Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Love Hyde Park, New York!

I love Hyde Park, New York.  I'm a big fan of Poughkeepsie, it's next door neighbor on the Hudson as well.  Ever since I first saw the Hudson River through the eyes of the Roosevelt's, I've been hooked.  This is an area somehow partially lost in time.  There are old time diner's, roller skating rinks, drive in theaters, and of course a bunch of stately manors that once housed some of America's most elite.
First on our Hyde Park tour is the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This is a beautiful home to stop and take a tour of.  It's not wildly fancy like some other homes that I have toured.  It's big, it's a labyrinth of bedrooms, but it's not gilded and has no thrones.  Also on the estate you will find the hub for historic homes and such in the area, the visitor's center.  This place is great, because you can get all your tickets for the area, shop in the gift shop, eat at the cafeteria, and watch a movie about the lives of FDR and Eleanor.  The movie is a must see, just in case you normally skip those like I do.  This one is really good and tells you things that you probably never knew about the Roosevelts. Also, there are the statues outside where everyone stops to pose for a picture.
There are several buildings on the property to look at from the stables, to caretaker homes, there's the library and museum, and a beautiful garden.  The library is under renovation, but will be reopening at the end of June.  It's a notable library, because it was the first presidential library and it was built while FDR was still in office.  Did he build it as a monument to himself?  No, he just needed someplace to keep his some 21,000 books.  In the garden you will find more than just flowers.  FDR loved his estate, and therefore, he is buried there with his wife and their two favorite dogs.
One thing that I love about the estates of Hyde Park is the views.  The grounds are the best parts of these mansions.

FDR's house is an expanded version of the original.  The lavish library/living room/office and parlor is the most elaborate room in the house.  I did love the stairway, which is one of many in the house.  Then there was the elevator that FDR used after he was confined to his wheelchair, which is the only elevator I've ever seen in an old estate home.  Most of the interior of the house was bedrooms.  The redesigning of the house is interesting.  The bedrooms are like a labyrinth with one room running into another so you have to pass through the front rooms to get to the back ones, which I would think would be intrusive if someone was trying to sleep.  It's different.
Now, one of the best things about the tour of FDR's house is the guides.  So what if the interior isn't really worth looking at?  The guides are going to tell you the best stories about FDR and his family.  It's totally worth the time for that.  So, let's recap.  Great movie to see.  Great stories from the guides.  Beautiful grounds to wander.  History in a whole new light.  Good trip.

 Right up the road is the Vanderbilt Mansion.  This place was built by Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt.  Frederick was the grandson of the Commodore himself.  This is the smallest of the Vanderbilt estates, with only four floors plus attic, one wing and 54 rooms.  Inside, where they will not allow you to take pictures, there are thrones, french furnishings, carved wood and all the gilding that the Vanderbilts were famous for.  If you like to look at the lavish lifestyles of this family, this one will not disappoint.
What you will enjoy about this tour once again are the stories.  Frederick and Louise had no children, so they left the place to a niece of theirs, who worked with FDR to turn the place into a historical attraction.  In the meantime, FDR used parts of the house to house his secret service agents.  You'll love the stories, I promise.

Now, once again, the grounds are magnificent.  The gardens are beautiful with all the arbors, brick structures, statues, ponds and fountains.  You could spend hours wandering the gardens of this fabulous estate.  The views of the river are amazing as well, and here they encourage you to take the trails that run along the river so that you can get a really good look.
The historic sites in Hyde Park are beautiful.  There is also Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt's home, the Mills Mansion, Hyde Hall, and the CIA--Culinary Institute of America.
The Culinary Institute of America is one of the oldest and most respected cooking schools in the country.  If you don't know of anyone else who has studied there, how about Anthony Bourdain?  That's right, that travel foodie on television.  This school has been schooling some of the world's best chefs since 1946, and you too, can take part in all they have to offer.  There are restaurants on the premises where you can sample the student's wares that they've learned to prepare.  But here's the cool thing for you budding foodies out there who don't have the time to go and get a degree.  They have non-credit courses for non-students.  You can look at their catalog and choose from a huge selection of one day courses for only $250 apiece.  It's a great way to spend a day with world class instructors.  Then afterwards you can impress all of your friends with a gourmet dinner party.
Hyde Park is more than just mansions and cooking schools.  This community is somewhat frozen in time, and that's what makes it great and that's what makes it an "Adventure for Anyone."  You can look around the country these days and only find a handful of these places.  The Eveready Diner has been around since the 1950's.  It still looks the same, inside and out.  They still serve egg creams, but are still very highly regarded by critics.  They've even been featured on the Food Network program, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri.  It's a great way to step back in time.
And if eating in the fifties isn't enough for you, there's a rollerskating rink right out back.  Roller Magic is a state of the art genuine roller skating rink.  And up the street from there, just across from the FDR estate, is the Hyde Park Drive in theater.  It's all right here folks.  You can spend a whole weekend in the 1950's.  It's nostalgia at it's finest.
 Now, if you want to see something amazing from old to new, there's a park for you in Poughkeepsie, which is Hyde Park's neighbor to the south.  The Walk Across the Hudson is a great reuse of old.  It used to be a train bridge, and was falling to ruin.  Now, with the help of several organizations, it's a completely restructured bridge, hundreds of feet in the air, providing a great view of the river valley and a really nice walk.  It's strong enough to hold a car, but made for pedestrians.

From up on this magnificent bridge you can see for miles with amazing panoramic views that include the Catskill Mountains and the lands almost all the way to West Point.  You will see commercial and personal boats alike traversing this shipping lane, and you will also hear and see the trains as they follow the shores of the mighty Hudson River below.  If you like the outdoors, this one's for you.
So, just to recap, FDR's house, Vanderbilt Mansion, old time diners, skating rinks and drive-ins.  A giant walking bridge over the Hudson.  Oh yeah, all the gourmet food you can both eat and cook.  It's a great place to visit.  I've always loved the area, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

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