Geographically, Vassar College is unique. The private school lives in the niche space in Poughkeepsie formally known as Arlington. It’s not the quiet, residential community that comprises the town of Poughkeepsie, nor is it the bustling center that defines the city of Poughkeepsie. Instead, it’s a prime, walkable locale for college students to explore, eat, and relax in their off hours.
As Vassar students prepare to head back to school and the whole of the Hudson Valley gets excited for fall, there’s no better place to be than the scenic college micro-town. Here’s how to experience the region just like a Brewer would.
Just across the street from the college, Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve extends far beyond Hooker Avenue and into a natural paradise and free fitness space. Much more than a farm, the verdant area houses a rugby field, a CSA and gardening center, and miles of trails. Take a cue from the cross-country team and hit the spacious routes on a sunny morning before class or when you need to kick it into high gear after a lazy weekend. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for animals while you’re there. Deer, birds, and other furry friends are known to make appearances.
51 Vassar Farm Ln, Poughkeepsie, 845.437.7414
Located right down the street from school, Juliet’s has been a mainstay around Vassar since 1989. In 2012, it moved from its former home in what is now Vassar’s bookstore to its current location. The new spot is ideal on low-key Thursday nights, when you want to get off campus without going too far. Thursdays also happen to be “College Nights,” when students can score two-for-one pool specials. Play a game at one of the six billiard tables or catch a show on any of the three large TVs. Split a plate of chicken fingers and garlic bread with friends and you’re good to go.
5-7 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.452.2234
Regardless of whether you’re a bowling champ or can’t score a strike to save your life, you’ll be hard-pressed to have a bad time at Spins Bowl. It’s a walkable distance from Vassar, which makes it perfect for impromptu hangouts with friends. Play a few rounds on one of the 26 family-style lanes before kicking back with shareable snacks like sliders, jumbo wings, or even a BBQ pulled pork pizza. Look out for weekly bowling specials on Mondays from 8-10 p.m., when the price drops to $10/person for unlimited games. If you’re feeling really competitive, challenge your group to a game of laser tag. Winner plays free next visit?
47 Taft Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.471.1820
There’s an unofficial stipulation at Vassar that every student needs to take an art history course at least once. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that a trip to Dia:Beacon is on the bucket list for most undergrads. Take a car if you have access to one, rent a Zipcar on campus, or hop on the Poughkeepsie Metro-North to Beacon to spend the day at this artsy space. Wander through the Instagram haven with friends, then cross the street to Bank Square Coffeehouse to score a reasonably priced cup of joe.
3 Beekman St, Beacon, 845.440.0100
As any students with visiting families can attest, the Walkway is a go-to destination for off-campus visits. Bring the family for a scenic walk and catch-up along the Hudson River crosswalk, which connects Poughkeepsie and Highland. Conveniently, the Walkway happens to be a midway point between Vassar and the Valley’s other visiting family hotspot: the Culinary Institute of America.
61 Parker Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.454.9649
Wait until you’ve settled in at Vassar before you take a trip to Dreaming Goddess. When you finally make the walk down Raymond Avenue, you’ll fall headfirst into a rabbit hole of quirky bits and bohemian goodies that you never knew you needed. New Age essentials like candles, meditation music, and gemstones figure front and center, as do one-of-a-kind baubles, relaxing essential oils, and cool clothing. If you’re in need of a last-minute gift, this is the place to go.
44 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.473.2206
It might seem odd to include a grocery market in a college guide when the All Campus Dining Center is onsite and Stop & Shop is a few blocks away. Yet, as any Vassar student knows, My Market is an essential part of life at the college. Need some gourmet chocolate to gift a professor? My Market has it. Craving a late night batch of cookies? Get the supplies at My Market. Planning your first dinner party at your new senior apartment? Stock up at My Market.
53 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.452.7030
After a long, virtuous day of studying (read: people-watching) at Crafted Kup, reward yourself with classy dinner at Twisted Soul. The hole-in-the wall is beloved by Vassar students and faculty, partially because it caters a number of on-campus events and partly because the food is downright delicious. Order the empanadas, which are by far the most reasonably priced thing on the menu. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the dulce de leche cupcakes. They’re heaven in a paper liner.
47 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.454.2770
Although breakfast on campus is arguably the best meal of the day, sometimes a change from the usual is in order. When that time comes, head to Julie’s for a delectable brunch with friends. The eatery, which is still a family-run affair, is a must-visit on weekend mornings for its loaded omelets and wraps. Honor the spot’s Mediterranean origins with the Greek Omelette, a hearty affair involving imported feta and ripe tomatoes. All egg dishes come with a substantial serving of home fries and toast, which, when taken together, are more than enough to help you power through a long afternoon of studying (or procrastinating – we won’t tell).
49 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.452.6078
When everyone else heads to Thai Spice on the weekend, make the shorter walk to Billy Bob’s to skip the wait time and save a few bucks as well. The dive might not seem like much from the outside, but don’t let the exterior deceive you. It’s home to some of the tastiest and most affordable barbecue in the whole of the Hudson Valley. Stop by on Tuesday for wing night, when you can score 50-cent wing specials. On Saturday night, test your vocals by stepping up to the microphone for karaoke night. It’s a guaranteed good time.
35 Fairmont Ave, Poughkeepie, 845.471.7870
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include Bacio’s in our guide, since no Vassar student can go more than two weeks without eating at least a garlic knot from the pizza joint. Not only is it the closest restaurant to Vassar’s campus, but it also the most accommodating to student schedules. On weekends during the school year, for example, the eatery stays open into the wee hours of the night. As for what to order, scoop up 12 garlic knots for $4 or score a slice of white pizza for $3.25. Individual slices are massive and hit the spot when the midnight hunger pangs hit.
7 Collegeview Ave, Poughkeepsie, 845.486.8080