Scenic Dutchess County is a three-hour drive from New York City, making it a perfect day trip or overnight place to visit. It is rich with history and has something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Many of the highlights on a trip here are located on the 15-mile drive on Route 9 between Hyde Park and Rhinebeck on the Hudson River.
See, Hear and Ride an Old Plane
Starting just north of Rhinebeck is a truly unique experience where you can look at, hear, feel and take part in the history of aviation. The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is not just a place that displays some of the oldest airplanes in the country. It is a place where you can see a vintage air show of about a dozen planes on summer weekends from June to Oct. 9.
If seeing these old planes perform is not enough for you, do as we did and don an old fashion cap and goggles and hop aboard a 1929 New Standard D-25 barnstorming bi-plane. Here you get to ride a piece of history and feel the wind in your hair while your very experienced pilot takes you on a 15-minute tour to the Hudson River and back. While the plane is a vintage 1929, it meets all the modern FAA safety regulations and has a perfect safety record.
Along with vintage planes and memorabilia there are several old cars to give guests rides. The new star at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is the just completed recreation of The Spirit of St. Louis. This is a perfect duplicate of the airplane Charles Lindberg flew to Paris in 1927 in 33 hours. It took nearly 20 years to complete making it the most historically accurate plane of its type. The aerodrome has an eager staff of volunteers who tell you what they are working on and how it works. Tickets on air show weekends are $25 for adults, $12 for kids 6 to 17. Seniors and military get $5 off; weekday entrance is less. Biplane rides are $75 and fly on weekends with a need to call ahead on weekdays.
Historical Mansions and Homes
Driving south on Route 9 there are few “must sees”. The 54-room Vanderbilt Mansion sitting on 211 pretty acres on the Hudson River is a great place to visit. It was completed in 1899 as the seasonal residence of Frederick Vanderbilt. What makes touring this mansion unique was that it was donated to the Federal Parks Department in 1938 with the encouragement of their neighbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with nearly all of its original furniture. This means people get a chance to see what was actually in the house and how they lived. Take a picnic lunch down to the river. Tours are given on the hour and are adjusted seasonally.
Next door to the Vanderbilt Mansion is the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site called Springwood. This was the 32nd president’s birthplace, lifelong home and burial site. The home is considered colonial revival-Style and is three stories. Tours are given throughout the day and while seeing the mansion you will also learn a lot about President Roosevelt. Reservations for tours can be made one day in advance. If you get there and just miss a tour you can walk the grounds or visit the FDR Presidential Library and Museum first.
Another gem not to be missed is called Val-Kill. This simple stone cottage is also known as Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and is the only home she actually owned. This important site teaches visitors about Mrs. Roosevelt’s life. It showed how down to earth she was living in a small home with her simple furnishings. The park ranger stressed how she was not just the wife of a president but the true first lady with an important agenda of helping people and promoting civil rights. We learned much about her important United Nations work after leaving the White House and what an amazing woman Mrs. Roosevelt was. Tours are given on the hour.
A Culinary School To Dine For
When in this area the place for food is at the CIA. This great campus on the Hudson is a place of great chefs and not spies, because this CIA stands for the Culinary Institute of America. Whether it is lunch at their café or gourmet student deli or dinner at one of the four fine restaurants, this is an experience not to miss. We dined on French Cuisine at Bocuse Restaurant where we enjoyed a three course meal at a mid-week price of only $45. It is an amazing experience where the students take turns doing the cooking and then switch over to serving the restaurant in the middle of their mini semester. Here you get a four-star meal where the chefs switch out every couple of weeks. For American fare focusing on local ingredients you can dine at the American Bounty and for Italian food there is the Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici. For a scenic picnic grab a bite at the student cafeteria and enjoy your meal overlooking the Hudson River. For reservation and information go to www.ciachef.edu/visiting-new-york
Bridge Over Scenic Water
To burn off some of the calories from all that good food the night before, an interesting and scenic place to visit is the Walkway over the Hudson. This unusual cantilever truss bridge was built as a railway bridge in 1889. It was turned into a pedestrian bridge in 2009 having a total length of two miles (1.28 is over the river) and a height of 212 feet. The views are spectacular and it is free to cross.
Rather than rush too many things in one day we opted to spend the night at the Rhinecliff on the Hudson River. This hotel is a blend of old-style architecture with modern and very comfortable amenities including a large soaking tub with a view in our bathroom. After a long afternoon out we sat on our balcony and watched the boats pass by while sipping a cocktail. Breakfast here is a must before you start your day. If you arrive from the city by train, the hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from the station. Visit www.tabhauser.com for additional travel stories.