This 2020 of ours is not looking like the best moment in history for interstate or international travel, which is frustrating. Lots of us have loved ones and favorite places that are temporarily out of reach.
That said, if you’ve gotta be stuck somewhere, there are much worse places than the Hudson Valley. In non-pandemic times, people come from everywhere to get here. Twenty years back, in the year 2000, the New York Times estimated that there were 25 million visitors—and though it was tough to find an updated head count, the amount of dollars spent had increased by about a cool two billion by 2018. That’s a lot of guests.
The things they all come to see are right here in our own backyard, and likely to be a lot less crowded this year. (The glorious backdrop is literally unavoidable; just doing your errands takes you through the same scenery that draws a crowd.) So get out there and soak it up; just please stay safe and practice “Leave No Trace.”
Hike. The wonderful carriage trails of the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park are open with safety protocols in place—and packed this summer. Why not spread out even farther? The Catskills Visitor Center in Mount Tremper has a walk-up window open Monday through Saturday, 10am-3pm, and a website where you can choose from a selection of Catskills trail maps and get the latest conditions 24/7.
Picnic like a millionaire. Step one: Choose your garden spot. Vanderbilt Garden State Historic Site, Montgomery Place, Olana, and Locust Grove are just four possibilities. Step two: Hire your chef. Our eateries have been perfecting their takeout game for months, and will happily fix you a feast. Step three: After dessert, wander around taking in the views, plantings, and history, and reflect on the fact that these places now belong to “We the People.”
Catch a movie. Ulster County Movie Nights is serving up a free series of family favorites. The Warwick Drive In, Greenville Drive-In, and Overlook Drive-In are all open with safety protocols in place.
Catch a meal out on the town: Downtowns in Newburgh, Ellenville, Woodstock, Warwick, and elsewhere have relaxed zoning and worked with the proper authorities to create more space for outdoor seating. Then there are the many restaurants that had patios in the first place.
Laugh at the Bard: the Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company is presenting “William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play” every weekend from August 7 through September 6 at their gorgeous outdoor stage on the spacious Comeau Property in Woodstock.
Rebel opera: Puccini’s Tosca is a political suspense story, set in an era of great unrest. The Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice is presenting a live drive-in performance of Puccini’s Tosca on August 28.
Get farmy: There’s plenty of room to get together apart in the pick-your-own fields and orchards of local farms. And local farmers’ markets and farm stands have been offering socially-distanced services since spring. Consider learning to can and freeze for a winter-long supply of healthy yummies.
‘Yak it up: Nothing combines social distancing and stress reduction quite like gliding over the water in a kayak, and getting a duck’s-eye view of it all. Rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board, grab your sun hat and water bottle, and go exploring.
Rail trails: Having been planned and built with trains in mind, rail trails make for wonderful bicycling. And since those 25 million people visited back in 2000, we’ve grown our local network into something delightful. Ride the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail all the way from Gardiner to New Paltz, grab lunch, and head on up the line to Rosendale’s trestle bridge. Explore canal history along the O&W Rail Trail. Take a ride over the Big River on an uncrowded weekday at the Walkway Over the Hudson.
Marvel: Storm King Art Center with 500 acres of large-scale sculpture and site-specific works, is open using a timed-entry ticket system to keep everybody safe. Opus 40 is welcoming guests in groups of up to five for socially-distanced two-hour visits to its unique, walkable bluestone sculpture.
Dip in: Swimming hole access has tightened in some places for safety and environmental reasons, but we can still get wet. Peekamoose Blue Hole is open on a permitted, reservations-only basis. Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting are open within Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Belleayre Beach is open in Highmount and renting aqua trikes, and you can make a reservation for a scenic gondola ride while you’re up there. You can take a dip in the Hudson at Kingston Point Beach. The Ulster County Pool Complex is open to residents and their guests.
Stream it: Whatever your favorite Hudson Valley cultural institution may be, we promise they miss you just as badly as you miss them. Surf to their website and see what kind of archived or fresh material they may be offering in cyberspace, and consider a donation if you love what you find.
Build it: To have a truly proper staycation, worthy of the name, undertake at least one project on the home front. It can be as simple as hunting down and installing a volleyball/badminton set or as elaborate as building yourself a whole new outdoor hangout with a patio, fire pit, and hammocks.