Need a quick getaway that stirs your soul? Do the crowds at mass-market resorts creep you out? There’s no need to endure swarms of people or the aggravation of canceled flights to escape the ordinary this summer. Long Islanders in pursuit of quirky, artsy, sophisticated weekends will find plenty of opportunities in these distinct Hudson River Valley villages, just a couple of hours’ drive from home.
Washington Irving, author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," lived and is buried in Sleepy Hollow, New York. The setting of America's most enduring ghost story, Tarrytown was renamed Sleepy Hollow in 1996 to encourage tourism. Irving's charming home, Sunnyside, is open for tours, as are a number of historic restorations, including Philipsburg Manor and the Old Dutch Church. Sign up in advance for a tour of John D. Rockefeller's estate, Kykuit, chockablock with art treasures, and then check out the Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse stained glass windows, commissioned by Rockefeller, at the pastoral Union Church of Pocantico Hills.
Perhaps the best-known restaurant in the area is near the church, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills -- a working farm and acclaimed eatery (reservations necessary) where "fast food" means from on-site farm to plate with almost zero travel time. Explore the shops on Main Street and take in star-quality shows at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The Tarrytown House, a beautifully landscaped conference center and hotel near Sunnyside, offers both traditional-style rooms in the main building and a more extravagant experience in the King House, an 1840s mansion within the complex.INFO visitsleepyhollow.com
The hometown of American artist Edward Hopper sits at the foot of the brand-new Tappan Zee Bridge, itself a tourist attraction. Be sure to visit the Edward Hopper House, Museum and Study Center. A 30-minute tour of his childhood home will introduce you to some of his work. A peek out his upstairs bedroom window reveals the views and that light that so informed his work. Continue down Main Street to shop the independent boutiques; among them, Gina Lisa Lingerie and Resortwear, Lorybird, and Maria Luisa. For meals, locals recommend Broadway Bistro for fresh comfort food, and Art Café for artisanal coffee and Middle Eastern fare. Stay at the extremely funky-fun Time Hotel. Not for the average Holiday Inn customer, you have to be the kind of traveler who appreciates Damien Hirst-esque glittery (and woven) skulls, purposely unfinished concrete walls, dangly crystal lamps, and recurring-Rorschach-inkblot wallpaper -- all together, a kind of Baroque-meets-Modern motif and a bit of Vegas where you'd least expect it.INFO visitnyack.org
Opened in 2003, the paper factory-turned-art museum DIA:Beacon gave downstate culture hounds a reason to travel up the Hudson River to this formerly dingy mill town. As more tourists flocked here, artists, chefs and retailers did, too. Take a tour of Bannerman Castle, what appears to be the remains of a Scottish castle on an island in the middle of the Hudson River. Climb Mount Beacon to the summit for sublime views, create blown glass at Hudson Beach Glass and shop adorable boutiques, including reMade (upcycled jewelry and home goods), Beacon Talents (one-of-a-kind designer clothing) and Dream In Plastic (a "designer vinyl art store").
Imbibe craft beer at Two Way Brewing and Hudson Valley Brewery or sip spirits at Denning's Distillery before indulging in the barbecue smoked brisket tacos at Tito Santana Taqueria. Locals recommend Homespun Foods and Meyer's Olde Dutch for honest-to-goodness comfort food -- even for vegans. Romantics will want to dine (and then stay) at The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, a great, contemporary boutique hotel perched over white water rapids. Two just-opened 12-room inns on Main Street -- the contemporary Beacon Hotel and the country-quilt cozy Inn and Spa at Beacon -- offer additional experiences for overnight visitors.INFO dutchesstourism.com
If the website Etsy was an actual geographic place, it would be Hudson, which has managed to outflank Brooklyn at its own game. (Etsy, in fact, did open a brick-and-mortar office here in 2013, following an area resurgence that began over 20 years ago.) Spend an afternoon exploring the independent shops on Warren Street, including FlowerKraut (she does floral design, he makes sauerkraut), FRG Design Showroom (re-imagined modern furniture) and Lili and Loo (reasonably priced gifts/home accessories). Catch a show and have a bite at Helsinki Hudson, enjoy a craft draft and browse best-sellers at bar-bookstore Spotty Dog, check out Red Dot for brunch and Wm. Farmer and Sons for outstanding cocktails.
Sign up for a tour of Olana, the Persian-style home of Frederick Church, a central figure in the Hudson River School of Art movement. Drive 12 miles to 120-acre Fields Sculpture Park (80 pieces of art) at OMI International Arts Center. Boutique hotels have sprouted like mushrooms in town. Book a room at The Wick, a snazzy, cosmopolitan repurposing of an 1860s candle factory that recently opened. The four-room Tiger House features chestnut-paneled walls and Mission-era leaded-glass windows. The Luxury Victorian Mount Merino Manor, set on a 100-acre rise three miles from downtown, has off-in-the-distance views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains.INFO visithudsonny.com
The town of Woodstock is a hippie magnet that has expanded to serve tie-dye wannabes, nostalgic boomers and retro millennials. Wander downtown, where you'll find old favorites like Joshua's Café and Provisions as well as the new and well received Sylvia Restaurant and A&P Bar. Hotel Dylan has expanded to 22 Novogratz-designed rooms, each named after a rock and roller. Naturally, head shops abound. But so do boutiques, gift shops (heavy on crystals), art galleries and a well-stocked bookstore, the Golden Notebook. If the weather is fine, climb Overlook Mountain Trail, a 5-mile round-trip hike a few miles from downtown Woodstock.
Nearby, the little nook of Phoenicia appears to have escaped the rampant commercialization of other resort areas, with some shops, restaurants and a tubing outfitter. Stay at the Emerson Resort and Spa, home to the "World's Largest Kaleidoscope" -- a nearly 60-foot-tall mind-bending audiovisual extravaganza (free for hotel guests, $5 for others). Best eats include Woodnotes Grill at the Emerson and the unassuming Phoenicia Diner, where ingredients are sourced from the Catskills and Hudson River Valley (there's usually a wait on weekends).INFO ulstercountyalive.com , 845-340-3568