What to do when it’s raining

(Photos by Dion Ogust)

You had the weekend all planned out, taking advantage of the crisp fall weather to enjoy cavorting outdoors among the brilliant leaf colors — but it’s raining. 

Don’t despair. The Hudson Valley, known for the beauties of its landscape, has indoor delights to offer as well. Many of them are related to history, art, and the printed word.

Escape the rain by trying out these options. Note that pandemic rules often require timed arrivals for museums and art galleries, so be sure to check online for availability.


Bookstores and libraries

One positive effect of the pandemic has been that people seem to have rediscovered books. At the well-stocked Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, employees say the customers have been flowing in and out at hitherto unprecedented levels. In the new second-floor children’s department, you’ll find not only books but also a charming woodland mural by Will Lytle and a gate across the top of the stairs to keep toddlers contained.

Indoor nook at Golden Notebook, perfect for rainy days.

Other popular bookstores include Inquiring Mind in Saugerties, Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, Merritt Books in Millbrook, Rough Draft in Kingston, and Spotty Dog Books and Ale in Hudson. The last two combine books and a bar, just in case you need additional encouragement to relax.

Practically every town has a library, where you can get a card if you have a local residence. In addition to lending out books, movies, and CDs, most libraries offer community activities, although you may have to access such events as readings and concerts through online links.  

Art galleries and museums

The Hudson Valley so influenced landscape art in the nineteenth century that a whole movement was named after the region. If you drive down Route 23A in Greene County, there’s at least one pullover with a view that is cited as the location of a famous painting. In the town  of Catskill, you can visit the Thomas Cole House, where the preeminent Hudson Valley School painter lived and had his studio.

Olana State Historic Site, outside Hudson, is the mansion of artist Frederic Church. Tours of the opulent interior are available, with timed-entry tickets.

Area art museums often display historic landscape paintings, but they also show contemporary art, especially at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in New Paltz, the Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, Dia Beacon = where a former factory provides a spacious setting for enormous works by modern artists = and Storm King, the famed outdoor sculpture venue south of Newburgh..

Hudson is replete with art galleries, up and down Warren Street and on many of the city’s side streets.

Woodstock grew up around the Byrdcliffe arts colony and its offshoot, the Maverick. A continuing flow of artists have flocked to the little town over the years. The Woodstock Artists Association Museum and the Center for Photography at Woodstock, soon to move to Kingston, have been two long-running gallery/museums with extensive collections supporting their exhibits.

Historical museums

Upstate New York has a history going back beyond the colonial era, and local museums take us time-traveling to imagine what life was like for our ancestors. Many towns have museums that house local artifacts, so search online for the nearest historical society or museum. Here are some area highlights.

Dutch stone houses, dating from the 1600s and 1700s, are still inhabited in New Paltz, where Historic Huguenot Street conducts tours. If a tour is not available, it’s compelling to drive through the oldest neighborhoods of both New Paltz and Hurley where stone houses line the streets.

The Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston reflects the ways our massive river has influenced the economy and recreation of the region. View historic vessels, ship models, ice yachts, and relics of industries such as ice harvesting, brickmaking, boatbuilding, bluestone quarrying, and cement making.

Also in Kingston, the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History is located in a former bakery, once owned by members of Kingston’s Orthodox synagogue. Exhibits, tours, and programs bring the life of immigrant workers to light, with special efforts to make material accessible to youth.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park includes artifacts of FDR’s family and presidency. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill Cottage is nearby. The only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady, Val-Kill serves as a window into the public and private life of the activist and leader.

The Historical Society of Woodstock’s extensive archive holds artwork, clothing, pottery, and other vintage items related to the town’s history. Each month or so, it mounts a carefully curated exhibit on a local theme, from music to art to women’s suffrage.

A dog-powered treadmill for running butter churns, a plaster cast of the Rosetta Stone, and school desks from the 1800s are among the items found in the collection at the Shandaken Museum in Pine Hill, at the western end of Ulster County.  

Hike in the rain

A friend who used live in Oregon, where it rains constantly, said, “If my kids couldn’t play in the rain, they would never have gone outside.” Maybe rain isn’t great for picnics, but there’s no reason not to take a walk in a slicker and rubber boots, as long as the rain isn’t torrential. If you need to buy rain gear, visit Dick’s Sporting Goods in the Hudson Valley Mall north of Kingston; Kenco in Route 28 west of Kingston; Rock and Snow in New Paltz; or Phoenicia Supply on Phoenicia’s Main Street. 

Stash dry clothes in the car to wriggle into when you get back from your hike, and head out to one of the many trails for which the Hudson Valley is famous. There are extensive rail-trails for those who don’t want to go uphill and mountain trails for those who do. Lots of paths go along creeks or rivers, for spectacular views. 

Don’t let a little weather push you around! If you really want to enjoy nature, you can even do it in the rain.

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