Cheap travel: The Hudson Valley and the world's largest kaleidoscope


Years ago, my littlest sister and I used to go on summer vacations together. Although we usually ended up with family on Cape Cod or friends in New York City, we would generally plan our routes around out-of-the-way places that we wanted to explore. One year, attracted by its weird name, we decided to visit Poughkeepsie. It was a bust.

The trip, though, was a lot of fun, and we discovered New York's amazing Hudson Valley. We returned a few times that summer and over the ensuing years, and have never failed to be awed by the amazing array of beautiful vistas, outstanding shopping, and wonderful little tourist attractions that lay just off the beaten path. Best of all, the area isn't a major travel destination, which means that it is still relatively inexpensive and not too crowded.

Hyde Park: Ella and I were never all that great at getting an early start, so we reached Poughkeepsie long after dark. We decided to bypass the city and continued to travel north on Route 9. When I saw a sign for Hyde Park, I thought it sounded familiar, so that's where we stopped for the night. The next morning, I walked out to discover that my motel was across the street from Springwood, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mansion. My sister and I spent a leisurely morning wandering all over the place, checking out the Presidential library, the stables, and the extensive grounds.

Springwood isn't the only mansion in Hyde Park. There's also Eleanor Roosevelt's retreat, Val-Kill, and the Vanderbilt Mansion, both of which are only a few miles from Springwood. Val-Kill is intimate, while the Vanderbilt home is a huge, beautiful Beaux-Arts masterpiece, designed by McKim, Mead, and White. On the other hand, if mansions aren't your thing, you could always try visiting the Culinary Institute of America, which is also located in Hyde Park. In addition to an impressive bookstore, it has four amazing, incredibly well-priced gourmet restaurants.

Originally published