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updated 6/8/2005 4:03:47 PM ET 2005-06-08T20:03:47

New York City seems to be every travelers dream destination, however, just go 25 miles north and a grand vista of beautiful scenery and history will open up to you that you will long remember. This is the Hudson Valley region of historical homes, green-forested lands and beautiful gardens.

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The best way to begin your tour of this area of New York State is to fly into the Westchester County Airport, at White Plains, New York, instead of New York City. This way you will avoid the congestion and traffic of such a large city. From here, you are within an easy drive to the shoreline of the Hudson River to an area of Historical Landmarks and beautiful landscapes.

Slideshow: The Big Apple From the airport, I headed for Tarrytown, New York for a stay at the Hilton Tarrytown Hotel. The hotel features 247 rooms with 2 line phones, modems for laptops, in-room coffee makers, hair dryers, and more. The hotel is set on 11 beautiful acres in an area made famous by Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

Even though my primary interest was to see the countryside of historical homes and beautiful gardens, I noticed that there were also a wide variety of shopping opportunities ranging from small shops with unique gifts to very large malls. For example, within a short drive of Tarrytown I visited the Westchester Mall, in White Plains. This upscale mall has more than 150 stores, including Tiffany's, Nordstrom's, and Neiman Marcus.
I enjoyed a delightful lunch on the third floor of Neiman Marcus, called the Zodiac restaurant. In the evening, I had dinner at the Striped Bass restaurant located at the Tarrytown Boat Club.

Sleepy Hollow Country is located near Tarrytown and on a hilltop, high above the Hudson River, where you will find a six-story stone house surrounded by terraced gardens, beautiful fountains, and magnificent works of sculpture.

This is the estate called Kykuit (pronounced Kye-cut) and was built by John D. Rockefeller, a great American philanthropist and founder of the Standard Oil Company, and his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr. You can tour the house, art galley, gardens and other parts of the estate. The house if furnished with antiques, fine ceramics and paintings. The Coach Barn houses vintage automobiles and carriages.

North of Tarrytown, and east of the Hudson River, is located the town of Hyde Park. This is where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called home and you can tour his home, Springwood, as well as the Presidential Library and Museum. Nearby is the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, the estate of Frederick W. Vanderbilt. After touring the Gilded Age mansion, walk around the grounds and enjoy the Hudson River views.

Continuing north you will come to the Belvedere Mansion, a mansion built on property that goes back to the 1760's and is located near Rhinebeck, New York. Although the home was destroyed by fire in 1899, the present rebuilt structure has the same era design and a name that means "beautiful view." The interior is decorated with 18th-century French antiques, a cloud painted ceiling and vintage fixtures and lighting complete this fine home. There are nine mansions in the mid-Hudson Valley region that you can visit; however, this is the only one that you can also stay at. Dining here is a treat and my lunch could win honors among any French American Gourmet Cuisine awards.

A short drive further North is located the Olana State Historic Site. Olana was the home and studio of the Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) one of the most important painters in American History. Church designed and built this Persian style fantasy on a hilltop. The whole house is a museum of fine art, paintings, sculptures and antiques from all over the world.

Returning South is the town of Poughkeepsie where I stayed at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. This 200-room hotel offers complimentary full breakfast daily, complimentary local transportation, free parking and has in-room high-speed Internet access. A recommended dinner was at the Poughkeepsie Brass Anchor restaurant that specializes in seafood and contemporary fine cuisine.

If you are a history buff you will want to visit Bannerman Castle which is located on Pollepel Island on the west side of the Hudson River near Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. This 6-acre island has a history that goes back to the Revolutionary War. It was built by Frank Bannerman VI, not as a home, but as a place to store weapons and ammunition and he designed the buildings of turrets, walls and a moat in the style of old Scottish castles. It is possible to take a boat to tour the Island and also take a kayak tour of the area. You can be picked up for the tour at Newburgh Landing, Newburgh, New York.

After a morning tour of Bannerman Castle, lunch was at Roselawn located 1.5 miles North of Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. Roselawn Inn also offers special Shop/Stay and Play overnight packages. Driving south along the West side of the Hudson River you will pass West Point home of the United States Military Academy that was founded in 1802. Tours are offered of the Academy as well as a two-hour boat ride to Constitution Island, a narrated cruise aboard the M/V Commander, and you can also visit the West Point Museum.

Continuing South, on the west side of the Hudson River, an interesting visit was to the Stony Point Center and the Gilmore Sloane House that has a history going back to 1856. It began as a summer get-away cottage for a New York family and now is a 32-acre conference and retreat center. Dining and economy lodging are offered here. The Penguin Repertory Theatre Company also presents plays here. You can also visit the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site located nearby at Park Road.

After a visit to the Stony Point area, it is but a short drive South to where a bridge crosses the Hudson River to Tarrytown and White Plains for an overnight stay or your return home from the Westchester County Airport at White Plains. Or, you can make the 25-mile drive to New York City for more sightseeing. At any rate, you will be pleased that you visited the Hudson River Valley Region.

For More Information: NY Tourism:

ILOVENY.COM
Phone: (800) CALL NYS
Historic Hudson Valley:
www.hudsonvalley.org

Westchester County Tourism, White Plains:
www.westchestergov.com

Rockefeller Estate:
www.hudsonvalley.org

Vanderbilt Mansion:
www.nps.gov/vama

Olana State Historic Site:
www.olana.org

Bannerman Island:
www.bannermancastle.org

West Point Military Academy:
www.usma.edu

Stony Point Center:
www.stonypointcenter.org

Travelworld International Magazine features articles, columns, and photos from members of the North American Travel Journalists Association. For more information on Travelworld Magazine, please contact the NATJA by phone (310) 836-8712 or email at info@natja.org.

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