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Hudson, New York, makes for a perfect weekend getaway

Antiques, art, restaurants and Hudson River views distinguish this charming upstate town.

Downtown Hudson is chock full of Victorian homes.

Downtown Hudson is chock full of Victorian homes. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Just when you thought Hudson, New York, could not get any more trendy — well, it does.

The picturesque but still gritty 19th century town — overlooking the same-named river two hours north of Manhattan — has become a center for art, design, performance, food and drink. It perfectly embodies the old-time, artisanal look of recent years that’s equally loved and loathed — you know, all those Edison bulbs, roughly hewn repurposed wood farm tables and artfully frayed vintage American flags. Hudson is not only burnishing its reputation for midcentury antiques and contemporary art, it has also become a formidable performance hub as well.

Whether you’re planning a day trip, an overnight, a full weekend or a longer stay — and many would say that the best time to visit is the sleepy middle of the week — here’s a look at where to go and what to do in charming, shabby-chic, vaguely melancholic Hudson.

WHAT TO DO

Hudson’s main spine is Warren Street, with its mile of 19th-century row houses and Victorians, many painted delicious hues like saffron and dusty rose. The strip has made its reputation on antique stores since at least the 1990s. The standouts are Neven and Neven Moderne (618 Warren St., nevenmoderne.com), featuring a massive, flawless and cleanly displayed inventory of (expensive) midcentury pieces; and Carousel (611 Warren, 518-828-9127), which is cluttered, affordable and usually chock full of gems. Stair Galleries (549 Warren, stairgalleries.com) has about five very high-end auctions a year. Head down to the riverfront to shop the Antique Warehouse (99 S. Front St., 908-399-9445), a seemingly endless emporium.   

Contemporary art galleries are a serious business in downtown Hudson, with Carrie Haddad (622 Warren St., carriehaddadgallery.com) being the oldest (since 1991) and focused on a discerning mix of regional artists. Round out an art walk with Jeff Bailey (527 Warren St., baileygallery.com), John Davis (362 1⁄2 Warren St., johndavisgallery.com) and Retrospective (727 Warren St., retrospectivegallery.com), a partnership of two New York art titans, Zach Feuer and Joel Mesler.

Performance is also at a tipping point in town. Hudson Hall (327 Warren St., hudsonhall.org), in the historic 1855 brick Hudson Opera House, has distinguished itself in recent years with a jam-packed schedule of live music performances (classical, jazz, vocal), theater, art exhibitions, readings, talks and fun stuff for kids such as hip-hop dance and chess classes. Down by the river, Basilica Hudson (110 S. Front St., basilicahudson.org) is cathedral-scaled former 19th-century glue factory that has become one of the town’s coolest arts and artisanry venues, noted worldwide for its avant-garde “soundscapes” of strange sonic journeys. There’s also Helsinki (405 Columbia St., helsinkihudson.com), a music and performance club adjoining an excellent, BBQ-focused restaurant, all in yet another imposing old 1800s industrial space.   

Eventually you’ll want to get off the street grid to enjoy the splendor of the river itself, which can be viewed from above during a stroll through Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. A quick car or taxi trip will get you to Olana (admission $9, olana.org), the opulent Moorish-Gothic mansion that artist Frederic Church built overlooking the river in the late 1860s, inspired by his travels in the Middle East (weekend tours are available). If you really want to get close to the water, cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to the town of Catskill, where Hudson Paddles can set you up with a kayak or paddleboard rental (64 Water St., Catskill; $20 for an hour, hudsonpaddles.com)

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

When it comes to local grub, there are two highly popular mainstays: Hudson Food Studio (610 Warren St., hudsonfoodstudio.com), with a locally sourced but Southeast Asian-accented menu, and Baba Louie’s (517 Warren St., babalouiespizza.com), with gratifying family-style salads and nearly vegetarian pizzas on the thinnest sourdough or spelt crusts.

Those two are relative old-timers in light of Hudson’s recent foodie explosion. Impresario Zak Pelaccio has two establishments: the pricey, James Beard Award-winning Fish and Game (13 S. Third St., fishandgamehudson.com) and a newer Malaysian enterprise with a lovely outdoor area for craft cocktails, BackBar (347 Warren St., backbar-hudson.com). At the burger diner Grazin’ (717 Warren St., grazinburger.com/hudsonny), every animal protein comes from a small family farm, earning it the title of the first completely Animal Welfare Approved restaurant in the world. Discerning locals talk art and real estate at the bar in Ca’Mea (333 Warren St., camearestaurant.com), a charming Northern Italian with tiered garden seating.

In recent years ÖR Gallery and Tavern (35 S. Third St., 518-828-0798) — a minimalist-chic bar in a cinder-block former garage with lots of outdoor seating and frequent live music — has become the hipster (and gay-friendly) watering hole off Warren. There’s also the beloved cool-kids dive Half Moon ] (48 S. Front St., thehalfmoonhudson.com).

For a slightly fancier drinking experience, there’s the bar at Swoon (340 Warren St., swoonkitchenbar.com), one of the town’s upscale locavore restaurants. And definitely check out the Spotty Dog (440 Warren St., thespottydog.com), a combo bookstore and bar with great live music programming and a well-attended trivia night. If you’re on the winning team, your bar tab is covered.   

WHERE TO STAY

Many visitors choose from the abundant (and often stylishly remodeled) stock of Airbnb and VRBO options in town or in the surrounding area. But in truth, some of the best new food and drink options in town are to be found in hotels. Wm. Farmer and Sons (20 S. Front St., rooms from $229, wmfarmerandsons.com), comprised of historic buildings, offers beautifully appointed rooms and suites as well as a restaurant and bar with brunch, cocktails with names like Barrett and Briar Rose and entrees including smoked Berkshire pork shank and daily farm-sourced vegetarian plates.

There’s also been a lot of buzz about Rivertown Lodge (731 Warren St., rooms from $199, rivertownlodge.com), a former motel that, with the help of a Brooklyn design firm and dozens of local artisans, reappeared in late 2015 as a stylish 27-room overnighter with a communal screened porch, library, morning coffee in the lobby, free bikes to borrow and other nice touches. There’s also a tavern with brunch offerings including kuku sabzi (Persian frittata) with pistachio and local greens and dinner fare such as slow-roasted cabbage and salsa verde or gnocchi with lamb, muhummara and buttermilk.

Another lodging option is The Barlow (542 Warren St., rooms from $240, thebarlowhotel.com), a handsome old town house turned 16-room boutique hotel that strikes a style balance between period and contemporary.

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