Here’s a weekend itinerary for eco-friendly, sustainable, and kind adventures in Dutchess County, New York.
Looking to spend two days wandering around adorable towns, spending time in quiet nature, and sampling delicious food and drink? You’ll want to run, not walk, straight to Dutchess County, New York. It’s less than two hours from New York City and three hours from Boston. If you’re a curious Canadian like myself and looking for a new place to explore, it’s about 4-5 hours from Montreal and Ottawa, and 7.5 hours from Toronto. Trust me, it’s worth the drive. There are so many fun things to do in Dutchess County.
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Thanks to the knowledgeable folks at Dutchess Tourism, I ventured off the well trodden tourist path to the lesser known gems of the region. Even though I was visiting on weekdays, there were so many occasions where there weren’t any other travelers in sight. So, if you’re looking for a peaceful place away from the crowds, I’m going to show you exactly where to go.
Natural wonders like the Dover Stone Church will make you feel like you’re in New Zealand, not the Hudson Valley. There’s castle ruins that make you feel like you’re in the middle of Scotland. Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue is such an amazing cause and could really benefit from an increased amount of visitors. And with the Culinary Institute of America in Dutchess County, you’d better bet that you can find an incredible culinary scene.
Whether you’re visiting over the weekend or spending 2 days in Dutchess County NY, prepare to be charmed by this beautiful section of the state. Let me show you exactly all of the amazing things to do in Dutchess County: the activities that emphasize eco-friendly travel, vegan travel, and combat overtourism by visiting the lesser known spots.
DUTCHESS COUNTY TRAVEL GUIDE
WHERE TO STAY IN DUTCHESS: I loved staying at the Inn at Pine Plains in Pine Plains, New York. You can read my review a little further down on this page. Book your stay at the Inn at Pine Plains or read more reviews by fellow travelers. There are a great variety of small hotels, B&Bs and inns throughout the region. Feel free to check out hotels in the towns of Rhinebeck, Beacon, or Poughkeepsie if you’d like to stay in a larger city. To have your own place in Dutchess, browse the available listings on Airbnb.
GETTING AROUND DUTCHESS: I recommend having access to a car when you visit Dutchess County. A lot of the places on this particular itinerary can be far apart from one another. It’s possible to take the train into towns like Beacon and Poughkeepsie, and even continue by bus up into Rhinebeck. However, having a car makes it so much easier to visit to these off the beaten path spots that I recommend. If you don’t have your own, consider renting a car for this trip.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN NY: For all of the best things to do in New York State, check out all of my other blog posts.
PHOTOS OF DUTCHESS: Check out our entire photo album of pictures from Dutchess County NY to inspire your trip. You can also purchase prints, housewares, and all sorts of gifts made from any of our photos – just click the “buy” button on any picture.
Day 1 in Dutchess County
For your first day, you’ll be exploring the finer side of things to do in Dutchess County. First, you’ll be visiting a tea room (and tea factory), beautiful gardens, and a vineyard with an impressive history. Top it all off with one of the best views in Dutchess County NY, followed up by some of the best Indian cuisine I’ve ever tasted.
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Tour at Harney & Sons Fine Teas
It’s not everyday that you get to go behind the scenes at a tea factory. You might have heard of Harney & Sons. Their tea is so popular for a reason – it’s absolutely delicious. There’s really a variety and taste for everyone as they serve over 250 varieties of tea. I recommend browsing their collection online where it’s easy to place an order (or you can always order it on Amazon, too).
Harney & Sons is a family owned and operated business. Back in 1983, John Harney began his journey to master the art of tea blending in his basement, serving his tea to inn guests. This home-run business has vastly expanded to their headquarters in Millerton, New York. They have a 90,000 square foot warehouse there, a bottling plant in Hudson, and two tasting rooms in Millerton and SoHo, New York. Sadly, John passed away in 2014, but his two sons, Mike and Paul operate the company along with other family members. Harney & Sons Tea employs over 200 people.
John’s grandson, Alexander offered to give us the Harney & Sons factory tour. He is so full of knowledge about everything relating to tea. I could really sense his passion for tea, especially when it came to traveling the world to source rare varieties. He’s visited Taiwan, China, Japan and India to find the best tasting teas.
Visiting the tea factory was one of the most interesting things to do in Dutchess County. As we toured around the factory, we could see that the company sources, blends, and packages their tea from start to finish, keeping full control over all aspects of production. They are committed to making and selling the finest tea possible and have strict quality control measures. If the tea bags aren’t filled to a certain weight or standard, they aren’t sold to the public. It was really fascinating to see the huge pieces of equipment to blend and package the tea. They even make some of their own tea bags at the factory.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was smelling all of the tea. The tea sits in giant barrels before being packaged and shipped off to a store near you. We walked around and smelled the various fragrances of each tea blend. From smooth vanilla scents to bright floral ones, I could certainly get used to smelling all of the tea. Is there somehow a way that I could pivot being a professional blogger into being a professional tea tester?
I quickly discovered that the one that smelled the best was a tea blend called Paris, with scents of Earl Grey, black currant, vanilla, with a hint of caramel. It’s inspired by Mike Harney’s visits to Paris and enjoying pots of tea at Parisian tea shops. I knew that I had to buy some of that at their tea room. If you’re interested in taking a factory tour at Harney & Sons, please reach out to their headquarters via email or phone. Definitely add “smelling tea” to your list of things to do in Dutchess County.
Lunch at Harney & Sons Tea Room
After the factory tour, head down the road a short distance to the Harney & Sons Tea Room in Millerton. You can sample teas in their tasting room, browse the shop for your favorite blends, and sit down for a full meal. And it’s not only a tea room. It’s one of the best Dutchess County restaurants, too. I was very impressed that all of the vegetarian and vegan menu items were clearly marked, which always make it so much easier. There’s also the massive tea menu to peruse, and it’s insanely difficult to decide on just one tea to order. You can order it iced or hot, whatever you choose from their huge variety of over 250 teas. There’s something for everyone!
For food, I chose the hummus and veggie platter, which is always one of my favorite things to eat. For my main course, I tried the mushroom risotto (brown rice risotto topped with sauteed mushroom of the day and balsamic reduction, served with greens), just remember to ask for the vegan version without cheese. And there’s even a vegan choice of dessert, a rice pudding made with plant-based milk topped with fruit. Yum! For those compiling a list of Hudson Valley vegan options, add Harney & Sons tea room to your vegan restaurant bucket list.
Innisfree Garden is one of the world’s 10 best gardens, and it’s one of the most wonderful things to do in Dutchess County NY. It’s unlike any garden I’ve ever visited before. Innisfree Garden is an American stroll garden, all about the individual’s experience in nature. It combines the essence of Modernist and Romantic principles with traditional Chinese and Japanese design. Using water, rocks, wood, and of course, plants, the result is a naturalistic landscape that isn’t immaculately groomed.
At Innisfree, it’s almost as though you’re strolling from one landscape painting to the next. It’s designed around the notion of a “cup garden”, a Chinese garden concept that draws attention to something beautiful in the scene. It might be a lotus pool or a single rock covered with succulents and lichens. Wander around Tyrrel Lake to discover native plants, waterfalls, and magnificent trees. Follow the path across streams using tiny bridges and wooden footpaths. I am certain that every person who visits notices a different detail, having new experiences with each visit.
While I went to Innisfree Garden in late April just at the start of spring before the first bloom, I am sure that it looks even more lovely throughout the prime of spring, summer and fall. I’d love to return again in the future to see how Innisfree Garden changes with the seasons. Add this to your list of things to do in Dutchess County throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
Clinton Vineyards is called a, “jewel in the crown of Dutchess County”. Established in 1976 by Ben and Phyllis Feder, Clinton Vineyards is inspired by the stunning wineries and vineyards in France. The 100-acre Clinton Vineyards is modeled after the European tradition of specializing in a single grape. He chose the Seyval Blanc, a hardy grape that can survive the weather of the Hudson Valley. Going for a wine tasting at Clinton Vineyards is one of the best things to do in Dutchess County.
We met with Phyliss at Clinton Vineyards for our wine tasting. She is such a fascinating woman with so many stories to tell. You could spend an entire day with Phyliss, learning about how she and Ben were pioneers of the New York wine industry. I love that she is a champion for women’s rights and equality. She’s paved the way for so many other women in the wine industry, becoming the first female president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. You’ll notice photos all around the tasting room with notable people like Hillary Clinton. There are also several letters from the Queen of England after receiving and tasting wines from Clinton Vineyards.
The other thing you’ll notice are all of the awards. Each type of wine in the tasting room has at least one medal or ribbon hanging from it. I’m sure that Phyliss has lost track of just how many awards their wine has won. Whether it’s their Seyval Blanc, Riesling, Rosé, Pinot Noir, or Methodé Champenoise sparkling wines, I’m sure that you’ll quickly fall for the wine at Clinton Vineyards.
We got to sample a variety of wines, including my personal favorite, Romance, a late-harvest Seyval Blanc. They have a series of dessert wines that you simply must try. Clinton Vineyards also makes a Cassis, a black currant wine and the only one produced in the USA that has won gold medals at international competitions. Oh, and you can be sure that all of the wine at Clinton Vineyards is 100% vegan!
The tasting room and retail shop are inside a 19th century Dutch barn. It’s unlike some of the stark and minimalist tasting rooms that I’ve visited in the past. The tasting room at Clinton Vineyards feels as though you’re welcomed into someone’s home. With framed pictures covering every surface of the wall and wine displayed proudly on barrels, it feels so much more personal and inviting. So, why don’t you stay a while, sample some of the wine, and bring a few bottles back to enjoy in your own home.
Ferncliff Forest Fire Tower
It’s time to get back out into nature for another one of the best things to do in Dutchess County. On the National Historic Lookout Register, it’s only a short hike through the forest to reach the Ferncliff Fire Tower. The lookout is open all day, every day, and provides an exceptional view of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. The Ferncliff Fire Tower is a 1933 International Derrick Fire Tower and it’s about 80 feet high.
The history of lookouts and fire towers at this site is quite fascinating. At first, people created a lookout made out of trees, which was used to assist map makers. In 1912, the Astor Family created a stone lookout. Next, in 1942, Army engineers created a 40 foot wooden tower to protect the president during the war. Finally, in 2007, the International Derrick fire tower was moved to the forest for tourists and locals alike. While it might seem like quite a few stairs to climb, it’s always worth it when you reach the top. It’s windy up there, but the surrounding scenery is breathtaking. Enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of the entire region, including the bridge and the mountains.
Dinner at Cinnamon Indian Cuisine
I’ve eaten a lot of Indian food throughout my lifetime as a vegetarian and last 10+ years as a vegan. I’m even co-leading a trip to India where we’re going to eat all of the vegan food (you’re invited to join me!). Anyway, I’ve tried my fair share of Indian food and Cinnamon Indian Cuisine ranks up there at the top of the list. One of the yummiest things to do in Dutchess County is eat delicious Indian food!
Their menu has all of the vegan items clearly marked with a “V”. There’s even an option to make a dish vegan if it’s possible, and that’s marked, too. It’s very easy to dine at Cinnamon Indian Cuisine if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Furthermore, 95% of the menu is gluten-free. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go as it’s one of the best Dutchess County restaurants, right on the main shopping street in Rhinebeck.
They serve items that are fresh and local, so the menu changes according to the seasons. To start, I tried a vegetable samosa, crispy cauliflower, and a traditional street food on the side. Next, it was a plate of crispy spinach with chickpea flour that tasted a little like kale chips, but way more flavorful. And I also sampled one of the best lentil soups I’ve ever had, perfectly spiced.
Then, I tried a whole feast of vegan delights, including a chickpea and asparagus dish (typically made with cauliflower, but asparagus was in season), fried okra, spinach and corn mixed with turmeric and spices, plain dosa, lemon rice, and mango chutney. To drink, I drank a hibiscus, white tea, ginger, and peach beverage. For dessert, there was a vegan rice pudding with rose water, cardamom and saffron alongside a mini scoop of mango sorbet.
Coffee at Samuel’s Sweet Shop
After your Indian feast, walk across the street to Samuel’s Sweet Shop. This cafe and sweets shop happens to be co-owned by Paul Rudd and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Unfortunately, there weren’t any Paul Rudd sightings, but I did savor a delicious Americano while I was there. If you’ve still got room for more dessert, you might want to indulge in some unique sweet treats that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Where to Stay: Inn at Pine Plains
The drive from Rhinebeck to Pine Plains was an interesting one, to say the least. Navigating the winding roads through the forest at night was one thing, but it was so incredibly foggy. At times, I could barely see at all and had to trust that I wasn’t going to drive off the road. I breathed a sigh of relief once I arrived at my home for the next two evenings, the Inn at Pine Plains. I felt right at home at this comfortable and quaint accommodation where I felt like I had my own little apartment in the house.
My room at the Inn at Pine Plains had a separate bedroom, living room, and kitchenette. With beautiful 19th century original hardware flooring, lots of framed pictures, and even a few books to read, it’s easy to feel cozy and relaxed here. The bed features a firm, Euro top mattress with 100% cotton bed linens. The kitchenette has a small fridge, microwave, a kettle, and a coffee maker. And the bathroom is perfect for those who prefer to have a bath or a shower, the best of both worlds.
I loved the special added touches, like plenty of complimentary water, sparkling water, and other beverages in the fridge.There was even a little basket of snacks should you feel hungry at night. You can make your own coffee with the provided Keurig coffee pods. In addition, there’s complimentary Wi-Fi and lots of channels on the flat screen TV. You’ll find it easy to get some work done, whether you’re using the wooden desk or you like to use your laptop while sitting on the couch like I do.
There’s a complimentary breakfast buffet each morning and I found it to be quite vegan-friendly. You have got to try the avocado hummus spread onto a bagel, bread, or rice cakes. It’s delicious! I also helped myself to some fresh fruit, and it was the perfect way to start the day. Be sure to book your stay at the inn or read more reviews from fellow travelers.
Day 2 in Dutchess County
Ready for your second day? There are so many more things to do in Dutchess County. We’ve got a unique castle to visit (yes, there are castles in the USA!), as well as an island tour. There’s a gorgeous natural attraction – a waterfall inside a cave. And we’ll also visit a horse rescue center that’s just as healing for you as it is for the horses. Sound good? Let’s go!
Bannerman’s Castle and Island Tour
On Pollepel Island in the Hudson River, you’ll find the ruins of an abandoned castle with an intriguing history. Castle ruins and an interesting story? Yes, please! This one tops the list of historical things to do in Dutchess County. We embarked on a tour of the island and Bannerman’s Castle from Beacon, New York. There’s a small boat to transport passengers across to the island for a short tour. It’s also possible to book a tour from Newburgh, New York, and the experience lasts about 2.5 hours in total.
Bannerman’s Castle has Scottish influences, but you’ll only see the crumbling remains nowadays. The family purchased the island in 1900 as a safe storage site for ammunition and equipment from the US Army. Bannerman designed the buildings himself, which mostly consisted of storage for his vast inventory. The large castle by the water has the words, “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” on the side of it. There was also a smaller castle built at the top of a hill to serve as a summer home. Mrs. Bannerman decorated the garden with flowers and plants, a tradition that continues today.
After Bannerman died in 1918, any further construction halted. Just two years later, there was a massive explosion on the island, nearly killing Mrs. Bannerman. The family used the island until about 1930. After 1957, the island’s last superintendent retired and the property was abandoned for the next three decades. The state purchased the island in 1967, though it remained in ruins. Both vandals and negligence are responsible for its dilapidated state. However, since the 1990s, the Bannerman Castle Trust started to preserve the island and its buildings. They’ve stabilized the remains of the castle for your viewing pleasure, and they’re currently reconstructing the family home. It’s a wonderful little piece of New York history that’s certainly one of the most unique things to do in Dutchess County.
Lunch at Vegetalien
There’s a vegan restaurant in Beacon, New York that you need to check out. It’s called Vegetalien and they’re serving up meals and beverages made from locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. This plant-based cafe has smoothies, build your own Buddha bowls, acai bowls, salads, BBQ jackfruit tacos, paninis, avocado toast, and so much more. I couldn’t resist trying the “Tun’ah Sandwich” made out of chickpeas, slaw, lemon vinaigrette on harvest grain bread. Paired with a purple haze smoothie (blueberry, banana, apple and mint), it was so yummy, filling, and nutritious. Also pictured, the avocado and black bean toast.
Coffee at Trax Espresso
Looking for a caffeine boost? Head right across the street to Trax Espresso. It’s a bright and airy cafe in Beacon, serving up rich brewed coffee and espresso beverages. I even picked up some of their coffee beans to bring home with me. It’s that good! And they’ve got several varieties of plant-based milk, including oat milk. Huzzah!
Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue
Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue in Dover Plains is a sanctuary for abandoned, neglected, and abused horses. They save so many of these beautiful creatures, rehabilitate them, and provide them with a forever home. While the goal is to enable horses to trust people again, it works the other way around, too. The horses can help people overcome their own struggles, build trust, and work together. These horses provide therapy for children and adults alike. All in all, the sanctuary aims to strengthen the relationship between people and animals for a compassionate and kind community. Their slogan is, “People helping horses heal people.” Visiting Lucky Orphans is one of the most rewarding things to do in Dutchess County.
Owner and founder, Deanna Mancuso, shared her story with us. She had a turbulent relationship with her grandfather who struggled from PTSD, alcoholism, substance abuse, and domestic abuse. Shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer, Deanna formed a wonderful relationship with him as he worked through many of his personal struggles. Her grandfather bought her a horse before he passed away to remember him by; he taught her that horses bring peace. Sadly, the horse was badly abused and he was not well behaved. When she almost gave up the horse, her father reinforced the message that we shouldn’t give up on animals. This paved the way for Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue, which Deanna founded in 2008.
While everyone is welcome to visit the sanctuary, their primary goal is to assist those struggling with mental health issues, domestic violence, PTSD, substance abuse, and family problems. There are numerous programs and events at the farm, including horse yoga. Participants lay their yoga mats down in the stables, and the horses decide whether or not they want to engage with everyone. For those interested in visiting, you can check out the farm daily from 9:00am – 3:00pm, and be sure to follow along their updates on Facebook. Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue is one of the most peaceful and therapeutic things to do in Dutchess County.
Dover Stone Church
The Dover Stone Church is a spectacular ancient cavern in Dover Plains, New York. Hiking there is one of the most fun things to do in Dutchess County. There are several hiking trails at the site, but the main attraction is the Dover Stone Church. You’ll see a waterfall cascading inside a cave, dubbed the “Stone Church” for the pointed arch formation of the rocks.
Local legend states that the rock formations were a refuge for Pequot Sachem Sassacus and his warriors from the English army in the 1600s. The Town of Dover, the Dutchess Land Conservancy and the Friends of Dover Stone Church purchased the property in 2004, and property owners donated additional land for the creation of hiking trails for everyone to enjoy.
It might be a little difficult to find the Dover Stone Church. Look for the blue and yellow sign at its entrance in Dover Plains. Please note that there is no parking in front of the trail entrance, but you can park at the school when it isn’t in session (or at the Freshco 22 plaza). Descend down to the trails and walk through a path lined with trees. Then, you’ll get to a spot with trail markers for hiking to your left. You’ll want to keep to your right if you want to see the Dover Stone Church. It isn’t a very long walk until you’ll reach this amazing triangular rock formation.
The short trek to reach the stone church is lovely. There’s a gently flowing brook, lots of trees, and moss covered rocks everywhere you look. When I visited, it was after a lot of rain so the river was flowing quite rapidly. I got up as close as I could to the Dover Stone Church, peering inside to the waterfall. When the water level is much lower, you can even venture inside the cavern itself. It’s such a brilliant site and one of my favorite things to do in Dutchess County.
Dinner at Oakhurst Diner
It’s time to refuel at Oakhurt Diner in Millerton, New York. While it might not seem like a “greasy spoon” diner would have many vegan options, they’ve got a really delicious one on the menu. It’s pretty much the opposite of a greasy spoon dish, too. They have a healthy Macrobiotic Plate: steamed broccoli, carrots, acorn squash, black beans and organic brown rice with tahini dill dressing and seaweed. It’s absolutely delicious and more filling than it looks. The diner itself is a total 1950s throwback and oozes with charm. You’ve gotta check out this Dutchess County NY restaurant when you come to town.
Day 3 in Dutchess County
Here’s a couple of places in Red Hook, New York, that you’ll want to check out before you leaving Dutchess County. They’re right next door to one another, sharing the same building space. And they’re both kind to animals, too!
You can’t visit Dutchess County as a vegan and not dine at Wildflower Cafe. It’s one of the yummiest vegan restaurants in Dutchess County NY. And I could really feel the passion for veganism and plant-based living from its owner. Try one of their burgers: I’m convinced that you won’t be able to tell that it’s vegan, and it’ll be one of the best burgers you’ve ever had.
From burgers to tacos, flatbreads to desserts, Wildflower Cafe has something for every taste. It was really difficult to choose what to order, but I went with the Onion Lover Burger (Impossible burger patty, a toasted pretzel bun, lettuce, caramelized onion, onion rings, and signature sauce). We also sampled a Greek flatbread with seasoned meat and feta cheez. The food was so satisfying, tasty, and I’d love to visit again to try even more food. To top it all off, there were decadent milkshakes for dessert, and I couldn’t resist trying one made with Oreos.
Update November 2019: Unfortunately, Living Eden has closed. If you’re passionate about helping animals, eco-friendly living, or a sustainable lifestyle, you’re not going to want to miss shopping at Living Eden. It’s a conscious and compassionate store that’s connected to the Wildflower Cafe. It’s definitely worth popping over before or after your meal. Every product in the shop is rooted in good intentions, whether it’s handmade, recycled, upcycled, eco-friendly, or cruelty free. There’s women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry, shoes, housewares, and so much more at this eco chic boutique.
If my wallet allowed for it, I would have bought one of everything! However, I settled on buying a super adorable purse with a squirrel on it. It’s hard to find vegan purses sometimes, and this one is exactly my style. I also really loved the pillow stating, “No couch is complete without cat hair.” Welcome to my world!
Bonus: A Cup of the Valley
Now, this might be a long shot, but if you happen to be in town during A Cup of the Valley, you should check it out. In 2019, this coffee and tea festival happened at the end of April, taking place at the Culinary Institute of America. You’ll find locally made products, local coffee roasters and tea blenders, and lots of other delicious food and drink. I loved sampling coffee, tea, and kombucha while I was there.
We spent most of our time at the Greenwood Lake Roasters craft coffee booth. As we waited for the coffee to brew, the owner was a wealth of knowledge relating to all things coffee. It was quite fascinating to listen to him speak about the roasting processes for my favorite beverage. Also, I made sure to pick up some coffee infused maple syrup and horseradish maple mustard from Soukup Farms. There were also some delicious vegan treats by Emy Desserts, which I didn’t have the opportunity to try at the festival, but later sampled at Vegetalien. So good!
Even if you aren’t a fan of coffee or tea, there’s plenty to sample and taste at A Cup of the Valley. I missed the latte competition and the Japanese tea ceremony though, which I’d love to check out next time I’m in the region.
PLANNING A TRIP TO NEW YORK STATE?
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Thank you so much to Dutchess Tourism for hosting my stay.