One of the great things about living in the Capital Region is its proximity to the mountainous glory of the Adirondacks. But sometimes a case of “been there, done that” gets you thinking about trying something new. When that inspiration hits, gas up the car and head south to Kingston for a little urban exploration.
Like many cities in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys, Kingston was once a vital port in the late-19th and early-20th centuries that suffered a downturn leading to empty storefronts and blight. Now, after years of revitalization and preservation efforts, the city has become a hotspot for hipsters and daytrippers.
There are dozens of historical landmarks, microbreweries for craft-beer lovers and the Ulster Performing Arts Center, which pulls in big talent that’s worth the drive. And fortunately it’s not a long drive. Kingston, the first capital of New York State, is only an hour from the current capitol in Albany.
Kingston has its own Stockade that’s both a residential and business district. You can stroll along Wall Street, the neighborhood’s main drag, to check out farm-to-table restaurants, boutiques, music venues and art galleries. In the warm months, the Kingston Farmers Market moves outside the Old Dutch Church, where headstones still dot the yard, though centuries of wear make it hard to read who layeth there.
After hitting both sides of Wall Street, venture off in either direction to the surrounding side streets, rich in stunning, diverse architecture and New York State history. Along with many 18th-century stone houses, you’ll find the Senate House on N. Front Street where the state’s original constitution was adopted in 1777. Stand at the intersection of John and Crown Streets where the stone buildings on each of the four corners were constructed pre-Revolutionary War. (History buffs: it’s said that there’s no other intersection in America that can make the same claim.) (Photo by Caroline Boardman: Kingston Farmers Market)
If you get a little peckish, there’s plenty to eat Uptown. Go to Diego’s Taqueria on John St. to sample their creative take on Mexican street tacos (try cauliflower) or to Duo Bistro on Wall St. for a fuller, slower-paced meal.
The Rondout-West Strand Historic District
Originally, the Strand was its own thriving maritime village on the Rondout Creek before becoming part of Kingston. It’s a quaint area of 19th-century buildings housing art galleries, restaurants and shops that cut a colorful slope down to a promenade along the water. This Hudson tributary is still open to river traffic if you want to sail down for the day and dock your boat at the Rondout Yacht Basin.
Sights to see include the Hudson River Maritime Museum, which features Mathilda, a 1898 tugboat with her original steam engine intact, dry docked in the yard. Tours of the Rondout Lighthouse--accessible only by boat--are also available through the museum.
Friends of Historic Kingston offer neighborhood walking tours on the last Saturday of the month at 1 p.m. leaving from 20 Broadway or by appointment (call 845-339-0720). Take a two-hour Hudson River cruise on the Rip Van Winkle, or book a private charter sailing excursion or lesson with Hudson Sailing.
Wrap up your day on the Mariner’s Harbor patio on the Rondout while you enjoy a meal from a huge menu of seafood (presumably caught elsewhere). If seafood isn’t your first choice, try Savona’s Trattoria or Ship to Shore. (Photo by Caroline Boardman: Yellow Fin Tuna Stack and Mozzarella Tower at Ship to Shore restaurant)
Historical sites along the way
Kingston is teeming with entries for a history lover’s itinerary, with landmarks from the pre-Revolutionary War era to the early-1900s. More than 20 sites are listed on The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, including these highlights near the Strand and Uptown Kingston:
Senate House (Photo: Ulster County Tourism)
Henry Sleight House in Uptown Kingston (Photo by Caroline Boardman)
Old Dutch Church in Uptown Kingston (Photo by Caroline Boardman)
For landmark information and locations, visit The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places.