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WHY GO: There’s something divine about the sunrise over the Hudson River – made even more so by the fact that I’m watching it unfold from my private balcony. I’m staying in The Winterberry Room at the Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa, and this simple pleasure can be yours as well, on blue-sky mornings. Vaulted ceiling, a piece of the original farmhouse stone wall, a gas fireplace, French doors to a small deck, this is Hudson Valley luxury, Hudson Valley serenity, and one of the best ways to escape the city. This Getaway is rare in that it is focused almost exclusively on one inn. Yes, there are a few reasons to venture “off-campus” – and we’ll tell you why. But for the most part, bring a book and an appreciation for farm animals, leisurely strolls and the simple life. Keep Calm and Carry On up to the Left Bank of the Hudson River Valley.
Things to Do at Buttermilk Falls Inn and Hudson Valley NY
WALK: An invigorating stroll (or snowshoe hike) around Buttermilk Falls Inn property rewards you with the pleasures of river and farm. Watch for four friendly Angora goats, five voguing llamas, three Alpacas and three cuddly miniature donkeys as well as a bunch of laying hens (fresh eggs in the morning), beehives (creamy honey) and sizable organic garden on your way.
CONTEMPLATE/GRAVESTONE RUBBING: There’s a small, historic Cemetery on Buttermilk Falls grounds adjacent to the spa that goes back to the time when Leonard Smith owned the property in the mid 1700’s. One headstone marks a couple born in 1709 in “Plymouth Colony,” buried here in 1800.
WALK: Walkway Over the Hudson, Highland to Poughkeepsie. Drive a few miles north to the parking lot of this terrific linear park. (Inn staff will provide directions). The 1.28 mile Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park – the longest elevated pedestrian park in the world – was once the steel Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge that from 1888 to 1974 bore the weight of up to 3,500 freight cars a day.
A dominant force in transporting western raw materials to eastern industrial centers, the bridge fell into decline after a fire nearly destroyed it in 1974. Transformed into a public park in Fall 2009, the bridge hovers 212 feet above the Hudson River and draws thousands of hikers, dog-walkers, new parents pushing strollers, and tourists each year.
EXPERIENCE: Bridge Music. For a VERY cool, unusual experience, plan to walk the complete 3.6 mile Loop Trail that takes you over the Mid-Hudson Bridge as well. There, you’ll find “listening stations” for the amazing and unusual “Bridge Music” created by symphony composer, Joseph Bertolozzi, who used mallets and hammers on various parts of the bridge, assigned “notes” to each sound, then arranged incredibly mesmerizing percussive movements. This experimental music was so positively received, Bertolozzi was asked to repeat this project at the Eiffel Tower! If by chance you miss listening to the music at its source, you can hear Bertolozzi’s music, as well as purchase it here.
DRIVE: Buttermilk Falls is just outside of the tiny Hudson-Riverside hamlet of Milton, NY. Take the back-roads to Milton’s tiny red train station, now on the Historic Register, and you may be lucky enough to see a Union Pacific Freight train idling there, “re-crewing.”
On your way, you may get stuck behind a tractor or two, but this is rich farmland and source for most of the celebrity kitchens and chefs in New York City and environs.
VISIT: Kedem Winery Tasting Room, Marlboro. Originally owned by Joseph Herzog (who moved to California), brother Michael Herzog still owns this maker and purveyor of Kosher wines, and main competitor of Manischewitz-sweet grape-juice for the holidays. The Tasting Room also serves as a shop for all makes of Kosher wines from Alfasi to Carmel and others. It’s the perfect place to stock up for the High Holidays and Passover.
VISIT: Gomez Mill House, Marlboro. Purchased by Jewish merchant, Luis Gomez, in 1714, this proud stone and brick home is “The Oldest Jewish Dwelling in North America.” Learn the history of the man whose family fled from the Spanish Inquisition and who purchased 6,000 acres of land on the Hudson River as a trading post. Open April 6- Nov. 9th, Wed-Sun. Tours 10:30, 1:15, 2:45, $8 adults, $3 kids.
READ: By the Indoor Pool in the Buttermilk Falls Inn Spa Building. The full-service spa is housed in a modern glass and steel structure steps from the main house. Sure, you can exert yourself in the “endless current” indoor pool, but plenty of guests bring along a book or pile of neglected newspapers and camp out in one of the poolside lounge-chairs to just chill out and remember what enjoying life was all about. $35 Day Pass per person, $50 Per Couple, includes pool, sauna, steam room, use of robes, access to grounds.
Best Restaurants In and Near Buttermilk Falls Inn
EAT: Henry’s At the Farm. Steps from Buttermilk Falls Inn’s front door and named after the owner’s son, it’s garden-out-back-to-table dining. Or at least, very locally sourced. Chances are you’ll see at least a portion of your meal emerging from the ground as you take a walk around the property. Medicine-ball sized glass globe lamps hang like hot air balloons from barn rafters, candlelit tables are rustic-chic, and waitstaff attentive and helpful. You’ll find bottles of wine priced in the reasonable $30 and $40 range, and toothsome cocktails – like the signature Geoffrey – Absolute Vodka, Tropical Fruit Juice and pomegranate $8.
Food is subtle and expertly cooked; Herb Roasted Chicken Breast $27, Tuna Loin with Porcini Mushrooms and Potatoes $34 – this latest chef seems to have the right touch and doesn’t overwhelm with heavy sauces. I’d return for Goat Cheese balls rolled in candied nuts, creamy with a sweet crunch. Finish with the incredible Coconut Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème. Silky cocoa pudding topped with crunchy toasted coconut, it’s heaven in a mini Mason Jar $9.
EAT: Ship Lantern Inn, Milton. In a building that dates to the Revolutionary War, this very fine dining family restaurant is owned by a third generation. Established in 1925 by John Foglia – one of four founders of Chef BoyArDee – grandson A. Michael Foglia now presides over a menu rich in local meats and produce. Graham Crack Crusted Calamari with Serrano chile scented apple jelly ($11.50), Hudson Valley Breast of Chicken Scarpariello roasted with Wild Boar Sausage ($23.50) are just two out of a collection of inventive dishes in this traditional-looking roadside institution.
Where to Stay In The Hudson Valley
STAY: Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa. Featured on the National Geographic “Stay” list, the eco-friendly Buttermilk Falls Inn, which juxtaposes renovated 1700’s cottages with abstract contemporary buildings on 75 acres, is no longer that “secret” hideaway 90 miles from Manhattan on the west bank of Hudson River.
Owned in the 1940’s and 50’s by famed Black soprano and education activist Dorothy Maynor and her husband, Reverend Shelby Rooks (two suites are named after them), the former farm was purchased by real estate developer Robert Pollock and turned into an 11 room inn in 2004. An afternoon tea and gourmet breakfast are served in a sunroom or on the patio with grand river views. You can stay in a cushy room in the main house for $250- $400 per night (depending on season) or rent a hidden two bedroom stone cottage perched right over the water $750-$1,000/night) and plenty more. Rates include a two-hour afternoon tea with small bites, and a hearty gourmet farm breakfast.