The secret’s out on hip little Hudson, a charming and trendy enclave (pop. 6,200) fronting the Hudson River, some 120 miles north of NYC (and just an Amtrak train ride away). This is the countryside at its most chic, a sort of “Brooklyn north,” brimming with buzzing food-and-drink establishments; stylish hotels and design-forward boutiques; midcentury antique shops and modern art galleries; and high-caliber music and cultural venues, much of which comes clustered around the picturesque and walkable main drag, Warren Street.
Built upon the fine architectural bones of a once bustling 18th- and 19th-century river port city–turned–raucous 20th-century industrial center, Hudson's post-industrial decline in the late 20th century has been remarkably reversed over the course of the last few decades. Fast-developing and firmly gentrified, the community today is a bona fide hipster haven, a city of comparative affordability for priced-out New York City creatives and entrepreneurs who've planted their flags here. Find your own reasons to fall in love with this small riverside city.
Stroll Along Warren Street
Hudson’s epicenter is its photogenic main strip, the mile-long Warren Street, a window-shopper’s paradise. The colorful patchwork of 18th-through-early 20th-century structures (part of a protected historic district) comes packed with inviting and trendy mom-and-pop spots for dining, drinking, entertainment, and shopping. You’ll find loads of art galleries and antique shops here; options for gallery hopping and antiquing are so robust in Hudson, in fact, that they each warrant their own entry on this list (see below).
Among the eclectic array of boutiques, you’ll find options for clothing (try de Marchin for chic threads for men and women or Sideshow Clothing Co. for vintage duds), perfumes (2 Note), toys (The Bee’s Knees), furniture and home decor (Lili and Loo), jewelry (Ornamentum Gallery), and more.
Two quirky hybrid establishments are destinations in themselves: Hit up popular bar/bookshop combo Spotty Dog Books & Ale, featuring programming like live music and trivia nights, or try Flowerkraut, selling blooms alongside fermented vegetables.
A quick stroll down Warren Street, with some spillover into the waterfront warehouses, reveals Hudson as the truly world-class antiquing destination that is. With more than 60 antique shops throughout the city, hunting for antiques here is a sport all its own. In fact, the antique dealers who began setting up shop here in the 1980s, proliferating ever since thanks to a steady following of keen-eyed collectors and decorators, are oft credited with reviving Hudson and luring it out of its post-industrial economic decline.
Expect high-quality (and oftentimes high-priced) collectables and furnishings burrowed away in shops and stalls helmed by well-informed shopkeepers, with a special focus on midcentury modern and contemporary pieces. On Warren, antique boutiques that stand out in the crowd include Finch, for vintage furnishings, or newcomer Tom Swope Gallery, for antiquities. On the waterfront, you’ll find The Antique Warehouse, an antiques emporium that comes chockablock with antique-packed stalls.
Peruse Art Galleries
Alongside antiquing, Hudson is a mecca for gallery-goers – little wonder, given its history as an arts center dating back some two centuries when it attracted painters from the famed Hudson River School like Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church (both of whom resided within a few miles of town). You’ll find some three dozen art galleries gathered mostly along Warren Street today, a continuing testament to Hudson’s appreciation for the arts.
Some galleries to seek out include the Carrie Haddad Gallery, highlighting regional artists (it’s Hudson oldest existing gallery space, dating to 1991); John Davis Gallery, for contemporary works by emerging and established artists; and Stair Galleries, known for its live auctions.
Visit Olana State Historic Site
Speaking of art, no art aficionado can pass through Hudson without a visit to Olana, the onetime home and studio space of Frederic Edwin Church. Revered for his work with the 19th-century Hudson River School of American landscape painting, the hugely popular Olana State Historic Site is made up of Church’s Persian-inspired home (designed by architect Calvert Vaux) and 250 acres of landscaped grounds, which were designed by the artist himself and are considered to be one of his masterpieces. The Hudson River and valley views here, a tapestry of meadows, woodlands, an artificial lake, and an ornamental farm, may very well look familiar to fans of Church’s work, as they were immortalized in some of his paintings.
Just be sure to book house tours well in advance, as admission is via guided tour only. Inside, you’ll glimpse Church’s personal collection of furniture, artwork (including a few pieces of his own), and tapestries from around the globe, as well as his home studio.
Catch Some Live Music or Performing Arts
After dark, Hudson is just getting started, thanks to several top-notch music venues and event spaces. Multidisciplinary arts center Basilica Hudson is the brainchild of rocker Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins) and her husband, indie filmmaker Tony Stone. Occupying a reimagined industrial factory dating to the 1880s, the venue puts on diverse programming spanning music, film, literature, film, art exhibitions, and annual events like the weekend-long September music-and-arts fest, Basilica Soundscape, or the semiannual Basilica Farm & Flea, showcasing Hudson Valley artisans, farmers, and collectors. Another cultural heavyweight is music venue Club Helsinki Hudson, touting an eclectic lineup of live acts, with an adjacent Southern/soul food eatery and event space. It’s also set within a revamped 19th-century industrial space.
Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House dates to 1855 and contains New York State’s oldest surviving theater; it puts on a year-round schedule of cultural programming, including concerts, theater, dance showcases, exhibitions, readings, and more. Finally, Time & Space Limited (TSL) is worth visiting for arthouse film screenings and original theater productions.
Check Out the FASNY Museum of Firefighting
The interactive and engaging FASNY Museum of Firefighting is dedicated to all things firefighting and is a particular hit with families and history buffs. Educational and entertaining, you’ll find more than 60 types of firefighting apparatus on display, including numerous antique fire engines. Several exhibits invite hands-on exploration for children, including the Jr. Firefighter Challenge Course, complete with poles to slide down and ladders to climb, as well as designated fire trucks on which kids can dress up in firefighter gear and sit behind the wheel.
Sail Out to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse
Dating to 1874, the picturesque Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, built in the Second Empire architectural style, marks the northernmost lighthouse on the Hudson River and is still operating today. Perched on a river isle between Hudson and the small town of Athens just across the way, the lighthouse is accessible via guided seasonal boat tours – run in partnership between the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society and Hudson Cruises – that operate on the second Saturday of the month between July and October. Sailings leave from the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, which also offers a pleasant land-based vantage point to look out onto the lighthouse anytime of year.
Stock Up at the Hudson Farmers Market
The largest farmers market in Columbia County, the longstanding Hudson Farmers Market offers a selection of farm-fresh produce and artisanal products from more than 30 local vendors. Among the regional growers and producers, look out for a variety of stalls hocking veggies, fruits, herbs, eggs, meats, fish, nuts, mushrooms, baked goods and breads, honey, mushrooms, pickles, cut flowers, and more. The market runs on Saturdays (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) from late April through mid-November, at 6th Street and Columbia Street; it moves indoors (at 601 Union Street) on select Saturdays in off-season, too.