Some hundred miles upriver from New York City, the historic village of Athens, NY dates back to 1815. Tucked into its historic riverfront, one of the oldest and grandest hotels in the Hudson Valley, Stewart House, has just reopened for business as a beautiful boutique hotel, pub, and restaurant.
Whether visitors are seeking a quiet place to totally unwind, or a home-base for Upstate adventure, in Athens they ‘ll find both. Both suites at the Stewart House offer huge soaking tubs overlooking the Hudson River; downstairs, the pub is open until 11 on weekends. Luxurious bedding, robes, slippers, and towel warmers tempt guests into staying in bed all day; while outside, the Stewart House’s riverfront patio offers al fresco dining and live music in warmer months. Hikers will appreciate the proximity to the Catskill Mountains or other nearby trails; others will enjoy watching paddle boarders cruise up and down the Hudson River. You get the picture. Put simply, regardless of your appetite for adventure, it’s easy to go at your own pace here — no matter what that pace may be.
Its stunning riverfront aside, Athens’ geographic location lands in a central spot of the upper Hudson Valley, close to the up-and-coming villages of Catskill and Coxsackie; it’s also straight across the river to Hudson (accessible via the Hudson-Athens ferry in summer.) And even more enticing, there’s no car needed from NYC! To get here, visitors can ride the Trailways bus right into town, or take an Amtrak/cab combination from Hudson. Check out our guide to Athens, NY and its surrounding region below.
A Stay at a Historic Inn on the Hudson River
The Stewart House in Athens has been operating since 1883, when its pub was built. Since then, it’s been expanded, rebuilt, renovated, and passed through generations — and upon arrival, it’s easy to understand why the Stewart House has survived where others have not. Despite floods and fires and economic downturn, the Stewart House has lasted, its original charm now more apparent than ever. The new owners were careful to “restore,” not “renovate” the hotel to its former grandness; each space has been considered, from the freshly bronzed soaring tin ceilings in the bar, to its beautiful wood floors and copper stairs, or its freshly painted murals.
Escape Brooklyn stayed in Room 8, the luxury third floor suite. In addition to its more-than-comfortable bed and ensuite bathroom, its 500 sq feet of space also includes an antique wet bar, a soaking tub, and views to die for. (Most rooms have partial, or full river views.) While it was difficult to leave the comfort of the tub — complimented nicely with local apothecary Village Common products — the proximity of the bar and restaurant cannot be beat. (Nor can the food.) Speaking of food, don’t miss the continental breakfast or an afternoon tea in the cozy common area of the second floor, with river views, and a small library of locally-focused books and magazines.
What to Do Around Athens, NY: Picnic at a Lighthouse, Town-Hopping and Hiking
As of 2015, the village of Athens is two hundred years old, and historic landmarks seem to be everywhere. Take some time to walk around town to check out its incredible architecture, then hop in the car to check out the must-see Hudson Athens Lighthouse. (Pro tip: pack a snack and picnic on the patio of the lighthouse!) Another light outdoor adventure can be had at High Falls, a fun and easy hike to do year-round — actually, it’s less of a hike and more of a 1.5 mile stroll to a waterfall. Those looking for something more challenging might opt for the thirty minute drive to the most famous of all Catskill hikes at Kaaterskill Falls, or check out the less crowded North South Lake. When hiking any of these trails, proper footwear is imperative, year-round. As always, pack out what you bring in.
Even if you’re not able to spend much time outdoors, you’ll definitely be inspired by it, as this region inspired an entire movement of famous landscape painters called the Hudson River School. Art lovers should look into Olana, the home and studio of Frederic Church, one of the most famous of the Hudson River painters. A pupil of Thomas Cole, the “father” of the movement, Frederic Church’s talents expanded beyond painting, and into landscape design, architecture (self-taught) and farming, all of which can be seen here. Not only is the history fascinating, but the setting of the home, perched on a mountain above the river, is incredible.
Last, no trip outside the city would be complete without checking out all the cool new businesses that are changing the fabric of Upstate life. A twenty minutes drive will take you to the villages of Catskill, Coxackie or Hudson. In Catskill, newcomers like the Village Common, Hi-Lo, Sister Salvage, Magpie, Crossroads Brewery Taproom, and performing arts center Lumberyard are bringing Main Street back to life. Coxackie’s historic riverfront Main Street is quickly changing too, with the additions of Mansion + Reed, Reed Street Bottle Shop, and Pilothouse Paper.
Where to Eat & Drink in Athens, NY
If you’re staying at the Stewart House, a light breakfast is provided, but the offerings a block from the hotel at Bonfiglio & Bread are worth the extra splurge (and calories.) Go for breakfast (pastries, bagels), lunch (pizza or sandwich) snack, or take some bread to go home – but just go. Other meal options in town include Rive Gauche Bistro, and Crossroads Brewery Brewpub.
Conveniently, the best meal in town can be had at the Stewart House. Chef Bob Turner has made a triumphant return to the Hudson Valley after a brief stint in Joshua Tree, bringing with him 20+ years of food experience. We first tried Bob’s cooking at Rivertown in Hudson, and it’s great to see him in a new space, helping to create a locally sourced, farm to table, delicious menu at the Stewart House. Menu highlights include local trout, cauliflower “chop,” or a one-flip cheeseburger. Passing through town? Stop in for happy hour, from 3-5 on weekends, with $2 oysters, bar menu, and drink specials. Last, as if we weren’t counting down the days until summer enough, riverfront patio at the Stewart Hose transforms into the The River Grill all summer, serving up wood-fired BBQ, a full bar, and live music.