New York, land of the city that never sleeps, this place holds a special place in my heart. And if you look a little closer, there is more calm to New York than most people realize. It is not just bright lights, broadway shows and riding the subway. Less than an hour from the city you can find yourself in the countryside; farm produce, nature and a slower pace of life are all within reach for New Yorkers. On my most recent trip I visited Orange County in Hudson Valley, New York.
Orange County Lodging
A stay at Holiday Inn Express in Montgomery is all about ease of check in and proximity. Holiday Inn Express’ location provides easy access to everything in the area so you won’t be wanting for things to do during your visit. When it comes time to sleep, the rooms are large and provide more than enough space for two people to share comfortably. As sustainability is very important in lodging selection, the IHG Green Engage system ticks a big box. The hotels can choose from a range of green solutions and work tirelessly to measure and manage their impact on the environment.
Here are some further green-friendly lodging options in the area:
Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Middletown is simple yet stylish and offers easy access to attractions in the area. You will be happy to hear that they are a pet friendly property, so you don’t have to leave your dog at home.
Korn’s Campgrounds is available May 1st – October 15th and requires reservations. There are wooded sites for tents, travel trailers, and motor homes as well as cabins for rent. Some of their amenities include a swimming pool, games room, fishing, laundry room, and hot showers.
Farm to Table
You simply cannot visit Orange County without experiencing some of their farm to table produce. This is the way we should be eating all the time. It is possible to fall in love with a farm and that we did. A favorite in the area by far is definitely Blooming Hill Organic Farm. They have a farm, restaurant and also a farmers market all in one place. It is very spacious and a great place for weddings or parties, you can also just pop in for a healthy lunch. The organic produce is high quality, seasonal, and budget friendly. Some of that produce makes it onto the menu from which we were able to sample their fresh, clean, and savory brunch eats from the breakfast pizza to marinated beet salad.
Another great place in the area is Pennings Farm Market. Here you will find lots of local produce, plants, a farm store, restaurant, beer garden and also cidery. This place is a big hit with both tourists and locals; it’s nice to know that they grow a lot of the food that they serve and sell. The bar is also quite unique in its own right, they have repurposed old farming equipment for the design. Owner Steve Pennings and his wife along with their sons (who run the cidery) continue to expand and create community.
If you love blueberries then you’re in for a treat in Orange County. Head over to Halfway Acres, the only organic blueberry farm in the area. It’s a family run business, managed by a couple and their four girls. Peak picking time is from June to July and you pay by the pound. We picked enough blueberries to last the summer and stored leftovers in the freezer.
Noble Pies is another must visit in the area, just make sure to leave some of your appetite for the trip. Leslie, the co-owner, was previously in the horse industry when her business hit rockbottom. A pie maker all her life, she turned to what she knew best when times were tough financially. The business started out as a small project with her co-founder, Tom, selling pies on the highway from their farm, and it grew to be a very successful, retail bakery. What we most appreciated about their pies were the variety of flavors and that they were not overly sweet and laden with sugar.
There can never be too many places to get your farm produce fix and there is another gem to be found in Cornwall. Jones Farm offers a variety of home grown fruits and vegetables as well as their very own bakery. It’s a charming family run business, owned by David and Catherine Clearwater.
Activities and Culture
Events are happening across all seasons in up state New York, so it is always a good time to visit.
It’s always a good time to visit up state New York; events are non-stop and happening throughout the year. The ‘best time’ really depends on personal preference, so it is best to check out the Orange County schedule of events.
Orange County in the summer is always a lot of fun. An excellent event on the calendar, and one certainly worth attending, is the annual Hudson Valley Taco Fest. It’s impossible not to love tacos, and my favorite ones were found at Baja 328. Their assortment of sushi inspired tacos was incredible. The Taco festival is hosted by the Orange County Farmers Museum so visitors also get the chance to check out the rest of the grounds. There is a mix of barns, workshops, tool and farming displays; all used to educate the public about the town’s farming history.
If you are in Orange County for the fall don’t miss the Twin Ponds Fall Festival. It is usually held during the month of October. The festival features a 7 acre corn maze in the shape of a dairy cow. There are also hay rides, pumpkin picking and ninja warrior like obstacles. In early November, food enthusiasts (which is most people) will also enjoy the Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. Restaurant week is a two week celebration of dining, where chefs get the chance to show off their skills. You may also find some specially priced menus on offer.
Visiting museums is a favorite travel pastime for many and there are quite few interesting exhibits to be found in Orange County. The Storm King Art Center is an outdoor museum. They also have a few exhibitions that are featured for a limited time such as the Artist on Climate Change.
Another great museum in the area is the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and admission is free of charge. The museum was founded over 150 years ago for college students. Today it holds over 21,000 works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, textiles, and glass and ceramic wares.
The New York State Museum can be found in Albany; it is the oldest and largest state museum in the country and certainly worth a visit. If New York’s past and present is of interest to you, this is the place to learn all about it.
Final activity for the trip, a visit to the drive-in theatre, Warwick Drive-in. This place is a lot of fun and it is also a family run business. It is run by Beth Wilson; Beth’s father started the business over 20 years ago.
A Yoliʼs Green Living trip is never complete without a hike and we took on a very scenic route this time round. The Stewart State Forest Hike to the Great Swamp Boardwalk was spectacular and only a 20 minute walk from the hotel. The entrance is off of 17K via Ridge Road, Rock Tavern. There are a number of different hiking routes to choose from, depending on how much time you have and your level of fitness. The Stewart State Forest is a 7,000 acre wildlife management area, the site includes a mix of wetlands, fields and forest; 22 miles of that include trails that are great for hiking.
Another excellent area for hiking in Orange County is at the Winding Hills Park. It is located on 1847 Route 17K Montgomery, and you will find there a 40 acre lake for boating and fishing. There is a trail that extends around the lake and it is also a small campground; perfect spot for pitching up your tent during summer.
Thomas Bull Memorial Park is a great option for a stroll or picnic day with friends and family. This beautiful county park has golf, Walkill River access, and many picnic areas. One of the highlights is the Arboretum on the Grove Street entrance. There are some beautiful trees, flowers, and a 911 tribute garden. In May, thereʼs a fantastic tulip display and the Holiday Lights in Bloom display in December.
With every trip it is always important to find the local health food store. And one that you should definitely add to your health food store list is Nature’s Pantry. They stock your staple healthy food items and boast a juice bar that uses purely organic fruits and vegetables. Now that is a juice bar to write home about.
An additional health food store in the area is the Beacon Natural Market. Here you will find local and organic produce, vitamins, organic bulk grains, nuts, and dried fruits, gluten free products and more.
A Trip to Remember
All in all, the recent trip to Orange County was a great one, and I’ve resolved that I need to make more effort to travel up north more regularly. As as city dweller it is often hard to eat as much farm fresh food as you would like to; in Orange County it is a way of life. The fresh air was good for the soul and I came back feeling ready to take on the world. It’s not every day that you get to spot deer nibbling on grass just in someone’s yard!
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