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Best Of The Hudson Valley 2007 (Part 2)




Catch a Show


Dutchess CountyFair (above)


Place to See Men in Drag

Ghent Playhouse


The Columbia Civic Players — the community theater folks who perform at the Playhouse — like to do something special for the holidays. In the best tradition of the English pantomime — which incorporates song and dance with slapstick humor and mild sexual innuendo (including cross-dressing) — members of the group perform in December as the Pantoloons. Written by the troupe, their wacky theater pieces are often based on fairy tales, so they’re suitable for family audiences. This year, catch the Pantoloons in Hair Loom: Rapunzel and Rumplestiltskin in Dis-Tress (Nov. 23-Dec. 9). u518-392-6264; www.ghentplayhouse.org


Live Music Joint

The Chance


A Poughkeepsie landmark known far beyond the borders of the Valley, this popular nightspot continues to attract the best and brightest in the up-and-coming music scene. Stop by for some live action with performances by Unearth and Silverstein at the end of this month. u845-471-1966; www.thechancetheater.com


Summer Arts Festival

Bard SummerScape


What began as a (somewhat esoteric) classical music series has morphed into a full-fledged arts extravaganza. Now in its 18th year, the original Bard Music Festival continues to spotlight the work of an individual classical composer. SummerScape takes things a step further, with opera, cabaret, dance, and theater performances, as well as a film series and unusual shows for children. Held in the architecturally and acoustically renowned Fisher Center — and in the Spiegeltent, an Old World-inspired pavilion — this seven-week celebration is a boon to the region’s cultural calendar. u845-758-7900; www.fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape


Place to See Future Stars of Stage and Screen

Mac-Haydn Theatre


Since 1969, the Mac-Haydn has brought the best of Broadway to Columbia County’s cornfields. Now housed in an old doll-furniture factory, the summer theater also has attracted its share of first-rate talent before New York critics got wind of it. Famous alumni include Nathan Lane (à la The Producers and Birdcage); Paige Turco, of TV’s The Agency; and Joe Howard, star of the long-running PBS series MathNet. In addition to stars-to-be and hummable melodies, the parking has it all over Manhattan. u518-392-9292; www.machaydntheatre.org


Reason to Start Going to Concerts Again

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts


A far cry from the muddy melee that was Woodstock, this performance arena on the site of the famous 1969 festival is so well run, even a crowd-phobic can focus on the music. The grounds overlook pristine acres of glorious farmland; acoustics on the lawn (which seats 12,000 concertgoers) are almost as good as in the 4,800-seat pavilion; cheery servers run the many concession stands; and a multitude of uniformed staff mill about, waiting to be of help. Hey man, even the loos are clean! u866-781-2922; www.bethelwoodslive.org


Outdoor Venue for Plays/Concerts



Shakespeare rules! At least according to our readers, who love whiling away summer evenings on the grounds of this historic mansion and taking in the river views, as well as performances by the highly acclaimed Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. u845-265-3638; www.boscobel.org


Indoor Venue for Plays/Concerts

The Bardavon 1869 Opera House


This legendary theater, home of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, has hosted great performers for more than a century. But nobody feels old when today’s hot acts (don’t miss D.L. Hughley this month) roll on through. You can really appreciate the great acoustics when the famous Wurlitzer organ gets going. u845-473-5288; www.bardavon.org



Hudson Valley Philharmonic


Readers know that this local treasure is pitch perfect year after year. If you haven’t seen a performance yet, catch Metmania, a concert of great arias featuring soloists from the Metropolitan Opera (Oct. 13). u845-473-2072; www.bardavon.org/hvp.htm


Comedy Club

Bananas Poughkeepsie

These days, who couldn’t use a laugh? Well, you’ll get them — lots of them — at this local comedy mecca, which has been serving up jokes since 1986. With a steady string of up-and-comers, you never know when the next Chris Rock will cross the stage. Even comic veterans like Caroline Rhea still stop by, so you should, too. u845-462-3333; www.angelfire.com/comics/mikeirwin/


New Reason to Visit Monticello

Catch a Rising Star


This top national comedy showcase has helped launch comics like Jerry Seinfeld. Now they’ve opened an outpost in the Valley, where the jokes will flow every Friday night in a 250-seat venue at the Monticello Gaming & Raceway facility. The bill includes a major touring stand-up comic, as well as oldies and Top 40 music by pianist and drummer Brad Scribner (a Valley resident who’s played with everyone from the Band to James Brown) and vocalist Debbie Palmarini. u845-794-4100 ext. 494; www.catcharisingstar.com


Independent Movie Theater

Rosendale Theatre


Tony and Fannie Cacchio bought this circa-1900 vaudeville theater back in 1949, and have run it as a movie house ever since. Anyone annoyed by chattering, popcorn-scarfing audiences in the multiplex will find none of that nasty behavior in this 300-seat venue. After audiences recently complained about the gratuitous sex and violence that punctuates most modern Hollywood productions, the Cacchios decided to be more picky about the mainstream flicks they screen, and make up the deficit with foreign and independent films. Fannie still sells the tickets ($6); Tony, usually standing just a few feet away, tears them and greets you. u845-658-8989


Dinner Theater

Westchester Broadway Theatre


Billed as the longest-running, 52-week-a-year Equity theater in the state, its top-caliber performances have delighted audiences since 1974. For a fun, relaxing night (or matinee) out, first savor a full-course meal, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. u914-592-2222 www.broadwaytheatre.com


Funky Dinner Theater

Bodles Opera House


Opened in the 1870s, Bodles’ original venue truly was a small opera house. Today, patrons are welcomed into a former carriage factory-turned-nightclub. With its wood-plank floor, well-stocked bar, and great acoustics, you can enjoy a preshow meal or snack, then hear top-notch sounds to boot. Entertainment ranges from folk and blues to comedy, rock legends, and musical theater. u845-469-4595; www.bodles.com


The Great Outdoors


Golf Practice Range

Casperkill Golf Club


Famous golf-course architect Robert Trent Jones fashioned this beautiful course. But we’re most impressed with the family-friendly golf practice range. For as little as $49 a month, golfers have unlimited access to the practice area, including all the balls you can hit. This includes 22 stations to give your drivers a workout, chipping greens with bunkers, and a large putting green. No wonder Casperkill is renowned for inspiring the “Tiger” inside us all. u845-463-0900; www.casperkillgolf.com


Public Golf Course

McCann Memorial Golf Course


This local gem earned a four-star rating from Golf Digest. At more than 6,500 yards off the blue tees, with plenty of bunkers and water hazards to gobble up your slice, McCann challenges even the best shot-makers. u845-471-3917; www.mccanngolfcourse.com


Bike Trail

Hudson Valley Rail Trail


Big plans are afoot for this already popular 2.5-mile rail trail in Highland: The trails likely will be significantly extended by September 2009. But that’s no excuse to put off a great hike today. The trail is 25 feet wide, and with 12 feet paved to accommodate bikes and scooters, there’s even room for hooves for horseback riding. Available also: a new pavilion with hikers’ services and even an old railroad caboose. u845-691-8151


Ski Area

Hunter Mountain


With 57 trails and 240 acres of skiable slopes, this perennial reader favorite caters to schussers and snowboarders of every conceivable level. And when winter ends and the snow melts, the hiking, biking, concerts, and festivals keep Hunter hopping all year round. u1-800-486-8376; www.huntermtn.com



Bowdoin Park

Wappingers Falls

The Valley is chock-full of pretty parks, but readers agree this 301-acre beauty — located not far from Route 9 — rates the best. It’s got it all: stunning river views, miles of trails, a nice playground, sports fields, and a new bandshell and amphitheatre for concerts (with big-name performers like Peter Frampton and Kenny Loggins). u845-298-4600; www.co.dutchess.ny.us/CountyGov/Departments/DPW-Parks/PPbowdoin.htm


Place for a Picnic

Vanderbilt Mansion

Hyde Park

Picnic in style on the luxurious grounds of this Gilded-Age estate. Take a stroll through the expansive Italian Gardens, or find a comfy little overlook and watch the river roll by. Or sprawl out on the lawn, munch on your sandwich, and imagine living in a time gone by. u845-229-9300; www.vanderbiltmansion.com


Scenic Drive

Storm King Highway (Route 218)


Want to feel like you’re flying above the Hudson? Then this Orange County road is for you. Blasted out of solid rock in the 1920s, it dramatically hugs the sheer face of venerable Storm King Mountain. All that’s between you and careening into the river is a short stone wall. The Highlands views are sublime, and the twists and turns are fun to

maneuver. If you’re the driver, though, don’t even think about sightseeing.


Little-Known Ruins

South Cruger Island

near Tivoli

Lawyer and gentleman farmer John Church Cruger was eccentric, to say the least. He owned Cruger Island, a 56-acre island in the Hudson near Saugerties (it’s actually a peninsula), planted it with lush vegetation, and made it a showcase of natural beauty. In the 1840s, Cruger decided to make a live recreation of a painting by artist Thomas Cole, and had authentic Mayan stone ruins transported all the way from the Yucatan. Talk about impressing your dinner guests: After a meal at Cruger’s nearby home, guests were ferried to the island for a stroll through the torchlit ruins. The statuary is gone (to the American Museum of Natural History), but the ruins (now ruins of ruins) remain. What makes a visit a greater adventure is that you have to paddle to reach them (it takes under an hour from the Tivoli boat launch). uwww.ulster.net/~hrmm/tivolibays/ritchie/cruger.htm


Farm Trail

Marlborough Farm Trail


This self-guided rural adventure is the brainchild of a group of farmers and business owners in the picturesque Township of Marlborough (the area was settled back in 1694). Start with a breakfast at, say, a bakery/cafe, pick up a Farm Trail map, and hit the road. Stop at family farms, wineries, antiques shops and galleries of artists who create landscapes of the exact same spots you’re seeing. Then wrap up the day with dinner at a participating restaurant. u845-616-7824; www.meetmeinmarlborough.com


Pocket Park

Foundry Dock Park

Cold Spring

Scenic Hudson, which created the park, calls it a “small property with big views and important history.” You could walk around it in the time it takes to count to 10, but you won’t want to. Have a seat at one of the viewing stations offering great Hudson Highlands vistas. Enjoy the array of native trees and plants. Read the panels that explain the park’s past as a transportation link for the West Point Foundry, a prime 19th-century ironworks. Paddle off from the boat launch. All this — and a bathroom, too! u845-473-4440; www.scenichudson.org


Reason to Climb a Mountain

Bellvale Creamery


Great scenery and a personal sense of satisfaction are their own rewards. But after a climb up Mt. Peter you get to further reward yourself with an ice cream cone! Situated right at the summit, this family-owned ice cream stand (part of the Bellvale dairy farm, which dates back to 1819) serves up super fresh flavors like Bellvale Bog and Butterscotch Ripple to hikers traveling along the Appalachian Trail. If this doesn’t get the kids moving faster, nothing will. u845-988-1818; www.bellvalefarms.com/creamery.html


Thrill for Experienced Hikers

Rock Rift Trail, Mohonk Preserve

New Paltz

Here’s one trail where you’ll use your hands as much as your feet. It squeezes through shaded rock fissures, over boulders, and up ladders as it winds through a spectacular jumble of the Shawangunks’ trademark shale. Best of all, unlike other great Mohonk rock scrambles, you’ll likely have this one all to yourself — so nobody will think you’re crazy if you do this .2-mile course over and over again. u845-255-0919; www.mohonk-preserve.org


Trail to Spot a Bear

Huckleberry Point

near Tannersville

Yes, if you’re quiet (and lucky) you might spot one of Smokey’s cousins. We’ve never had such luck, but this little-known trail still delights us. The 4.5-mile round trip isn’t overly strenuous, and the view from the rocky promontory is one of the Catskills’ most breathtaking. And you won’t go home without seeing some wildlife — hawks and turkey vultures soaring off the cliffs are likely to give you a fly-by.


Water Park

Splash Down Beach


Whether you like to dog-paddle in a placid pool or prefer being cosseted like a wet dishrag, you’ll have a ball at Splash Down. Thrilling attractions include two water slides (Cowabunga Falls and Pirate’s Plunge); the winding tube ride Crocodile Creek; and Humunga Half-Pipe, which sends you sky-highward. Next to the wave pool there’s even a sandy beach, so you can work on your tan. u845-897-9600; www.splashdownbeach.com


Place to Wade in the Hudson

Kingston Point Beach


The water’s fine off this city-owned park. There’s always a steady breeze, the views are grand, and occasionally — after a large container ship passes — the waves are big enough for bodysurfing. The sand is perfect for sunbathing and castle-making, and if you get sick of lying around, there’s a playground and volleyball courts. u845-331-1682; www.ci.kingston.ny.us


New Walking Trail

Franny Reese Preserve


What’s so special about circumnavigating this park, named after famed environmentalist (and Scenic Hudson cofounder) Frances Reese? From its perch on the bluffs due south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, it affords nice views of the river and Poughkeepsie skyline; the trail isn’t too long (a bit over two miles); and much it meanders along an old carriage road, so it’s not terribly taxing. There are even some neat ruins to explore. Sounds like an autumn destination to us! 845-473-4440; www.scenichudson.org


Trail Ride

Bailiwick Ranch 


Get your 10-gallon hat and head off for a thrilling horseback ride at the former home of famed painter Everett Shinn. Bailiwick boasts 300 acres of private trails and direct access to 25,000 acres of state forest. Led by a knowledgeable, friendly guide, you can opt for everything from a one-hour trip to an all-day adventure. Best bet: the Sunset Dinner Ride — two hours on the trail followed by a country-style BBQ back at the ranch. u518-678-5665; www.bailiwickranch.com


Ice Skating Rink

Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain

The days of skating on the Hudson are long gone. The next best thing is taking a spin at Bear Mountain, where the rink is large enough for a real workout (plus the views are great, and the hot chocolate is tasty). Once your toes start to tingle, warm up by hopping aboard a beaver, eagle, or other Valley creature on the enclosed merry-go-round. u845-786-2701; www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/info.asp?parkID=55


Little-Known Public Garden



Ten acres of beautifully laid-out grounds surround the Georgian manor once inhabited by Chauncey Stillman, a 19th-century gentleman who evidently had a taste for the classical. Among the delights: an arborvitae allée 24 feet tall, a knot garden, a water garden, a belvedere, a peacock walk (complete with strutting birds), terraces, fountains, and statuary. If you want to escape the 21st century, take a picnic and spend the day. u845-373-8037




Place to Discover Modern Design



When you think of design and people named Wright, one’s mind gravitates to Frank Lloyd. But in the Valley, it’s Russel Wright whose home rightfully gets all the acclaim. The renowned industrial designer went all-out when creating his hillside retreat. Built on the lip of an abandoned quarry, the home and studio encompass 11 different levels and incorporate stones, logs, and even wildlife found on-site. But it’s the landscape that best shows off Wright’s skills. He spent 34 years sculpting this scarred acreage into idyllic woodland. Wright called the place Manitoga, Algonquin for “place of the great spirit.” Walk the trails, and you’ll discover how apt that name is. u845-424-3812; www.russelwrightcenter.org


New Museum

Hessel Museum at Bard College


Prepare to have your perceptions of art expanded when you visit the Hessel, which opened last year as an adjunct of the college’s Center for Curatorial Studies. Its rotating displays show off works by contemporary masters such as Donald Judd, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. Temporary exhibits often showcase artists whose challenging creations usually fill top-flight SoHo galleries. The museum’s large, light-filled spaces give the paintings and sculptures room to breathe. You might not always like what you see, but we guarantee you’ll be talking about it for some time to come. u845-758-7598; www.bard.edu/ccs


Sleeper Historic Site

Luykas Van Alen House


It’s far from the oldest dwelling in the Valley — it was constructed in 1737 — but it’s one of the best examples of a Dutch Colonial farmhouse. More important, the handsome brick structure is meticulously furnished to give visitors an idea of what 18th-century rural life was like. Combine it with a trip to the circa-1820 James Vanderpoel House, also owned by the Columbia County Historical Society, and you can consider it a day very well spent. u518-758-9265; www.cchsny.org


Floating Museum

U.S.S. Slater


During World War II, this destroyer escort battled U-boats and submarines. After a tow up the Hudson in 1997, she underwent a heroic restoration, performed largely by naval veterans, and was recently chartered as a museum. Moored on the river in downtown Albany, the ship’s events and tours provide a detailed view of her former mission — including radar simulations from the combat center — as well as the lives and duties of her wartime crew. u518-431-1943


Military Reenactment

Last Encampment of the American Revolution

New Windsor

Those yearning to hear the roar of muskets and the tramp of boots should be in New Windsor on October 27-28, when reenactors celebrate the 225th anniversary of the Continental Army’s final outpost. Military drills and demonstrations of camp routines will bring to life this historic site, where 7,000 men built 600 log huts in 1782. Here they waited, and grumbled, for nearly a year, until receiving word of a permanent end to warfare with Great Britain. There won’t be any grumbling from history buffs — these guys (and women too, portraying camp followers) really know their stuff. u845-561-1765; www.flagguys.com/lastencamp.html


Sculpture Garden You’ve Never Heard Of

The Fields Sculpture Park at Omi International Arts Center


It seems that Storm King Art Center grabs all the attention when it comes to local sculpture gardens. But about 80 miles away, this impressive sculpture park is also worth a visit. Dotted across 90 acres are ambitious, sophisticated works by internationally recognized artists. Approximately 10 new pieces are added each year. Stroll down the circular path, take a deep breath of beautiful Berkshire air, and open your eyes… and your mind. u518-392-2181




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