Out & About
Twirling tops, brassy music, and one cute redhead
By Polly Sparling
An orphan, a dog, and FDR
With its tuneful Charles Strouse score (“It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow”) and cast of memorable characters — from the cruel Miss Hannigan to FDR — Annie took Broadway by storm when it premiered in 1977, racking up seven Tony awards (including Best Musical). Based on the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip, this Depression-era tale of an ever-optimistic orphan girl and her dog Sandy has since been enjoyed by audiences in 14 countries. The current touring production of the show comes to Eisenhower Hall this month, just in time for the holidays. Here’s a show that both kids and parents can applaud. Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. Call for ticket prices. U.S. Military Academy campus,
The annual Woodstock Open House offers a warm winter welcome to residents and visitors alike. Now in its 26th year, this popular event features a variety of entertainers (including strolling carolers and other local musicians), an ice sculptor, lively window displays, and food treats. More than 70 stores and businesses host special events — everything from art shows and weaving demonstrations to wine and cheese tastings — which should make holiday gift shopping a breeze. Dec. 7 from 5-9 p.m. To find participating locations, look for those sporting red and white balloons. 845-679-5495.
Holiday Hoedown in Hudson
Another local burg that gets into the holiday spirit in a big way is the city of Hudson. Their annual Winter Walk on Warren Street is an outdoor holiday street fair, with Victorian carolers and horse-drawn carriages, live reindeer and stilt-walking toy soldiers, mulled cider and roasted chestnuts — even fireworks. Besides enjoying the performances of musicians, dancers, clowns and puppets, you can admire the city’s superbly designed 19th-century buildings as you stroll along the mile-long main street. Dec. 1 from 5-8 p.m. 518-822-1438 or www.hudsonoperahouse.org
Empire state of mind
At this time of year, concerts of holiday music are as numerous as glasses of eggnog. But the Empire Brass’s holiday show is one you shouldn’t miss. One of the foremost American brass ensembles, this versatile quintet has performed in Italian cathedrals and Broadway theaters, for classical-music audiences as well as young children (as guests on PBS’s Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood). The horn masters are joined by Douglas Majors, organist at Washington’s National Cathedral, in a festive concert at the acoustically superior Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. $15-$32. 30 Second St., Troy. 518-273-0038 or www.troymusichall.org
From Albany to Westchester, local historic sites offer glimpses of Christmas past
Get out your shopping list and head to the New York State Museum. Their Chocolate Expo and Holiday Gift Market affords visitors several ways to enjoy their favorite sweet treat (including a Cocoa Cafe and chocolate fountain). While enjoying music performed by the University Jazz Ensemble, you can browse through the market, which offers a wide variety of gift-worthy items including wine, artisanal cheeses, jewelry, pet products, soaps, and ornaments. Afterwards, step outside onto the Empire State Plaza for the annual Holiday Tree Lighting and Fireworks Festival, with music, ice skating, kids’ crafts, and other fun activities. Dec. 2. Expo and gift market 11 a.m.-5 p.m., festival 2-6 p.m. uEmpire State Plaza, Albany. 518-474-5877 or www.nysm.nysed.gov
In the tradition of the popular children’s book Where’s Waldo?, visitors to this year’s Capital Holiday Lights display are being asked, “Where’s Rudolph?” With more than 100 imaginative displays of glittering holiday lights, Rudolph certainly has his choice of hiding places — along Gingerbread Lane, in the Victorian Village, or even riding in a kayak with Santa. Drive — or take a carriage ride — through the displays, then visit the Lake House for refreshments, a craft show, and other surprises. Daily through Jan. 1. Sun.-Thurs. 6-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 6-10 p.m. $12 per car.
Although it doesn’t take place until next month, the Schuyler Mansion’s Salutations of the Season event celebrates the traditional Dutch holiday of Twelfth Night. Costumed interpreters, live music and dance, tasty goodies and wassail toasts make for authentic 18th-century merrymaking at one of the Capital Region’s best-known historic sites. Jan. 5 from 3-7 p.m. $6, $5 seniors & students, $1 children under 13. u32
Pruyn House, a circa-1830 country home built by a prosperous Dutchman, “goes green” for their holiday open-house weekend. The Blue Creek Garden Club festoons the building’s interior with greenery so that it looks the way it would have in Colonial times. The events include a holiday boutique on Saturday, and seasonal music and refreshments on Sunday. Dec. 1-2. Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 12:30-4 p.m. u207
, Newtonville. 518-783-1435.
Olana, the Moorish-influenced home of famed painter Frederic Church, celebrates the holidays in Mexican style. Church made wintertime trips to Mexico; this month’s tours of his house focus on his paintings of Mexican scenes, the objects he brought back from his trips, and the holiday traditions he would have experienced south of the border (Fri.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. throughout Dec.). The site also hosts its third annual Holiday Bonfire, set against sunset-kissed views of the Hudson (Dec. 8, 4 p.m.). Tour admission: $7, $5 seniors & students, under 12 free; there is no charge to attend the bonfire. u5720 Rte. 9G, Hudson. 518-828-0135.
At Staatsburgh, the 79-room “county home” of the well-to-do Mills family, they’re celebrating the holidays in Gilded Age style. Four Christmas trees, as well as period ornaments, floral arrangements, and other decorations, fill the mansion. Besides offering guided tours, the site hosts a children’s Holiday Whodunit, a solve-the-mystery event based on the 1907 wedding of Gladys Mills (Dec. 2, 9, 16 & 23, 1-4 p.m.; call for fees). Tours Dec. 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-24, 26-31 from 12-5 p.m., special evening hours Dec. 26, 6-8 p.m. $5, $4 seniors & students, under 12 free. uOld
, Staatsburg. 845-889-8851 or www.staatsburgh.org
Although their annual open house took place late last month, the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site will remain festively decked out until the new year. A variety of holiday trees are located throughout the 50-room Gilded-Age manse, and each is decorated with a certain theme — Mrs. Vanderbilt’s jewels, for instance — in mind. Guided tours daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $8, under 15 free. uAlbany
“Silver Christmas” is this year’s decorating theme at Wilderstein, the Victorian-era home of the Suckley family (Margaret “Daisy” Suckley was a close friend of FDR). Local florists, artists and designers weave their magic using seasonal greenery and fruit, period ornaments, and other grand decorations to make each of the mansion’s rooms shine (Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23 from 1-4 p.m.). At the annual Yuletide High Tea, savor traditional cakes and tea sandwiches while enjoying live holiday music (Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. $25, $10 children; includes tour). u330
, Rhinebeck. 845-876-4818 or www.wilderstein.org
The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Sites welcome holiday visitors with two open house events. At Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage retreat, you can enjoy refreshments while admiring the 1950s-style Christmas trimmings (Dec. 7, 6-9 p.m. Rte. 9G, Hyde Park). Around the corner at Springwood, FDR’s lifelong home, the decorations are from the war years; a Roosevelt impersonator will read from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Dec. 8, 6-9 p.m. Rte. 9, Hyde Park). u1-800-FDR-Visit or www.historichydepark.com
Children and adults alike get into the holiday spirit at Locust Grove. Self-guided tours of the elaborately decorated home of painter/inventor Samuel F.B. Morse take place on weekends throughout the month. On Sunday afternoons, the little ones can take part in a “holiday hunt” through the 25-room house. They’ll search for stockings, sugar plums, and other items listed in the famous poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” And there’s cider and cookies for everyone. Sat.-Sun. from Dec. 1-23. Tours 1-4 p.m., children’s holiday hunt Sun. at 1:30, 2:30, & 3:30 p.m. $9, $5 children under 12 for tours; $7 children for holiday hunt. u2683
Built in 1732, Cornelius Van Wyck’s Dutch-style farmhouse was put to use during the Revolutionary War as the headquarters for Colonial officers. Today, the site is known as the Van Wyck Homestead Museum. A holiday open house features festive music, entertainment, children’s activities, and refreshments for all. Dec. 27 from 6:30-9 p.m.
(at the junction of Rte. 9 & I-84), Fishkill. 845-896-9560.
Create a cornucopia centerpiece for your holiday table at Mount Gulian’s Holiday Workshop (Dec. 2 at 12 p.m. $30, reservations required). The site also holds candlelight tours of the gaily decorated house (Dec. 16 from 4-7 p.m., Dec. 18-20 from 1-5 p.m.). And the youngsters are invited for a fancy Christmas Victorian Tea over the school break (Dec. 27 from 12-2 p.m.; reservations required). Call for fees. u145
, Beacon. 845-831-8172 or www.mountgulian.org
Even longtime Valleyites may not realize that the city of Newburgh has the largest historic district in all of upstate New York. For the holidays, the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands sponsors a Candlelight House Tour of this unique area.
The self-guided tour begins at the circa-1830s Capt. David Crawford House, an opulent home decorated with fresh greens, flowers, and fruits. Participants can stroll through at least a dozen other houses representing several different time periods. Dec. 9, 12-5 p.m. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. u189
. 845-561-2585 or www.newburghhistoricalsociety.com
A trio of yuletide events start the holiday season at the Horace Greeley House. The New Castle Historical Society (which uses the circa-1854 house as its headquarters) hosts an open house and tours; at the Victorian Craft workshop, children (and adults) can create crafts and ornaments to give as holiday gifts. The annual tree lighting ceremony — and a visit from a certain jolly old elf — caps off the day. Dec. 1. Tours and workshop begin at 1 p.m., tree lighting at 4:30 p.m. u100 King St., Chappaqua. 914-238-4666.
An 18th-century Dutch farmstead, Van Cortlandt Manor’s celebrations center around the traditional Dutch holiday of Twelfth Night. A harpist serenades you as you tour through the house, which is festooned with greens and fruits. At the nearby Ferry House, you’ll hear about Twelfth Night traditions, meet the Lord of Misrule, dance to fiddle music, and toast the season with cider near a blazing bonfire. Dec. 21-22 & 28-30 from 4-8 p.m.; reservations highly recommended. $12, $10 seniors, $6 children 5-17, under 5 free. uS.
(off Rte. 9), Croton-on-Hudson. 914-631-8200, ext. 618 or www.hudsonvalley.org
Washington Irving’s romantic riverside home Sunnyside welcomes holiday visitors to their evening candlelight tours. Decorated with greenery and candles, the circa-1850s house will resonate with the sounds of favorite Christmas carols being played on Irving’s own pianoforte (feel free to sing along). Afterwards, enjoy hot cider outdoors next to a roaring bonfire. Dec. 8-9 & 15-16 from 4-8 p.m.; reservations highly recommended. $12, $10 seniors, $6 children 5-17, under 5 free. uW.
(off Rte. 9),
The Rockland County Historical Society hosts two popular holiday events this month. On the 9th, costumed docents conduct candlelight tours of the 1832 Jacob Blauvelt farmhouse, which is festooned with greens and filled with 19th-century music (4-6 p.m., $10, $5 children). Now in its 32nd year, the popular Miniature and Dollhouse Show is a whimsical display of pint-sized real estate and related items sure to intrigue children and adults alike. Tues.-Sun. 12-4 p.m. through Jan. 27. $6, $3 under 12. u20
. 845-634-9629 or www.rocklandhistory.org
One of the region’s best-known holiday events, the Candlelight Tours at Boscobel are a yuletide tradition for many. The house museum is bedecked with hundreds of lighted candles as well as an assortment of greens and other natural decorations, and classical music fills each room. Visitors enjoy fruitcake and a toast from the wassail bowl at the end of their tour (Dec. 14-16, 5-8 p.m. $14, $12 seniors, $10 children 6-14). Docent-led daytime tours feature descriptions of holiday entertainments during the Federal period (Dec. 14-31 except Dec. 18 & 25. 10 a.m.-3:15 p.m. $10, $9 seniors, $7 children). Want to decorate your own abode in the Boscobel style? Attend a one-day Holiday Decorating Workshop, during which you’ll make a festive item to take home (Dec. 1-2, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $50, reservations required). u1601 Rte. 9D, Garrison. 845-265-3638, ext. 115 or www.boscobel.org