Hudson is the perfect town for your maiden voyage upstate – in fact, it was ours! Some years ago, Escape Brooklyn made our maiden voyage Upstate to Hudson, when the small city of Hudson seemed really quiet and there wasn’t much going on. Now, we can’t seem to keep up with its growth–every time we come back, there’s 5 new places to try with at least one new “it” spot. Hudson’s own tourism website refers to it as the “downtown of upstate,” boasting 50+ antique shops, 18 art galleries and 24 restaurants. (For the record, there’s also 10 live performance spaces, 8 vintage shops, 10 B&B’s, and 300 historic buildings in 2 square miles.) And don’t even bother trying to walk into a restaurant here without a reservation!

Like many other nearby cities, though it’s booming, Hudson still maintains its small-town charm. Aside from its resurgence in shopping, dining and art galleries, Hudson is a historical destination. It was the first chartered city in the United States, founded in 1785. Initially settled by the Dutch, it then became a haven for Quaker whalers, seeking refuge from the Revolutionary War-torn east coast, which is alluded to in the city street signage here. (Whales are the symbol of choice in Hudson, from street signage to business logos.) In the 1930’s, the population topped off at 12,337, before plummeting in the 1960’s through 1980’s to half that, and the city fell into disrepair. Thankfully, many buildings somehow survived and have been well-preserved; many others have been restored. Today, Hudson is considered one of the historically richest and most diverse architectural cities in New York State.

For those who don’t want to deal with the hassle of renting a car, this upstate town may be for you: you can easily train here on the Amtrak. Once you’ve arrived, the town is totally walkable, just a 10 minute stroll up Front Street to Warren Street, the city’s main artery. If you do opt for a car – our preferred mode of transport – the 120-mile drive takes about 2.5 hours, passing lots of farm stands, scenic overlooks, and landmark 1950’s-style diners.

Where to Stay in Hudson: Try These Two Combination Boutique Hotel-Restaurants

rivertown lodge interior

Our most recent stay in Husdon was at the beautiful Rivertown Lodge, who’s made a big splash since its opening last September. The Scandinavian inspired rooms, bar and common spaces are as cozy as they are photogenic, landing the hotel with features by Remodelista, Travel & Leisure, and the New York Times. The historic landmarked building is an old movie house, where the bright, open lobby area has two wood stoves and lots of cozy seating. On weekends, the same space turns into a brunch restaurant, serving up some of the tastiest food in Hudson, just steps away from visitors’ rooms. In back of the lobby, a beautiful and cozy bar serves locals and tourists alike their signature cocktails, beer, wine, and other spirits. (Say hi to the bartender, Leigh for us!) As far as the rooms at Rivertown Lodge go, there’s many formats to choose from: from a corner cubby for $199 a night to the enormous and luxurious suite, which is $425 a night. Somewhere in-between, the other types of rooms are simply decorated and totally gorgeous; their oak floors, white walls and brass details create an airy, open feeling in each space.

Another favorite hotel of ours in Hudson is Wm. Farmer & Sons. The inn currently has ten rooms in three different buildings. We stayed in the Ann Marie Suite, which runs at $215 a night and offers a queen bedroom, kitchenette, full size fridge and mini-bar. The living room had a gas stove, which heats the 4-room suite, but also creates a cozy ambiance without the hassle of feeding wood into a stove all night. The bathroom, which has a beautiful clawfoot tub, was stocked with beauty products by our local favorite, 2Note Botanical Perfumery–which if you’re into, you can purchase from their storefront on Warren Street. The best part? It’s conveniently located above the best restaurant in town, making the late-night, tipsy journey back to your room incredibly easy.

What to Do in Hudson: Shop Main Street, or Take the Ferry to a Craft Brewery

Where to start? You’re right at the foot of the Catskills–hiking, skiing, antiquing–but also in the Hudson Valley–restaurants, farms, shopping! There’s a lot going on, and Hudson is indeed like a “downtown” of upstate.

The activity-of-choice in Hudson is walking around and popping into all the businesses along Warren Street. Some notables are Flowerkraut, a floral studio and sauerkraut shop; 2Note Botanical Perfumery, a beauty boutique inspired by music and nature; Mutiny, a home and menswear shop; Red Chair, an antique shop concentrating on French items; Paula Grief, handmade ceramics; Hawkins New York, a home and lifestyle shop; Sideshow Clothing Co., vintage clothing shop; and Jon Doe Records, a unique vinyl shop. While it seems like every other store is an antique gallery, they’re all quite pricy–check out Coxsackie Antique Center, which is a bit of a drive from Hudson but totally worth your while if you’re shopping on a budget. (On the way, stop at the very cute Black Horse Farms!) For a souvenir you’ll never forget, stop into Hudson River Tattoo and say hello to our friend Eric who does great traditional style work. Last, check out Hudson River Exchange‘s website to check out their ever-changing pop-up shops and events.

Just across the Hudson River, the small towns of Athens and Catskill are also worth checking out. Directly across the river in Athens, try the highly-rated Outrage IPA at Crossroads Brewery, whom also has surprisingly great food. In the summer, on Friday and Saturday evenings a ferry takes riders across the river into Hudson, where they can lounge on the waterfront at bar/restaurant The Stewart House. A ten minute drive south will take you into Catskill, which is also seeing huge growth thanks to the many artists who are moving there after being priced out of Hudson. Its Main Street is quickly filling up with great new small businesses here too, like the Village Common and HiLo Catskill.

Enjoy the Outdoors in Hudson: Visit a Local Farm, Go For a Hike

Last, in terms of outdoor stuff, there’s a lot! During warmer months (or if you’re into icy, frozen waterfalls) check out High Falls.  It’s actually not much of a hike at all–more of a 20 minute stroll to a waterfall. Take the longer red marked trail to the overlook, then switch back to the green to the dark blue, which takes you to the base of the falls. (This sounds way more confusing than it is–also, free maps can be picked up at the trailhead.) Another easy one is at Stissing Mountain, where you climb to an old firetower with an amazing 360° view of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley region. Or, forego the hiking altogether and spend the day outdoors with a farm visit. Every Sunday, nearby Kinderhook Farm has free farm tours, where the farmers will walk you through sheep and cow pastures; chickens are another favorite. The beautiful, sprawling land is also host to their By Hand Culinary’s Down On the Farm Dinners, where guests spend the evening cooking a meal together in this idyllic setting. (Check out Escape Brooklyn’s Down On the Farm experience here!)

Where to Eat in Hudson: the Best Boutique Restaurants, Bakeries, and a Mom & Pop Diner

Breakfast isn’t included in either of our hotel picks, but with so many choices in Hudson, you’re not stuck on your own. The brunch, both food and atmosphere, at Rivertown Lodge is the best in town–with a full scope of options from judicious and heathy to totally decadent. The secret is definitely out about this brunch spot though, so arrive closer to opening at 10 a.m. to avoid a wait. Alternately, if you’re staying at Wm. Farmer & Sons, stop into their mercantile store, stocked with Irving Farm coffee and Talbott & Arding baked goods and pastries for a no-hassle breakfast. For meals venturing out into town, we love Tanzy’s for its mom-and-pop style, totally unpretentious, simple staple breakfast. Another great option is Moto Coffee/Machine, who makes waffles and coffee in a huge space whose dual purpose is a motorcycle shop.

For lunch, our favorite spot is Lil Deb’s Oasis, who serves tropical comfort food in a tiki-themed bar. Dinner is great too; make sure to bring dough for this cash only spot. 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 we’d highly recommend that you make reservations before arriving in town. Our favorite dinner in town is 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. Bonus points for taking online reservations! For something on the lighter or more casual side, check out the bar at Rivertown Lodge where chef Robert Turner has created a perfectly sized menu of snacks, small plates, and other treats. Don’t pass up the dessert! Another notable dinner option is Swoon Kitchenbar, offering up farm-to-table fare with daily specials including Meatless Mondays and Burger Thursdays. More adventurous eaters should try the Vietnamese cuisine at Food Studio, or the new Malaysian menu created by chef Zak Pellacio of Fatty Crabs, at Backbar.

Bars & Nightlife in Hudson: A Craft Beer Bookshop, Dive Bars With Live Music, and Fancy Cocktail Bars

There’s a wide range of bars in Hudson these days–from dives to specialty cocktail bars. Starting at the bottom, Half Moon is Hudson’s dive bar, with pretty regular live music, a jukebox, pool table, and the best happy hour in town. During warm months, hang out on their big patio and chat up some of the younger-crowd (read: hipster) locals. Somewhat less lowbrow, Spotty Dog is a fun concept–a bookshop with a bar serving up craft beer. There’s a couple couches and chairs around for leisure drinking and reading. The newest bar in Hudson is  ÖR Gallery and Tavern, opening for coffee at 7:30 am and closing “midnightish.” The space is pretty unique, definitely vibing as “city chic,” with polished concrete floors, arty light fixtures, and a hanging fireplace. Last, for a cocktail to write home about, check out  Crimson Sparrow or 347 Back Bar, which has a fantastic private patio.