A Hudson Holiday

Author: James Meyers
Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The city of Hudson attracts visitors interested in architecture, history, shopping, arts and culture. Easily reached by car or train, the city has variously been dubbed, “the little town with the big red-light district” for its raucous run as a city of sin from the 30s until a crackdown by Governor Dewey in the 50s, “the richest dictionary of architectural history in New York,” and, “the unofficial antique capital of the North-East.” It’s safe to say that Hudson draws a diverse crowd. The train station sits at the end of Warren Street, the commercial and cultural epicenter of Hudson. The less than two-hour ride from New York has lead to an influx of those wishing to trade the City for the country. My wife and I recently spent a Saturday wandering our way around this ever-evolving city.


Antiques aplenty


Describing a day in Hudson is impossible without mentioning antiques. The city is as famous as a mecca for treasure hunters as it once was infamous for its houses of prostitution and gambling. The five-block stretch of Warren Street features over 65 stores offering every style of antiques and used items one could imagine, from a 7th-Century Buddha from Afghanistan to vintage Asian furniture to stained glass from European churches.


Visitors could spend days wandering the mazes of aisles. Hudson Supermarket  is a must visit if only to marvel at the sheer size of some of the pieces. Housed inside an old supermarket (hence the name) is a 7,000 square foot sun-lit space with wonders from around the world, including a life-size iron horse sculpture/lamp. As intriguing as the horse was, we settled on a ceramic pestle and a few enormous brass safety pins. The plethora of shops can accommodate budgets from tens to tens of thousands of dollars and range from high-end decorator pieces to salvage items (some cynics might call it junk).


Boutiques abound


The retail options available to visitors to Hudson are not limited to antiques. The Spotty Dog Books and Ale, housed in an old brick fire station, offers books and art supplies as well as eight ales on tap. The tables at the front of the store were bathed in sunlight, so my wife and I grabbed an ale and investigated a few titles. The bar was packed with locals—it’s a great spot to people watch and eavesdrop on city gossip. Hudson City Books wares range from expensive collector’s editions to reasonably priced used titles. The rare books are housed in gorgeous glass-fronted cases. A woman overheard me say to my wife that they were exactly the kind of shelves I’d love for our home. She said, “You’re not alone. Martha Stewart has been trying buy those for years.”


Boutiques abound and offer a wide range of styles in clothing, shoes, gifts, and home décor. Many locals feel that Hudson is evolving from antiques to more modern offerings like those found at Hudson Home a welcoming home decorating store. With the holidays fast approaching it would have behooved us to visit more shops, but our aching feet and rumbling stomachs had another agenda.


Endless eating


The stores are fascinating. However, since we aren’t big shoppers we looked forward to visiting Hudson most because of its growing reputation as a destination for foodies. As the city settles with ever more ex-pats from New York, chefs and restaurateurs are following them up the Hudson and immersing themselves in the local bounty of the region. Swoon, owned by husband and wife chefs from Manhattan, embraces the idea of using local products to the extent that the menu lists all of their purveyors. Le Gamin, the Upstate outpost of the synonymous East Village and Green Point Brooklyn restaurants, is renowned for its French cuisine and brunch, featuring crepes, Eggs Benedict and bowl-sized mugs of Café Au Lait.


Mexican Radio has made Hudson its main base while still operating their Manhattan location. Their award-winning margaritas are made from scratch and put premixed to shame. The authentically Mexican menu is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Many of the restaurants we wanted to try were closed between 3pm-5pm on weekends, so plan accordingly. We are already planning a return visit to sample from gastro-pub Red Dot, the acclaimed Da/Ba and Baba Louie’s, which offers wood-fired organic sourdough and gluten-free crusts.


Culture and clubs


The historic Hudson Opera House, built in 1855, offers performances, art exhibitions, youth activities, and workshops. Time and Space Limited, located two blocks off Warren on Columbia Street hosts a variety of events, including live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera House, kids art workshops, and classic cinema. Practically across the street, Club Helsinki is a mammoth old brick factory building with two performance spaces, a restaurant, a gallery, and recording studio. Artists that have performed there include Norah Jones, Burning Spear, and Ralph Stanley.


Driving destinations


The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) on Harry Howard Avenue is one of the largest fire service museums in the world. Its 50,000 square feet of fire engines, artifacts, and memorabilia chronicle over 300 years of history. Olana, the Persian style home built by renowned Hudson River School painter Frederick Church, is located five miles south of Hudson on Rte. 9G. The home, with 250 landscaped acres, is open to the public and offers guided tours and stunning Catskills and river views. 

Hudson’s Winter Walk


Toy soldier stilt walkers, fire throwers, and a parade of giant puppets can all be found on the streets of Hudson the first Saturday evening in December. They’ll be part of the fourteenth annual Winter Walk, a free event sponsored by The Hudson Opera House. The festivities now attract thousands from around the Northeast.

 


Beginning at 4:45pm, Warren Street, the city’s main commercial drag, closes to cars, and revelers wander the streets amid Victorian carolers, clowns, and African drummers. There are even real reindeer and Santa and Mrs. Claus give each attending child a free age appropriate book donated by publishing houses. When feet become weary there are horse-drawn carriages, hayrides, and trolleys. Store windows are decorated to the hilt and animated with dancers and storytellers.

 

For adults there are wine and cheese tastings as well as live jazz, classical, and folk music in the shops and cafes. The festivities culminate at 8pm with fireworks atop Promenade Hill at the head of Warren Street. Gary Schiro of the Hudson Opera House urges visitors to arrive early to ensure parking in the various municipal lots. Other than that advice, all he says one needs is, “warm clothing, sturdy walking shoes, and a friendly smile.”

 


James Meyers is a freelance writer who lives in Kingston with his wife and 19 year-old cat, Finnegan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cool Places * Hot Trips

Tags: Hudson,NY,day trips,travel,antiques,restuarants

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