The words hip and historic don’t ordinarily go hand in hand. The fact that they do in Hudson, New York, the Revolutionary-era town roughly 2.5 hours north of New York City by car, 2 hours by Amtrak, describes this small city’s enormous appeal. The river for which it was named lies at one end of the gentle slope of mile-long Warren Street, the main thoroughfare, which is lined with shops offering men’s and women’s clothing, home decor, books, jewelry, artisanal baked goods, artwork, and antiques of all periods and from every part of the world, including a terrific selection of mid-century modern. It can take 20 minutes or two days to walk Warren Street’s length. As a frequent visitor from my home nearby in the Berkshires, my advice is to spend at least two days, because in addition to myriad shops are wonderful eateries, arts venues, and places to spend a night or three. Or more.
On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when the weather is fine, Warren Street is for strolling. Locals and visitors stride, perambulate, or linger to admire a colorful storefront, leaf through a sidewalk display, or enjoy an ice cream cone. A reggae beat lures some to the record store and its collection of old vinyl. The scent of Mexican food or grilled burgers tempts others. At night, the varied fare at local restaurants and bars — and live music and theater performances — offer plenty of options. On a weekend in Hudson, life is good.
Warren Street starts at the river, named after the English explorer for the Dutch East India Company whose 85-foot ship was the first European craft to sail it. The Hudson is tidal all the way up to Albany, New York’s state capital. It’s also deep. In 1609, Henry Hudson and his crew of 20 ventured 130 miles upriver from New York Harbor. In 1614, where Albany is now, they established a trading settlement. Fast forward to the American Revolution, when the British navy blockaded coastal New England: Nantucket ship owners found safe haven for their whaling vessels in these waters and founded the city of Hudson. The Hudson River sloop, a single-masted craft, with a mainsail, jib, and topsail, was devised here: One of these — the Experiment — was the second American ship to sail directly from the colonies to China, setting out in 1785 and returning in 1787 with a cargo of silks, satins, tea, and the porcelains we still call “china.”
Hudson doesn’t make a big show of this history, but many of its wood-clapboard and brick buildings were built in the 1700s; others date from the Victorian era. Today, the city is a great place for a girls’ trip, a romantic getaway, or a day trip from the Berkshires or Hudson Valley.
Things To Do In Hudson
Shop Till You Drop
If you like to shop, you’ll love Warren Street. Two of my favorites for clothing are at opposite ends of the street: Kasuri, at #1 for upscale designer items, and Bolor, at 2 Park Place, for cool, limited-edition, locally designed items. (As of this writing, Bolor does not have a website.) Even if I’m not shopping for jewelry, I like to visit Ornamentum for its contemporary art jewelry, including one-of-a-kind pieces. If I’m in a Boho mood, my go-to is 620 LOCAL for wonderful artisan-made bags and clothing. For home decor items and gifts, I rely on Lili and Loo, Dish Hudson, and Hudson Home; being a fan of imported block-printed cottons, I usually stop in at Les Indiennes. On a recent visit, I discovered The Quiet Botanist botanical apothecary. And, if you’re an antiquing addict like me, Warren Street is a rich vein. The key is to browse the incredible gamut, from museum-quality Asian pieces and Federal furniture to mid-century classics; the object(s) of your desire are likely to be here. The best source for information before visiting is the Hudson Antiques Dealers Association: Hada Antiques.
FASNY Museum Of Firefighting
Hudson is home to the world’s largest and most extensive museum focusing on the social history and science of firefighting. I was surprised at how very cool this place is. Located at 117 Harry Howard Avenue, FASNY’s fascinating collection spans centuries, from Viking axes to a 1970s 1,000-gallon diesel-powered tanker and modern protective gear, and virtually any historic equipment and apparatus you might name. The museum also presents artwork and photography and has a shop, which is a great place for unusual gifts.
In this eclectic little city, you never know what performing arts event will be happening. I love going to the Hudson Opera House, also known as Hudson Hall, at 327 Warren Street, for its live performances, including the annual jazz festival. Basilica Hudson, 110 South Front Street, is another place to check for its weekend events and art exhibits. Also on my list is Stageworks, at the theater in a renovated warehouse at 35-37 Cross Street, for experimental productions. Currently, I am mourning the pandemic closing of Club Helsinki, a happening restaurant and music venue at 405 Columbia Street; check to see if it’s open when you visit because it’s great when it’s on. For current offerings visit the Hudson NY Events Calendar.
The Spotty Dog Books & Ale
“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” Henry Ward Beecher asked. Clearly a rhetorical question, and all the more so when book buying and craft beer conspire. At The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, 440 Warren, the 10,000 books are enough to weaken me. They also carry toys and books for kids and a large selection (not for kids) of lagers and ales running the gamut of hoppiness. I never go to Hudson without stopping in here and love the author readings they present. And, even if you never get to Hudson, check out their online shopping, special order abilities, and audiobook downloads.
Henry Hudson Park
While near the train station one day — a reliable stop for its restroom facilities — I stumbled across this park along the riverfront on Broad Street, between the railroad station and the water. That day, a light breeze tickled the fronds of the giant willow tree, the sunlight danced upon the water, and cement tankers plied to and fro past the Hudson Athens Lighthouse to the south. The park’s Victorian-style gazebo was a lovely place to while away the time, and the park’s lawn would be the perfect spot to picnic, play frisbee, or just enjoy a sunny afternoon.
This extraordinary 120-acre outdoor sculpture park and 1,500-square-foot gallery, located at 1405 County Route 22 in Ghent, New York, a 20-minute drive from Hudson, showcases an amazing international collection of contemporary work and offers residency programs for artists, writers, translators, musicians, architects, and dancers.
Olana State Historic Site
Any aficionado of Hudson River landscape paintings or “exotic” Victorian architecture will want to make a pilgrimage to Olana, the late-19th-century home of Frederick Church, a seminal figure in the distinctively American Hudson River School. Set on a rise overlooking the river an easy 10 miles by car from Hudson at 5720 NY-9G, Church’s home incorporates myriad Persian features, and the landscapes he designed here are breathtaking. Visitors can explore the 250-acre estate via walking tours and electric carriage rides. Olana’s grounds are open year-round; the house is open on select days depending on the season.
Check here for open dates and times and to buy your tickets in advance online.
Hudson Chatham Winery
I don’t drink alcohol, so in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I have not taken advantage of all The Hudson Chatham Winery offers, though my friends certainly have. Located at 1900 Route 66, in Ghent, New York, this is a lovely spot where you can bask in the late afternoon sun while you or your friends sip sustainably farmed wine made here from 18 different hybrid grape varieties that thrive in this climate. Besides wine, there are cider and other options, complemented by cheese and charcuterie, so even I was smitten by the place.
Best Restaurants In Hudson
You can’t walk a block on Warren Street without seeing a restaurant or two, whether you want breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or the makings for a picnic. The food scene here is fabulous, with high-quality farm-to-fork restaurants, selections for vegans and vegetarians, French bistros, contemporary American cuisine, gourmet delis, artisan bakeries, and, ethnic Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese food. It’s really hard to go wrong. Check out the Eat & Drink section at Visit Hudson in addition to my recommendations below.
Pro Tip: For dinner, some places offer casual dining or unreserved seating in the bar, but to be safe, make a reservation in advance.
William Farmer & Sons
When I want delicious, locally sourced, seasonal New American cuisine, I head to Wm. Farmer and Sons, which is located at 20 South Front Street, near the river and the train station — a place you might miss because it’s not on Warren Street. They serve from morning till night, there’s an active bar scene, and reservations are recommended in the dining room. They also offer some inn rooms should you wish to reserve a place to stay.
Le Perche And Swoon Kitchenbar
These two are sister restaurants. Don’t be fooled by the name of Le Perche Bakery and Bar. Located in a former bank at 230 Warren Street; this is a wonderful French restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Eat in their lovely dining room or on the patio. I’m also a fan of their wood-fired baked goods. Their sister restaurant, Swoon, 340 Warren, is a perennial favorite for its New American cuisine and a menu that changes daily.
With a colorful, larger-than-life portrait of Frida Kahlo presiding here even as she might in Mexico, La Mision, at 621 Warren Street, serves up tasty, authentic Mexican fare in a casual setting with tables indoors and a sidewalk cafe. Their appetizer portions are enough for my lunch, and most of their items are designed to please even those who aren’t usually enamored of south-of-the-border cuisine.
Ca’Mea Restaurant And Inn
If you yearn for some well-prepared northern Italian food, seek out Ca’Mea. A long-time presence at 214 Warren Street, it offers seating in two intimate, upscale dining rooms and its courtyard garden, the favorite choice in warmer months. The Howard Hotel, a good choice for accommodations, is in the same historic building.
Other restaurants worth a visit are the Red Dot Restaurant and Bar, NOLITA CAFE, Hudson, Hudson Food Studio for Vietnamese fare, Oak Pizzeria or Baba Louie’s for wood-fired pizza, and Le Gamin or Patisserie Lenox for satisfying French bistro food. For take-out, Warren&Vine, Talbott & Arding, Breadfolks, and Olde Hudson are great.
Best Hotels In Hudson
There’s a lot of buzz around this elegant, upscale venture. The hotel at 306 Warren Street offers stylishly appointed guest rooms and is connected to adjacent buildings that house a cafe, a conservatory and patio for dining, and Lounge, a popular evening gathering spot for the style set.
The Hudson Whaler
For a city with Hudson’s history, it makes sense that a nautical theme and a blue palette dominate the Hudson Whaler, an inn in a restored Victorian at 542 Warren Street. Its 16 suites offer electric fireplaces, and amenities include a gym and complimentary chocolate from nearby Vasilow’s Confectionery.
The Inn At 34
This B&B is set in an 1840 Greek Revival at 34 South Second Street, just off Warren. Comprising four rooms and furnished with English antiques, its old-fashioned charm includes delicious breakfasts with ingredients from its own garden and area farms.
A 1920s Arts & Crafts building houses Nest Hudson at 330 Union Street, near Warren and City Hall Plaza. Comprising five suites, one of which is on the ground floor, its amenities include front and back porches and a private backyard with picnic tables.