneering landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in building Manhattan’s Central Park and other famous public parks.
The Wilderstein mansion was the home of Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, a descendant of the locally prominent Beekman, Livingston and Schuyler families. A distant cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, she was a longtime friend and confidante of the president, and frequently stayed at the White House during the World War II years. She was in Warm Springs, Georgia, with him in 1945, on the trip during which he died.
The mansion is open to the public seasonally, but the grounds are open daily for those who just want to walk around and take in the property’s river views.
Nature lovers might consider a hike in the Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve, a 200-acre property on Mount Rutsen Road in the northern part of the town of Rhinebeck, once owned by members of the Astor family and now owned by a private nonprofit missioned to preserve it.
The forest is available for hiking, camping, mountain biking, fishing and picnics at no charge. Its four miles of trails include a short hike to a fire tower with views of the Hudson Valley and wells, stone foundations and other indications of former settlement.
But we’ve told you about all the things a visitor can do other than eating and shopping, so we’ve been remiss.
These days, Hudson Valley Magazine considers Rhinebeck “a full-blown dining destination.” It doesn’t hurt that the famed Culinary Institute of America is just down the road in Hyde Park.
The Kroeg (Dutch for tavern) on East Market Street offers a variety of New York state microbrews and wines, and winery tours in the surrounding countryside are easy to find.
Food choices include the usual gourmet coffees and pastries needed to refuel after your trip south, and also more hearty fare ranging from the all-American omelets and burgers at East Market Street staple Pete’s Famous Restaurant to the fine cuisines of Asia: Japanese, Chinese and Indian are all represented on the village culinary scene.
For people who want an overnight getaway, Rhinebeck has a few bed-and-breakfast establishments and small hostelries like the Beekman Arms Hotel and Rhinebeck Inn. The Beekman Arms may be the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States, in business by 1802, and probably earlier. You can bend an elbow in a dining room where Aaron Burr dined.
The village is just 10 miles from the hotels and motels of Kingston, and less than 20 miles from similar facilities in the Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie and New Paltz areas.
State Route 9 is the best way to get to Rhinebeck from the state Thruway, using the spectacular Hudson River bridge crossing at Kingston. Once you’re heading south on Route 9, you’re not going to miss it.