There are plenty of idyllic, upstate towns with quintessential Hudson Valley charm—a quaint general store here, a classic diner there. But Hudson, NY is the closest to what you could call Brooklyn north. It has an edge and a proud, queer sensibility that a lot of upstate towns lack, and more design-forward bars, restaurants and shops than you could possibly hit in one weekend.
It is also gentrifying and upscale in ways that you might not expect. Perhaps you walk into a store and discover that it has a sister shop in the West Village and another in L.A. on the way. Or you read on the window, as I did, a note indicating the days the owner will be in Palm Springs. The price tags at the higher-end antique stores that Hudson has long been known for have steadily climbed over the years, but there is clearly a market here for exorbitant Danish armchairs and sculptural sideboards.
In a sense, Hudson is just reliving its heydey, when it was a haven for rich New England whaling families who hid their precious whale oil and ships inland, out of sight and interference from the Brits. The gorgeous housing they left behind is an architecturally impressive mix of clapboard townhomes and brick mansions, many of which have been beautifully restored by people who were savvy or wealthy enough to realize that Hudson was going to be a “thing.” (Quite a few of them came from Brooklyn, of course.)
You might lament the fact that you didn’t buy here back when it was affordable, but you can still appreciate the eye candy and all the cool outposts where you can feel the influence of the area’s artists and creative souls who make Hudson more than just an antiques mecca.
You don’t even need a car to get there. It’s just two hours north from Penn Station on Amtrak, and the stunning views of the Catskills as you chug along the Hudson River makes the train ride an escape in its own right. You could never say that about the hellacious trip to Montauk or the North Fork on the Long Island Rail Road, and unlike those coastal destinations, you don’t need to wait for summer to enjoy Hudson. There’s fun to be had here year-round, though spring is an ideal time to visit. Here’s where to go when you do.
Where to Eat in Hudson
My dinner plans on a late winter trip to Hudson with my husband were guided by The Infatuation. They seemed most infatuated with Lil’ Deb’s Oasis, and after dropping our bags off at a picture-perfect Airbnb, we drove straight there to find the perfect welcoming party. If The Love Shack and Pee Wee’s Playhouse had a baby, it would look like the crazy tropicalia they have going on in this joint. Pineapples line the diner-style counter, and metallic boas drape down from the ceiling, which is edged by white shingles like a house that got the inside and the outside confused. The Pan-Latin menu veers in two directions: simple, healthy-ish fare like lentils and greens and inventive ceviches, or comfort foods like their tamale of the day and the salchipapas, a South American street food that they prepare like a Mexican papas fritas. The food is solid, but that’s not the primary reason for visiting; it’s the overall experience and performance-ness of the place that seals it. 747 Columbia Street, Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 828-4307
WM Farmer and Sons is a stylish farm-to-table restaurant that is often recommended. I’m not sure what dinner is like, but the brunch experience was mixed, with a benedict that came out cold and a decadent Billion Dollar BLT made with pork belly that really did stay true to its name. 20 S. Front St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 828-1635
I have also yet to try the very upscale Fish and Game (currently closed until April 11). It’s chef-owner Zak Pelaccio, formerly of Brooklyn’s Fatty Crab, has garnered a few James Beard awards and nods here, but it also has a history of mixed reviews. 13 S 3 St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 822-1500
To find out where locals go for a truly standout dinner, I consulted Monica Byrne and Leisah Swenson. You may remember their Red Hook restaurant, Home/Made, which they left in capable hands to open Home/Made Hudson last year. For a meal that is not just good for Hudson, but great by all accounts, they go to the Tavern at Rivertown Lodge, whose chef, Gabriele Gulielmetti, also owns Bonfiglio and Bread, which relocated from Hudson to nearby Athens a few years ago. He overhauled the limited menu established by Vinegar Hill House, made the bread worth visiting in its own right, and also did a number on the cocktails, which our food writer Ellen Killoran also highly recommends. 731 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 512-0954
Also on Byrne and Swenson’s short list:
-The Vietnamese food at Hudson Food Studio, 610 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 828-3459
If you are not a brunch person or you’re visiting mid-week, you can’t go wrong with Grazin‘ for a hits-the-spot burger. Their meat is sourced from the owner’s farm where they raise grass-fed cattle and it has the extra special distinction of being the first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant in the world. (If you’re a herbivore they serve veggie burgers, too.) All this at a retro, stainless steel diner that’s a great place to take kids or just to enjoy a little nostalgia over fries and a shake. 717 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 822-9323
Like the original Home/Made, the new Hudson location is a must stop on weekends for brunch, the only time it’s currently open. Make sure to order one of the citrus ricotta toasts, because it will change your perception of how sophisticated and creamy ricotta can be. 119 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534 (Note there are a few weekends in April and May when they’ll be closed for private parties.)
If waffles are your thing, sweet or savory, head to Moto, which gets funky with this breakfast staple. I fell head over heels for a blood orange special, Byrne and Swenson are crazy for the cheddar waffles. 357 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 822-8232
If you are renting a home for the weekend, stock up on gourmet provisions at Olde Hudson (and just grin and bear the unnecessary “e”). 449 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 828-6923
For adult beverages, Hudson Wine Merchants has a fun selection of wines and local spirits. 341½ Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 828-6411
Where to drink
Ör Gallery and Tavern feels like a go-to for locals and weekenders. The style straddles Scandinavian design and 70s commune, with brightly colored yarn “God’s Eyes” dangling from the ceiling and a Malm fireplace in the corner. All of which means it’s a fun place no matter whether you visit in winter and sit by the fire or come when it’s warm enough to raise the glass door of this old auto shop onto the courtyard. 35 S 3rd St., Hudson, NY 12534
For a true dive, and the occasional late night dance party, check out Half Moon. It’s right by the train station so you can fuel up here for the ride home. 44 S Front St., Hudson, New York 12534
In addition to the Tavern at Rivertown Lodge being spot-on for cocktails, BB contributor Ellen Killoran is also partial to Helsinki, both for dinner and its live music. 405 Columbia St., Hudson, NY 12534 (518) 828-4800
Where to shop
The sheer number of mid-century modern furniture showrooms, antiques dealers and galleries is a clear sign that there is serious money flowing through this revitalized town, and you will be able to tell very quickly from the window which places are geared toward you and your abode. Fortunately, even if you have no room for a fountain salvaged from a Belgian estate, you will find plenty of other shops from which to gather one-of-a-kind goods. Just know that a weekend is not enough time to enter each and every store. These are a few I liked.
If you covet the kind of minimalist, geometrically patterned home goods that are in vogue, then MINNA is your special place. This is their only brick and mortar location, so you can see everything that caught your eye on Instagram in person. 421 Warren St, Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 697-5638
Why more bookstores do not combine excellent craft beers alongside their books is a mystery. It’s a perfect combination, particularly during readings, which Spotty Dog hosts each month (the next is April 14). The only thing you may wish for at this bar/bookshop a little more space to enjoy both in. 440 Warren St., Hudson, New York 12534
Lili and Loo can help spruce up your cabinet or closet without draining your bank account; they have a mix of housewares, furniture and a small selection of bags and hats to browse, too. 259 Warren St., Hudson, New York 12534
On the more high-end side of design goods, Hawkins New York makes wonderful throws, glassware, rugs and bedding that seem right out of Kinfolk magazine. 613 Warren St., Hudson, New York 12534
Near Hawkins is Valley Variety, a culinary-focused general store that also offers weekend classes on cheese making, knife skills and canning. 705 Warren St., Hudson NY 12534, (518) 828-0033
Scouring Hudson’s vintage shops takes stamina, something I lack. Furlong struck a chord with me for its deep collection of vintage glassware, many six-sets strong. 320 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534
Where to stay in Hudson
A brand-new hotel, The Wick, opened in December that is just a two-minute walk from the train station. (The name refers to the hotel’s roots as a candle factory, not Bushwick as I imagined.) It’s also a stone’s throw from Basilica, a performing arts space that is also a popular wedding venue, and already the summer weekends are filling up. This makes sense, as it’s exactly the place you would feel comfortable booking your entire family. The property is part of a portfolio of boutique hotels owned by Marriott, and all of the rooms are beautifully appointed but have a standardized feel. A king room is roughly $200 a night for a weekend in April, with a two-night minimum on weekends. 41 Cross St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 249-6825
Rivertown Lodge is where Wes Anderson would stay if he spent the night in Hudson. The wood burning stoves in the lobby and the white-painted, pine-paneled rooms are all perfectly cozy, cool and camp-like, though The Wick is more spacious for the price. It runs $265 a night for a standard queen on a weekend in April, which drops to $219 midweek. The single double is roughly $200 if you can snag one. It requires a 2-night minimum stay weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Don’t miss the Instagram-friendly log pile outside the lobby entrance. 731 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534, (518) 512-0954
Later this spring, a new hotel called The Maker, run by the owners of the Bartlett House in Ghent, is due to open in a clapboard house, a Georgian mansion, and a carriage house on Warren Street. One can only imagine what the pricing will be on this 11-room property.
There are so many places to Airbnb, too. You’ll pay roughly $200 a night as well if you book an entire apartment or home, and get anywhere from one to three bedrooms. I stayed in a sweet guest house just outside of downtown Hudson that we booked because it had a wood-burning fireplace, a key feature in the middle of winter.
Upcoming events in Hudson
A few events to plan around a weekend in Hudson this spring or summer:
April 28+29: 24 Hour Drone, an all-night experiment in sustained sound at Basilica, a performing arts venue.
May 5: Hudson Children’s Book Festival, one of the biggest in the state, with over 75 authors and illustrators; a perfect time to visit with kids.
May 12+13: Basilica Farm + Flea, a seasonal market.
June 16: The OutHudson Pride Parade returns and festivities begin Friday night with a sunset cruise on the Hudson.
June 23-24: Hudson River Exchange Summer Market brings 100 food, vintage and artisan vendors for an outdoor market on the Hudson River. They also produce a wellness festival called Take Care scheduled for the June 30-July 1 weekend.
June 29-August 14: Spiegeltent at Bard College’s Fischer Center is just a 30-minute drive away and each weekend is a chance to see notable performers inside an opulent, 1920s-era tent that becomes a summer venue for dining, cabaret, dancing and special events like a live performance from the creators of the hit podcast “Welcome to Nightvale.” It’s part of Bard’s annual, multi-genre festival, SummerScape.
Sept. 15-17: Basilica Soundscape, an experimental music, art and literary festival.
Olana is a picturesque estate perched above the Hudson that you can tour and explore throughout spring and fall.