From Native Americans to colonists and now tourists, the draw of the idyllic Hudson Valley — a fertile region spilling over the banks of the Hudson River, just north of New York City — has always been intrinsically tied to the generous bounty of its land. With rich soil, a farm-to-table movement that's devoid of trend but is simply status quo, and an assortment of talented chefs that wouldn't be out of place in any buzzy big-city kitchen, the agricultural output here is easily some of the best in the Northeast. A locavore culinary culture thrives in everything from farmers' markets to food festivals to pick-your-own farms, while a craft-spirits scene (fueled by recently eased legislation) is booming alongside centuries-old wineries. Hungry yet?
Good. Pack your appetite and set out to indulge your palate with our mouthwatering guide to the best things to eat and drink while visiting the Hudson Valley.
It just doesn't get fresher than picking your own fruits and veggies straight from their source, and plenty of Hudson Valley "you-pick" farms and orchards welcome the public to indulge their inner farmer at whim. From spring through fall, the Hudson Valley harvest calendar puts forth a kaleidoscopic bounty – from berries to apples, peaches to pumpkins (and beyond).
Favorites for not just picking an assortment of seasonal produce, but for all sorts of diversions (think petting zoos and corn mazes), include Kelder's Farm in Kerhonkson or Hurds Family Farm in Modena. Among other popular you-pick farms: DuBois Farms in Highland; Dressel Farms in New Paltz; and Wrights Farm in Gardiner. For some of the very best apple picking (with a side of the requisite apple cider, pie, and cider doughnuts), don't overlook the fully organic Westwind Orchard in Accord; Weed Orchards & Winery in Marlboro; Soons Orchards in New Hampton; or Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction.
Buh-bye Budweiser — in the Hudson Valley, there's zero excuse for sipping on a subpar beer. With deep roots tied to brewing, regional craft breweries are once again on the rise, as evidenced by a burgeoning beer trail marked by miles and miles of innovative brewmasters and their grade-A suds on tap. Many Hudson Valley microbreweries come with atmospheric taprooms (ranging from old barns to converted factories), scenic countryside views, tasty brewpub fare, and weekend events like live music.
Some essential critics' picks and locals' favorites worth raising a glass to include: Industrial Arts Brewing Company in Garnerville; Suarez Family Brewery in Livingston; Plan Bee Farm Brewery or Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie; Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon; Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill; Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford; Rushing Duck Brewing Company in Chester; Keegan Ales in Kingston; Arrowood Farm Brewery in Accord; Rough Cut Brewing Company in Kerhonkson; Sloop Brewing in Elizaville; and Newburgh Brewing Company in Newburgh.
You could amble about the Hudson Valley's bucolic back roads, happening upon roadside farm stands as they crop up, but for the best and biggest selection of local farm fare, compiled all in one place, the valley's prolific farmers' markets can't be beat. Best of all, these outdoor, pop-up marketplaces double as community gathering points, offering you not just a delicious, farm-fresh shopping opportunity, but a chance to participate in an authentic, family-friendly slice of local life.
Some of the region's finest farmers' markets, each with their own personality, include: Kingston Farmers' Market (Saturdays); Rhinebeck Farmers' Market (Sundays); Beacon Farmers' Market (Sundays); and Warwick Valley Farmers' Market (Sundays, in Warwick). (Just be sure to check seasonal schedules before setting out, as not all markets are run on a year-round basis.)
Hudson Valley wine country claims deep viticultural roots as one of the first wine-producing regions in the nation, and still today turns out a respectable mix of reds and whites, alongside special fruit and sparkling wines.
The best bets for tippling? Try Benmarl Winery in Marlboro for year-round events, scenic views, and wines sourced from America's oldest vineyard (the vines here date back to 1845); the atmospheric Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, the oldest operating winery in the U.S., founded in 1839; Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery in Gardiner for its state-of-the-art winemaking facility and well-crafted vegan wines; and Millbrook Vineyards & Winery in Millbrook for its huge rolling estate and spacious tasting room. Notably, 15 of the region's best-reputed vineyards (including the three cited here, apart from Millbrook) come strung along the scenic Shawangunk Wine Trail, a dedicated wine trail of collaborating wineries, wedged between the Hudson River and Shawangunk Mountains.
The Hudson Valley is known for its iconic apple orchards and with it, cideries. A colonial era-favorite, hard cider is enjoying nearly as much of a renaissance in the Hudson Valley nowadays as microbreweries and distilleries are. It's little wonder: Apple picking and apple pies are great, of course, but there's nothing quite like a swig of this tasty apple-based fermented beverage to feel like your sipping straight from the source in this storied apple-growing region.
Whether you're craving sweet or dry, spiced, barrel-aged, hopped, or iced, these regional cideries are among the best of the bunch: Brooklyn Cider House at Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz; Bad Seed Cider Company in Highland; and Aaron Burr Cidery in Wurtsburo. There's also a tasting room for major player Angry Orchard – America's largest hard cider company – that's based in Walden.
Happily, the Hudson Valley agricultural scene includes a delicious dairy element, as well, as manifested by some of its standout ice cream shops. Don't miss Boice Bros. Dairy in Kingston (where you can also get fresh milk and other dairy products); Moo Moo’s Creamery in Cold Spring; Joe’s Dairy Bar in Hopewell Junction; Holy Cow in Red Hook; Bellvale Farms Creamery in Warwick; and Nancy's of Woodstock's Artisanal Creamery in Woodstock.
Get your savory dairy fix and locals'-favorite cheese shops, showcasing a lip-smacking mix of locally crafted cheeses (along with international and domestic imports) like The Big Cheese in Rosendale or Cheese Louise in Kingston. Look out for locally produced gems lining the shelves like camembert from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company (based in Old Chatham) or varieties of chevre from Nettle Meadow Farm (based in Warrensburg). For the ultimate in cheesy indulgence, you can visit – or better yet, book a stay at – Sprout Creek Farm, a working farm and creamery in Poughkeepsie that offers family-friendly stays geared toward hands-on learning about the cheese-making process (and more).
Within the greater booze boom of the Hudson Valley, distilled spirits are no exception, with locally produced bourbons, gins, vodkas, and more all the rage. These buzz-worthy craft distilleries offer tours and/or samples of their standout, small-batch spirits: try Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner; Dutch's Spirits in Pine Plains; Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon; Orange County Distillery in Goshen; Hudson Valley Distillers in Clermont; or Catskill Distilling Company in Bethel.
Can't decide on just one? Choose instead to sample a wide selection of regionally crafted spirits (along with local wine, cider, and beer by the glass) at the Farm Bar at Gardiner Liquid Mercantile in Gardiner, which is dedicated to showcasing the Hudson Valley's craft beverage scene, one delicious glass at a time.
A Little Bit of Everything
Just can't decide what to try? We don't blame you. Luckily, the Hudson Valley thrives on its rotating roster of annual festivals, many of which — predictably for this food-obsessed region — center upon good eats. Gourmands can up the appetizing ante of a visit here by timing their stay to sync up with one of the region's biggest annual food festivals.
Foodie favorites include the Putnam County Wine & Food Fest in Patterson (August); the Blueberry Festival in Ellenville (August); Hudson Valley RibFest in New Paltz (August); the Bagel Festival in Monticello (August); Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest in Rhinebeck (September); Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties (September/October); and Rosendale International Pickle Festival in Rosendale (in November).