The Rip Van Winkle Bridge connecting Columbia and Greene counties can also be a stepping off point for road trips for history buffs and shopaholics:
The Presidential Road Trip
This is an ambitious undertaking, visiting the homesteads of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park and Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook. A century separated the presidents, No. 32 and 8, respectively; their historic sites are just an hour’s drive apart via Routes 9 and 9H.
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, Hyde Park
The home and the library are in close proximity on Albany Post Road (Route 9), part of a 300-acre site. The home, called Springwood, was where FDR was born and would retreat to for rest and relaxation. Furnished as he left it in 1945, it is overseen by the National Park Service.
The FDR Library was the country’s first presidential library, a concept Roosevelt saw as important for safekeeping presidential documents and artifacts. It was built on his Hyde Park estate with money raised by a nonprofit corporation, and was turned over to the federal government in 1940. The library is overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Hours: Both the home and the library are open seven days a week but closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Tours of the home are conducted by park rangers; library tours are self-guided.
Fees: A $20 joint pass to the home and library is offered; the ticket is good for two consecutive days at the library.
Of note: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt has her own national historic site, located nearby on Route 9G, known as Val-Kill.
Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Kinderhook
The Van Buren estate, called Lindenwald, is located on Old Post Road (Route 9H) just outside the village of Kinderhook. Van Buren began assembling the parcels of land in 1839 before losing re-election as president the following year. After failed attempts to regain the presidency in 1844 and 1848, he returned to Lindenwald as a gentleman farmer.
From Van Buren’s original 225 acres, the historic site now occupies nearly 13 acres. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service: Lindenwald, originally built in 1797, underwent a series of renovations after Martin Van Buren moved into the home in 1842.)
Hours: From mid-May to October, the home is open for tours on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. In November, four daily tours are offered on weekends only; weekend tours also occur from mid-April to mid-May. The grounds are available for walking year-round from 7 a.m. to sunset.
Fees: No fee is charged to enter or tour the home, but visitors must register for a tour at the visitor’s center.
Of note: President Franklin Roosevelt, asked by local groups to make sure Lindenwald was preserved, directed a study by the National Park Service that concluded in 1936 that it had national significance as a historical site. Its national designation did not occur until 1974.
The Shopping Road Trip
The county seats of Hudson and Catskill offer an eclectic mix of commerce and architecture. The shopping scene in Hudson is more robust, comparable to downtown Saratoga Springs. But don’t miss seeing the fiberglass sidewalk cats in Catskill.
City of Hudson
Main drag: Warren Street
Useful website: visithudsonny.com, an initiative of the Hudson Business Coalition. Helpful tabs direct you to “shop,” “eat/drink,” “stay,” etc.
Shops: You name it. The shopping directory on Visit Hudson’s website offers more than 200 “results,” running the gamut from antiques to books to galleries to apparel (new and vintage). There’s even a millinery for one-of-a-kind hats.
Of note: The restaurant Mexican Radio, born in New York City, came to Warren Street in Hudson in 2003, a decade before it opened on State Street in Schenectady in 2014. The inaugural restaurant, in Lower Manhattan, closed in 2017, after 21 years.
Village of Catskill
Main drag: Main Street
Useful website: buyingreene.com/buy-in-greene/where-to-shop, an effort of Greene County government and others, has a wider berth than Visit Hudson, although you can narrow the field a bit by clicking on “View by Region” and selecting Catskill. The listings are alphabetical and take in more than just Main Street.
Shops: Gifts, games, books, galleries, home furnishings, and even an independent movie theater featuring first-run films on two screens in a former 1920s vaudeville house.
Of note: Cat’n Around Catskill, an annual fundraiser sponsored by the Heart of Catskill Association, features colorful, whimsical fiberglass cats created by juried artists for local sponsors. They spend Memorial Day to Labor Day around the town and village of Catskill – many of them on Main Street – before being auctioned off in mid-September to
benefit nonprofits. This is the project’s 12th year; 50 cats are on display.