Every once in a while, you just have to "get out of Dodge" -- so to speak. You know, those times when you can't take a two week vacation, or even a long weekend, but you just need a quick change of scenery.
If it's a day trip you're looking for, I can't recommend Olana enough. The sprawling estate of artist Frederic Edwin Church is beautiful, and it's the perfect place to hike, picnic, sketch and take pictures.
Olana is in Hudson --just on the other side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. The jewel of this state historic site is the huge Middle Eastern-influenced villa that Church designed and filled with items from his many travels around the world.
And then there's the artwork. See, Church was part of the Hudson River School of art-- a collective of American landscape painters who worked and studied together, creating works based on the scenic views of the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the White Mountains in New Hampshire and other areas. Church is pretty much the most famous of the Hudson River School artists. During his life, he was considered one of the most famous American artists.
Church designed his estate as an ornamental farm, filled with gardens and gorgeous vistas and a giant man-made "lake." These days, not only are the properties open to the public, but the house has also been restored and is open for tours. And let me tell you, the interior too is breathtaking. Almost every wall is painted with intricate borders and each room is like a mini-gallery lined with work by Church and others, in addition to pottery and tchotkes he and his wife collected.
The house is open for tours from 10 AM- 5PM Tuesday through Sunday (also holiday Mondays) from now until October. You can only see it on guided tours. Tours of the house are $9 ($8 for students and seniors). Gallery tours are $6 ($5 for students and seniors. You can get a combined hours and gallery tour for $12. $10 for students and seniors. Kids under 12 can go on all of the tours for free. You don't have to have a reservation, but the tours can sell out, so if you're planning a visit, you may want to call ahead and make one (828-0135).
My favorite part is just wandering the grounds, which only costs the $5 vehicle fee on weekends. And they'll put that $5 toward a redeemable toward a house tour so long as there's an available slot. The estate is a whopping 250 acres and it's just a giant expanse of beauty. Wander the flower gardens. Bring a picnic, some binoculars and a birdwatching guide. Try your hand at sketching the views Church saw. The last electrical pole was removed from the property a couple of years ago, leaving a largely uncluttered view of the river and the expansive valley. ) If you really like your sketches you can even add them to the ongoing public exhibit at Olana.
On weekends, you can also borrow backpacks for free from the Education Center. Each backpack contains trail maps and self-guided activities (great idea for families) and they come in two themes "Exploration Today; Discover Olana" and "View it Like An Artist." This Saturday, there's actually a guided hike in honor of National Trails Day and several other events -- including art workshops and musical events -- are planned throughout the summer and fall.
When you've had enough fun in the sun and greenery, it's an easy trip into the city of Hudson for some dining and window-shopping in Hudson. AOA recommends the duck confit panino at Swoon.
Olana State Historical Site
5720 Route 9-G
Hudson, NY 12534
Hours:Grounds are open 8am-sunset daily. Summer hours for the house tours are Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. through October.
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