Athens Is a Serene Spot to Settle Down Along the Hudson River

The Greene County town of Athens tempts with idyllic riverside views, top-tier dining, and a host of cultural attractions.

For 10 years, Ellen Roth was a regular weekender in Athens, dividing her time between the Greene County town, northern Westchester, and New York City. For the past five years, she’s been a full-time resident. What made her decide to settle in Athens? “The beauty and the access to the Hudson. It’s a great little village with a bit of everything, a good vibe, and really nice people,” explains Roth.

Lois Ballinger, owner of The Stewart House hotel and restaurant, shares Roth’s sentiments. “It’s a little hidden gem in the Hudson Valley, with a very strong sense of community.” She and her husband, Lon, have been splitting time between Athens and Mount Kisco since 2017.

The Stewart House hotel
The Stewart House hotel. Courtesy of The Stewart House.

The picturesque riverfront location has been attracting residents for centuries. The village was settled by the Dutch in the late 1600s, and the greater town of Athens was formally established in 1815 from parts of neighboring Catskill and Coxsackie. By the mid- to late-19th century, the area was a center for boat building, brick making, and ice harvesting.

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Today, Athens has an overall population of 3,916 (per the 2020 census) and its village of the same name encompasses the main business district on the Hudson. According to the Town of Athens, the area is home to over 300 18th- and 19th-century buildings on national and state historic registers, giving it the “feel of a living museum.”

Crossroads Brewing Company on Water Street
Crossroads Brewing Company on Water Street. Courtesy Greene County Tourism.

The Culture

The main arts hub is the Athens Cultural Center (ACC) on Second Street. Roth, who serves as the vice president for the center’s board of directors, says, “We want to bring all kinds of art and cultural opportunities to people who might not have experienced that before.” These include an array of classes, rotating art exhibits, musical performances, and First Friday events. During the summer, the Athens Performing Arts Corporation hosts free concerts in the riverfront park (along Water Street) every Friday night; ACC puts on movie screenings, too.

Family Life

Children living in Athens attend schools in the public Coxsackie-Athens district, comprised of two elementary schools, and one middle and high school, respectively. The district has a total K-12 enrollment of 1,129 as of the 2021–2022 school year.

There’s a variety of programming for all ages at the D. R. Evarts Library in the village. A sample of events includes Saturday morning story time, monthly tea tastings, a robotics team for teens, and a book club.

On the Town

Athens is a “quaint, quiet little town,” says Ballinger—but there’s still plenty to do. In search of a bite? Your options include The Athens Rooster, a breakfast and lunch spot featuring coffee, sandwiches, and more; 1883 Tavern at The Stewart House, an art deco bar and dining room serving American cuisine (in warmer weather, they shift service to their outdoor restaurant, the River Grill, which is right on the Hudson); Seconds, a sit-down restaurant that offers American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist; and Stella’s Pizzeria II for slices and pasta. In the village, you can shop at Athens Antiques, Lighthouse Liquors and Wines, Catskill Bread Company, and the Opera House Company, a home goods store.

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The circa-1874 Hudson-Athens Lighthouse.
The circa-1874 Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. MikeDNJ89, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“A lot of life and enjoyment in the village comes from recreation in and around the river,” says Roth. From the Athens Riverfront Park, you can watch the boats go by or launch your own kayak or canoe. You can also see the historic 150-year-old Hudson-Athens Lighthouse from the shore. In warmer weather, sign up for sightseeing tours with Screaming Eagle Outdoor Adventures (kayaking starts Memorial Day weekend) or the Hudson Ferry Company. The ferry also takes people across the river to visit Hudson for the day.

As for a warm, friendly community, Roth has found one upon moving to Athens—and is now a part of it herself. “We’re getting a lot of people coming up and settling around Athens, and we want it to be a welcoming place for everybody.”

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Related: A Quick History of the Culinary Institute of America

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