Hey, Hillary: Here's how you can relax in the Hudson Valley
Now that Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially stepping down as secretary of state, a position for which she traveled nearly 1 million miles and visited 112 countries in four years, she says she's looking forward to "stepping off the very fast track for a little while."
Although visits to high-end area restaurants such as Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Crabtree's Kittle House certainly are in order, as is a getaway to Mohonk Mountain House or another area resort, allow us to suggest seven ways the 65-year-old Chappaqua resident can chill out in Westchester, Rockland and the rest of the Hudson Valley. From becoming a member of the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville to taking herself out to a Renegades baseball game in Wappingers Falls, here are a few activities that the former first lady might enjoy in the region.
1. Stop, and tend the flowers
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For many, there's no better way to relax while spending time in nature than gardening, and if Clinton wants to return to seeding and sowing a plot of land, as she did in a White House rooftop vegetable patch, she might join the volunteers who tend the splendid Bellefield gardens at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites in Hyde Park. There, from April to November, the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association spends two hours every Tuesday morning maintaining the garden's 3,000 square feet of herbaceous borders. Anne Symmes, the association's executive director and horticulturist, said the group does more than just mow the lawn. "We weed, plant, deadhead blossoms, cut back perennials and maintain the pathways throughout," she said.
More gardening: If Clinton wants to stay closer to home, she can pay the $35 annual fee to join the Chappaqua Garden Club, a nonprofit organization that has been conserving and tending to local flora since 1928 (P.O. Box 374, Chappaqua; www.chappaquagardenclub.com).
2. Revel in the arts
Although Clinton is clearly a fan of the Jacob Burns Film Center, having visited the Pleasantville venue to watch various films in the past, she can increase her support and involvement in the arts by becoming a member.
Though basic memberships start at $75 per adult and exceed $10,000 for "executive producer" status, Jake Railton, the film center's membership assistant, recommended the "film buff" level to Westchester County residents such as Clinton.
"You have all the benefits of higher membership categories, but it's the most affordable of the premium memberships," he said of the $175 package.
Info: Jacob Burns Film Center, 364 Manville Rd., Pleasantville; 914-747-5555; www.burnsfilmcenter.org
More local arts: Clinton might consider visiting other notable venues in the region, including Dia: Beacon,, a museum that houses contemporary art and massive sculptures in a 300,000-square-foot former Nabisco box factory (3 Beekman St., Beacon; 845-440-0100; www.diacenter.org) and Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor sculpture park featuring giant sculptures of steel, wood and stone (1 Museum Rd., Mountainville; 845-534-3115; www.stormking.org; reopens April 3). She also might consider becoming a member at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, which will stage the 68th annual Caramoor International Music Festival this summer (149 Girdle Ridge Rd., Katonah; 914-232-1492; www.caramoor.org).
3. Volunteer as a museum docent:
As secretary of state, Clinton's role required a breadth of cultural knowledge and an ability to communicate effectively with world leaders. Those skills would serve her well as a museum docent, a fancy term for someone who leads guided tours.
Saralinda Lichtblau, the museum's director of teaching and learning, said that some of their docents are people in transition, those "who have had tremendous success in their careers" and are "starting over again." For those reasons, she said that Clinton would make an "awesome" docent.
"So much of what we do involves sharing and listening and learning from others," Lichtblau said. "A certain generosity of spirit is really crucial for this kind of work, and I think she has that."
More volunteer opportunities: Local historic sites are also in need of volunteers to assist in tasks such as leading tours, clerical work and event planning. Such sites include the Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site in Hyde Park (4097 Albany Post Rd., Hyde Park; 1-800-337-84748; www.nps.gov/hofr) and the John Jay Homestead in Katonah (400 Jay St.; 914-232-8119; www.johnjayhomestead.org).
4. Serve as a mentor
In her 1996 New York Times bestselling book, "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us," Clinton highlighted the importance of children learning from their community, so what better way for the mother of one to share her knowledge with future generations than by taking on a protege as part of the "Her Honor" mentoring program?
Started by Larchmont resident Nicole Sheindlin and her mother, Judy Sheindlin, better known to television viewers as "Judge Judy," the program matches high school girls in participating Westchester County schools with female professionals to provide a hands-on workplace learning experience while stressing the importance of education and developing life skills.
Clinton may no longer have an official workplace to take her protege, but she would provide invaluable life advice for anyone considering a career in public service.
"Hillary would be a fabulous mentor who would provide her mentee with a unique perspective on being a professional woman and lessons in overcoming adversity," Nicole Sheindlin said.
Info: Interested mentors should email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or visit www.herhonor.org
More mentoring opportunities: The Westchester Office for Women, which helps administer the "Her Honor" mentoring program, also oversees a minority- and female-owned business program and offers support to career women who are raising families. Another organization that Clinton might consider working with is the Samaritan House Women's Shelter, which provides temporary shelter and services to homeless women suffering from substance abuse, mental illness or domestic violence (33 Church St., White Plains; 914-948-3075; www.gracecommunitycenter.org/services_samaritan_house.htm).
5. Enjoy the great outdoors
The Hudson Valley is laced with numerous scenic walks that would be ideal for Clinton. She could visit Poet's Walk Park in Red Hook, a landscape of meadows, fields and woods that offers lovely views of the Catskill Mountains.
Info: Poet's Walk Park, County Road 103, Red Hook; 845-473-4440; www.scenichudson.org/parks/poetswalk. The park is open all year long.
More scenic walks: Walkway Over the Hudson, the world's longest elevated pedestrian bridge, which spans the Hudson River, is another ideal destination (87 Haviland Rd., Highland; 845-834-2867; http://www.walkway.org). Closer to home, Clinton might amble around the Scenic Hudson Riverwalk Park in Tarrytown, a half-mile waterfront park that offers vistas of the Manhattan skyline and Tappan Zee Bridge (250 W. Main St., Tarrytown; 914-631-8347 www.scenichudson.org/parks/riverwalkparktarrytown).
6. Take a mother-daughter cooking class
When Chelsea Clinton, 31, married Marc Mezvinsky 2 1/2 years ago in Rhinebeck, she and her groom served a gluten-free cake made by Westchester bakery La Tulipe Desserts. Today, Hillary and Chelsea might return to the Mount Kisco patisserie for some mother-daughter bonding during cooking classes.
La Tulipe, an authentic Parisian bakery run by husband-and-wife team Maarten and Frances Steenman, offers seasonal, four-session baking classes in which students learn to make cakes, tarts, chocolates and other confections. Classes, which are limited to six students per session, are $500 per person.
Info: La Tulipe Desserts, 455 Lexington Ave.; 914-242-4555; www.latulipedesserts.com/bakingclasses.html
More cooking classes: If they'd rather attend cooking classes at Anthony Bourdain's alma mater, Hillary and Chelsea might sign up for one of the Culinary Institute of America's Saturday cooking classes (1946 Campus Dr., Hyde Park; 800-888- 7850; www.ciachef.edu/enthusiasts/weekends; $250 each). Another option is to learn from renowned chef John Novi in a weekend class at his long-running Hudson Valley restaurant, DePuy Canal House (1315 Main St., High Falls; 845-687-7700; depuycanalhouse.net; $125 per person).
7. Root for a home team
A Chicago native, Clinton grew up cheering for the Cubs, who also happen to be the favorite Major League Baseball team of comedian Bill Murray. Perhaps Murray, a Palisades resident who is part owner of the Hudson Valley Renegades minor-league baseball team in Wappingers Falls, could reignite Clinton's baseball fandom by taking her to a game at Dutchess Stadium.
If they decide to go top of the line, for $1,025 per night, they can reserve the stadium's fully catered luxury suite for 20 people; it's equipped with central air conditioning, flat-screen TVs and indoor/outdoor seating.
If they want to be close to the action, they can opt for the Ultimate Excursion package; for $200 apiece, they can sit in the seats of Renegades owners Marv Goldklang and Bill Murray -- yes, Murray would be sitting in his own reserved seat -- and get waiter service, a generous amount of complimentary food and drink, and the opportunity to participate in two activities ranging from delivering the ceremonial first pitch to a pregame catch on the field. Or, Secret Service notwithstanding, they could try to go incognito among the masses with premium box seats, which are $15 per person.
Corinne Adams, a Hudson Valley Renegades spokeswoman, said she doesn't believe Clinton has been to Dutchess Stadium, but she noted that the Renegades' raccoon mascot, Rascal, headed to Rhinebeck to propose to Chelsea Clinton on the day of her 2010 wedding.
Info: Hudson Valley Renegades at Dutchess Stadium, 1500 Route 9D, Wappingers Falls; 845-838-0094; www.hvrenegades.com
More local sports: If Clinton and Murray want to stay in his home county, they can check out the Rockland Boulders at Provident Bank Park (1 Provident Bank Park Dr., Pomona; 845-364-0009; www.rocklandboulders.com).
With Jillian Sederholm and Anne Machalinski