A day trip up the Hudson Valley is a natural for this time of year, with autumn colors winding up for their big finish and apples perfuming the air. But there is lots more to see.
At Dia:Beacon, the expansive and relaxed contemporary art museum, visitors wander through gymnasium-size galleries amid sculptures and large-scale installations. Whatever you may think of contemporary art, there's plenty to admire - or argue over - here. But not for too long: Just north, a historic railroad bridge that sprang to new life as a New York State Park walkway last month beckons pedestrians with a must-see vista of the river. After that, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum will bring you back to earth with exhibits that recall - with eerie immediacy - the last time a young, charismatic president confronted economic collapse.
Dia:Beacon: 3 Beekman St., Beacon, N.Y., 845-440-0100, diaart.org
WHEN 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Monday (also open this Thursday, Nov. 5, only)
COST $10 adults ($7 students; free younger than 12)
WHY The soaring white spaces and 34,000 square feet of skylights in this converted Nabisco box factory make it a liberating first stop after a morning in the car. On offer are 30 galleries of some very large contemporary art, from the colorful scrap-metal sculptures of John Chamberlain to the massive steel monuments of Richard Serra. The museum's bookstore is a trove for contemporary art enthusiasts; grab a bite in the adjoining airy cafe or stroll the formal gardens outside, just above the Hudson River.
NEARBY Antiques and eateries abound in downtown Beacon, but for a stop to wow both kids and adults, try the Retro Arcade Museum for games from the 1950s through 1970s, including first-generation Atari. You'll also see '70s TV shows playing continuously against a background of music that will make you want to break out your velour jogging suit (412 Main St., 845-440-8494, retroarcademuseum.com).
Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park: 845-454-9649, walkway.org
WHEN Open daily, 7 a.m. to sunset.
TO VISIT It's 30 minutes north of Beacon, via U.S. Route 9N, to Poughkeepsie. Parking is at Parker Avenue.
WHY From a dizzying 212 feet directly above the Hudson, strollers on this newly opened, 1 1/4-mile pedestrian bridge get a hawk's-eye view of the mighty river, the rooftops of Poughkeepsie and the Highland shoreline across the way. Tens of thousands of hikers, runners, cyclists, people with disabilities and dog-walkers have traversed the refurbished 1888 railroad bridge since it opened a month ago, and the atmosphere on busy weekends is downright giddy at such a height. Interpretive signs on railings and a cell-phone dial-up tour describe the area's natural and human history.
NEARBY Locust Grove, the palatial 180-acre estate and gardens of Samuel F.B. Morse, of Morse-code fame, is about three miles away (845-454-4500, lgny.orglgny.org).
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (and Springwood, FDR's boyhood home and "summer White House"): 4079 Albany Post Rd., Hyde Park, N.Y.
WHEN Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with guided tours hourly
COST $14 for library, museum and home; free for those younger than 15
TO VISIT About four miles north of Poughkeepsie, just off U.S. Route 9N
WHY The modern parallels shout from the walls here: a presidency launched in the depths of economic disaster and a multifront war overseas. To see how FDR did it, catch "Action and Action Now: FDR's First 100 Days," an exhibit ending its two-year run next month. It begins, memorably, in a darkened room where a mournful wind howls and images of desperate Dust Bowl families and weary men in city bread lines flicker on the walls. Visitors move along a timeline of turmoil and triage as the New Deal unfolds - the Emergency Banking Act, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the FDIC. One room is papered, floor-to-ceiling, with citizens' moving can-do letters of support for FDR, sent as a country slowly pulled back from the brink.
NEARBY One of the prettiest little historic upstate towns, Rhinebeck, is a picturesque drive 20 minutes north on Route 9. Perfect for strolling, with plenty of good boutiques and restaurants (try Gigi Trattoria's "skizzas" - luscious flatbread pizzas for an afternoon pick-me-up, 845-876-1007, gigitrattoria.com).
BY CAR Take the upper level of the George Washington Bridge, New Jersey bound. Take the first right off the bridge to Palisades Parkway North and follow the parkway to the end. At the traffic circle, take the second exit onto US-6E (US-202E). Drive 15 miles, until the road becomes U.S. 9D; follow the signs to Dia:Beacon.