Head to Rhinebeck for a weekend retreat
Want to go back in time? Walking into Samuel’s Sweet Shop, a tiny 400-square-foot candy store in Rhinebeck, New York, a wave of nostalgia hits you, from the vintage candies that line the walls to the classic rock playing on the speakers. Behind the counter is a red-headed guy named John Traver, wearing a plaid shirt and an apron. John has worked at Samuel’s since he was 15.
“When people come here, their blood pressure goes down,” says John, who was born and bred in this small Hudson Valley town with just one stoplight and a downtown lined with mom-and-pop stores. It’s not clear if John is referring to the town itself or to Samuel’s...but as someone who has spent time vacationing in the area, I’d say you could claim the same for both.
On this getaway, we’re taking you to Rhinebeck, as well as neighboring towns like Tivoli (an artsy hamlet about 20 minutes away), Red Hook (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village in between), and the lush countryside that surrounds it all. The area plays all the WeekEnder hits — farms, breweries, hikes, farm-to-table food — and does it with an impressive level of quality.
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Let’s begin at Samuel’s, which used to be owned by a local named Ira Gutner, who was a fixture in town and knew everyone’s names. After Ira passed away in 2014 and Samuel’s was in danger of closing, a handful of celebs with homes in the area — including actors Paul Rudd and Jeffrey Dean Morgan — swooped in, helped John buy the store, and now run it with him. “They said to me, ‘Rhinebeck needs a candy store and this place has to thrive,’” says John. “Little shops like this are what little towns are all about. That is what America is all about.”
It’s a story that’s similar to the story of Rhinebeck and its neighbors: a quintessential slice of Americana that has managed to preserve its authentic charm, with a layer of glitz behind the scenes. And it’s the perfect weekend escape.
-Laura Begley Bloom, New York's Senior WeekEnder Writer
Where to stay
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Over the river and through the woods, to a luxury spa resort we go. The destination: Mirbeau, which opened in Rhinebeck last year and looks like a chateau straight out of the French countryside. Set just back from the street on three wooded acres in the center of town, Mirbeau was more than a decade in the making, thanks to an army of locals who fiercely protect Rhinebeck’s quintessential small-town vibe and wanted to make sure that the lavish property would be a good fit in this luxuriously understated village. But finally Mirbeau — which is part of a small group of boutique hotels in the Northeast that are designed to look like French country estates — was able to open its pane-glass doors. “We had our doubts at first about a chateau-style hotel coming to Rhinebeck, but now we love it,” says Maureen Missner, the founder of a chic stationery store nearby called Paper Trail and a director of Enjoy Rhinebeck, which helps promote the area. And what’s not to love? Mirbeau has a restaurant from chef Charlie Palmer of New York City’s Aureole, palatial rooms that look like something out of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and a spa with herbal-infused saunas and free yoga classes.
Insider Tip: There’s nothing like soaking in the spa’s open-air heated pool, which is open year-round, even in a blizzard. “It’s really beautiful when it’s snowing,” advises co-owner Ed Kellogg. And there’s no reason to leave: Next to the pool is a café serving charcuterie boards, wine, and drinks like the “Spa Treatment” cocktail — Ketel One Cucumber and Mint, Prosecco, fresh botanicals, and strawberry puree.
Honorable hotel mentions
For History Buffs: Beekman Arms & Delameter Inn in Rhinebeck
Right in the center of town is the oldest operating inn in America and even George Washington, yes POTUS no. 1, rested his head here back in the day. (Though local lore has it that someone other than Martha was with him.) Guests can also stay at the Delameter, a gothic hideaway just a short stroll away.
For Instagrammers: Hotel Tivoli in Tivoli
Set in a 100-year old building, the Hotel Tivoli carefully balances past and present, thanks to painters Brice and Helen Marden, who modernized the interiors and showcase their own work and pieces by artists like Robert Rauschenberg. The hotel’s Corner restaurant is a who’s who of Tivoli (population 1038).
For Gentleman Farmers: Greig Farm in Red Hook
A farm stay with a farmhouse, a one-room schoolhouse for rent, a craft market, goat feeding, an art gallery — and overall good vibes. A farm-fresh breakfast is included in the rate.
For Animal Lovers: Whistlewood Farm B&B in Rhinebeck
On the outskirts of Rhinebeck is this inn on a working farm with pastures where horses graze and wildflower-filled gardens. Maggie, the innkeeper, spoils guests with her farmhouse breakfasts and a dessert table that is always loaded with treats like homemade muffins.
For Sweethearts: The Gables in Rhinebeck
A B&B with four suites in an 1860 Gothic Revival Victorian that got its name from the 15 gables that adorn the building. The grounds have gardens, a badminton court, and games like cornhole.
Where to eat
Not far from Rhinebeck is the Culinary Institute of America and — no surprise — many of its graduates have stayed in the area. In Rhinebeck alone, you’ll find more than 25 restaurants within a small radius — plus nearby Tivoli is also starting to become a foodie mecca.
The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck: This 1798 Dutch townhouse has been converted into a restaurant with seating on the porch and in the garden out back. Pick up some provisions at the stylish general store on your way out.
Historic Village Diner in Red Hook: Who doesn’t love a vintage diner? With this spot it’s literally in the name and has been serving up pancakes since the 1920s. Don’t miss the house specialty: sugar-dusted Diner Dunker Donuts, served with a cup of coffee. Dunk away.
All That Java in Tivoli: A cute cart behind the Hotel Tivoli with fresh-roasted coffee and treats to go.
Del’s Roadside in Rhinebeck: Drive-in from the owners of a local dairy farm with house-made ice cream from their Guernsey cows, burgers, and shuffleboard — because why not?
Smoky Rock BBQ in Rhinebeck: New York-style ‘que. Get the smoked dry rub ribs to go. Plus, sauces, spices, and rubs to replicate the dishes back home.
A sit-down meal
Foster’s Coach House Tavern in Rhinebeck: Operating since 1890, this old-school tavern is a Hudson Valley institution with a menu of dishes just like mom used to make.
GioBatta Alimentari in Tivioli: A new Italian restaurant run by the descendant of a family who owns a pasta shop in Sansepolcro, Italy. The next best thing to a trip to Tuscany.
Santa Fe in Tivoli: Or maybe you want to head south of the border? This made-from-scratch restaurant was inspired by the owner’s many trips to Mexico.
What to do
Walks and hikes
Want to get a breath of fresh air? In these parts, nature abounds, but here are some spots where the locals go when they want to get away from it all.
Drayton Grant Park at Burger Hill in Rhinebeck: “A local treasure. You can see a panoramic view of the Catskills with all the shapes and texture and glory of the mountains. It only takes minutes to get to the top of the hill and you don’t need hiking boots,” says John Traver, co-owner of Samuel’s Sweet Shop.
Ferncliff Forest in Rhinebeck: One of the oldest preserved forests in the Hudson Valley, with four miles of trails and a climbable 80-foot fire tower that has dramatic views of the surrounding area. “It’s free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and it’s a beautiful, easy hike,” says Claudia Cooley, marketing director at Enjoy Rhinebeck.
Poets' Walk Park in Red Hook: This series of outdoor “rooms” created for neighboring estate owners in the 1850s used to be a favorite escape for writer Washington Irving. These days, it’s still “a lovely place that gives you access to the river,” says Norman Greig, owner of Greig Farm.
Tivoli Bays in Tivoli: Relaxing waterfront hikes and (when the weather is good) excellent kayaking. “You’ll find eagles and swans down there,” says Tyler Drosdeck, studio manager for artists Helen and Brice Marden, who own the Hotel Tivoli.
Montgomery Place in Annandale-on-Hudson: On the grounds of Bard College, there are dramatic public spaces to explore, from Montgomery Place — a grand estate from 1802 — to Blithewood, a walled Italianate garden from 1903. “It’s part of the reason why people come here — for a little more space, a little more breathing room,” says John Traver.
There’s something about the Hudson Valley that seems to inspire entrepreneurs to give up their day jobs and start making beer, wine, and other spirits. If you want to sip your way through the countryside, just make sure you have a designated driver.
Black Snake Brewery in Staatsburg: A funky woman-run brewery on a farm about 20 minutes from Rhinebeck with hay rides for kids and three beers on tap for mom and dad.
Dutch’s Spirits in Pine Plains: This distillery is a little further outside town on the former grounds of mobster “Dutch” Schultz’s Prohibition-era bootlegging operation. Try the Sugar Wash Shine, an 80-proof liquor that would have made Dutch proud.
Milea Estate Vineyard in Staatsburg: Surprisingly, the Hudson Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the country, dating back to 1677. This new 98-acre vineyard’s wines are so good they quickly made it on the list at Mirbeau.
You can’t go wrong with the shopping in Rhinebeck, Red Hook, and Tivoli — where the taste levels are high. Here’s a town-by-town glimpse at some of our favorite boutiques.
Samuel’s Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck: All the candy you love from your youth — and then some. Don’t miss the house specialty: a double-stuffed Oreo layered with other candies (Peppermint Patties, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) and dipped in chocolate.
A.L. Stickle Variety Store in Rhinebeck: An old-fashioned five-and-dime with quirky toys and other things you don’t really need but will want when you see them. Has barely changed since it opened in 1951.
Megabrain Comics in Rhinebeck: Co-owner Jean Michel is a self-professed comic nerd with an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre. There’s also an arcade straight out of the 80s with pinball and retro video games.
Vaux Vintage in Red Hook: What’s old is new at this well-curated vintage boutique owned by a fiber artist and former costume designer.
H.A.S. Beane Books in Red Hook: New bookstore with new, gently used, and antiquarian titles from a pair of mother-daughter bookworms.
Tivoli General Store in Tivoli: Your one-stop picnic shop for local cheese, fresh-baked bread, and other gourmet treats.
Tivoli Mercantile in Tivoli: Stylish clothes with an organic edge for everyone in the family and a small selection of antiques, flea market finds, and locally made candles and jewelry.