The state Senate chambers in Albany, with its posh leather seats, lush carpeting and ornate stonework, projects the power and wealth for which the Empire State is known. When New York was just starting out in the fall of 1777, the scale was much more intimate — 24 men meeting in a Dutch colonial stone house in Kingston owned by a local merchant. (The state Assembly also first met in Kingston, at a tavern a few blocks away. The annex the Senate House to serve as a museum in the 1920s is now a locus for the region’s colonial and early-republic history. The grounds, in Kingston’s Stockade District, play host to a wealth of historical re-enactments and festivities throughout the spring, summer and fall. Even when nothing’s going on, the peaceful, tree-filled grounds serve as an urban oasis and a low-tech time machine to the first stirrings of our nation.
Through October 31, the Senate House State Historic Site is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The site is open on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. The tour and museum admission is $4 for adults, $3 for those 62 and older and free for kids under twelve. Plug 296 Fair Street, Kingston NY into your GPS to find it. (And bring some change for the parking meters; city meter-readers write tickets with zeal.)
Think global, drink local. Keegan Ales, housed in a building on St. James Street long used as a brewery, makes some fine beers. Keegan offers occasional food — the summer barbecues are among the finest in the region — and a never-ending parade of bands from all musical genres. Fresh, pure, handcrafted beer emerges right from the vats, and it’s good beer, too; Keegan’s has won numerous prizes for its suds. If you’re into good brew, Keegan’s is a local treasure.
Keegan Ales, 20 St. James Street in Uptown Kingston, is closed on Mondays, open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Call 331-BREW or e-mail email@example.com if you need more info.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
Geography is destiny. The Hudson River, the broad aquatic highway which was not so long ago the most important river in the nation, has been the defining line of our region, and its history is described and celebrated at the Hudson River Maritime Museum. The whole story, from canoes, the Half Moon and sloops to steam tugs and dayliners to the return of the sloop in the form of the Clearwater (which will make its winter home at the museum starting this year) is communicated through interactive exhibits, displays of four centuries’ worth of riverine relics and numerous programs. A steam tug sits outside the museum’s home on the Strand, on the banks of the Rondout Creek. Rides are available from the docks to the nearby Rondout Lighthouse and the museum is host to several large festivals a year.
The museum is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May through October, including national holidays. Admission, which includes a self-guided tour of exhibits, including the annual changing exhibit, is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 62 and over and kids 5-18 and free for kids under 5. Enter 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY into your GPS; call 338-0071 or log onto hrmm.org for more info.
Trolley Museum of New York
Everything old may one day become new again. In the time before everybody had their own car, trolleys, that is to say semi-open train cars with tracks embedded in the middle of the street, were the way to get around town. They never went away from San Francisco and some European cities, they never went away, and they may make a return in a more energy-conscious post-automotive future in Kingston. Until that time, the legends and lore of trolleys are ensconced at the Trolley Museum of New York down on the Rondout. As well as informative displays and exhibits on the passenger trains, the museum, built on the site of the old Ulster & Delaware rail yard, operates its own trolley. The car, a restored model (with period advertisements inside) which originally ran in Johnstown, Pa., traverses a mile and a half from Kingston Point to T.R. Gallo Park at the foot of Broadway.
The museum is open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day, noon to 5 p.m. The last trolley for the day usually departs at 4:15 p.m. Various special events are planned throughout the museum’s season; if you can’t wait until Memorial Day to take a trolley ride, the train will run on Mother’s Day, May 13, from noon to 5 p.m.
Plug 89 East Strand, Kingston, NY, into the GPS to find it. Look up tmny.org on the Internet or call 331-3399 for more information.