In the northeast, there’s no better time for a road trip than early fall. The autumn colors are out, the air is crisp, and people’s front yards are full of ridiculous jack o’ lanterns. What other incentive do you need?
A lot of New Yorkers feel the pull of the Hamptons when they need a weekend getaway, but I hate the Hamptons. For me, the Hudson River Valley is the place to be: Small towns, antique shops, Washington Irving lore, amazing views, and—most importantly—an increasingly impressive craft-beer scene.
The following itinerary can easily be completed in one day, if you set off from NYC by around 10am. I’ve done it in different permutations on several occasions and never had a bad time.
What you’ll need:
- Designated driver.
- Epic rap music.
- Sturdy bladder.
1. Take the scenic route
Cross the George Washington Bridge heading out of Manhattan, then get on the Palisades Interstate Parkway and continue to Route 9W. This way will take you slightly longer to get to the first stop than if you took I-87 (get some coffee for the ride), but the views are worth it—9W road hugs the Hudson River and winds through Storm King State Park, offering awesome panoramas across the water along the way.
2. Culture stop #1: Storm King Art Center
You could leave later and skip this stop if you wanted to, but I recommend getting a jump on the day so that you can wander through the sprawling, 500-acre outdoor art park. Stroll through open fields and tree-lined paths while gawking at installations by the likes of John Bisbee, Maya Lin, and Alexander Calder. stormking.org
3. Burgers and shakes: Woody’s All-Natural Burgers
In the nearby town of Cornwall, you’ll find this locals-approved burger joint, where you’re greeted at the entrance with a photo of Woody—a stoic-looking golden retriever who was apparently the founder and CEO. The satisfying cheeseburgers are all about freshness: a thick and juicy griddled patty that tastes like real honest-to-goodness beef, topped with romaine, raw onion, tomato, and a gooey layer of cheddar that oozes down the sides. The chili fries are decent, but the shakes are great—simple creations made with Jane’s Homemade Ice Cream from nearby Kingston, NY. Take your grub outside and soak up some midday rays on the patio. woodysallnatural.com
4. Session beers: Newburgh Brewing Co.
One of the Hudson Valley’s newest breweries is also one of the best to visit. The taproom is a vast, wood-floored beer hall boasting great views over the Hudson; ping pong and cornhole; and a bar serving well-priced pints of the house brews. Along with the setting, Newburgh’s focus on low-alcohol session beers makes it a fine early-afternoon stop. I like the refreshing saison, as well as the easy-drinking cream ale—a classic New York style that’s largely ignored by craft brewers. Look out for new beers making their debut (I recently got to sample a funky gose flavored with coriander and salt), as well as guest ales from other small local outfits like Chester’s Rushing Duck. Saturday tours are available upon request; call ahead. newburghbrewing.com
5. Culture stop #2: Dia:Beacon
Just north of the brewery, cross the bridge over the river into Beacon, a rejuvenated hamlet that’s become a magnet for city slickers looking to mainline some small-town charm. It’s also popular stop on the Hudson Valley art circuit, thanks to a thriving gallery scene and the excellent Dia:Beacon contemporary art museum. Housed in a former Nabisco printing factory, Dia displays works from artists like Sol Lewitt, Max Neuhaus, and Blinky Palermo. Whether or not you know who these people are—or care about a pile of broken glass that is supposed to represent the fragility of man or something—the place is an aesthetic triumph. Ambling through the massive corridors, with natural light streaming in through huge windows all around the building, is an ideal way to prime yourself for the next beer stop. diacenter.org
Next: The beer crawl continues at The Hop, Peekskill Brewery, and Birdsall…
6. Afternoon stroll: Main Street, Beacon
Cruising along Beacon’s mile-long main strip, you can continue whatever vibe you’re feeling—more art, burgers, and beer are all at the ready. The coolest storefronts are congregated at the east and west ends of the street. Nearest Dia, grab a Kyoto iced coffee or pourover at Bank Square Coffeehouse, eat grass-fed burgers at Poppy’s, and peruse funky shops selling everything from handmade blown glass to gloves that look like underwear. Zora Dora’s Micro Batch Ice Cream and Paletas is a good stop for frozen treats; pick up paletas (Latin American ice pops) in flavors such as arroz con leche and strawberry mint.
The other end of Main Street is a bit more lively and picturesque, with trees lining the sidewalk and dense row of galleries and antique shops. You’ll want to factor in a stop at The Hop, a new hybrid beer store and bar that’s buzzing with locals (and their dogs) on weekend afternoons. Browse the excellent display of bottles while sipping something from the ever-changing draft selection—recently, the taps have featured hard-to-find pours from the likes of Jolly Pumpkin and Alphabet City Beer Co. cityofbeacon.org
7. More scenic driving
From Beacon, you’ll want to hug the river again as you head south toward Peekskill on Route 9D. Eventually you’ll hit Route 202, a beautiful, windy road that climbs up above the valley and affords a phenomenal view across the water to Bear Mountain State Park.
8. Sneak peak of the future of New York beer: Peekskill Brewery
Down by the Peekskill waterfront, you’ll find this cultish brewpub, where former Ithaca Beer brewmaster Jeff O’Neil has taken the reins while he works on opening a larger production facility in the area. Grab a flight of beers so that you can work your way through the offerings. Highlights on recent visits have included the Tropic Thunder, an IPA packed with Australian hops, and the rye-and-wheat–based Shotgun Willie IPA. O’Neil plans to create a sour-focused program at the new brewery—the first of its kind in the region—and you can get a sneak peak of the funky results by tasting the Zeitgeist Berliner Weisse. The tart and lemony session brew is served with housemade syrups—flavors might include juniper and ginger-peach— to cut through the acidity. thepeekskillbrewery.com
9. One more for the road: Birdsall Ale House
If your crew is still feeling strong after the flights (and your designated driver is not losing patience), hop back in the whip and roll to the center of town to get to Birdsall, a bar that’s solidified itself as a lynchpin of the Westchester County craft-brew scene. The twenty taps skew East Coast, and you can usually find fresh kegs from local favorite Captain Lawrence. Take your beers to the leafy garden, where you might find a couple dudes strumming guitars and singing covers on a weekend afternoon. See that smoker in the corner? You’re going to want to ask what’s in there, and strategize your order from there. You might end up with smoked-chicken nachos, or a plate of housemade andouille sausage to balance out the brews. birdsallhouse.net
10. Pit stop/bottle shop: DeCicco’s Ardsley
Somewhere between Peeskill and your destination back in NYC, one passenger will inevitably complain that they need to pee (assuming you’ve followed the itinerary and had at least four pints by this point). Instead of clowning this person for having a weak bladder, make a strategic stop at Decicco’s. It looks like a regular suburban supermarket at first glance, but walk to the back and you’ll find one of the finest beer selections on the East Coast. The truly mindboggling lineup of cans and bottles apparently spans more than 1,000 varieties, and its full of rare finds, including special-edition Sixpoint Grand Cru bombers, vintage brews lurking on back shelves, and obscure one-offs from Scandinavian gypsy brewers. Pick up a haul and throw them in the back seat for later. deciccos.com