Thacher State Park, Albany
Photo courtesy of Discover Albany
We asked tourism directors: What are the most popular sites in your county? These were among the top of the heap.
John Boyd Thacher State Park
With 2,155 acres, Thacher State Park offers nature aplenty — from limestone cliffs and woodlands to open fields, capped off with expansive views of the Hudson Valley, Adirondacks and Green Mountains. Much of the Helderberg Escarpment — one of the world’s top fossil-bearing formations, also lies within the park. Spend the day hiking on some of the 25+ miles of trails (including the noted Indian Ladder Trail), at the WildPlay Adventure Courses (with 15 ziplines, 60 aerial games, and a 40-foot drop), picnicking, or playing ball (there are volleyball courts and baseball fields). Too much to do in one day? No worries, there’s a campground.
Olana State Historic Site
The main focal point of the estate of 19th century landscape painter Frederic Church is the main house, a villa with eye-catching Victorian/Persian/Moorish architecture. Church worked with architect Calvert Vaux (co-designer of NYC’s Central Park) to create the renowned residence and 250-acre landscaped grounds. Olana is one of the few intact artists’ estates in the nation; it’s preserved mostly as it was in the 1890s, complete with works by Church and other top painters. Lectures, exhibits and educational programs also help the estate draw about 170,000 visitors a year.
– Dutchess –
Ever since it opened in 2003, Dia Beacon has attracted art lovers to its creatively curated exhibits in a huge space along the Hudson River that formerly housed a Nabisco box-printing factory. One of the Dia Art Foundation’s 11 sites, the Beacon museum specializes in large-scale installations, paintings, and sculptures from the 1960s to the present, including abstract expressionism, minimalism, conceptual, and pop art. Each gallery in the sprawling 300,000-sq-ft site is designed to display a solo artist’s work. Dia Beacon also presents educational programs, lectures, and other public events.
– Greene –
With top-notch skiing on three mountains — plus lodging, dining, and apres-ski fun, Hunter draws about 225,000 visitors each winter. Warm weather lures folks for hiking — or if you’d rather be transported to the top, the Scenic Skyride whisks visitors to the 3,200-ft. summit. Hunter is also home to the New York Zipline Adventure Tour, the longest and highest ride of its kind in North America. Music, food, and beverage fests are another big attraction: these include the TrailBlazer Country Music and Camping Festival; and TAP New York, featuring many of the world’s best beers, along with contests rating the Valley’s top craft breweries. Another notable gathering: Hunter’s annual Oktoberfest, with food, beer, and live music, all amid spectacular autumn foliage.
– Orange –
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets
During non-COVID times, more than 13 million savvy shoppers head here annually from around the globe. These days limited overseas travel and plenty of outdoor space make it the perfect place to social distance and shop. With more than 800,000 sq ft of space and 250 stores brimming with discounted designer brands, it is among the largest outlet centers of its kind in the world. To take a break between hitting the stores, you’ll find plenty of spots to put down your shopping bags, rest, and refuel at indoor and outdoor eateries.
Central Valley; www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/woodbury-common
– Putnam –
Boscobel House & Gardens
The “house” at this historic site is a neoclassical mansion turned nonprofit historic-house museum, which contains a fine collection of decorative arts from the Federal period. The “gardens” are part of the site’s 68 acres of gorgeous grounds overlooking the Hudson River. This riverside gem is a wonderful place to see a sunset; picnic; attend an event, exhibition, or program (their children’s programming is especially good). It is also home to the Cold Spring Farmer’s Market.
– Rensselaer –
Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market
For more than two decades, this popular Saturday market has presented a vast array of farm-fresh goods, plus a plethora of other edibles and products from more than 100 vendors. Offerings include pasta, meat and fish, cheese, artisan breads, desserts, wine and spirits, and much more. The nonprofit downtown market won kudos as the 2019 national winner of the People’s Choice award by the American Farmland Trust. Each autumn, the farmers’ market moves indoors until spring.
– Rockland –
Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge Bike and Pedestrian Path
At 3.6 miles, this path on the bridge connecting Westchester and Rockland counties is longest shared pedestrian/bike path in the nation. And perhaps one of the most popular: it drew more than 250,000 bike riders and pedestrians in its inaugural season alone. The 12-ft.-wide walkway — with six scenic overlooks that contain seats for resting and savoring the view — make the crowds manageable, but early or late visits are recommended during peak seasons. Don’t forget to take time to check out the art displays and information panels on your journey.
– Ulster –
Opus 40 Sculpture Park & Museum
Dubbed by some “The Stonehenge of North America,” Opus 40 contains 6.5 acres of beguiling earthwork sculptures created by the late local artist Harvey Fite more than 40 years. The unique outdoor art space is a testament to Fite’s vision, as well as a lovely natural setting — the property includes more than 50 acres of meadows and woods, plus bluestone quarries where Fite sourced stone for his creations. Guided tours of this nonprofit venue are available, and it’s a special spot, too, for lectures, concerts, theater, and community programs.
– Westchester –
This 43-acre display of flowers, plants, and lovely landscaping overlooking the Hudson River was once part of an estate owned by Samuel Untermyer, a notable New York lawyer who was known in the 1930s as “Hitler’s biggest foe.” His intent was to build “the finest garden in the world.” The lush Persian-style gardens were designed in 1916 by Beaux-Arts architect William Welles Bosworth, and in their heyday contained 150 acres of flowers maintained by 60 gardeners. Highlights of today’s Gardens include the Walled Garden (based on the Garden of Eden), the Temple of Love (where John Lennon was photographed by rock and roll photographer Bob Gruen in 1975), and the tallest monolithic columns in the Western Hemisphere. The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, along with the City of Yonkers, continues to renew the site, and the nonprofit offers public events such as guided tours, lectures, and concerts.