9 Hudson Valley Spots for History Nerds (with Videos!)

Metro-North Hudson Line

Looking for an easy day trip out of the city and into New York State’s past? The Hudson Valley is the perfect place to escape, with easy access to key sites through Metro-North and years of well-preserved history and scenic vistas. History lovers get ready, from national landmarks to the homes of presidents, painters, and railroad tycoons, we’ve created a guide to explore the best of the historic Hudson Valley.

1. Olana State Historic Site | Hudson, NY


The 250-acre hilltop home of Frederic Edwin Church, a landscape painter and key figure in the Hudson River School movement, is a remarkable relic of the 19th century. You feel as if the man of the house is still alive as you tour Church’s “Persian fantasy,” walking into each perfectly intact room—look out for the artist’s “Sunset Jamaica” and “Petra”—and out onto the lush grounds, where the impressive views of the river and valley will cause you to linger.

How to get there: Take the Metro North to Hudson station, then a 10-minute taxi to Olana.

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

2. Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site | Hyde Park, NY

See FDR’s animal figurine-filled desk as it was the day he died, visit the Roosevelts’ grave site in the rose garden, then tour the simply elegant and stately home, where FDR was born, where he developed wartime military strategies with Churchill, and where the family’s beloved dog, Fala, slept at the foot of their bed.

How to get there: Take the Metro North to Poughkeepsie station. Click here for information about the Roosevelt Ride shuttle.

Watch this video to learn more:

3. Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site | Hyde Park, NY


Following FDR’s 300-acre Springwood estate, put a picnic in your bike basket or stroll the two miles through Hyde Park over to a strikingly different setting. Frederick Vanderbilt’s imperial stark white columns usher you into the gilded age of antiques, marble statues, ornate fireplaces, and regal Hudson River views.

How to get there: Take Metro-North to the Poughkeepsie station, then Wallace Center from the Poughkeepsie station, where taxis will take you to Wallace Center in Hyde Park.

Watch this video to learn more:

4. Lyndhurst Castle | Tarrytown, NY

Its fairy tale-like towers peek out above the treetops of Tarrytown and you’ve never seen anything like it, at least not on this coast. This beautiful Gothic Revival structure will cast its spell as you wander the 84 rooms where railroad magnate Jay Gould lived in 1880.

How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Tarrytown station, then a 10-minute taxi to the castle.

Watch this video to learn more:

5. Walkway Over the Hudson | Poughkeepsie, NY 

Rarely do we think of a bridge as a destination for reading, picnicking, and general merrymaking, but that’s exactly what one of the tallest pedestrian bridge in the world offers. Bring your bike on Metro North, ride the rail trails, and revel in the magnificent Hudson River views atop the 200-foot-high former railroad built in 1888.

How to get there: Take the Metro-North to the century-old Poughkeepsie station, and make sure to look up at the bridge. Use your iphone GPS to navigate you the rest of the way.

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

6. Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries | Beacon, NY

In the charming town of Beacon, contemporary art institution Dia: will surprise you with large-scale art in a unique space.

How to get there: Dia:Beacon is located five minutes from the Beacon train station, which is served by Metro-North Railroad trains from Grand Central Terminal.

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

7. Boscobel House and Gardens | Garrison, NY

Even though the Shakespeare Festival is over, the landscape boasts some of the most spectacular Hudson River views of any historic site in the area. If you’re planning to picnic on landmark lawns, this is the place.

How to get there: Take Metro North to Cold Spring Station. Once on Main Street, the Cold Spring trolley will charter visitors to Boscobel and back again for .50. Call 845.265.9575 to make a reservation.

Watch this video to learn more:

8. Old Croton-Aqueduct State Historic Park | Dobbs Ferry, NY 

Follow offMetro writer James Sibley’s recommendation to hike the “41-mile engineering marvel” that supplied New York City drinking water from 1842 to 1955. Head to the buried aqueduct for a quick fall getaway from the city and into the serene and scenic outdoors, where you’re sure to catch views of other historical sites like Lyndhurst Castle and Philipse Manor Hall.

How to get there: Take Metro North–Hudson Line from Grand Central Station to any of the following riverfront communities, which are just minutes on foot from the Aqueduct Trail: Yonkers, Greystone, Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Irvington, Tarrytown, Philipse Manor, Scarborough, or Ossining.  Read Sibley’s story for further directions.

Watch this video to get a glimpse:

9. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum | Bronx, NY

Head to the gateway to the Hudson Valley: the Bronx! After wandering the beautifully furnished rooms in the Grecian style stone mansion, picnic on the grounds in Terrace Garden or go for a hike through Pelham-Bay park.

How to get there: Take the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park station, then hop the Westchester Bee-line #45 bus, which stops at Bartow-Pell.

Watch this video to learn more:

To conclude…

The historic Hudson Valley offers a remarkable journey through time, where each destination tells a unique story of the region’s rich past. From the artistic beauty of Olana State Historic Site to the presidential history at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, and the opulence of the Vanderbilt Mansion to the enchanting Lyndhurst Castle, there’s a treasure trove of heritage to explore. Whether you choose to stroll across the Walkway Over the Hudson, immerse yourself in contemporary art at Dia:Beacon, or bask in the natural splendor of Old Croton-Aqueduct State Historic Park, the Hudson Valley’s historical sites and scenic landscapes promise a memorable and educational adventure. Don’t forget to visit the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in the Bronx to experience a gateway to this captivating region.