20 Hidden Hudson Valley Landmarks

The 20 places detailed here often fly under the radar. Not for long: we’re pretty sure you’ll want to add most of them to your must-do list

We all know about the dozens of high-profile attractions, historic hot spots, and top-notch restaurants in our region. But there are also lots of wonderful places that have — at least so far — flown mostly under the radar. Here, we outline 20 spots, from a campy cabaret show to a little-known Indian food gem, that you’ll want to add to your must-do list.

grafton peace pagoda

Grafton Peace Pagoda


Tucked away on a dirt road in the woods about 20 miles east of Troy, the Grafton Peace Pagoda seems an unlikely sight: a white domed building with stairs ascending to a gleaming statue of the Buddha surrounded by gardens, a temple, and a pond. Though many locals don’t even know it’s there, the pagoda has been steadily drawing visitors from around the world since it was completed in 1993 after eight years of volunteer efforts. A monument to cultural understanding and non-violence, the structure is one of only two such buildings in the entire country (the other is near Amherst, Massachusetts), with 80 in the world. The project was organized by Tokyo-born Jun Yasuda, a Japanese Buddhist nun who has been called the “Mother Teresa of the long-distance walking prayer” because of her many on-foot, cross-country journeys to raise awareness for peace. She got the idea for this monument after a local landowner donated a parcel to her monastic order. All are welcome to visit year-round from sunrise to sunset, with daily prayer services from 5-6:30 a.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. There are also scheduled events, such as the pagoda’s anniversary, which is always celebrated with music and dance performances near Gandhi’s birthday (October 2). The Peace Walk for Earth and Life is coming up on March 2-15 and will make a brief stop in New York City before heading on to D.C. Anyone can join along the way for any amount of time. Since 2002, Yasuda and marchers have walked from the pagoda to New York City to commemorate September 11. 518-658-9301; www.graftonpeacepagoda.org

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commodore chocolatier

Commodore Chocolatier


For many families in the Valley, a visit to Commodore is synonymous with celebrating any holiday. But if you’re new to the area and not in the know, you could easily miss this small, family-owned Newburgh institution on busy Broadway. While it is tedious searching for a quarter to feed the parking meter (though the very nice people at this shop will gladly slip you one), it’s worth it just for the incredible smell of freshly made chocolate that engulfs you when you walk in the door. The old-school wood-paneled spot displays an encyclopedic (and mouth-watering!) array of treats behind a glass case. If you can’t decide (port truffle? chocolate-covered cherry?), go with the pre-boxed Exquisite Assortment, which has nougats, creams, caramels, jellies, and all kinds of nut-filled delicacies. Chocolate-covered strawberries are a year-round favorite here and are always in demand. 845-561-3960

The Riverbank Historic House Museum


You’ll need to reserve in advance, but you’ll have an unforgettable experience at this Hudson River shoreline property, with its expansive views of the Highlands. Owner Susan Glendening will be your private tour guide through an 1844 Italianate-style home decorated with trompe l’oeil frescoes, gold-leafing, cut-marble mantelpieces, and furniture by Frank Lloyd Wright. Surprise! This is also the site of the Patent Model Museum, and the rooms are filled with some 650 prototypes from Glendening’s collection — possibly the world’s biggest cache of inventions by women. Standing no taller than 12 inches, these three-dimensional representations were required by what is now known as the US Patent and Trademark Office with each application from 1790 to 1870. You’ll find a doll-size washing machine, miniature 19th-century exercise equipment, and even Thomas Edison’s model of a carbonizer for electric lightbulb filaments. If you’re game, check out the ruins of an old 18th-century pottery factory on the grounds, the subject of an ongoing archaeological dig. There are also hiking trails to explore, and don’t miss the enormous sycamore tree, whose nearly 18-foot circumference officially earned it a “Biggest Tree” certificate from the Town of Cornwall. Special note: You can rent out the house and/or the grounds for your own event. 845-534-9124; www.riverbankhistorichousemuseum.org or www.patentmodelmuseum.org

clove chapel
Photograph by Michael Polito

Clove Chapel

High Falls

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Situated on the grounds of the Mohonk preserve, this charming 1876 building was once used not only as a church but also as a library and community center. Today, it is owned by the Community of the Clove (a designated area of deeded land) and the Clove Chapel Board is charged with its the upkeep. Features include a vertical board-and-batten exterior painted a cheery yellow with white trim and dormer roof windows that emit natural sunlight (there is also electricity for nighttime events). With 28-foot ceilings, the space has great acoustics, and if you whisper up front you can hear it in the back, making it perfect for simple country weddings or christenings. The chapel, which can accommodate 102 people, charges a reasonable fee (the money goes right back into maintenance). Lovely though it is, if you are visiting or attending an event in winter, dress warmly — there’s no heat! 845-687-9586

motorcyclepedia museum

Motorcyclepedia Museum


Located in a former lumber house, this gargantuan space displays some 500 Motorcycles dating all the way back to 1897. While diehard fans get revved about rare models, like the French 1897 De Dion Bouton — the oldest running motorcycle in North America — there’s also plenty for the average person to see. Highlights include a Harley-Davidson police motorcycle that was part of JFK’s motorcade on the day he was assassinated and a sinister-looking “skeleton” bike from the movie Ghost Rider. But what truly puts this place over the top are its three “Wall of Death” motordromes, two inside and one outside. These are cylindrical wooden barrels in which daredevils ride miniature motorcycles at precarious, gravity-defying angles. The audience stands on the platform near the top and watches the show below. The two indoor motordromes were built by German legend Pit Lengner, who regularly visits the museum to put on shows, so check the website for updates. He also created the world’s smallest motorcycle at 20 pounds (also on display) just for his shows. Totally new at the museum: a state-of-the-art 40-seat movie theater housed in a rescued boxcar that features 5.1 surround sound and a 3D projector. Motorcycle-themed films and educational videos are also planned. 845-569-9065; www.motorcyclepediamuseum.org

Nimai’s Bliss Kitchen


You might drive right past this Newburgh gem thinking that it’s just another Greek diner, but roll down the windows and take a deep breath: Something good is cooking inside. An international vegetarian restaurant with an emphasis on Ayurvedic, Indian-style food, this recently opened eatery — owned by three local doctors — is a welcome addition to the gentrifying Newburgh. You can’t go wrong with the flaky samosas served with two sauces: sweet tamarind and date as well as cilantro chutney. Cheese Naan (with smoked gouda!) is instantly addictive, and the zucchini noodles with almond pesto and roasted tomatoes makes a filling and delicious meal. An all-you-can-eat buffet for under $10 includes a spicy potato-and-eggplant concoction, basmati rice, bean dishes, and more. Be sure to grab a mango lassi from the drinks case. — unlike the overly sweetened kind, this beverage is just yogurt, mangoes, and a touch of cardamom; in addition, it will keep in your refrigerator for three days. Interesting twist: They use dairy products from a slaughter-free farm in Pennsylvania — the only one of its kind in the U.S. 845-245-6048; www.blisskitchennewburgh.com

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bounce trampoline sports bounce trampoline sports bounce trampoline sports

Bounce! Trampoline Sports


This place isn’t just about birthday parties for shrieking tykes. Adults finally have a legitimate reason to kick off their shoes and get jumping, even without a child escort: Bouncercize adult exercise classes. Held on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. when the little ones should be doing their homework (or getting ready for bed), these one-hour walk-in sessions are led by a personal trainer accompanied by a high-energy music beat to get you inspired. You’ll find all the familiar moves (squats, lunges, jumping jacks), only they’re performed on trampolines, which makes the workout way more effective. Though low-impact, trampolining provides a good cardiovascular fix, quickening your pulse while also exercising multiple muscle groups. Studies indicate that trampolining enhances motor skills, balance, and coordination, and can help to build bone density. Hey, that’s not kid stuff. 845-206-4555; www.bounceonit.com

Wednesday Night Cabaret Show at Tiramisu Restaurant

Hopewell Junction

It’s not advertised on the building exterior, or anywhere on the menu, but on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m., the romantic dining room of this Italian restaurant and bakery transforms into a lively cabaret. You don’t need reservations and there’s never a cover charge when owners Artie and Christine Carozza step up to the microphone under strings of fairy lights to perform traditional Italian favorites; Christine sings while Artie wows the crowd on his state-of-the-art accordion. And they’re good! That’s because before they opened the place nine years ago, the trio performed at venues all over the Valley. And the audience is invited to get up there, too, to sing some showtunes or even opera. Spontaneous conga lines have been known to form as well. With Frank as the emcee, all the night’s birthdays and milestones get announced, and there have even been a few surprise engagements. If you’re celebrating and in need of a cake, the bakery on the premises is open until 11 p.m., so you can just grab an already-made one or they’ll bake one up for you right on the spot. Talk about fresh. 845-227-8707; www.welovetiramisu.com

John R. Kirk Planetarium at SUNY New Paltz

New Paltz

There’s always a cloudless night at this small — an indoor domed theater that seats just 44 — but visit-worthy planetarium. On Astronomy Nights, held on the first and third Thursdays of each month that the university is in session, planetarium programs begin just after sunset (tickets required) and move on to an open telescope viewing at an observatory across campus (no tickets needed). Whether you do one or the other or both, it’s all free. The projection system at the planetarium was recently upgraded so that it can display digital simulations of the sky and realistically mimic celestial motions. Audience members can zoom in on images of stars, constellations, planets, galaxies, and other deep sky objects and also view the sky as seen from different planets. How wonderfully disorienting! School groups are welcome, but the show can be tweaked for adults, too. Birthday parties are also an option. Remember: New York City’s Hayden Planetarium may be glitzier, but it doesn’t have the gorgeous Hudson Valley night sky. 845-257-3818; www.newpaltz.edu/planetarium

cheryl's fried fish
Photograph by Jennifer May

Cheryl’s Fried Fish


It’s not just about fried fish at this tiny Middletown kitchen serving homemade soul food. There’s also blackened salmon, grilled tilapia, codfish, and curried shrimp complemented by a slew of tempting side dishes like collard greens, cabbage, and plantains. Beyond fish, patrons also rave about the oxtails, curried goat, and BBQ ribs. The lack of fancy presentation (Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils are standard) is offset by generous portions and delicious variety. Besides, you can always order everything as takeout and serve it in style at home. Cheryl herself is even on hand in case you need encouragement to try something different! And with prices hovering under $6 on the mini menu, you can sample to your heart’s content. 845-343-5565; www.cherylsfriedfish.com

Wonder Lake State Park


Largely undiscovered, this rustic, recently developed park has nearly nine miles of trails on 1,133 acres. Straddling the borders of southern Dutchess and northern Putnam Counties, the scenic property is the former weekend home of Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha of Bewitched). And no one would argue: It’s a magical place to be. Take advantage of the newly blazed trails, including a five-mile loop hike that follows the picturesque shores of Wonder Lake and Laurel Pond, while passing through interesting features like an eastern hemlock forest and old stone walls. Springtime is particularly enchanting, with mountain laurel in bloom and seasonal rivulets running over rocks. Stay on the lookout for otter, barred owls, and coyote. 845-225-7207; www.nynjtc.org/park/wonder-lake-state-park

hudson valley howlers dog scout troop 223

Hudson Valley Howlers Dog Scout Troop #223


No, they don’t sell cookies, but the Dog Scouts of America (DSA) do earn merit badges (worn on vests and bandanas) and do provide community service just like their human counterparts. Based out of Pause Dog Boutique in Rhinebeck, the Hudson Valley Howlers operate as an official troop under DSA, led by shop owners Laura Betti and Mark Condon. This merry band consists of 20 dogs who get together, on average, every six weeks. But these are more than doggie play dates. Sometimes, there are obedience and tricks classes with Polly Kaplan of Sirius Play Dog Training. On one occasion, the dogs hung out at the Hyde Park Drive-in and demonstrated for kids the right way to greet a dog. To earn a Roving with Rover badge, the pooches can go hiking or cross-country skiing (they pull). For the All Pawddles Up! patch, they’ll go kayaking on the Hudson (which is a lot harder than it sounds)! There are badges for geocaching, learning tricks, swimming, community service, agility, and enough other things to keep Fido (and you) very busy year-round. If you want to join, don’t worry — your dog doesn’t have to be a purebred or a champion or even very well behaved. You’ll need to join DSA first, though, which costs about $25. 845-8-SNIFF-0; www.pausedogboutique.com/hvhdogscout.htm

pleroma farm

Pleroma Farm


Located at the base of Olana State Park, Hudson River Landscape painter Frederic Church’s famous property, this 80-acre livestock farm has been quietly operating since 1986. Organic and biodynamic, it abides by the self-sustaining agricultural principles of early 20th-century philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Grazing on the premises is a herd of Dutch belted cattle, so named for the white “belts” around their middles, coveted for their fabulous creamy milk that makes great yogurt, butter, and cream. Pigs and poultry also roam here. Accordingly, the farm store offers organic dairy items, eggs, pork, beef, chicken, as well as locally sourced honeys, teas, and bath products. And did we mention it is also a therapeutic retreat and educational center? Private suites in a converted post-and-beam barn offer a tranquil refuge from the everyday. Aromatic baths with essential oils and brush massage put this place over the top. Healing arts therapies for illnesses are also offered. 518-828-3292; www.pleromafarm.com

wallkill river school of art

Wallkill River School of Art


Art and farms join forces through this innovative nonprofit, whose mission is to save open spaces and small farms through agri-tourism. An artists’ cooperative, it is housed in a historic brick colonial home, though much of the action takes place around Orange County. For one fun project, artists partnered with farm sites to create a geocache hunt that takes you to dairies and orchards all over the Western side of the Hudson. When the weather gets nicer, try a class in plein air painting at a bucolic local site; a farm lunch is provided as part of the package. Also check out the full roster of activities for kids, including birthday parties and summer camp, as well as adult BYOB Paint & Sip bashes. The school also offers scholarships and free classes to youth, seniors, and veterans. 845-457-ARTS; www.wallkillriverschool.com

Aladdin Cafe

Hopewell Junction

This charming restaurant, serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine, has been hiding in plain sight in an ordinary shopping center. Though the food is fresh and delicious, the ambience alone is worth the trip: Moroccan lanterns, glittering copper serving ware, a Turkish-style lounge with poufs. Owner Tina Qumbargi travels frequently to her ancestral Jordan to stock up on market spices and scout out interesting dishes. But the backbone of the menu is her family recipes (Mom is the head cook). For a lot of little tastes in one visit, start with the Vegetarian Mazza Combination ($16), an appetizer that generously serves two and comes loaded down with snackable faves: tabouli, baba ghanouge, tahini, falafel, grape leaves, and pita for scooping. You don’t have to be vegetarian to love Koshari ($14), an Egyptian dish that delectably mingles rice, pasta, lentils, and curry-caramelized onions. If you can’t decide between the shish kebabs (there are three: chicken, lamb, and koftah, which is ground beef mixed with spices), go for the combo platter ($28), which comes with rice and a salad. Some people come just for dessert. Standouts include harissa (semolina coconut cake, baked like a big pizza) and gluten-free pistachio cookies. Wash it all down with a cup of cardamom-scented Turkish coffee or a rosewater tea. 845-592-4343; www.aladdincafenewyork.com

road scholar program

Road Scholar Program at Mount Saint Mary College


Become a tourist in your own backyard and return to your carefree student days (no cramming necessary!) through this adult program that explores the Hudson Valley. “Students” may commute or stay on campus for up to a week in a newly built, air-conditioned dorm with stunning river views. The schedule includes “A Taste of the Hudson Valley,” which takes you on a local culinary adventure, including a cooking class and fabulous meal at the CIA. “The Roosevelts” give you the inside scoop on this historic couple with guided visits to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Springwood, and FDR’s private retreat, Top Cottage. Programs run from June to July, though extra topics are in the works for May and September, so check the website for updates. Beginning at $345 for commuters and $665 for residents, the price of these programs includes five expert-led lectures, 15 meals (special diets accommodated), field trips, and even a Hudson River cruise. 845-565-2076; www.msmc.edu/academics/community_education/road_scholar

round up texas bbq and tumbleweed saloon
Photograph by Ken Gabrielsen

Round Up Texas BBQ and Tumbleweed Saloon

Cold Spring

It’s nothing fancy, but this bright red roadhouse on a sprawling, five-acre lot on Route 9 has been amassing a dedicated following since it opened almost six years ago. Owned by transplanted Texans, it’s the real BBQ deal. That means that meats are hickory-smoked and dry-rubbed, and sauce is served on the side, so you don’t become a sticky mess as you eat it. The biggest seller is the three-meat combo: brisket, ribs, and sausage (or chicken), accompanied by three sides. People go crazy for the cole slaw, with a kick of jalapeño. Wrangler Pie, the eatery’s version of shepherd’s pie, made only with brisket and topped with a sprinkling of Fritos, also is a hit. For easy takeout, grab a brisket dog or a hearty bowl of mac and cheese topped with chili. Or dine in a rustic dining room (a rehabbed 19th-century warehouse) decorated with longhorn touches. Place your order at a window that opens to the “kitchen,” a separate burnt-orange trailer (the colors of the University of Texas, the alma mater of one of the owners). In fair weather, a large picnic area is a welcome option, especially if you want to bring the kids and the pooch. 845-809-5557; www.rounduptxbbq.com

The Hollow Bar + Kitchen


When the Bayou Café was succeeded by the Hollow Bar + Kitchen in 2013, it reflected a changing Albany. Gone were the long lines outside this hotspot, where people paid to see cover bands and drink cheap beer. Today, people still pour in, and you can still find cheap beer, if that’s what you want, but there’s craft beer, too — and these days, the space is not all about partying. Up-and-coming bands like the accordion-wielding Kongos, Providence hipsters Deer Tick, and Vermont-based Twiddle are among those who have played here before attracting a national audience. And while many come for the acts, there’s also a new chef in the house: Henry Ciccone, who has created a menu heavy on vegetarian specialties rather than the usual greasy bar fare. Diners love the Eggplant Stack (fried and roasted eggplant with plum tomato and a multitude of cheese layered with seasonal vegetables and pesto, around $11) and Vegetarian Chicken Marsala (with braised wild mushrooms, shallots, fresh sage, herbed polenta, and veggie protein, around $13). 518-426-8550; www.thehollowalbany.com

seligmann center

The Seligmann Center

Sugar Loaf

When you pay a visit to the Orange County art studio of the late Kurt Seligmann, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of the many famous artists who came to visit Seligman here, including Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, and Alexander Calder. One of the leading figures in the Surrealist movement, Swiss-born Seligmann fled Europe for New York one step ahead of the Nazis and purchased this 55-acre farm place in 1938. Here, he sought (and found) tranquility and inspiration. Before he died in 1962, Seligmann produced a remarkable body of work: thousands of paintings, drawings, etchings, watercolors, and oils. After his widow, Arlette, bequeathed the estate to the Orange County Citizen’s Foundation, the property became a center for creative arts, with poetry and musical performances as part of the mix. Most events take place in Seligmann’s studio, on the second level of a yellow converted barn, though the couple’s former home is also open to the public and houses an art library and gallery. Seligmann’s paintings and prints are liberally sprinkled throughout, and there are also shows by visiting artists. More art awaits you outdoors: Walk the grounds and enjoy sculptures by Bernard Kirschenbaum, Forrest Myers, Jared Bark, and Julius Medwin. Call ahead for hours. Grounds open 10 am-3 pm. 845-469-9459; www.kurtseligmann.org

massry center for performing arts

Massry Center for Performing Arts/Kathleen McManus Picotte Recital Hall
College of Saint Rose


Who needs Carnegie Hall when you can enjoy a primo concert experience in a relaxed setting? This 400-seat venue has it all: top performers, reasonable prices, a fabulous vibe. What truly sets it apart are its exceptional acoustics: Scalloped panels on the walls and ceiling and special sound-responsive material in the seat bottoms enhance quality and volume. A Steinway concert grand piano, recently put to use by legendary performer Chick Corea, lives here. Classical artists, such as the New Century Chamber Orchestra, are in demand here, of course. But you’ll also find unlikely (and very welcome!) surprises on the roster, such as two-time Grammy winner Terrance Simien, known for his unique spin on Zydeco, and the jazzy jam group The Funky Meters. Check out Premiere Performances, a series of events showcasing violin and guitar virtuosos, chamber music, jazz, and more. 800-637-8556; www.strose.edu/academics/schoolofartsandhumanities/massry_center_for_the_arts

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