TRAVEL 2023 – Whether it’s a day of antiquing, a few hours enjoying the beauty of the many hiking trails or a night of sampling the culinary fare offered at local restaurants, Columbia County has a great deal to offer visitors for either a weekend getaway or a quick day trip.
Columbia County was created in 1786 and is named for famed explorer Christopher Columbus. Located 35 minutes from Albany and a mere two hours from New York City, the county offers many pleasant day-trip opportunities, as well as a weekend escape filled with possibilities.
“Columbia County is an easy reach from the Capital District and we’re closer than many people think,” said Ann Cooper, administrator of the Columbia County Tourism Department. “Depending on what someone is looking to do, the county offers an abundance of natural scenic beauty, charming villages and towns, outdoor recreation, historic landmarks, artisanal beverage makers, festivals and much more. Nine times out of 10, what’s of interest to somebody, the county has it. The Capital District should consider heading just a tad south to create an adventure.
“Just a sampling of what the county offers tourists include the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Olana State Historic Site, the Catamount Mountain Resort, Mac-Haydn Theatre, Hudson Hall, Lake Taghkanic State Park, Lebanon Valley Raceway, five-star restaurants, scenic hiking and biking trails — our options are endless,” Cooper added.
We couldn’t possibly outline everything offered within Columbia County, but there are several things you should check out if you visit the county that offers not only rolling hills and breathtaking vistas but a vibrant city in its county seat of Hudson.
Antique till you drop
In 2021, Country Living magazine named Hudson Valley towns the best places for antiquing — and that includes Columbia County. Below is a sampling of some places to visit while in the area.
The Antique Warehouse, opened in 2014 at 99 South Front St. in Hudson, boasts 40,000 square feet, the largest antique and vintage shop in the northeastern United States. They cover every style and period of furniture, lighting, architectural salvage and decorative accessories. It’s worth hours of browsing.
The Hudson Mercantile at 202 Allen St. in Hudson offers 10,000 square feet of not only whimsy and fine antiques but artwork by local artists. Email [email protected] for hours of operation.
With more than 30 years of experience in the antique, decorative arts and estate jewelry fields, Beaver Mill Antiques, located at 3045 Main St. in Valatie, offers many treasures including estate jewelry and unique vintage pieces. They also buy silver, gold and other jewelry.
For something a little different, visit the Hillsdale General Store on Route 23, an old-time country emporium offering home goods and gifts as well as vintage finds. Across the street is the HGS Home Chef, which features two teaching kitchens that provide cooking classes and host special events, both in person and via Zoom. The kitchen store also features an extensive cookbook selection as well as a selection of cookware, tools and gadgets for home chefs.
Enjoy the outdoors
Beebe Hill and Harvey Mountain State Park will provide visitors with 30 miles of multi-use trails, open to hiking and other recreation, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Trails can be accessed from various parking areas and lead to highlights of a state forest, including two lean-tos.
Harvey Mountain is the highest elevation in Columbia County at 2,065 feet and also boasts a lean-to for overnight camping along the trail. The park that the mountain is in offers vacationers paddling and horseback riding opportunities. The state forest is approximately seven miles west of the Taconic Parkway on New York State 23 in the town of Austerlitz.
Twenty-six miles long, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail extends north from the hamlet of Wassaic to Copake Falls — and has been growing steadily. The most recent segment extends the trail for downtown Millerton north, and into and past the Webatuck Creek watershed to Copake Falls.
Much of the rail trail is along abandoned rail bed sections. In some places you can see former railroad stations and other relics of the past. You can bike or stroll along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, or hike to Bash Bish Falls just over the Massachusetts border.
Taconic State Park is located along 16 miles of the Taconic Mountain Range, sharing a border with Connecticut and Massachusetts. Two developed areas, Rudd Pond and Copake Falls, offer an extensive trail system and spectacular views. There are plenty of activities for both campers and day visitors to enjoy the oldest state park in the Taconic Region.
Stop at the newly created Copake Iron Works Museum to learn about the iron industry at the former site of the Copake Iron Works from 1845. Copake Falls offers swimming opportunities at a designated swimming area, with a dock in Ore Pit Pond and at the adjacent kiddie pool.
High Falls, Philmont
The High Falls Conservation Area in Philmont includes a mile of trails that wind through hemlock ravines alongside the Agawamuck Creek (“Creek of Many Fish” to the Native Americans) and to an overlook of Columbia County’s highest waterfall at 150 feet — aptly named “High Falls.” At the base of the falls is a large pool ideal for swimming on hot days. Seating is available at the overlook and at a bench along the Agawamuck Trail. There are a total of 1.5 miles of hiking trails within the High Falls Conservation Area. The Agawamuck Creek is incredibly beautiful as it cascades down the hillside. At the end of the official trail you’ll come to a large bonus waterfall in the park.
Browse a bookstore
For rainy days, there is always a bookstore to lose yourself in.
The Chatham Bookstore, located at 27 Main St. in the village, is celebrating 40 years of providing not only contemporary and classic reads but also a special section just for kids with a large selection of art supplies, crafts, puzzles, toys and gift items. Bookstore employees are well-versed on what is available in the store and are prepared to help with your selection.
The Little Red Book Shack on Route 9 in Livingston features more than 20,000 books and 5,000 LPs/ movies. The store is open mid-April through mid-October, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. (also in July and August, Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.). The Shack actually consists of four buildings plus a special music room — selling used books, records (vinyl LPs), comic books, CDs, DVDs, postcards and childrens’ books.
A bookstore that serves beer? Yes! The Spotty Dog Books & Ale on Warren Street in Hudson does both. They don’t just serve beer — they have a large selection of 12 hand-crafted ales from many known and lesser-known brewers. The store carries more than 10,000 new books in all categories, including a large section of unique books and toys for children, preteens, an expanded local section, history, gardening, food and wine, and more.
History and art
Some of the most beautiful places to visit in Columbia County offer both indoor and outdoor options, as well as plenty of history and art.
The Ruins at Sassafras in New Lebanon is the home of the former Shaker Second Family settlement, one of five Shaker settlements in the area, along with the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
While visiting the Ruins you can travel by foot or golf cart to see what is left of the settlement, the graveyard and other artifacts. The Ruins at Sassafras offers gardens, waterfalls and forests to peruse. Tours are available April through December on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; admission is free. You must contact the Ruins to make a reservation by emailing [email protected].
There are also three buildings that are available for stays: the Stone House, the Caretaker’s Cottage, and the Smokehouse.
Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, located on Shaker Road in Lebanon, offers free admission. Self-guided tours and use of the pasture and hiking trail are always free for all visitors every day. Note that the terrain is uneven and of varying inclines; appropriate footwear is recommended. Email [email protected] for hours of operation.
The Fields Sculpture and Architecture Park at Art Omi consists of 120 acres of sculpture, a contemporary art gallery and arts education programming. The sculpture park can be walked through year-round, traversing grassy fields, forested paths, hills and footbridges. Be prepared with sturdy footwear to enjoy the grounds. The Art Omi Arts Center also features a 1,500-square-foot gallery.
Art Omi is free of charge, but visitors are strongly encouraged to register their visit in advance. The Sculpture and Architecture Park is open daily from dawn to dusk year-round. The Benenson Center, housing the Newmark Gallery, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from April 1 to Oct. 1. Man’s best friend — your family dog — is welcome to join you, but there are seasonal leash regulations and you must register for a dog pass or else your furry friend may not be able to join you.
Olana was the home of Frederick Edwin Church, one of the preeminent American artists of the 19th century. Located on Route 9G in Hudson, Olana was designed as a holistic environment integrating Church’s loves of art, architecture, landscape design and environmental conservation. The 250-acre site is also home to a Persian-inspired home you can tour. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Tours are Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, also known as Cedar Grove, is in the village of Catskill and is a National Historic Landmark that includes the home and the studio of painter Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of American painting. It’s open Friday from 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday from 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 9:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the grounds is free, but tours are purchased through ticket sales.
Hudson River Skywalk
The Hudson River Skywalk is a six-mile, round-trip pedestrian walkway connecting Olana and the Thomas Cole Site via the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. It offers scenic and sweeping views of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills. It includes the city of Hudson and the village of Catskill, which both offer historic downtowns, restaurants, art galleries and shopping. It’s perfect for a day trip; just make sure you budget time to do the round-trip walk as well as touring the historic sites.
Movie or play — or both
Two of the best places to see a movie or a play are located in the village of Chatham.
The Crandall Theatre on Main Street is the oldest and largest single-screen movie theater in Columbia County. The historic 1926 moviehouse was added to the National and State Registers of Historic Places in 2017. Tickets for the Crandall featured movies can be purchased online or in person.
The Crandall is home to Film Columbia, an annual 10-day festival held in October that features films representing major studios, independent and international films, animated clips, documentaries and children’s short films.
Founded to preserve musical theater as one individually American theater form, the Mac-Hayden Theatre in Chatham is home to high-quality professional musical theater. Actor Nathan Lane played several featured roles here before moving on to critical acclaim on Broadway. For ticket information about the 2023 season, visit Mac-Hayden’s website at machaydntheatre.org.
Tour a lighthouse
The Hudson Athens Lighthouse is an opportunity for you to learn about the role the Hudson River played in the development of the upper Hudson River towns and in the safe navigation of river transportation. To travel to the lighthouse you must take a ferry, but admission and a guided tour are included in the cost. Snacks and drinks are available during the short ride. Tours leave from the Hudson city dock behind the gazebo at the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Reservations are made through catskillmountainferry.com.
There are many places to enjoy repast in Columbia County. We have included a few that also feature kid-friendly choices and outdoor seating, if that’s what you prefer.
Lil’ Deb’s Oasis on Columbia Street in Hudson serves what they call “tropical comfort food” because warmth, nourishment and connection are at the core of what they do — they are also known for adding large amounts of butter to what they call their “high-intensity, lime-juicy, fish-saucy dishes.” It is also brightly colored and casual — a great place for less formal meals. For information, email [email protected].
Local 111 on Main Street in the village of Philmont is housed in a former service station. The restaurant is known for its spiced sweet potato salad, Li’L Lamb Pie and aged cheddar risotto, to name just a few dishes. Local 111 boasts a commitment to using local produce and providing excellent food and drink at prices accessible to everyone. Make reservations online or via email at [email protected]
Blue Plate on Kinderhook Street in Chatham declares itself an American bistro with “international implications.” Its menu features such items as mussels, grilled trout, bacon-topped meatloaf or shitake mushroom risotto. There is a children’s menu and a piano bar downstairs with specialty cocktails. Call 518-392-7711 for information.
Baba Louie’s in Hudson is family-friendly with outdoor seating. It is best known for its sourdough pizza. It also offers daily homemade pasta and soup offerings. Call the restaurant at (413) 528-8100 for information.
Wine, beer or whiskey?
The Hudson-Chatham Winery located on Route 66 in Ghent was Columbia County’s first winery, established in 2006. A former dairy farm in the 1790s, the winery grows hybrid varieties such as Seyval Blanc, Baco Noir, Chelois, Chambourcin, Dechanauc, Burdin and Le Colonel, which are ideal for growing in New York state.
The winery is owned by chefs who are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in Napa Valley. In 2020, the farm winery introduced an apiary and 40 French Maran chickens. Walk-ins are welcome for tastings or a bottle. The Clermont Café serves lunch, dinner and snacks that feature the bounty of the Hudson Valley.
Guided wine tastings are by reservation only. The Hudson-Chatham Winery is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Kids and leashed pets are welcome.
The Sabba Estate Vinyard in Old Chatham is a small, family-run vineyard. Located on Pitts Road in Old Chatham, the vineyard is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. There is food on site, mostly via food trucks, with live music every weekend during the summer, free parking and a fire pit. Dogs and kids are welcome, and while you are there you can enjoy the scenery, which includes a sculpture garden and swing set. Visit www.sabbavineyard.com for information about tasting, food and music schedules.
Chatham Brewing, located on Main Street in the village of Chatham, offers several local brews including porters, an apricot wheat and IPAs, among others. Food includes burgers, mac and cheese and other offerings. They feature indoor and outdoor seating but do not take reservations — they are on a first-come, first-served joint. Chatham brewers have won many awards for their beer offerings.
The Hudson Brewing Company is just a short walk from the Amtrak station in Hudson. They offer 12 flowing taps, seasonal offerings, New York state craft cocktails and a selection of New York wines. The taproom is open to children and dogs, and has indoor and outdoor seating. For information, visit hudsonbrew.com.
The Cooper’s Daughter Spirits at Olde York Farm is a woman-owned and family-operated distillery, cooperage and apple orchard. Located 10 minutes from the city of Hudson in Claverack, the distillery and cooperage are in a historic carriage house. Local grain, fruit botanicals and tree syrups are the foundation for the seasonal spirits. Barrels are handmade on site and are used to age bourbon and whiskey. The distillery is open weekends for drinks, and food truck pop-ups are located in the cocktail garden. The cocktail barn and garden is open year-round, Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 pm. Tastings are encouraged — email [email protected] for information.
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Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Travel 2023