I know what you’re thinking – “OMG no way! New York City has a new borough? That’s sooooooo AWESOME!!”
Well, at least if you’re American you’re saying that. As far as I know we’re the only cultural civilization suffering from incessant use of awesome. I for one blame the public school system; though autocorrect can lay claim to the OMG thanks to the iPhone’s vendetta against full words and phrases. Soon I’ll be forced into writing these blog posts using the emoji pentameter.
Anyway, back to the question I put in your mouths – the answer is no, actually. I lied. There is no new borough. No annoying little sister competing with Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
But before you accuse me of dangling the internet clickbait lure, hear me out.
There may not officially be a 6th borough of NYC; but if any area could give the others a run for their money, it’d be Hudson, New York.
Recent travel trends indicate the rise of the so-called Brooklyn Effect. Travelers are choosing to bypass conventional tourist staples such as Manhattan, Central London, and San Fransisco; preferring instead to explore nearby “offbeat” areas like Brooklyn, East London, and Oakland. Oftentimes dubbing them “The Brooklyn of [insert city name of your choice here].”
Neighborhoods falling under the Brooklyn Effect banner typically arise from meek, sometimes derelict beginnings as younger, creative types migrate in from surrounding urban areas – priced out of their former ‘hoods by the ever-rising costs of living. One artist sets up shop in an abandoned loft. A chef opens his own artisanal bistro. Two ex-professors team up to establish an independent bookstore. A group of Yuppies take advantage of lower rent prices, moving into the brick apartment lying above a soon-to-be-open antiques store. One by one other bohemian creatives follow suit until you’re left with a booming community of distinctive, independent spirits and a plethora of unique businesses.
The biggest problem (or benefit depending on how you look at it) is there’s often a time stamp on these neighborhoods. With their growing trendiness comes eventual full-gentrification. And with full-gentrification, alongside a Starbucks and a Walgreens, comes a higher cost of living – a cost often rising above the pockets of the city where current residents were forced to migrate from in the first place. Once again creative entrepreneurs are being driven out of one neighborhood and into another; creating a never-ending cycle of yet-to-be-discovered “pop-up” neighborhoods.
In Brooklyn, it started with Williamsburg. Then pushed out to Dumbo. Then Greenpoint. Then Crown Heights. Now caught in the throes of not-quite-fully-gentrified-but-getting-there are Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and oddly enough Hudson – a town 2 hours away from Brooklyn yet completely under the spell of the Brooklyn Effect.
Hudson, New York
An easy 2 hour train ride from NYC, Hudson has long been a weekender escape for City Dwellers. Ask any local how they came to reside there and 9 times out of 10 their eyes glaze over with nostalgia as they carry on about the second home they’ve had in Hudson the last dozen years. A home they escaped to as soon as their Friday afternoon timecard was punched and one they didn’t return from until it was time for the last Sunday night train to pull out. Eventually they stopped returning to the city altogether.
Ask those same 10 residents where they lived prior to making their second home in Hudson their primary one, and the same 9 will reply “Brooklyn.”
This influx of urban expatriates brought the flavor of the city to this small, 7,000 population town – craftsmen opened contemporary design studios; collectors purchased storefront lofts to house and sell their antique treasures; artists created new galleries; gourmands found a home to sell artisanal vinegars and cheeses; musicians and thespians setup performance venues; and 5-star chefs established restaurants rivaling those of New York City.
What’s left is a chic, young, and hip town well past the brink of a cultural renaissance. An extension of Brooklyn – only it’s located two hours north in Upstate New York.
Things to Do in Hudson New York
Truth be told this quaint town needs no guide. Referred to as Upstate’s Downtown, Hudson’s streets are aligned in a grid pattern with the majority of shops, restaurants, and galleries flanking Warren Street. Just stroll down this mile-long byway, window-shop, and pop into whatever places calls out to you. This is a town you vacation in purely to hangout, shop, eat, and drink.
But for those who suffer from Type-A planning disorder (ahem Betsy) and need structured guidance, the below is for you.
1. Start Your Morning Off With Breakfast at Bonfiglio and Bread
Home to the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had in my life.
Seriously. I bought one, ate it, proceeded to my real breakfast – a delicious bowl of house made croutons, poached eggs, yogurt, bacon lardons (don’t ask because I have no clue – but still yummmm), avocado, chili oil, and lime zest – and then went on to buy a second cinnamon bun. IT WAS THAT GOOD.
My mom and I took a trip up to Hudson this past December and Bonfiglio and Bread was touted as “the best breakfast ever” by our local AirBnB host. The popular breakfast joint, now located on Warren Street, was created by two former Manhattanites; both self-taught bakers who started out experimenting with recipes and selling bread from their basement.
Be warned – this place is tiny with maybe around 4 tables and a few hightop chairs. It gets busy so either go early or plan on grabbing a meal to-go if you don’t want to wait around. My mom and I got lucky and snagged the last table. Due to how many people sat lingering over their newspapers and coffee, I expect this is the exception rather than the rule.
2. Peruse Hudson’s Architectural Porn
The United States in general doesn’t get the respect it deserves when it comes to historic architecture – at least not when compared to a much older Europe. But that doesn’t mean the good ole US of A doesn’t have some gems up its sleeve. Especially its Northeastern sleeve.
Settled as a whaling and port town in the 1700’s, Hudson’s history is long and varied. Over the years industries such as textile manufacturing and brick-making flourished, only to fall into eventual disrepair by the 1900’s. A rise of corruption and prostitution soon followed. Brothels became a dime a dozen before Hudson’s economy completely depleted. Buildings were abandoned. Wooden slats covered storefront windows. Drug dealers and neglect overran the town until the 1980’s came along; bringing with it the beginning of Hudson’s final revival.
Antique dealers moved in and renovated old factories and banks, drawing in collectors and designers. More creatives followed suit until one by one the physicality of the town was restored, along with its spirit. Hudson now boasts over 300 preserved, historic buildings in architectural styles ranging from Greek Revival to Beaux Art to Federal to French Second Empire and more.
Architectural Points of Interest
- Hudson Train Station – this beautiful red-brick depot was originally built in 1874 and is the oldest continuously operated station in New York. Amtrak trains run through here from various cities including Manhattan, Montreal, Albany, and more.
- The First Presbyterian Church – pictured above. Built from local stone in the 1800’s, the church is a stunning example of the early Gothic revival style.
- The Hudson Opera House – this performance arts center has been everything from Hudson’s city hall to a post office to a library. A stage was added in the 1870’s and the Opera House is now the fourth oldest surviving theater in the country.
- Cornelius H. Evans House – an 1861 residence built in the Second Empire architectural style. It was once the grand home of a former Hudson mayor, Cornelius Evans whose successful brewing and bottling enterprise helped him rise to unparalleled financial and social leadership in the late 1800’s.
- Warren Street – stroll the full length of the mile-long Warren Street and you’ll be immersed among architectural wonders; their facades lined together in a patchwork of colors.
3. Bite Into the Best Burger of Your Life at Grazin’
I planned on lumping Hudson’s restaurants together in one long “eat here” section. But, much like Bonfiglio and Bread, some places are meant to stand on their own.
Set in a 1950’s-style diner, Grazin’ is the world’s first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant. Each and every animal protein comes from a pasture-based, local family farm with most of its burger meat sourced from Grazin’s very own homestead nearby. Everything they serve is made using the best organic ingredients possible – including their homemade sodas which are all-natural and made to order.
You can’t go wrong ordering “The Uncle Dude” (seriously, just look at the above picture of pure ecstasy), an Angus burger topped with Hudson Valley cheese, chipotle mayo, jalapeño relish, and bacon; all smushed between a custom-made organic sesame bun.
4. While We’re on the Subject of Food, Eat Any and Everywhere Else
And I do mean any and everywhere.
Situated in the Hudson Valley, the city of Hudson itself is within easy reach of the famed farms comprising much of rural Upstate New York. Mix world-renowned chefs with local produce and voila! you have farm-to-table restaurants rivaling those of New York City.
It’s hard to find a bad eatery in Hudson.
8 Local Restaurant Picks
- Hudson Food Studio – a prime example of how Hudson restaurateurs collaborate with nearby upstate farms. Locally-sourced ingredients are used to create Vietnamese fare at this cozy restaurant. Even the furniture is Hudson-produced with the tables crafted by local designer Slowood Studios. I loved my bowl of Chicken Pho (oh how I miss Vietnam!) and Roasted Brussel Sprouts. I also heard good things about the Steamed Pork Buns and regret not trying them.
- Baba Louie’s – pizza is the name of the game at Baba Louie’s with the pie’s homemade sourdough crust its biggest selling point. It was too hard to narrow it down to one pizza so my mom and I ordered two; the first topped with eggplant, smoked gouda, pesto, and tomato while the other was laden with mozzarella, arugula, tomato, garlic, feta, and balsamic. Baba Louie’s also offers numerous gluten-free options, making it celiac-friendly.
- Swoon Kitchen Bar – serving New American cuisine bred from locally sourced meats and greens. I may not understand what exactly “New American cuisine” is but I do know I’m not one to say no to grilled octopus or braised lamb shanks.
- Ca’Mea – a fine dining restaurant specializing in authentic, Italian cuisine and made-from-scratch pasta. The garden is supposed to be lovely. I’ll have to make a trip back to Hudson at a time when snow isn’t blanketing the ground.
- Mexican Radio – a lively, colorful Mexican restaurant. Order several bocaditos to share and sample a bit of everything. We washed down the Radio Nachos and fried jalapenos with margaritas and micheladas (beer mixed with some sort of hot sauce concoction).
- Nolita’s Cafe – a small family-friendly eatery that was actually recommended to me by a few local readers of this blog! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop in but since so many locals told me about it, I thought it was still worth sharing on here. Nolita’s is a quick serve place serving only lunch and dinner. Their sandwiches have a good reputation.
- The Crimson Sparrow – opened by a NYC-trained chef whose culinary interests peeked during his formative years in South Korea. At the Crimson Sparrow he utilizes French techniques to cook with Asian flavors. Try their tasting menu which changes every few weeks. This a place for the true foodies of the world.
5. Browse the Numerous One-of-a-Kind Antique Shops and Design Galleries Lining Warren Street
Remember those antique dealers and designers I mentioned earlier? The ones moving in and setting up shop (literally)? Well, these one-of-kind storefronts now outnumber 50. Wether you’re looking for contemporary furniture, vintage wares, southeast asian-inspired clothing, modern paintings, or even the just plain weird – trust me, there’s a store for that. My suggestion is to window-shop and pop into places that peek your interest.
My 3 Favorites
- Magic Hill – one of my favorite shops EVER IN THE WORLD! Part-gallery, part-vintage home goods store, Magic Hill drew me in with its vibrant window display. This is not your stuffy antique store. It’s own website describes the place best: “Upon entering the store you feel a happy vibration and are mesmerized from all the beautiful colors and delightful scents and sounds. This very unique, colorful & eclectic store, boasts a mix of vintage & new furniture, featuring; lamps, rugs, books, collectibles, gifts, records, candles and clothing. There’s a taste full blend of many styles including: Mid-Centrury, Shabby Chic, Art Deco, French, Traditional and Modern styles.”
- White Rice – a Balinese-style clothing store that’s also home to wood-crafted, decorative knick-knacks that are just as Indonesian as the clothing. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re made at the same family-run sewing factory in Bali responsible for producing the clothing found displayed throughout the store. The NY Times did an excellent write-up on the owners that you can read here.
6. Read While Drinking Local Brews at Spotty Dog Books and Ale
I like to think of myself as a cool dork.
You know? The socially adept type who easily blends into the mainstream yet secretly slips out of the bar early to go home, put on her Stars Wars pajamas (the original ones – none of this remake crap), and reread Harry Potter until the wee hours of the morning. If you need a comparison, think of a sequined-out Kristen Bell playing Settlers of Catan after the Golden Globe’s.
Anyway, The Spotty Dog seems tailor-made for cool dorks as it’s equal parts bar and bookstore. I’m not talking about one annex for the bar and an adjacent room for the books. Nope, the bar is directly among the stacks. I could reach one hand back to pull a book off the shelf while simultaneously remaining seated on a barstool sipping my locally-brewed ale.
7. Appreciate Hudson’s Unique Quirks and Go With the Flow
Like small towns heard ’round the world, Hudson comes with its fair share of quirks.
For starters, the town ticks to its own clock. Opening and closing hours don’t mean anything as signs like the one pictured above are the rule rather than the exception. You’d do best to ignore the “Business Hours” section of local biz websites because they’re pretty much irrelevant. If a shop lists 5pm as its closing time, chances are it really means sometime between 4:15 and 4:30 (the busy summer tourist season MIGHT be the one exception to this).
My best advice is to go with the flow and keep your schedule flexible. If a store is closed, move on to the next one or try going again the next day. Most businesses and restaurants are closed on Wednesdays so plan accordingly. I would recommend visiting Hudson Thurs-Sun for your best chance at seeing everything you want to see.
Aside from erratic business hours, other Hudson quirks include:
- A CVS that closes at 7pm – after playing in the snow all day, all my mom and I wanted to do was cozy up in bed with some snacks and candy to watch a movie. It was around 7:30 and we couldn’t buy snacks because the CVS was closed. Even my small hometown keeps it open until 10pm!
- A Motorcycle shop that doubles as a coffeeshop and sells waffles – I mean, is this not the coolest quirk ever?! You can go in for some killer coffee, enjoy a waffle, and walk out with some brand new motorcycle equipment. Check out more on Moto Coffee Machine here.
- FASNY Museum of Firefighting – home of the premiere collection of American firefighting artifacts in the world (betcha didn’t know this kind of thing existed). This museum celebrates the history of American firefighters and displays vintage firetrucks along with historic firefighting equipment.
- It has a “Star’s Hallow” feel – a huge TV buff, my mom and I ended each evening with an episode of cult fave Gilmore Girls. We couldn’t help compare it to Hudson. The town is entirely walkable, 7th Street park reminded us of GG’s town square, the Grazin’ diner is Hudson’s Luke’s, Bonfiglio is Weston’s, and the nearby Hudson River stands in for Star’s Hallow’s fictional lake.
8. Rev Up on Coffee at Rev
Rev gets its own feature because I have an unhealthy obsession with coffeeshops (the curse of a freelance writer) and I absolutely ADORE Rev.
It has a friendly and warm vibe with its oversized vintage chairs and couches. Tables both small and large are scattered throughout and their Americano was excellent. Rev is a relaxing place to wile away a morning watching the snow fall down in droves.
The Wifi is reliable as evidenced by the few patrons typing away on their MacBooks. I have a feeling I’d be a Rev regular if I based myself in Hudson.
9. Other Local Recommendations
As much as I would have loved to do everything possible in Hudson, there just wasn’t enough time. The below activities came highly recommended but due to time restrictions and being there during the wrong season, I was unable to check them out personally.
If you’re planning on visiting Hudson make sure to look into them.
- Catch a performance at Basilica Hudson – founded by a musician and a filmmaker, Basilica Hudson is a performance space offering a variety of event programming including film screenings, art exhibitions, food-related expos, literary presentations, and more. Unfortunately nothing was taking place over the dates that I was there.
- Drinks at Club Helsinki – a club, restaurant, and event space known for their rotation of local acts and alt-rock bands.
- Enjoy Live Music at The Half Moon – a local bar close to Hudson train station. A chill and casual place with pool tables, beers on tap, live music, and dancing. One of the only places in Hudson open late!
When To Go – There’s no bad time really. I went in the winter which is a less popular time so the streets are less crowded (which I love). It was also blanketed in snow (which I also love!) so you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather during this time. Summer is the most popular time to visit and fall in Hudson Valley is stunning with autumnal colors splashed over Hudson’s plentiful foliage.
Getting There – 2 hour train ride from Penn Station in Manhattan. See the Amtrak website for prices and schedule. It cost me $55 roundtrip when I went in December 2016. Upon arrival, it’s an easy walk from Hudson Station to its main drag, Warren Street. Driving is also an option if you have a car or intend to rent one (I personally love Sixt for car rentals). In the summer and fall, many people do roadtrips through the Hudson Valley, stopping at many towns (including Hudson) along the way.
Accommodation – I’m a massive fan of AirBnB as it allows you to rent an entire apartment or home in a local neighborhood at a price often cheaper than a hotel. My mom and I rented this one right on Warren Street. Both the location and host were fantastic. We were able to walk everywhere. If you’re new to AirBnB use this link to get $35 off your first stay.
If you’d rather stay in a hotel, popular ones in the area include:
- Rivertown Lodge: once a movie theater in 1928, this converted independently-run hotel has a contemporary design aesthetic. It’s located on Warren Street close to the above-mentioned Rev, Grazin’ Diner, and the delicious Bonfiglio and Bread.
- Croff House: a Bed & Breakfast set in a restored and well-maintained 1870’s home built in the French Second Empire style (the architecture is absolutely stunning). The interior is classic in style and design but offers modern amenities. Located 2 blocks from Warren Street.
Business Hours – As I mentioned above, business hours are up to the proprietor and many days shops and restaurants are randomly closed – especially on Wednesdays. If you have your heart set on visiting a particular place during a particular day/time, it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure they’re open.
Have you been to Hudson or any other small town in Upstate NY? Let me know in the comments below!
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