The Hudson Valley is a picturesque region of New York State. Originally called New Amsterdam, this area was discovered in the 1600s by Henry Hudson, who was in search of a route to India. Today, the region is one full of beauty, tranquility, and tons of History.
During the latter part of the 17th century, the English gained control of the area from the Dutch, and as the tension between the colonies and the crown heightened, this region became a hotbed of activity during colonial and Revolutionary War times. Due to its proximity to the Hudson River, the towns, villages, and settlements along this stretch of land were sites of many historical moments.
This area of the Hudson River saw many forts emerge when the Americans began to see a need to defend themselves, and the location was the one chosen for the prestigious West Point. It is also the location of George Washington’s famous chains that stretched across the Hudson toward the British from having taken control of this water route. Since those early American days, partially due to the close proximity to New York City, the Hudson Valley River region remained a pivotal location for trade, business, and residences.
If you are visiting the Hudson Valley, there are many things to see and do, especially if you are a history buff. Here are a few top picks:
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what to do in the Hudson Valley
A visit to the Hudson Valley region isn’t complete without at least a brief stop at West Point. The location is still a very active military installment, but some areas are open to the public once visitors are cleared by security. The West Point Museum would be of particular interest to those intrigued by American and Military History.
Inside the museum walls, there is a history of the U.S. Army, displays of warfare and strategy documents, and a showcase of weapons; there’s even a tank. If you appreciate history, or have a keen interest in U.S. military history, the West Point Museum is a can’t miss destination.
Estates and Mansions
The region is also home to many famous estates and mansions. There’s the Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Roosevelt, and Boscobel historical homes. The estates are open to the public for tours (for a fee), and visitors can explore these homes owned by people whose own history deeply impacted U.S. history.
At Boscobel House and Gardens, you can tour a mansion that was originally located several miles south and slated for demolition. The home is a 19th-century one which was saved in the 1950s and physically moved piece by piece to its current location. The preservation of an elegant 1800s home is a historical point of interest. As an aside, the Hudson River views are pretty spectacular from this location.
Slightly to the north of Boscobel in Hyde Park, perhaps a 45 minute to an hour drive, is the FDR Presidential Museum and Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion. The former is the home of 4 term President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the museum, the President’s different stages of life are documented for all to see. The property contains a gold mine of memorabilia and includes a tour of interest for history enthusiasts.
Nearby is the Vanderbilt mansion. The estate home boasts 50 rooms and sits on over 200 acres. The mansion was built in 1898 and stood as a reminder of the large wealth some individuals were able to acquire during the Industrial Age in the United States, documenting a later era of New York History.
This is an interesting historical landmark, not necessarily because of the land it sits on, but due to the treasures that live there. The Rhinebeck Aerodrome has an amazing collection of early aircraft dating back to the early years of the 20th century when the flight was brand new.
The Aerodrome is a unique opportunity to see, up close and personal, aviation history. During the seasons (June to October), each weekend, visitors can actually see these planes fly! Additionally, there are lots of other unique, vintage memorabilia available for viewing throughout the museum area of the Aerodrome.
Take a Drive
Scattered throughout the lower and mid-Hudson Valley region are many historical plaques that commemorate pivotal moments of early American History. If you grab a map and choose a route, there are many areas to explore.
There’s Stony Point Battlefield, Bear Mountain, the quaint Village of Cold Spring (this would be of particular interest to antique collectors), and many more. The Hudson Valley Voyager website offers a plethora of recommendations for you to see on your drive.
As an interesting piece of trivia, in Rockland County, there is even a plaque that marks the hanging location of Major Andre. Andre was the British Officer linked to Benedict Arnold’s infamous treason and the recipient of the papers Arnold had supplied; Arnold escaped, but Andre did not. Today, the plaque is located in the middle of a residential cul-de-sac, but you can still do a drive-by and see the location where one of the U.S. most famous hangings took place.
There are several river towns located along the lower spectrum of the Hudson River. Throughout the warmer months, many of these towns and villages offer celebrations and riverfront concerts. The annual Peekskill Celebration is always a popular event, complete with fireworks.
On the Westchester/Putnam County side (the east), there’s Peekskill, Cold Spring, Garrison, Croton, Ossining, the Tarrytowns (one of which was recently renamed Sleepy Hollow) and Yonkers.
The western side of the Hudson houses the towns of Bear Mountain, West Point, Stony Point, Harriman, Piedmont, Nanuet, Nyack, and the Palisades, to name a few. Each of these areas have historical stories to tell, not to mention both sides of the river offer spectacular views.
In addition, there are many other homes and places of business that hold the claim and a plaque to commemorate “George Washington slept here.” This goes to illustrate how integral a region the Hudson Valley was during the formative years of America and what eventually grew to become the United States.
History is literally all around the Hudson Valley
Now you can understand how this region of New York is chock full of valuable commemorations and landmarks documenting early American History. Visitors are bound to enjoy the many historical elements this valley has to offer including the sites, shopping and the beautiful landscapes.