Perhaps it’s Rhinebeck history. Or the Amtrak train stop giving people both coming and going easy access to the city. Or maybe it’s the fact that Rhinebeck’s western border is the very Hudson River itself. Whatever the case, Rhinebeck draws people into its forty square miles of natural beauty and leaves an impression. Some of these people are from the rich and famous faction. Millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, though unlucky to die on the Titanic, was lucky enough to be born in Rhinebeck. Gangster “Fat Tony” from the Genovese crime family owned a 100-acre estate in Rhinebeck, where he spent a good bit of his time, before he was finally convicted and sentenced in 1986. Literary writer Edith Wharton made many childhood visits to Wyndcliffe mansion in Rhinebeck where lived her prominent NYC aunt, and Wharton later wrote about her experiences in Hudson River Bracketed. (Mind you, Wharton didn’t enjoy herself here, but that is mostly because of her granite-like stodgy aunt.) Chelsea Clinton tied the knot amongst a flurry of paparazzi in her over-the-top wedding right here in Rhinebeck. But it’s the people who live in and work in and visit Rhinebeck regularly who are the real wealth of this community. They give Rhinebeck its true flavor . . . and make people want to stay.
This town offers eating that can only be described as unforgettable. Fresh, local ingredients, handpicked and intelligently used, are a sort of minimum standard among Rhinebeck's restaurants. The finest thrive by using creative genius to craft something unlike anyplace else on the planet.
In keeping with the local love of history, the Liberty Public House is sited within the historic Starr Institute and decorated with a quirky wealth of historic memorabilia. Do lunch or dinner here, enjoying menu originals like “Devils on Horseback” (dates, bleu cheese and apple-wood smoked bacon), or stop in for a drink at their Boathouse, where the bar is fashioned from a sloop that sailed the Hudson.
Famed maestro of Italian cuisine Gianni Scappin has enlivened Rhinebeck's culinary scene with the help of his team to create Market Street, where you'll find a wood-fired oven, driftwood pickled floors, and cozy booths with Belgian-linen banquettes. On the menu: exotic pizzas, salads of fresh local baby greens, and grass-fed rib eye.
Classic and comforting Italian fare can also be found at Puccini Ristorante, where romance, charm, and urban cool are blended into a flavorful vibration that enhances meticulously prepared dishes, such as sautéed mozzarella in caper sauce, fettuccini carbonara, and veal marsala. Most of the menu can be prepared gluten-free.
Osaka has been serving classic and innovative Japanese fare to the Hudson Valley for over 20 years and just took home this year's “Best-of-the-Valley” honors from Hudson Valley magazine. They'll fix you an unbeatable sushi and sashimi dinner or platter to eat in or take on a picnic, and they've got plenty for non-sushi eaters and vegetarians.
Fans of creative New American comfort food will find their bliss at Terrapin, where Chef Josh Kroner is constantly expanding and refining his definition of “creative conscious cuisine.” Whether you opt for the casual bistro or the fancier dining room, you'll experience food that's been described as “a dream come true” by the New York Times; you can also pick up sauces and specialties to take home at their store.
In the mood for something simple and hearty and splendid? Try the Grand Cru Beer and Cheese Bar. Choose from one of their 300 in-stock beers, or enjoy a rotating selection of 16 hand-selected draft choices by owner Rod Johnson. And don’t forget to taste their savory munchies: smoked meats, eloquent cheeses, venison jerky, and hand-baked soft pretzels are just some of the treats offered for on-site consumption or to take home. They also offer wine by the glass for those who prefer it. Enjoy it all in their bar café area with floor-to-ceiling windows right in the heart of Rhinebeck.
Be sure to stop into Montgomery Row where you’ll find authentic Mexican cuisine at Gaby’s Cafe or farm-fresh Mediterranean delicacies at the award-winning Gigi Trattoria in the center of town.
Don't miss a stop at Samuel's Sweet Shop, formerly Samuel's of Rhinebeck. The coffee-and-candy boutique provides customers the very best in chocolate, coffee and tea, baked goods, sandwiches, and other delicious treats.
Right in the center of town, you can make yourself at home at an inn that quite literally helped host the American Revolution and has been up and running continuously ever since. At the Beekman Arms and its associated Delmateer Inn, raise a glass of sherry to the rebels of long ago while enjoying elegantly interpreted modern conveniences. The Delmateer even offers guesthouses with wood-burning fireplaces.
Want a more countrified vibe? Check out Whistlewood Farm Bed and Breakfast, expertly managed by the same stellar hostess for over three decades. You can hike miles of trails and come back to greet the livestock: horses, cows, donkeys and chickens. “Every corner, every nook of the place is perfectly designed because this farmer lady has perfect taste,” is how one happy visitor describes the experience, replete with antiques and handmade quilts.
Or you can stay down by the riverside, just steps from the water and from Amtrak, and soak up a river view from one of the queen-size beds at the Rhinecliff Hotel, an 1854 building restored to boutique, full-service hostelry status.
The town that brought dear old Sinterklaas back to life has, as you might expect, some radically good ideas and provisions for having fun. There are trail networks for biking and horseback riding, an excellent indie movie house (Upstate Films), and a scenic town park with views, a playground, and tennis facilities, and it's easy to find live music and craft beverages on a weekend night.
If you like making cool stuff, or think you might if you only had a chance to try it, come to FiberFlame's walk-in art studio. You can pick among “blanks” that start at one dollar—pottery, tote bags, onesies, frames, canvases—and enjoy two hours of studio time to play with “buttons, beads, and vintage fabrics. Markers, stamps, and stencils. Handmade papers, antique prints, inks, and paints. Fabric dyes, threads in every color and thickness, tiles, and beach glass. Brushes, sponges, tissue, and a rainbow of glazes.” Make it your own with as much—or as little—guidance as you prefer.
If you’d like to learn the craft of watercolor painting during your visit, or if you'd simply like to see some of the most beautiful ones around anywhere, come to the Betsy Jacaruso Studio and Gallery. An incredible painter herself, Jacaruso teaches aspiring students this rich and delicate art form. You'll find relaxed drawing and painting classes for all skill levels and rotating exhibits that will inspire and educate.
An art lover's tour of Rhinebeck is incomplete without a visit to Albert Shahinian Fine Art. Celebrating its 18th year, this full-service gallery is located in a beautiful 1850s historic building. Curator/founder Shahinian has made a name for himself for the “diversity, thoughtful presentation, and consistently high caliber of artistic expression” of his exhibits. ASFA also offers curatorial, installation, delivery, and art consultation services, should you need those. Through November, you can check out recent work by Christie Scheele, as well as their 18th annual show, “The Luminous Landscape,” a national invitational exhibition featuring Thomas Sarrantonio and Eric Lindbloom this year.
The banks of the mighty river have long inspired visual and literary arts as well, and you can go straight to the source firsthand with a visit to Poets' Walk, created on behalf of estate-dwelling Astors and Delanos by a gifted landscape architect. Wander two miles through woods and meadow and a series of fabulous views; linger with your own sketchbook or notepad at a rustic cedar pavilion.
There's another great outdoor spot in Rhinebeck called Ferncliff Forest, a 200-acre wood with four miles of trails spotted with historical remnants of wells and root cellars and crumbling foundations. In World War II, there was an observation tower there; the views of the Catskills and river from it were so fine that a new tower replaced the old one in 2007, and you're invited to come climb—and to hike, camp, mountain bike, ski, fish, or picnic.
Through October, you can tour Wilderstein, an eccentric relative in the family of great riverfront estates. Named “wild man's stone” for a nearby Native petroglyph, it was built first as an Italianate villa and re-envisioned 35 years later as a Queen Anne country house. Wilderstein was the homebase of generations of Suckeys, the last a cousin and close confidante of FDR, who gave it to the public as a giant Christmas present in the 1980s. The American Romantic-style grounds by Calvert Vaux are worth the trip in themselves.
For yet another immersion in history, visit the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Through mid-October, you can catch weekend airshows (ever see a WWI dogfight?). Through the end of October, you can take a ride in a biplane or tour extensive exhibits that cover aviation history and early 20th-century mechanical relics of all sorts.
Living heritage is to be found at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. During the fall, you can catch the upstart “Equine! Equine! Equine!” horse extravaganza and the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest in September. October brings arts, antiques, and the popular Sheep and Wool Festival.
Be sure to visit the Rhinebeck Farmers' Market on a Sunday for a true glimpse of the town's beating heart. Farm fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, cheeses, honey, jams, flowers, and much more are on hand, complete with tastings, chef demos, recipe ideas, fun for the kids, live music, and exceptionally pleasant people.
If you’d like to look and feel your absolute best, make time for a stop at La Tua Bella Beauty Bar. Using only natural products, polished professionals will make you over, pamper you, or just help you shop. When translated from Italian, La Tua Bella means, “You are beautiful,” and they definitely live up to their promise.
If you'd guess that a town with this much history would have some exceptional antiquing possibilities, you'd be exactly right—both the Beekman Arms Antique Center, set behind the hotel in a classic red barn, and the Rhinebeck Antiques Emporium (“History's Attic”) are multi-dealer havens for seekers of all that is old and good.
Are you looking to redecorate or just freshen your space with a special, exquisite piece or two? Rhinebeck's interior and home-goods stores can help fulfill your wildest, most particular dreams. Marigold Home offers Manhattan-level expertise in a country setting; they'll re-imagine your window treatments, and their other locations can match the perfect area rug, enlighten your lighting, and hook you up with Hunter Douglas furniture.
Fair-trade, focused, eclectic Nectar is the home goods equivalent of the finest world-beat music. Here you can find a symphony of trad, handcrafted, up-cycled and meticulously curated décor, art, furnishings, and architectural elements. It's a rare blend of sumptuous and socially conscious, and the genius Nectarettes will help you find whatever you may be seeking; they're great at retrieving rare beauty from around the globe.
At Spruce Design + Decor, you'll find a renovated firehouse packed to bursting with vintage mid-century masterpieces and whatever else these passionate collectors have realized you should not live without. Spruce has a rep for warmth, comfort, sexiness, and sophistication that has led its owners to star turns in Elle Decor, New York Home, ID Design, and Domino magazines. Come check them out in Rhinebeck on their home ground.
If your own home ground needs more than just furnishing, Williams Lumber operates the largest Ace hardware store in the entire Hudson Valley here in Rhinebeck. Hardware, hand tools, painting, plumbing and electrical supplies, sturdy Carhartt gear—they've got whatever you need and good advice to go with it.
Any tobacco connoisseur will be on cloud nine when he/she enters Rhinebeck Smoke Shoppe. If unsurpassed customer service, genuine product knowledge, and an uncompromising commitment to freshness are important to you, look no further. Cigars, pipes, fine fresh loose tobacco, and all the needed accessories are gathered in one aromatic place, on one of the oldest street corners in America.
Just a stroll down the street, artists will feel welcomed and understood at the original Rhinebeck Artist’s Shop. It's been a local institution for three decades; for the past three years, it's been run by working artist and MFA Doug Shippee. Whether you're looking for art supplies or framing services, the folks here will help you get the very best with a smile. Also stop in to Atwater Gallery upstairs to see their latest collection.
Family tradition is what has made Rhinebeck’s outpost of Dorrer Jewelers the success that it is today. The heritage began in Germany in 1827 and crossed the Atlantic to New York a century later. The grandson of the man who brought it here is carrying on the tradition—but there's nothing stuffy about the selection. Check out their Rock Candy, Pretty in Pink, Be Unique, and Blue Moon collections, and gaze at their brown, yellow, and black diamonds.
For your feet, Rhinebeck offers a new boutique-style branch of Pegasus Footwear, proven winners from across the river. They hire top-notch expert staff who will help you find the look you absolutely love, the practical gear you can't live without, and the comfort that your tender tootsies will thank you for.
Pamper the rest of your hide with the wonderful things handmade and sold at Merriweathers. All of their soaps are handmade and hand cut. Creams and other skin-care products are made in small batches and are not warehoused. They use the best all-natural ingredients in their products: real vegetable and nut oils, and pure essential oils. The store is also filled to the brim with beautiful sparkly jewelry, natural gemstones, sterling silver, fun and funky bags, belts, and scarves.
Maybe it's your furry or feathery friend who needs the pampering. Picky pet parents will be pleased with the selection at Pet Country, where they carry a huge variety of food and tons of other pet-care items that you won't find in most pet-supply stores. Their customer service is superb, and they have everything for the care, fun, and well being of your pet—no matter what species.
No discussion of Rhinebeck's finest retail therapy would be complete without mentioning the shops of Montgomery Row, a not-to-be-missed shopping and dining destination which is the beating heart of the village. Once upon a time, the original Montgomery Row building was a landmark everyone referred to as “the Chevy garage.” It's been re-imagined, redone, and expanded into an award-winning shopping destination where you'll find a kitchen pharmacy, heavenly restaurants, an outdoor outfitters' shop, hand-dipped chocolates, menswear, home goods, and so much more.
Montgomery Row is also where you'll find Oblong Books, the largest indie bookstore in the Hudson Valley. They've been surviving and thriving since 1975 for many reasons: a stellar kids' section, a big bargain selection, and an ongoing series of author events that drive local literary culture. Their extremely knowledgeable staff on hand will help with any literary inquiries.
And Montgomery Row is where you'll find one of Rhinebeck's latest emporia, the Paper Trail. If you crave fine paper, for invitations or some other purpose, they've got all manner of stationery, paper goods, and desk supplies, along with apothecary items, jewelry, whimsical gifts, and all sorts of things you might not have known you needed, but surely do.
It's only right that Rhinebeck has a terrific hospital. Northern Dutchess, affiliated with the Health Quest medical practice, has been named best in the Hudson Valley region, and any local will tell you it's well deserved.
Many a regional resident came into existence at its warm and enlightened Birthing Center long before such services were widespread, and the quality of geriatric care—and for every age in between—is similarly high. Not just a hospital though, they also have a medically based fitness center that can help you make the kind of lifestyle changes that promote good health. Through a personal health assessment, private training, and group classes, they will guide and support you to set and achieve manageable fitness goals.
Northern Dutchess is complemented by the new Izlind Integrative Wellness Center and Institute, offering a wide selection of both traditional and holistic approaches to reducing your stress, fortifying your health, and revitalizing your potential for your body, mind, and spirit. They also offer care for those seeking additional support for a medical issue. Treatments, classes, workshops and retreats are provided in a lovely, serene setting, by an unparalleled collaborative team of providers who work together to treat, educate, and help you feel and heal better than ever.
Once you get Rhinebeck under your skin, you'll want to come back and visit again and again—and you'll have friends who'll be happy to see you return. Rhinebeck is rooted in dramatic history, surrounded by surreal beauty, and curated with infinite love. Enjoy your stay; you might not want to ever leave.