National Geographic: A Valley for All Seasons

Last week, my friend Mel and I road tripped to the Hudson River Valley, a collection of tiny/medium-sized towns along the storied river, to explore new spots including a couple of inns, restaurants, shops and farms. I've loved the valley since my first visit and was excited to write this piece, "A Valley for All Seasons," for my Urban Insider column on National Geographic. Yes, fall is magical, but the rest of the year brings you back for other reasons.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns & The Hudson Valley

Back in August, we made a reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns for dinner with our friends. You have to call exactly two months before the date you want to reserve. Don't plan anything else for the evening - dinner will take no less than 4 hours and 5 or 6 if you take it slow! And bring the credit card where you get the most points (read: it's not cheap). There's no menu - you pick whether you want 5, 8, or 12 courses. You'll eat a lot, but so much of is impossibly fresh vegetables, so you actually feel quite healthy leaving.

Chefs hard at workThe original Blue Hill opened in in the Vilage in 2000 (and it's where Jennifer Aniston got engaged this year!) but the Stone Barns outpost, which opened in 2004, is an agrarian paradise an hour north of the city. Go before your reservation, because you can see the incredible farms and fields where most of your dinner will come from. All of the structures are on the old Rockefeller estate, which lends a very cool mid-century vibe. I really want an inn to open and think it will one day.

Andy and I love the Hudson River Valley, so we made a whole day of it before dinner and tried to see some things we haven't done before, like the Walkway over the Hudson, an old railway bridge turned awesome 1.28-mile walk over the river. Millbrook Winery has a great tour, wine tasting, and views of the valley, and downtown Millbrook is super cute. Some of my favorite places for lunch are Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck or the super casual Apple Bakery & Cafe at the Culinary Institute of America.

Entrance to Walkway Over The HudsonOn Walkway Over The Hudson

Andy and the winery dog at Millbrook Winery 

The Red Hat Bistro on the Hudson

I recently met an editor friend in his hometown of Irvington, NY for lunch and he suggested The Red Hat Bistro. I will definitely be returning with Andy and family. It's a quick 40-minute ride from Grand Central on Metro-North and you can walk to the bistro from the train station in five minutes. The entire New York skyline is in the distance but you feel so far away from the chaos. On a warm day, you can enjoy lunch or dinner on the outdoor tables that overlook the water. It's just a wonderful, easy getaway from the city without spending a ton of money. Great ambiance, food, people, and views!

Icy Hudson River

This weekend, I took a seven-mile walk along the icy Hudson River.  I got chills just looking at the ice in the water, though the weather was great for walking.  The scene also reminds me of what the Hudson River might have looked like fifty years ago.