Places to Love: Dutchess County, New York
Dutchess County, in the Hudson Valley, is known as one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States. Its famous river defines it, and the area around it. From historic estates that helped changed the world, to farms producing some of the finest fruits and vegetables in the country, you’ll discover magic around every corner on its ample, leafy, and winding roads. Throw in excellent dining, a compelling art scene and my absolute favorite tea shop, and you’ll see why Dutchess County in the heart of the New York’s Hudson River Valley is a place to love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Walkway over the Hudson
The historic Hudson river starts in the Adirondacks and flows 315 miles to New York City, creating the breathtaking Hudson River Valley. Throughout Dutchess County, you’ll find no shortage of spectacular views. But I’m unsure any rival the one you find on the Walkway over the Hudson. The bridge now known as the Walkway Over the Hudson opened in 1889 as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, transporting western raw materials to eastern industrial centers. At the time, it was the longest bridge in the world. 120 years later, retired from its rail car carrying duties, locals began a campaign to save the bridge. Today, it’s the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. Sitting 212 feet above the Hudson, the 1.28-mile trail boasts incredible views of the Catskills to the north, and the Hudson Highlands to the south.
Four years ago, Brooklyn-born Chef Brandon Walker opened Essie’s Restaurant in Poughkeepsie. Named after his grandmother, the eatery pays homage to the women in his family—all of whom Brandon says were great cooks, and ignited his love of food. It’s no accident Brandon opened a restaurant in the Hudson Valley. He graduated from the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America and fell in love with the access to incredible ingredients. The modern American restaurant pulls inspiration from Brandon’s familial roots in the Caribbean as well as the American South, showcasing dishes like jerk ribs, cheese grit croquettes, elegant burgers and more.
McEnroe Organic Farm
I can’t get enough of Dutchess County’s rolling hills and beautiful vistas. I love the farms and farm land, and one of the area’s most iconic is McEnroe Organic Farm, the largest and most diversified organic farm in New York. I met with farmer, Ray McEnroe, to learn about this iconic Hudson Valley business. Formerly a dairy farm, Ray dedicated his land to farming organic produce in the 1980s. What once operated as a farm stand out of a two-car garage stand has grown to a 1500-acre farm, featuring 20 greenhouses, chickens, turkeys, beef cattle and more. McEnroe is more than just a store, it’s destination where people can reconnect with their food. Whether it’s berry picking in the summer, a Discovery garden for kids or seeing animals out in the pasture, there’s always something fun going on at McEnroe’s.
IF YOU GO
One of my favorite parts of the farm store is the calendar out front, showing all the vegetables grown and when they are in season.
McEnroe Farm Market
5409 Route 22
Millerton, NY 12546
Orvis Sporting Clays Course
Sandanona is the oldest permitted shotgun shooting club in the country. The main lodge dates all the way back to the Thomas Jefferson presidency. I met with Paula Moore, the Chief Shooting instructor at Sandanona. I was a little nervous about clay shooting—I’d never done it before, and I take handling guns very seriously. Paula made me feel comfortable and confident. After completing a gun safety and etiquette orientation, we headed out to the course. Sporting clay courses are designed to simulate the hunting of ducks, pheasants, upland birds and even rabbits. Under Paula’s expert tutelage, I learned the proper stance, gun mount, chin placement, and somehow, magically, I hit my very first shot! Paula is clearly an exceptional coach and teacher as she is helping me tap into a skill I never knew I had.
IF YOU GO
This course is huge—400 acres! The entire thing encompasses 20 stands, each one a new environment with a different new challenge. Nothing here has been created– you are using the natural landscape to provide the different types of terrain you would encounter in a hunt. the course is ever changing and ever challenging.
Sandanona Shooting Grounds
3047 Sharon Road
Millbrook, NY 12545
Harney & Sons
It’s no secret that I love tea. In fact, I always travel with a real tea cup! And when I’m in Dutchess County, Harney & Sons is a must-stop. I met with Michael Harnery, the man in charge of this 37-year-old family business. Michael’s father, John Harney, started the Millerton, New York tea company in 1983. Michael says at the time, no sons were involved in the business, but his father was optimistic—and right! Michael taught me the correct way to taste tea. No, you don’t just drink it. First, you look at the leaves. Then, you smell. Next, brew. And then, sip. It’s a lot like wine, except that I can drive myself home afterward. Not only is the shop located in Millteron, but their headquarters and factory as well.
IF YOU GO
The Harney & Sons tea shop is a bit like a match-making service. You tell them the kinds of flavors you like, and they will scout the perfect tea for you.
Harney & Sons
13 Main Street
Millerton, NY 12546
The Barrett Art Center
On a residential street in Poughkeepsie, you’ll find the Barrett Art Center—a gallery featuring contemporary art curated globally. On my trip, I explored the gallery with James Ransome, an artist living in Dutchess County. Ransome’s 11-piece collection, The View From Here, is displayed at the center. Inspired by James Baldwin essay, Ransome’s work reflects the juxtaposition between being an artist in a beautiful, rural area of New York while also looking at what was happening in the urban centers of the United States. He likes to incorporate quilt imagery in his pieces, signifying how everyone really does carry all of the experiences of our past into the current day.
Springwood and Val-Kill
Dutchess County is home to a family who profoundly shaped our nation and the world. The Roosevelt’s Springwood estate is a National Historic site with 50 historic structures, gardens and over a 1,000 acres of landscapes, woodlands and trails. Franklin D Roosevelt called this place home from his birth until his death. His Presidential Library is the first in the nation.
However, I wanted to visit the cottage belonging to his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. I had the great pleasure of touring Val-Kill with park ranger Fran Mascali-Urban. She was thrilled to accept a position here when it first became a National Historic site. She’s been here ever since. Formerly a furniture factory, Val-Kill became Eleanor’s personal retreat. When FDR died she made it her permanent home. It’s not the palatial estate you’d expect. Instead, you’ll find a rambling, stucco-covered, L-shaped building, reflecting its piece-meal construction during its career as a factory. It’s very humble and down to earth, just like Mrs. Roosevelt. The property is the first national historic site dedicated to a first lady. From this relaxed and comfortable space she held national and international court. In addition to the home, you’ll find trails on the property—one that leads to FDR’s own cottage in the woods.
Did you know?
John F. Kennedy was “required” to spend over three hours with her in Val-Kill to convince her that he was the worthy of her endorsement for the presidency.
4097 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
As a part of the Hudson River Valley, Dutchess County was designated by Congress as a National Heritage Area. It’s a place where culture, history and a beauty of landscape should be preserved. If there’s one place that really sums this lofty title, it is Innisfree. I met with Kate Kerin, the landscape curator, at this show-stopping garden. Recognized as one of the “world’s ten best gardens,” Innisfree is a powerful icon of mid-twentieth century design. The 180-acre park features a number a different types of gardens—from Modernist and Romantic to Chinese and Japanese—all set around a 10,000 year old Glacial Lake. Innisfree is described as “a distinctly American stroll garden — a sublime composition of rock, water, wood, and sky achieved with remarkable economy and grace.”
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