A new New York, just up the Hudson
But the main event is the five student-run restaurants that are open to the public. The most formal of these is American Bounty, a classic white tablecloth restaurant, with appetizers of Hudson Valley foie gras and entrees of house-smoked duck. St Andrew's is a more casual farm-to-table restaurant that also serves French cuisine at dinner while the school renovates its French restaurant. And Ristorante Caterina de' Medici offers new twists on classic Italian fare such as ravioli stuffed with almond and ricotta cheese served with butter thyme, and roasted rabbit with black olives and pine nuts. The French restaurant, Escoffier, will re-open as Bocuse in winter 2013. Advanced reservations for all of the venues are a must.
Heading west across the river and about 20 miles from Hyde Park is the college town of New Paltz, where you will find a wide variety of locally-owned, non-chain restaurants that cater to the tastes of students and professors. Stop by the Gilded Otter for a taste of the area’s microbrew scene, or if your tastes head towards the harder stuff, do not miss Tuthilltown Spirits in the neighbouring town of Gardiner. The historic gristmill distillery makes bourbon out of New York State corn and vodka out of local apples. Tastings and tours are available.
There is also a range of accommodations in New Paltz, including budget chain motels such as Rodeway Inn and Suites and bed and breakfasts such as Moondance Ridge. But the sprawling Victorian mountaintop resort of Mohonk Mountain House is a destination on its own, with a huge network of nearby hiking trails ranging from easy carriage paths to challenging rock scrambles. Even if you are not staying at the resort, trails in the more than 7,500-acre Mohonk preserve are accessible to day hikers. The Minnewaska State Park Preserve, less than 10 miles from New Paltz, also has an extensive network of hiking trails and rock scrambles.
From New Paltz, drive southeast over the Hudson about 25 miles to spend a late morning at Dia: Beacon, a 240,000sqft contemporary art museum that was once a riverside Nabisco printing factory in the town of Beacon. Dia’s collection includes a carefully curated selection of works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt and Louise Bourgeois, but it avoids stuffy seriousness thanks to its unusual spaciousness and the ample natural light that streams in from skylights and large, practically floor-to-ceiling windows. A particular crowd favourite are John Chamberlain’s large whimsical sculptures made from crushed automobiles, on permanent display.
Once you have had your fill of art, head to Main Street in the small town of Beacon. Bank Square Coffee House, located a short walk from the museum, is a eclectically designed cafe, featuring small batch roasted coffees, a menu of local microbrewed beers and a selection of organic and gluten-free pastries. For a more substantial breakfast or lunch, visit Homespun Foods, a few blocks further up Main Street. It has an internationally inspired menu -- think egg burritos, Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches and smoked trout salad over greens – but local farms provide many of the ingredients. It is yet another sophisticated taste of the Hudson Valley’s bounty, served just up the river from New York City.