Two hours from NYC, the Hudson River Valley town of Kingston is situated at the base of the Catskill Mountains on the Rondout Creek. As the original capital city of New York, it’s loaded with history and incredible architecture — plus, a very vibrant art community. Like many Hudson Valley towns, its history, natural beauty and affordability has recently drawn in the creative types who have relocated and made Kingston their home — and are, in turn, opening restaurants, shops, studios and other small businesses.

Who should visit? Kingston is the perfect spot for anyone looking to experience as much “Upstate” culture as possible — but also be near the  mountains. Its location within the Hudson Valley make this super easy, with the Hudson Valley/Catskills towns of Rhinebeck, Stone Ridge, Woodstock and Saugerties being less than 30 minutes away — the same distance as the protected forests, rivers and reservoirs of the Catskill Mountains and Minnewaska State Park. Read on to plan your perfect weekend in Kingston, NY!

Where to Stay in Kingston, NY: Hotel Kinsley

The Master Suite at Hotel Kinsley. Photo by Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.

Kingston has long been host to loads of Bed & Breakfasts and Airbnbs, but it’s really been hurting for a more modern hotel option. And so we were thrilled when we heard that Hotel Kinsley would open in summer of 2019, offering guests beautiful rooms throughout each of their four distinct buildings in Kingston’s Stockade District. Dating to the 19th century, each of the buildings is stylistically and architecturally distinct, and pay homage to the Kingston’s past — heavily rooted in generations of art, travel, and nature. The buildings are closely nestled throughout the oldest part of the city, with its characteristic colorful building facades and Federal-style architecture.

The first of the four buildings to open is Kinsley’s flagship, 301 Wall Street. Within the restored 19th century bank building is an airy restaurant filled with sunlight, a mezzanine for private dining or meetings, a cozy wood paneled cocktail bar, and ten guest rooms on its upper floors. Hotel guests enter through the bar, then check-in at the lobby, which is nestled inside a vault that remains from when the structure housed a bank. From there, guests get a lift in an old-school elevator to the upstairs suites. From the rooms to the restaurant to the bar, the interiors are stunning, each space totally unique but cohesive in the use of color palette and texture — this is the handiwork of interior designer Robert McKinley. Above the kitchen, a large mural by artist Happy Menocal cheers up the room, whose work can also be seen throughout Hotel Kinsley’s website.

Want to check it out, but don’t have plans to stay? No problem. The beautiful and delicious Restaurant Kinsley is open 7 days a week for dinner, plus brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Where to Eat & Drink in Kingston, NY: The Best Local Bites

The Restaurant at Hotel Kinsley. Photo by Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.

If you’re staying at the hotel, you won’t have to wander far for a great meal. Housed in the main level of Hotel Kinsley is Restaurant Kinsley, a modern oasis born from the mutual passion of Chef Zak Pelaccio, restaurateur Taavo Somer (of Freeman’s fame), and developer Charles Blaichman. Led by Executive Chef Ross Markhart, the New American menu is seasonal and locally sourced, designed around the harvest of regional farmers. Restaurant Kinsley offers dinner service 7 nights per week, as well as Saturday and Sunday Brunch.

For breakfast and lunch, Outdated Cafe combines two of our favorite things: food and shopping. Order some vegetarian comfort food from the counter, then peruse the selection of antiques on the walls, shelves and tables — everything here is for sale. Another favorite for breakfast is the cozy Village Coffee and Goods, offering up a yummy menu with a rotating selection of house-made baked goods and pastries. For casual yet interesting international fare, two great options are Yum Yum Noodles and Opa Greek Restaurant; for more of a brunch vibe, we love Duo Bistro.

Dinnertime brings another plethora of possibilities. Currently, we’re really digging Lis Bar, serving up Polish-style tapas alongside craft cocktails and natural wines. The cozy, dimly lit interior is perfect for those chilly evenings — grab a spot by the fireplace, if you can. During summer, the patio is great too. For more formal dining experiences, long-time establishment Boitsons, the Parisian Le Canard Enchaine, and Duo Bistro are all great options.

As far as nightlife goes, there’s a lot of great bars in Kingston, each with different atmospheres. Beautiful spots like Brunette Wine Bar and Stockade Tavern are perfect for an intimate date night or small gathering, whereas Kingston Standard Brewing Co., Beverly Lounge, and Tubby’s provide a more casual atmosphere paired with great pub fare. Be sure to check out Rough Draft Bar & Books for a local vibe, which hosts fun events like trivia night. If you’re still going at the end of the night, check out BSP for dance parties or live music!

What to Do in Kingston, NY: The Best Shopping, Hiking, and Exploring

Awosting Falls in Minnewaska State Park. Photo by Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.

Much of Kingston’s appeal is being at the epicenter of “Upstate” culture in the Hudson Valley. Exploring town, and the region, is a must! The town is comprised of three distinct neighborhoods: Uptown (or Stockade District), Midtown, and the Rondout (downtown.) Uptown Kingston is the most architecturally distinctive, with colorfully painted building facades along Main and North Front Streets, and then some really exceptionally preserved historic buildings in the blocks surrounding. Don’t miss Rhino Records, Rough Draft Books, Blue Cashew Kitchen, Lovefield Vintage, Rebecca Peacock, Anderst, and Hamilton & Adams. (Psst, check out the Escape Brooklyn Shopping Guide to Kingston for a complete list of all our favorite shops!)

In Midtown, Kingston’s more industrial neighborhood is probably the epicenter of its creativity, where many artists and entrepreneur-types have taken up residence and have studio spaces. One of such buildings is the Lace Mill, who joins a handful of other factories offering residential/commercial spaces that sometimes host events. Keep your eyes peeled for the murals in this part of town, whose number grow every year thanks to annual O+ Festival. Don’t miss Zaborski’s, a massive warehouse filled with antiques and architectural salvage stuff for the home; or do some deep meditation at Zephyr Float.

Last, the Rondout (downtown) neighborhood is perhaps Kingston’s most romantic, boasting some serious old-world charm. Its main street, Broadway, is a slope lined with cute shops and cafes including some favorites like Kingston Wine Co.Clove & Creek, Milne, and Hops Petunia. From here, stroll down to the Rondout Canal, which cuts along some old railroad tracks while taking in the stunning views of the Hudson.

For those looking to stretch your legs a little, Kingston NY is super central to some of the best hiking in New York State. Some favorites nearby include Minnewaska State Park Preserve, with tons of hikes to choose from — among them, the short but scenic hike to Awosting Falls, or the longer trail around a lake at Millbrook Mountain. In the other direction, Kingston is also just 30 minutes into some of the most popular trails in the Catskill Mountains, like Kaaterskill Falls in Palenville and Overlook Mountain in Woodstock. For more exploration ideas in the region, check out the Escape Brooklyn guides to Woodstock, Stone Ridge and Hunter for even more nearby ideas.