Recently TripAdvisor (a great website for Travelers) announced that ordinary travelers could and should write about their home town areas, and enter a contest, to tell strangers about their own “home town.” In other words, make a “Go” List. (Have a look at the site, it’s full of travel information of all sorts.)
It got me to thinking about what kind of a trip around Dutchess County I could suggest to someone unfamiliar with the County and its riches.
By now, I think you’d have to be a still-sleeping Rip Van Winkle not to know that tourism is one of Dutchess County’s largest industries. There is a huge amount of material available for visitors, and Dutchess County Tourism does a great job.
However, I sometimes cringe when I think that people will come here and see only the major things, like the FDR Estate (an historic and worth-while destination, to be sure) and the CIA, (also worth a visit and a tour, and a meal, if possible) and perhaps the Vanderbilt Estate, (at least for the fabulous view). OK, no doubt many tourists come on buses, as my sister did, believe it or not, and stay in the hotel in Poughkeepsie, so they don’t have a chance to wander the county, but let’s pretend they do.
Here’s my “Go” list. I hope that you will, in return, send in one or more of your own.
First, don’t forget to come on a clear day, and if that works, take a ride on Charlie Hill Road, in Millerton, from whence you can get a fabulous view of the Catskills, and see a few horses on the way. On route, you might go up North Mabbetsville Road, to see a few more horses, hoping those pesky motorcycles aren’t there first. (Yes, they have discovered this beautiful road, sadly for my friends who live there.)
But we can all think of our favorite country rides in Dutchess, for there are so many. I have always been a fan of dirt roads, so I think I’ve been on most of them in the county. My favorite is probably Deep Hollow Road, in Lithgow, with Butts Hollow Road down to Wassaic as a close second. (You’d swear you were in Vermont.)
Where would I tell a tourist to go to eat, after a day at the National Historic Sites? Well, the CIA is obvious, but does everyone know about how good all the Four Brothers Pizza places are? Do they know about the Apple Pie Bakery Café at the CIA? (great cafeteria style, casual food, no reservations necessary, and get a beautiful view of the Hudson on the way?) Do they know about Les Baux, where the brilliant Herve serves up the most reliable French bistro food anywhere around? Have they been told about Il Barilotto, a tuscan bistro, right in the middle of Fishkill, with great bread and a super wine list, and still very casual? Have they heard of The Beechtree Grill, in Arlington (looks like a dark bar, and is, but also has the world’s best grilled chicken salad?) They turn out some of the best food around, in a kitchen about the size of a closet. Is everyone aware of China Rose, that great restaurant in tiny, quirky Rhinecliff, with great river views? And perhaps most hidden of all is the health food café at Omega Institute, on a dirt road somewhere in deepest Clinton Corners.
If I were a tourist, I would like to know that all of Vassar College Campus is an arboretum, with specimen trees, and lovely rolling hills. It would be a perfect place for a long walk, to stretch one’s legs after a visit to another gem, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Gallery at Vassar’s entrance. This small gallery contains some marvelous art objects, and is a favorite destination of mine. Lunch at the Beechtree Grill, or a delicious veggie omelet at Julie’s on Raymond Avenue would be a great follow-up.
By the way, I would tell visitors to stay at Vassar’s Alumnae House, just redone and in a fabulous location. www.aavc.vassar.edu/house/index.html. It has lovely public rooms, a library, and a restaurant.
I would hope that visitors to the county would stay long enough to play golf at one of the myriad of golf courses scattered around the county. Just driving down Amenia Hill would be reason enough to stop at Silo Ridge Country Club, the challenging course at the bottom.
Woops, we’re back at scenic drives again. I could also suggest that any visitor with a car should just follow some of the Scenic Road markers, especially in Eastern Dutchess. And, frankly, when I came to a turn marked “Yellow City Road” many years ago, I just could NOT resist.
When they tire of driving, or need a destination, visitors might like to go to Wilcox Park, on Route 199, in the town of Milan. I remember many quiet walks on the roadways in this park, and I’m sure others would enjoy it as well.
For those who love the river, I would even suggest a trip across the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, for a wander through the Rondout area. The area is certainly not unknown, nor hidden, but it seems to me there is always something new going on there. And some of the long time restaurants there, like Armadillo, continue to draw a loyal following.
A final bit of advice I would give to all travelers is to patronize any and all local independent bookstores, wherever they go. Not only do they need the business to survive, they invariably provide lots of local color, and local advice. Merritt and Oblong come to mind, but there may be others. If you know of any, let me know, would you? Maybe I should have put this at the beginning of this column, since I’m certain employees in book stores know a lot about local hidden gems.