New York State?s Hudson Valley is an oft-overlooked destination for a weekend trip. It seems that most urbanites can?t imagine that a ride on the MetroNorth would yield anything but suburbs with houses that all look alike. Not so: a relaxing hour and a half trains ride along the Hudson River drops you off in the countryside, where space is abundant and the air is clean and oh-so-breathable. In its close proximity to New York, gay and lesbian travelers should feel right at home in most areas, especially since high culture has been creeping up the Hudson River area for decades, if not centuries.
The Culinary Institute of America (colloquially known as the CIA) campus overlooks the Hudson River in Hyde Park. The main hallway immediately suggests a Hogwarts for chefs, and large windows allow for views of students in sexy cooking regalia flitting about kitchen/classrooms.
A full tour gives a delightful insight into the culinary school curriculum (Wine Tasting 101, Advanced Pastry Design) but the grand finale is eating a three-course meal at American Bounty[http://www.ciachef.edu/restaurants/bounty/] (one of four on-campus restaurants), which features ingredients gathered around the Hudson Valley area. Earnest young students serve the meals with dashing smiles and charming attentiveness, especially when helping to clean up accidental wine spillage (remember, they?re students).
Cut to a Segway tour along the beautiful Hudson River, which won?t help you walk off the meal but will give you some gorgeous photos of the Hudson River. The Poughkeepsie tour led by Segway of the Hudson Valley includes the history the town and area, led by a young and charming local resident and athlete. Riding one of these state-of-the-art contraptions is surprisingly fun and intuitive as they respond naturally to body movement, an experience everyone should have once. And the views are lovely.
After discarding the machinery, wine tasting can begin. Dutchess County is host to numerous vineyards, such as Millbrook Vineyards and Winery: 30 acres of 5 different varieties of grapes. One of their best varieties is the Cabernet Franc, and the winery and vineyard provides a beautiful outdoor location for parties, such as weddings or commitment ceremonies.
But perhaps the most charming vineyard on the Dutchess Wine Trail is Clinton Vineyards. The property and co-proprietress Phyllis Feder are equally charming and beautiful, and the Gold-medal winning cassis is some of the best we?ve ever tasted. Clinton Vineyards' champagne (yes, they market it is champagne), is also tasty and crisp.
Nothing compliments two or three kir royales like a finale dinner at the Piggy Bank, a Southern BBQ restaurant in a former bank in Beacon, NY. The vault now serves as a wine store and cellar.
Also worth a stop in the Beacon area (possibly before the kirs) is the Dia:Beacon, the Dia Art Foundation?s museum in Beacon, New York. The former box-printing facility provides 240,000 square feet of exhibition space flooded with natural light by the original skylights. The kind of huge installation art that is viewable here (artists featured include Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, and Louise Bourgeois) would be impossible to find in nearby New York City, simply because of the grand scale of this facility.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home, Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park is a great start for a morning tour. Peeking inside the family home gives insight into one of America's most powerful and only disabled president. It also displays a television from the 1940s, as if FDR's wheelchair isn't history enough!
The library and museum exhibits all sorts of interesting information about the President and his very active wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. A pioneer of feminism and civil rights activism, Eleanor was also known to have relationships with women as her own marriage was more of an emotional and professional partnership.