As a historic Hudson River town, Poughkeepsie offers a glimpse into the bustling river industries of the past, while remaining a beacon of culture, arts, and renewal for the future. Poised halfway between the state capital and Manhattan, the Queen City of the Hudson River Valley has been through many transformations yet remains a vital hub of the area. Powerful cultural institutions—Vassar College, Marist College, the Bardavon 1869 Opera House, and several more—thrive here, as have generations of inventors, industrialists, and artists of all flavors.
Getting here via Metro-North, Amtrak, or car is simplicity itself, and you’ll want to stretch your legs after the ride. Start your tour of Poughkeepsie with an easy 10-minute walk to Upper Landing Park, then board a glass elevator for the 212-foot ascent to the Walkway Over the Hudson, a spectacular linear park built on a former railway trestle. Pick your photo backdrop: the distant Catskills to the west, the patchwork quilt of Poughkeepsie to the east.
Take a moment to look down at the Poughkeepsie side. You’ll see progress toward the city’s goal of eventually creating a public riverfront greenway where industry once reigned supreme. Just to the north, you’ll see Waryas Park and the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, an award-winning center of hands-on fun and education that deserves top ranking on your list of activities if you’re traveling with youngsters.
When you tear yourself away from the Walkway and descend, take a minute to look around on the ground level, as well. This spot, where the Fall Kill flows into the Hudson, has seen many uses over that last several hundred years; its fertile land, deep harbor, and ample hydropower are arguably the reason that Poughkeepsie exists.
Yet the waterfront isn’t the only part of town being enthusiastically reinvented; partnerships between local government, educational leaders, and smart nonprofit partners dedicated to the environment, arts, and social justice are all preserving Poughkeepsie’s reputation as a thriving, cutting-edge city. (Marist has just renovated a steel plant into digital labs, media studios, makerspace, and more.) You’ll find adaptive reuse and creative urban planning all around, just as you will lovingly preserved history. But more on all of that later. Let’s grab a bite, shall we?
The hard part is not finding a bite to eat in Poughkeepsie; the hard part is choosing. This city neighbors the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park, and the restaurant scene sets the bar high.
Farmers and Chefs is exactly what the name suggests: a convergence of two integral trades of the Hudson Valley that offers fine farm-to-table fare. An elegant room with gorgeous views makes it a great place to enjoy a meal and a beverage, whether you prefer beef bourguignon with red wine and root vegetables or goat cheese and mushroom ravioli.
Hurricane Grill & Wings was founded in Florida and brings a little of that tropical spirit to each of its several
outposts, along with 35 signature flavors of fresh, hormone-free wings and local veggies. Hurricane regularly ranks on lists of top sports bars in Poughkeepsie (a town noted for sports bars), but serves up a great family-friendly experience even when there’s no big game on.
Nic L Inn Wine Cellar on the Hudson is the ideal place to stop in for a superb cocktail or glass of wine, coupled with an old world meat and cheese board, fresh salad, house-made pasta, or other classic bistro dish with a modern twist. An extensive wine list offers selections sourced from the best of New York, California, and France, and you can sip while enjoying river views from your outdoor table.
Crew Restaurant & Bar’s award-winning, CIA-trained chefs work with a number of Hudson Valley farms to deliver fresh, fine dining fare in an elegant and modern setting. If you’re looking for a place where you can truly relax and savor your meal, whether it’s a soup or sandwich for lunch or filet mignon for dinner, then Crew has just what you’re looking for with its exquisitely prepared food and fine cocktails and wines.
Tony’s Pizza Pit is a well-loved, decades-old classic pizza spot on Main Street that still gets “Best Of” nominations. Grab a slice to eat in between sightseeing destinations, or sit down and enjoy some Italian fare with a glass of beer or wine. Choices abound, whether you like your pie round, square, classic, whole wheat, meat- or veggie-focused, you can count on fresh, homemade pies and sauce.
The Arlington Bar and Grill is a classic Poughkeepsie spot. Founded in 1936, this neighborhood pub with a heart of gold will fix you a breakfast sandwich (try the pepper and egg) or a mouthwatering lunch off the grill. Casual and welcoming, this is a great place to chat up some locals and find out what’s really going on.
Lola’s Cafe & Gourmet Catering is an excellent choice for a quick but healthy lunch, tucked in at the foot of the Walkway stairs, offering sandwiches, wraps, and paninis in standard and gluten-free varieties. Classic offerings like burgers, chili, and Philly cheesesteak share the stage with delicious bowls and originals like the short rib grilled cheese and buffalo chicken salad.
Lolita’s Pizza has taken on a bold challenge: introducing this pizza-loving town to the goodness of Neapolitan style. They’re killing it, with crust made from naturally fermented sourdough serving as a base for delicately crafted sauce, housemade fresh mozzarella, and a mouthwatering selection of creative antipasto selections like wood-roasted olives.
Eclectic and unique shops abound in Poughkeepsie, and we’ve highlighted just a few that are sure to make your journey through town more interesting. Be sure to discover others on your stroll through Main Street. Retail and art rub shoulders here in all kinds of ways, as do food and art; the people you’ll meet and the fun you’ll have are all a part of the world-class quality at upstate prices.
Dreaming Goddess has been weaving beauty and wisdom since 1995 with all things Bohemian, enchanting, and life-enhancing. Bath and body oils. Crystals. Candles. Pride swag. Pottery. Jewelry. Lammas and unicorns and gnomes, oh my! Need we say more?
Since 1946, Vincitore’s Hudson Valley Pianos has been the go-to piano shop for everyone from Vassar, Bard, and the Bardavon, to parents looking for something they can afford as a starter. With exquisite customer care and nationally competitive prices, offering both new and used pianos, as well as rentals, Vincitore’s is the Hudson Valley’s authorized dealer for Yamaha Acoustic Pianos, Disklavier, Hybrid, Digitals, and more. This is a fun place to check out for the afficionados and the curious.
Simplicity Consignment Shop is a haven for lovers of finer brand name and designer wearables, including jewelry and accessories, and home goods. It is presided over by a Hudson Valley-raised Renaissance woman, a fashion consultant with a political science degree, and a serious thing for handbags. Find superb quality in pristine condition for a fraction of the cost, and leave feeling renewed on every level and savvy in every sense of the word.
While exploring Poughkeepsie’s charms, you’ll be frequently reminded that this is an arts town through and through, very much including the art of placemaking. Organizations such as the Art Effect and the Fall Kill Creative Works/Mid-Hudson Heritage Center, with its five diverse locations, and are dedicated to bringing out and tuning up the artist in everyone, building on many decades of community tradition.
Come visit Poughkeepsie for a snapshot of a proud river city in joyful resurgence. Check the packed cultural calendars of the college campuses and the Bardavon, of arts centers like Cunneen-Hacket and galleries like Barrett. Marvel at the civic and entrepreneurial spirit blooming in repurposed industrial-era gems like the Underwear Factory, the Trolley Barn, and 40 Cannon. The Queen City is truly a place worth getting to know.