Dutchess County is something of a mecca for higher education in the Hudson Valley. With Bard College on the northern end and Vassar College to the south, the region is dotted with entertainment and activities that cater to college students and prospecting families alike. In the center of it all, not one, but two campuses rest at the heart of the county. Located a matter of minutes from one another, Marist College in Poughkeepsie and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park lure locals and visitors alike with strong academic programming and picture-perfect views of the Hudson River.
With more excuses than ever to visit the nearby campuses (cough, cough, new medical school and a revamped restaurant), there’s no time like the present to dive into the region just as the Marist Red Foxes and CIA Steels would.
A short drive from both the CIA and Marist, Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon Opera House is a must for anyone who loves old-school Hollywood glamour and community entertainment. In addition to its top-notch lineup of ballet, classical music, and comedy performances, the historic theater occasionally opens its doors to the public for free movie screenings. Keep an eye on the box office calendar to see if any upcoming shows peak your interest.
35 Market St, Poughkeepsie, 845.473.2072
When the stress of studying becomes too much, take a break with friends at Poughkeepsie’s fun-for-all-ages destinations. If jumping sky-high sounds like just the thing to forget about finals, head to Bounce, the trampoline sports center that boasts everything from glow-in-the-dark dodgeball contests to foam pits and more.
If you’d rather unwind à la Mission Impossible, make a beeline for The Gravity Vault, the indoor rock-climbing center located in the same plaza as Bounce. Whether you take a class with a pro or challenge yourself with a day pass to the many climbing routes and stations inside, you’ll have a blast as you try to make it to the top.
Bounce, 2 Neptune Rd, Poughkeepsie, 845.206.4555
The Gravity Vault, 6 Neptune Rd, Poughkeepsie, 845.462.1920
For a stroll somewhere besides the Walkway Over the Hudson, drive south to nearby Locust Grove for classic Hudson Valley walking, hiking, and exploring opportunities. The scenic Poughkeepsie estate extends over 200 acres and includes a museum, education center, and nature preserve for visitors. Spend a day here to explore the historic Italianate villa, once owned by famed inventor Samuel Morse, and wander the gardens and marked trail routes. The property is open on weekdays only from January to March and daily from April to December, so plan ahead before making a visit.
2683 South Rd, Poughkeepsie, 845.454.4500
If you want to learn a little more about the area you plan to call home for two to four (or more) years, look no further than the FDR estate in Hyde Park. Located a stone’s throw away from the Culinary Institute of America, the former presidential abode now plays host to visitors from far and wide who want to peek inside the onsite library and museum, explore the top cottage, and meander along the Hyde Park trail system. Keep an eye out for special seasonal programming, as well. The park often hosts family-friendly activities and sometimes offers free admission days, making it an attractive study break destination for college students on a budget.
4097 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, 845.229.5320
While staying on campus to binge-watch Netflix is great and all, sometimes it’s nice to get out and give back to the local community. For CIA and Marist students who want to do a little good in the Hudson Valley, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum is the perfect place to remember the good old days when the most you ever had to worry about was which toy to play with next. Spread the magic of learning at the museum by volunteering on the exhibit floor, at one of the many educational programs, or at the special events or seasonal farmers markets. Not sure where you fit? Just reach out to the staff to find the perfect “do good” placement for you.
75 N Water St, Poughkeepsie, 845471.0589
As any good college student knows, the mall can be a saving grace. Whether you hit the Poughkeepsie staple for party supplies, gift inspiration for professors, or household essentials for your apartment, you’ll have fun shopping around with friends on a quick trip away from campus. The mall has a movie theater, local coffee shop, and race course too, making it the ideal setting to while away the weekend.
2001 South Rd, Poughkeepsie, 845.297.7600
With historic settings like the FDR estate, Vanderbilt Mansion, and Staatsburgh State Historic Site all a matter of minutes away from the CIA and Marist, it’s hardly a surprise that a fair few vintage clothing shops have settled into the area as well. In Hyde Park, budget-minded academics who want to refresh their wardrobes should look to Hyde Park Consignments and Surviving Sisters’ Boutique for old-school bits and bobs that work just as well for everyday wear as they do for themed parties and special occasions.
Hyde Park Consignments, 4291 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, 845.229.7467
Surviving Sisters’ Boutique, 4412 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, 845.229.0425
While CIA students have the shortest trek to the onsite hotspot, Marist students should have no problem making the short trip as well, especially when it comes with such a sweet reward. After all, the Culinary’s Apple Pie Bakery is nothing less than a veritable Hansel and Gretel wonderland. Pastry shelves are stocked with everything from rainbow macarons to flaky croissants, while the savory menu tempts with dishes as varied as short rib tacos, avocado toast, and acorn farro salad. With a lower price point than the other restaurants on campus, the café is a dream for lunch breaks and afternoon pick-me-ups.
1946 Campus Dr, Hyde Park, 845.905.4500
For all those visiting family weekends and orientation sessions, there’s no better place to go with the ‘rents than the Culinary Institute. The Hyde Park destination boasts not one, but three signature restaurants (not including the Apple Pie Bakery Café), plus a few more casual offshoots. Anyone who loves all things farm-to-table should stop by the American Bounty Restaurant. Fans of French cuisine, meanwhile, will delight over the menu at The Bocuse Restaurant. As for Italian eaters, Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici is the way to go.
1946 Campus Dr, Hyde Park, 845.452.9600
When you need a break on a Friday night, corral your friends for an evening out at Hyde Park Brewing Company. An easy drive from both campuses, the Hudson Valley brewpub serves its signature drinks alongside gourmet bar bites. Grab a pint (if you’re of age) of a local sip like the Winkle Lager, then dive into one of the delectable burgers or sandwiches. If you go with a group, split a pizza or two to try a few flavors. The Steak and Blue, topped with blue cheese and steak, and The CBR, loaded with chicken, bacon, and ranch, are simply delicious.
4076 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, 845.229.8277
On those days when you can’t bear the thought of another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, escape to Lola’s for a Hudson Valley upgrade to lunchtime staples. Known for its grain bowls and healthy sandwiches, the Poughkeepsie eatery does excellent pie and cheesecake as well. Pick up a spicy peanut noodle bowl or a hot chicken sandwich for the road, then snack happy as you power through those final pages of that novel you’ve been meaning to finish.
131 Washington St, Poughkeepsie, 845.471.8555
Related: Everything Students and Locals Should Do Around Bard College