Shared from the 10/31/2021 Albany Times Union eEdition

Road trip! The most scenic, historic Hudson Valley drive

Discover the mansions, gardens and estates of former U.S. presidents, financiers and more, between Tarrytown and Hudson

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So let’s do it. But make it pretty. Keep it regional and historical. And include some gorgeous gardens and walkable trails to stretch our legs … and work off that chili dog.

This beautiful Hudson Valley drive hugs the eastern edge of the Hudson River and takes riders to eight historic estates once owned by U.S. presidents, famous financiers, tycoons, artists and other notable figures. The route is as stunning driven from Albany south to Tarrytown as it is from a starting point of New York City on north to Hudson — and all origin points in between.

From Lyndhurst Mansion to Olana, the entire drive should take about two and a half hours via scenic Routes 9 and 9G. But plan on padding that time so you can get out to explore the gardens of these gorgeous historic estates and take time to picnic and relax.

The gorgeous Gothic Revival historic home of railroad magnate and financier Jay Gould was built in 1838 in the Lower Hudson Valley and is a designated National Historic Landmark. It’s also playing host to the famous Westminster Dog Show this year in June (and won’t be publicly accessible then).

Buy a Daily Ground Pass (May 3 - December 19, 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily) in advance to discover the estate’s 67 acres of pathways, explored best on foot, but also by bike or even skateboard. Picnicking and leashed dogs welcome.

(Note that the mansions themselves are closed to the public in the pandemic. Call ahead or check websites before you go.)

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John Greim/Getty Images

Tarrytown: Lyndhurst Mansion

The gorgeous Gothic Revival historic home of railroad magnate and financier Jay Gould was built in 1838 in the Lower Hudson Valley and is a designated National Historic Landmark. It’s also playing host to the famous Westminster Dog Show this year in June (and won’t be publicly accessible then).

Buy a Daily Ground Pass (May 3 - December 19, 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily) in advance to discover the estate’s 67 acres of pathways, explored best on foot, but also by bike or even skateboard. Picnicking and leashed dogs welcome.

635 S Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591

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Remi Benali/Getty Images

Sleepy Hollow: Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate

This former home of oil tycoon and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller is a 40-room, four-floor, foliage-covered Beaux-Arts gem. And yet it’s the incredible gardens that deservedly steal the show. Designed by William Welles Bosworth, the gardens are a visual feast of fountains, sculptures from renowned modern artists like Pablo Picasso, and mixed landscape styles — including a Japanese garden, an Italian garden, and a rose garden.

(Note: Kykuit’s grounds are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, and admittance is by booked, guided tours only until further notice.)

381 N Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591

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John Greim/Getty Images

Hyde Park: Springwood, the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The mansion of Franklin D. Roosevelt began a phased reopening staring July 17, with times tickets available via its online reservations system. Springwood offers a fascinating peek behind the scenes as to how our nation’s 32nd president, who required use of a wheelchair, navigated the two-story home. It’s also a delight to explore the estate’s beautiful 1,000+ acres of gardens and trails.

Prioritize a stop at the estate’s famous rose garden — the roses begin blooming in April and are at their peak in June — which is the final resting place for FDR, wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and FDR’s famous dog, Fala.

4097 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

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Hyde Park: Vanderbilt Mansion

This 54-room Gilded Age mansion was once home to the Vanderbilts, one of America’s most prominent and wealthy families who made their fortune in steamboating, the railroads and other investments, and who regarded the house as a country escape from New York City life.

While the mansion is closed for tours in the pandemic, the estate’s formal, terraced gardens are open for strolling, as are the surrounding 200+ acres of grounds, which include a waterfall, remarkable old trees, and stunning views of the Hudson River. Picnicking? Pitstop at the nearby Eveready Diner for sandwiches to go.

119 Vanderbilt Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

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Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Hudson: Olana State Historic Site

If you took the coolest aspects of Victorian, Persian and Moorish Revival architecture and mashed them all together, you’d get this strangely awesome, colorful river mansion that was once home to painter Frederic Church, who is considered one of the most prominent figures in the Hudson River School of landscape painting.

The exterior detail of the villa is a trippy riot of stencilling, arches, stone and brick, while the remarkable views stretch all the way to the Catskills, Green Mountains and Connecticut. (The uninterrupted views to the west make this a particularly nice spot to catch the day’s fading light.)

The home’s 250 acres of grounds include a lake, farm and beautiful flower garden — all of which are open even though the home temporarily is not due to the pandemic.

Need a place to park for dinner? Try a spot off-the-beaten-path in Hudson.

Cosy Cottage 5720, NY-9G, Hudson, NY 12534

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John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Staatsburgh: Staatsburgh State Historic Site

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Called “Mills Mansion” by locals, this 65-room country home of financier Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills (inherited from her great-grandfather, Morgan Lewis, New York’s third governor) is a Gilded Age jewel box overlooking the Hudson River and worthy of a return trip to tour the home post-pandemic for a glimpse of the dining room alone. The home’s surrounding 192 acres are now a state park, veined with several walking paths and home to a public campground. The grounds are also a prime local sledding spot in the winter. Note the Port-a-Pottie near the start of the walking path, by the parking lot.

75 Mills Mansion Drive, Road 1, Staatsburg, NY 12580

Rhinebeck: Wilderstein Historic Site

After all of those stunning marble and stone houses, the color-popping magic of Wilderstein, a burgundy Queen Anne-style mansion perched on a bluff above the Hudson River, is a refreshing visual shift. Accessible via a winding country road off of Route 9, this former home of Margaret Suckley, the cousin of FDR (and, fun fact: the person who gave FDR his beloved dog, Fala) is surrounded by 40 acres of winding paths and grounds designed by landscape architect Calvert Vaux, co-designer of NYC’s Central Park and Prospect Park. Be sure to stroll to the home’s portico for one of the best vantage points to view the river.

330 Morton Rd, Rhinebeck, NY 12572

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