Athens, New York is a small, historic, and beautiful town on the banks of the Hudson River. As I described it to a friend recently, it’s a getaway from a getaway… if that makes sense. I say this because across the river from Athens is the city of Hudson, a much larger community with a pretty big tourist influx on weekends. Don’t get us wrong–Hudson is great–it’s just that it’s hard to truly unwind and have an “upstate” experience in a city full of other tourists. Athens is definitely the quieter, more picturesque getaway of the two, with much more space to breathe. On a Saturday night, you can walk into a restaurant without having to worry about a 45 minute wait. We like that.
Another thing Athens has going for it is it’s lively riverfront during warmer months. Starting Memorial Day weekend (and through September), the Hudson-Athens Ferry runs between the two towns. Paddleboarders cruise up and down the Hudson River. The Stewart House also opens up its patio and garden, right on the water, for riverside dining, drinks, and live music.
Where to stay: Historic Inn on the Hudson River
We stayed for three nights, in two different rooms, at the lovely Stewart House. Though the ownership has changed hands a number of times, the building has been operating for an inn and restaurant since 1883. Current owner Owen Lipstein has been through the ringer–Hurricane Irene destroyed much of the hotel and forced it’s renovation in 2011. The hotel was gutted and reimagined. The result of said renovation is absolutely dreamy–rooms are bright and clean, filled with beautiful antiques and modern amenities (like heated towel racks!) Outside the second floor rooms, a nook serves as a common area with snacks, water, a couple couches, and a bookshelf. Many of the rooms come with sweeping views of the Hudson River.
Perhaps the best part for travelers is that they can explore the area during the day, but return for dinner in the dining room and have a nightcap (or 3) at the bar. Event coordinator and awesome bartender Kate Tetro books live music most weekends, but if not, make use of the dart board and hang out with the locals. Speaking of awesome people, hotel manager Bianca del Castillo went above and beyond to make sure we had a great time.
While we were in town, we also got the chance to check out the properties at Shakespeare on the Hudson. We toured the incredible 11-bedroom River House featuring a heated pool (which overlooked the Hudson River), an outdoor hot tub, and recreation rooms with pool tables and ping pong. It’s a great property for a group retreat and hosts many, many weddings. It’s also owned by Owen Lipstein (of Stewart House)–contact him directly for rates.
What to Do: Hike to a Waterfall, Paddleboard Down the Hudson, Antiquing and Farm Stands Along Route 9
An easy and fun hike to do year-round is High Falls. It’s actually not much of a hike at all–it’s more of a 20 minute stroll to a waterfall. Once you reach it, if you’re willing to get a little down and dirty, make your way down the very steep hill to the foot of the waterfall. Once you reach the bottom, kick off your boots, climb around on the big rocks and take in the scenery. (Note: do not try this in winter! The climbing, or the kicking off your boots part.) Another lovely hike is at Stissing Mountain where you climb a mountain to a firepower for amazing 360° views of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley region. The hike is in Pine Plains, where we stopped at a small grocery for picnic supplies. Bring a snack to enjoy from the tower!
During the warm months, paddle boarding on the Hudson is quite popular. You can take lessons or just rent a paddle board at PaddleHeads, just a few doors down from the Stewart House. This is no doubt a memorable way to kill an afternoon–or several.
To spend the day indoors, the area has a lot of antique shops. From Athens, head North on Route 9 for off-the-beaten-path shopping including great farm stands, flea markets, vintage, and our favorite antique mall–ever. If you decide to go, follow this mini-itinerary. First stop: Blackhorse Farms. It’s gourmet-market meets farm-store stocked with amazing fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, pastries, and anything else you might need. We like to stock up on cheese, apples and cookies to get us through the rest of our afternoon shopping. Second stop: Coxackie Antique Center. Absolute heaven for antique collectors because it is really, really big . Prices vary booth to booth, but if you’re shopping around for something specific, you’ll get a much better deal here than anywhere else in the area. Third stop: Sister Salvage. It’s a great antique and vintage store run by hilarious and fun-lovin’ lady, Deb. Tell her we sent you, and ask her to see the back room, appropriately named the “Man Cave.” These three stops alone will take an up an afternoon, but any roadside flea markets, antique barns (there are several more) and other farm stands are always worth stopping at.
Where to Eat & Drink in Athens and its Sister City of Hudson
Athens has pretty limited places to eat and drink–you’ll have a lot more variety, but wait times, in Hudson. On the Athens side of the river, both The Stewart House and Crossroads Brewing are pretty good. We’d recommend picking one of those for one night, then head to Hudson for the other.
For breakfast, our go-to is Tanzy’s for a mom-and-pop style, totally non-pretentious staple breakfast. In a sea of otherwise overpriced restaurants, Tanzy’s is fairly priced, fresh, and the older ladies who run it are adorable. If you’re a waffle or motorcycle person (or both) Moto Coffee/Machine is really cool–it’s a coffee bar and motorcycle shop under one roof. For lunch, Relish is very good, offering up typical lunch fare like big salads, and hearty soups and sandwiches. For something greasier, dig into the awesome pizzas at Baba Louie’s, whose sourdough crusts are to die for. Burger lovers and diner enthusiasts will enjoy Grazin’, a farm-to-table burger joint, and the first restaurant in the world to serve up 100% animal-welfare approved burgers. Last, for a quick snack or takeout, Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions is yet another beautiful addition to Warren Street, serving up sandwiches, soups, salads and takeout dishes that are dinner-worthy.
Speaking of dinner, it’s quite the scene here, and you should plan your meals (read: reservations) before you travel. Our first choice was conveniently located right below our hotel room–Wm. Farmer & Sons, whose ambiance and food are both top notch. We had the same meal twice here: shaved brussel sprouts, wild mushrooms over a pastry, potato gnocchi, and a roasted fennel & kabocha squash gratin. We also appreciated that we were able to make reservations online on their website. Fish & Game is another lovely restaurant, filled to the brim with taxidermy, candles, amazing wallpaper and a big fireplace–unfortunately, it’s completely vegetarian “unfriendly” so we’ve never made it past the bar. Last but not least, DA|BA and Swoon Kitchenbar are both fantastic options as well.