Literary Tourism

Literary Tourism: Hudson Valley

Nicole Brinkley

Staff Writer

Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller and the founder of YA Interrobang. Follow her on Twitter: @nebrinkley.

​​​The Hudson Valley in New York is known for two things: its ridiculously beautiful foliage in the fall, and for the attraction it holds for literary folks. This region sits a couple hours north of New York City and often gets overshadowed by its larger, more bustling city neighbor.

However, writers from Washington Irving to Nova Ren Suma to Joshua Ferris to Carol Goodman haven’t pulled inspiration from the Hudson Valley for their books just because it happens to be around. The Hudson Valley hosts a plethora of places to visit for any literary lover – and I would know, having lived there for my entire life.

Ready to visit the Hudson Valley? Here’s a – very incomplete – list of places to stop by.

There are a dozen beautiful bookstores in the Hudson Valley, and the first one on your list of places to visit should be Oblong Books & Music. Okay, I am a little biased towards this one – it’s where I work! – but Oblong keeps winning the Hudson Valley Magazine’s Best Bookstore award for a reason. Oblong has two locations. The original store is located in Millerton on the very edge of the Hudson Valley, a sleepy little town with dozens of destinations for foodies and art lovers. The second store is in Rhinebeck, a cozy little town with huge tourist appeal that boasts award-winning restaurants and three candy shops, including one co-owned by actor Paul Rudd. (Book Riot also listed the Rhinebeck location as one of the best bookstores in New York.)

Love a good drink? Head to Spotty Dog in Hudson. The bookshop not only offers an excellent selection of books, but it doubles as an bar, with an excellent list of local hand-crafted ales and wines.

In Warwick, you’ll find Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe. The adorable store, which sells both used and new books, is modeled after an old-fashioned Victorian book shop in its furniture designs and colors.

You can get two-for-one if you visit New Paltz. On one side of a street is Inquiring Minds, a cozy little bookshop for new books that offers both a frequent buyer program and discounts for students at SUNY New Paltz, a ten-minute walk away. On the other side of the street is Barner Books, which has served the New Paltz community for 25 years. Filled brim-to-brim with mostly used books, the shop is a delight to browse and also features a selection of handmade journals.

Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook hosts an incredible selection of books. They also help host the Milbrook Literary Festival on May 20th, which will host authors from Min Jin Lee to Iza Trapani.

The Golden Notebook sits in the heart of Woodstock, NY – right next door, nicely, to a local ice-cream store. The adorable little shop hosts a wonderful selection of new books and has an excellent selection of books about the local area.

One of the perks to driving through the Hudson Valley is that you pass a lot of beautiful old houses, and more of them have literary ties than you may think. A lot of them are also open for visitation. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s house Steepletop is now the Millay Colony for the Arts, an artists’ residency located in Austerlitz, New York. While aspiring authors can apply for their retreats and workshops, folks who want to visit can call ahead to take a look at the houses and estates.

When you think of the Hudson Valley, you think of Sleepy Hollow. Located in – shocker – Sleepy Hollow, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is open for visitation every day of the year. It also hosts guided tours, whose first stop is always the grave of the infamous Washington Irving himself.

A hop and a skip away from the cemetery is Sunnyside, Washinton Irving’s home. Fans can sign up for hour-long tours hosted by folks in period garb that will take you through Irving’s life and around the beautiful estate.

The Olana State Historic Site was the home of of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church. Church’s Hudson River School paintings can be found in stunning collections, but Olana has the perk of having a mystery novel – Glenda Ruby’s Death At Olana – that you can read as you visit the absolutely stunning estate.

Love old libraries? Then head straight to Hyde Park, where the Roosevelt mansion – known as Springwood – overlooks the Hudson River. The estate is beautiful to walk around, but one of the highlights is the F.D.R. Library and Museum, which contains dozens of historic documents. (And though not directly related to books, a five-minute drive away is Vanderbilt Mansion, an equally stunning estate with a beautiful rose garden.) Mark Twain fans can also head to Elmira, New York to visit his library study and visit his grave at the nearby Woodlawn Cemetery.

Though it’s not quite a historical house, you’ll also find Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Vassar College is the alma mater of dozens of poets and writers, including Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, and the aforementioned Edna St. Vincent Millay. Their campus is open and has the delightful perk of looking like New York’s Hogwarts.

While he’s not my cuppa tea, fans of James Fenimore Cooper can shimmy up to the top point of the Hudson Valley and visit Cooperstown. The town drips with Cooper’s touch. The most notable of those places is the Fenimore Art Museum, a 1930s mansion built on James Fenimore Cooper’s early 19th century farmhouse, and the James Fenimore Cooper Society, which displays Cooper’s memorabilia.

Part of the beauty of the Hudson Valley is all of the places outdoors to walk and explore – and those include places inspired and named after literary folks. The Sherman Park in Peekskill is named after the poet Frank Dempster Sherman. The Poet’s Walk is a two-hour long walking trail located in Red Hook, named in honor of Washington Irving and other poets and writers who pulled inspiration from the shady, stream-side path.

For aspiring writers or people who want a behind-the-scenes on the craft of writing, there are other places where you can sign up for classes. The stand-out is the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center, which is located in Sleepy Hollow and offers both events to the general public and courses specifically for writers.

For those who love kids’ books as much as I do, there’s the Hudson Children’s Book Festival. This year’s book festival has already come-and-gone, but keep an eye out for next year’s event.

Where in the Hudson Valley do you visit for literary tourism? Let us know in the comments!