Bordered by the slumbering dragon of the Gunks on one side and the wilder Catskills leading off to the sunset on the other, the Rondout Valley has a magic all its own. ENCOMPASSING ROSENDALE, HIGH FALLS, STONE RIDGE, ACCORD, KERHONKSON, AND ELLENVILLE, its open spaces are a constantly shifting series of painterly beauty, studded with onetime canal towns turned hamlets that blend old-fashioned Americana and cutting-edge awareness.
Something about the way country meets sophisticated here just works really well. You’ll pass hand-painted signs advertising hay and eggs on your way to a gallery opening or a night of cool jazz. The guy at the next coffee shop table or the woman on the next barstool might be a farmer, a teacher, a web designer, a carpenter, or an actor. Weekenders, old-timers, young mommies, and veteran soldiers band together to help neighbors in need or just have a good time. And a lot of smart people have devoted energy and passion to making sure that a visitor here will have a very good time indeed.
Getting to Rosendale, the northern gateway to the valley, is no trouble at all without a car. You can take Adirondack Trailways (tickets and info are at the lovely eatery, Market Market, across the street), or take a Metro North train to Poughkeepsie and grab a cab or an Ulster County Area Transit bus across the Mid-Hudson Bridge and into the Rondout Valley.
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THE PERFECT VISIT TO THE RONDOUT VALLEY BEGINS WITH FINDING THE PERFECT HOME BASE FROM WHICH TO EXPLORE, and local innkeepers offer a great variety of options. Right on Main Street in Rosendale, you’ll find the boutique hotel ambiance of The 1850 House Inn and Tavern, where you can sleep on fine custom linens, dine on a deck overlooking the Rondout Creek, and rub elbows with smart locals on weekend evenings, hearing tales of “back in the day” when this was the Astoria and rock legends came here to party down.
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At Honor’s Haven Resort & Spa in Ellenville, you can swim either indoors or out, fish or row on the private lake, work out in the fitness center, and follow it up with sauna time and a massage.
If you’d like a retreat that’s a bit more cozy, look into Captain Schoonmaker’s B&B in High Falls, located on ten landscaped and wooded acres with its own trout stream. And they serve up gourmet breakfasts! In Stone Ridge, lay your head at the Den of Marbletown Teddy Bear Museum and B&B for the unique experience of staying at an upscale toy store; your host and hostess have organized an entire museum and shop around their passionate love of classic Steiff stuffed animals, and your inner child will be won over by their board game nights and encyclopedic local knowledge.
If you’d like plentiful privacy and the ability to cook some of that fresh local food for yourself, check out the Clove Cottages. Tucked away on a country lane, these 1940s-era classics have been updated for your pleasure. You’ll be lavished with homemade specialty soap and signature granola, and they’ll drop off fresh-baked scones on Sunday morning.
And if you’d rather camp, the Rondout Valley Resort RV Campground has sites for RVs, trailers, and tents, as well as three types of cabins to choose from. It’s a classic American campground with a pool, mini-golf, shuffleboard, basketball and volleyball, and a couple of updated perks, like a fully equipped fitness center and an adult lounge where you can shoot a game of pool or watch the big-screen TV beside the fireplace.
THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE TO BE HUNGRY THAN THE RONDOUT VALLEY. YOU’RE IN THE EPICENTER OF A FARM-TO-TABLE CULTURE that is at once centuries old and newly reinvented. Whether you want to dine by candlelight to the strains of jazz or at a picnic table outside a deli, somebody is offering it and doing it really well.
Start your day of adventures with a hearty breakfast that’ll stick to your ribs. At the High Falls Kitchenette, you’ll find comfort food like Grandma used to make—if Grandma had twenty years of New York City restaurant experience and access to fresh, local ingredients.
At The Roost in Stone Ridge, they’ll whip you up an avocado skillet, biscuits and gravy, or stuffed pancakes with love and aplomb. The atmosphere is cozy, and it bustles with community news and just all-around good energy. Their token green salad accompanies many of their breakfast choices, and their home fries are simply delicious. Their lunch menu is filled with comfort foods made fresh to please any palate.
While you are in Stone Ridge, visit Lekker (that’s Dutch for exquisitely delicious), where you can choose to squeeze your own fresh OJ or sip a Bloody Mary with house-made pickled veggies while they build you an amazing omelet or a breakfast taco. They also serve up gourmet lunches you’ll have to try and then try again.
Another lunch spot is Cherries Deli and Ice Cream Bar in Stone Ridge. They’ll make your sub fresh and delicious, and their selection of sweet desserts—namely fresh, creamy soft serve—is winning them as many friends as their outstanding service.
Or snatch up a few slices or a whole pizza pie in Kerhonkson at Cancelliere’s Pizzeria; they’ll make it gluten-free if you prefer. Also try their hearty Italian specialties.
Another great choice is The Big Cheese in Rosendale. As your taste buds sing praises to the cheese divinities, you can browse the eclectic selection in their second-hand shop packed with gently used clothes, books, and miscellany. They also sell fresh salads and delicious Mediterranean fare.
At The Publik House in the Village of Ellenville, you’ll find pub grub with a touch of gourmet flair; all salad dressings are freshly made, and you can get a pesto shrimp wrap or sherry cream sauce on your mashed potatoes. Their wings are a must!
In Accord, golfers and non-golfers alike will enjoy the stunning mountain views that come free with every meal at Ivan’s, along with a wide selection of burgers, wraps, club sandwiches (rumor has it Ivan’s makes the best turkey club in the valley), salad platters, and an extensive selection of dinner entrees.
Lots of local eateries enjoy showcasing the area’s broad and deep selection of musical talent. At the High Falls Café, you can enjoy delicious made-from-scratch meals, including a mouth-watering array of flatbreadpizzas, burgers, and sandwiches, and then hang out for an open-mic or pro-jam session or maybe even a dance party. Lydia’s Country Deli Cafe and Bar in Stone Ridge—a cozy and delicious place to eat any time of day or night—kicks it out every other Saturday with barbecued ribs and live jazz. You can taste love in their homemade dishes.
The Friends and Family II Hillside Restaurant is another place people go to enjoy a varied menu of lovingly prepared offerings, ranging from steak and seafood to burgers and salads, and often a side of live music gets thrown in. You can depend on thier food being amazing every time.
Rosendale has been enhanced by the addition of The Garden House 12472, where the people that brought us the beloved Big Cheese have installed a wood-fired pizza oven right in the landscaped garden. They also have put tables on the old-fashioned porch and serve Mediterranean-Arabic fare billed as world comfort food.
The star of Rosendale nightlife is the Rosendale Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant featuring weekend concerts boasting both local and international musicians from singer-songwriters, jazz, blues, world, and experimental. Every other Tuesday they host Singer-Songwriter Tuesdays, a showcase of local musicians.
At the Hopped Up Café in High Falls, you can satiate yourself with a Mediterranean platter or some local smoked trout with greens, wash it down with one of the six available craft beers on tap, and then settle in to enjoy the superb sounds of local acoustic bands. At The Country Inn on Route 2 in Krumville, you may find live music, and you’ll definitely find a stone patio with a fire pit overlooking a pond that is the absolute perfect place to have a beer—once you’ve managed to decide among over 500 bottled selections to go with dinner from a beautifully crafted, creative menu.
And if your taste buds are calling for something Asian, look no further than Asia Restaurant in Stone Ridge, where you’ll find a warm welcome and a long menu of Chinese, sushi, and Thai dishes.
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Make your visit complete and go straight to the heart of this whole locavore concept and visit one of the local farms. Saunderskill Farms has a cafe where you’ll find tasty sandwiches, a soup of the day, and ambrosial baked goods.
Or if you’d like a super-sized side order of fun, visit Kelder’s Farm. You can stock up on the makings of a picnic, play a round of mini-golf, and let your kids enjoy the jumping pillow and petting zoo under the benign gaze of Chomsky the Giant Garden Gnome.
And be sure to catch a farmers’ market. You can hit the new one at Field + Barn in High Falls on Friday and Sunday afternoons for weekend yummies, or catch Rosendale’s farm market on Sunday, a rich mix of fine local farmers with live entertainment, kids’ educational programs, and bushels of community spirit.
THE RONDOUT VALLEY IS A SPECTACULAR PLACE TO IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS, packed with priceless spots you’ll want to return to again and again. The Rondout Creek winds its way through the valley from end to end. You can kayak or fish, and there are spots where folks jump in and splash around—just make sure that you avoid private property. Some places along the Rondout are remarkably easy to get to. The historic falls of High Falls, beautiful year-round, are especially refreshing on a warm spring day; there’s parking for the falls just off Route 213, and an easy walk will lead you to grand views.
The patchwork valley is awe-inspiring just from the highways, particularly Route 44/55 from Kerhonkson to Gardiner—but you can easily treat yourself to even more eye candy. Up the hill from Ellenville lies Sam’s Point Nature Preserve, the highest point in the Shawangunks; the views are well worth the short walk, and three rare and distinct habitat communities exist here that you can learn all about at the conservation center.
For a bit more of a scramble with an incredible payoff, park at Mohonk Preserve’s Spring Farm Trailhead in High Falls (come early on weekends) and drink in a stunning view of the Catskills (known to the locals as the million-dollar view) from right near the parking lot. Then ascend and discover wonders like Bonticou Crag and Table Rock. Another view not to miss is the panorama of Rosendale laid out along the Rondout beneath the Wallkill Valley Railroad Trestle, with the steeple of St. Peter’s in the foreground.
If you find that these wanderings just whet your appetite for stronger stuff, get to know the folks down at Mountain Wings in Ellenville. They’ll teach you to step right into that view with a hang glider attached. Or look up the mountaineers of Alpine Endeavors, whose licensed experts will teach you rock climbing and lead you on routes up the cliffs in the Gunks or the Cats that’ll blow your mind. You might want to make sure you’re on the top of your game for either of those, of course. Don’t worry. You can get your Pilates, cardio kick, yoga, or spinning fix at The Ridge Gym in Stone Ridge.
If you’d like your kids to experience real communion with these enchanted forests, check out the programming at Wild Earth Camp. Kids learn about the living woods surrounding them, from herbal lore to wild inhabitants, with an ancient sense of reverence blended with a sense of fun. They have a few programs on the menu for adults and families too. The Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center also has great family-friendly natural history exhibits that feature the Shawangunk Mountains, and educational information about its modern, geothermal building is nicely showcased in an exhibit of its own.
Another great place to get hands-on with a different aspect of nature is the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, newly relocated to High Falls, where the way they treat their critters redefines compassion. A visit there will leave you with an entirely new sense of the interconnected beauty of life on earth. Take the tour, hear the animals’ life stories, and get educated about animal rights.
PARKS are great if you just want a no-fuss, low-impact spot to unwind, picnic, and play. The Rondout Valley is well-supplied with parks where you can do just that and kick a ball around or let the kids swing on a swing. Lippman Park in Wawarsing, Tongore Park in Marbletown, and the Accord Town Park all offer friendly, well-kept spaces to have that kind of good old-fashioned fun.
FOR WALKING AND BIKING on level ground, the valley has kickin’ rail trails. The Rosendale Trestle mentioned above is part of one; another great one to explore is the O & W Rail Trail to the west, with terrific mountain views. Biking around the Ashokan Resevoir is also nice and flat, and its breathtaking views from the road make it the perfect place to eagle watch.
If your bliss is a good round of golf, we have options you’re going to love. At the Rondout Golf Club, the public is welcome to play one of the most scenic and most challenging courses in New York State; there’s a well-stocked pro shop and Ivan’s Restaurant, where you can grab a bite to eat. A challenging nine holes can also be found at the Stone Dock Golf Club, nestled deep in High Falls woodlands with views of the Skytop Tower and the Rondout Creek. Here, too, you’ll find supplies and good eats available at High Falls Café.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO AT NIGHT, YOU ASK? Besides the live music venues mentioned in our discussion of places to eat, that is? It may surprise you to learn that you’re a stone’s throw from not one but two truly outstanding theatres. The Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, recently renovated into a showplace, offers a full season of both live performances and classic films.
The Rosendale Theatre Collective, run by community volunteers as a nonprofit, offers an eclectic assortment of films and live events you won’t find anywhere else. Both are dripping with history and offer world-class programming at upstate prices; both have helped revitalize their immediate neighborhoods.
Maybe your soul is filled with a thirst for excitement and competition. Fine, we got that. At the Accord Speedway , you’ll find gritty, fearless drivers competing around a quarter-mile oval dirt track two nights a week, cheered on by joyful friends, fans, and family. Bring a scarf or bandana, because those cars make the dirt fly—and be ready for an experience you’ll never forget.
By now, you may be wondering just how this area came to be its bodacious, beauteous self. Get educated at the D & H Canal Museum, where you can immerse yourself in life-size models and dioramas of the Canal Age and then take the Five Locks Walk and marvel at the twists and turns of human history. Or check out the Century House Historical Society in Rosendale, where you can find quirky exhibits, learn everything you ever wanted to know about cement-related history and local geology, and experience the Widow Jane Mine, one of Rosendale’s many caves that’s used on occasion as a singularly nifty event space.
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COME FALL IN LOVE WITH A SOUVENIR OF YOUR VISIT. For retro and vintage lovers, there’s a lot to love about the High Falls Sunday Market, where a diverse array of merchants gather to display art, jewelry, collectables, antiques, and probably a thing or two you’ve never seen before in your life.
At Downtown Accord Antiques, they go beyond the run-of-the-mill selection into vintage lighting, plumbing, and electrical salvage, a real find if you’re doing some renovations this spring. For stunning results, pair with pieces from Bare Furniture in Accord; they’ve got a comprehensive selection of fine-quality real wood pieces lovingly curated by a family of experts.
At Nectar in High Falls, you’ll find a rare blend of home décor, art, imported furniture, architectural elements, children’s items, jewelry, tabletop wares, statuary, gifts, and tea. Nectar has something amazing for everyone, all served with a cup of tea as you enter. They also provide interior design services.
You'll find a bit of local culture at Wired Gallery "...one of Ulster County’s most high-profile, prolific sources of quality art exhibitions" (Almanac Weekly) is an art gallery showing exclusively works by Mid-Hudson Valley artists. It is consistently rated #1 attraction in High Falls on TripAdvisor. Definitely be sure to stop in!
The newest star on the horizon of the High Falls retail universe, FRED, opened this winter to rave reviews from the likes of interior designer Hayes Llewellyn, who called it “one of those unique shops that is instantly entrancing. Entering is like walking into a well-designed kaleidoscope.” FRED is a collection of modern, vintage, new, and charming furnishings curated by interior designers Michael Van Nort and Charles Farruggio. With an emphasis on being approachable and down to earth, they offer decorative objects, artwork, designer pillows, lighting, and furniture, as well as tabletop and entertaining items and glassware—all in a broad price range. Custom furnishings and interior design services are also available.
The Rondout Valley may be justifiably famous for produce and artisanal food creations of all sorts, from sweet corn and peaches to niche items like herbs and exotica, but other beautiful things grow here too. At The Green Cottage in High Falls, you can get a custom-crafted floral arrangement to suit any occasion or “just because.” They have some fine handmade jewelry and unusual gifts to go along with that too. In the mood for something that keeps on growing? Stop in at Victoria Gardens in Rosendale for an amazing selection of trees, shrubs, perennials, and houseplants, and they’ll throw in the know-how you need to keep your new leafy, flowery pals lush and happy. They’ve also got garden art, wind chimes, and all sorts of other gifts.
The Rondout Valley even has an exquisite strip mall. No such thing, you say? That’s because you haven’t been to Emmanuel’s Plaza. From the moment you see the mural on the outside of Emmanuel’s Market, a homey place that hosts art shows and offers a wide selection of bulk and deli foods, you’ll know this is no ordinary strip mall. And pet parents will find top-notch treats, toys, equipment, and guidance at Emmanuel’s Pet-Agree, right next door. The plaza is also where you’ll find Stone Ridge Wine and Spirits, a destination spot for fine wines from far and near. They’ve got the best local libations in their Ulster County wine section, and whatever else you may fancy too. You may find yourself in the mood to get that tattoo you’ve been yearning for, especially as you’re right near the laid-back and yet utterly meticulous wizardry of Ritual Ink. Whether you like it flowery or ferocious, they’ll give you skin art you’ll be proud to wear for the rest of your life.
Pet lovers will also be charmed and amazed by the selection at Accord Plaza Feeds & Needs. Whether your friend is furred, feathered, or scaly, you’ll find the healthiest sustenance here at great prices, along with gourmet specialties like grain-free all natural treats from the Bone Appetit Barkery.
You may even find yourself falling flat-out in love with the Rondout Valley and thinking it would make a great home. It does. Part of the reason is because the kind of endeavors listed above get collaborative support and wisdom from two key organizations: the Rondout Valley Business Association and the Rondout Valley Growers Association, both of whom will be happy to furnish you with local info and guide you to just what you need, and both of whom are advocacy machines for their constituencies and for the future of the valley as a whole.
Another ingredient in the magic spell is supplied by our realtors. A truly great real estate pro listens well to assist you in finding exactly what you need, and we have bunches of those. Give a call to Mary Collins, Prudential Nutshell, or Westwood Metes and Bounds, and let them show you the many and varied possibilities of a Rondout Valley home to call your own. As many have discovered for centuries, there’s no finer place to live. if you’re only visiting . . . welcome, have fun, and come back soon!