When filmmakers working on Our Idiot Brother needed a bucolic Hudson River town where their dim-witted protagonist Ned (played by Valley resident Paul Rudd) could run his second-hand candle-making business, it was perhaps inevitable that they ended up in Cold Spring, a Putnam County village of 2,013 inhabitants.
Magnificent Main Street glides down the bluff and onto a plaza that juts out into one of the most stunning points on the river, with drop-dead views of Storm King Mountain. The street is lined by immaculately preserved, ivy-covered brownstones and Victorians that house restaurants (Brasserie Le Bouchon, an authentic French bistro, and Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill are two of the best), coffee bars, and numerous antiques shops — where you can buy anything from five-figure furniture to ancient golf clubs sold for a few bucks. Sitting on one of the many chairs or benches set out under the canopy of trees, life is slow and good, of some other carefree time.
According to town lore, Cold Spring owes its name to George Washington, who took a sip from the spring and thought it rather chilly. It originated as a trading hub in the 18th century, then thrived when industry arrived in the 19th century, anchored by the West Point Foundry. The Parrott gun, used extensively during the Civil War, was produced there. When the war was over, Cold Spring became something of a bohemian enclave for artists and writers, but also attracted its share of wealthy families — who built a bevy of fine houses, to which Cold Spring owes its Historic District designation.
Today, Cold Spring packs a high quality of life into just 0.6 square miles, offering fine dining, outdoorsy activities, and water sports. As you would expect of a town this size, however, there’s a premium on real estate. Of the 19 houses on the market at the time of writing, 11 were priced over half a million dollars. But that buys you into a village that may lack a private school but offers excellent public education in the Haldane Central School District. The centrally located town is just a 70-minute train ride from Manhattan, and is within a few miles of the Hudson Highlands State Park — with its endless views of the river and West Point — and two golf courses in Garrison.
A trip to Cold Spring is the consummate day trip for New York City dwellers, who saunter down to the river while window-shopping, duck into the pedestrian tunnel below the train tracks and reemerge on the cobblestone streets river-side, where they linger with an ice cream from Moo Moo’s Creamery (one of several ice cream shops in town) or have a meal at Hudson House Inn. Living there, however, that day could be your every day.