12 Hours in Columbia County

Posted on January 29, 2012 at 8:37 pm
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Like many in the Capital District, I often rely on the good folks at All Over Albany to keep myself busy during the weekend. They uncover places that can be enjoyed in small, one hour bite-size diversions but also feature more involved road trips to the farthest reaches of the 518. Looking for some fresh air a few Saturdays ago, we decided to put one such trip to the test. Posted in 2010, the aptly titled “12 hours in Columbia County” promised to lead us to Chatham, Kinderhook, Art Omi, a beautiful waterfall, and Hudson. I didn’t need to be pushed very hard, I’m a fan of Art Omi and I knew exactly what I was going to do eat in Hudson. Credit goes to AOA for this itinerary, read on to find out about pitfalls you may want to avoid, the changes we made for the winter season, and proper eating etiquette in Hudson.

Breakfast in Chatham – 10:30am

First stop, Chatham, a little town off the Taconic in northern Columbia County, a 40 minutes drive from Albany on I90. It doesn’t take very long to walk up and down Main St. and visit the few shops it has to offer, but our first order of business was breakfast. Or so we thought.

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Above, Mado, a French-style patisserie located 10 Main St., Chatham, NY 12037 (photos by Flickr user mainandme, left, and Flux Axiom, right). Master baker Madeline Delosh makes beautiful tiny tarts, which I assume she sells. Sometimes. Possibly. When she decides to open her store. I’ll trust AOA on this one but I wouldn’t know, this is the second time I drive to Mado and the second time it is closed during business hours. At this point, I would probably call ahead of time. No need to cry a river on Yelp though (seriously), for there is a decent brunch place literally next to it, Ralph’s Pretty Good Cafe. French people do owe their survival to bread, so let me get behind AOA and recommend the hearty selection at Our Daily Bread too, 54 Main St, Chatham, NY 12037.

History or Art? The Martin Van Buren National Historic Site…

Choose your own adventure time, AOA suggests either history, or art. Since we didn’t get our cake earlier, we decided to have ours and eat it too — history and art it is. Or so we thought.

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Above, The Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in summer, located in the Town of Kinderhook, NY on state route 9H (photo by Flickr user rchrdcnnnghm, with permission). Turns out, it was closed too, and for that I’m going to blame only myself, since AOA did mention that the grounds are open year-round for walking but Lindenwald, home of eight president Martin Van Buren, is only open from mid-May until the end of October. Scratch that, I’m blaming AOA reader Ryan, who had just mentionedfree entrance weekend for the National Parks, which means the Martin Van Buren site in Kinderhook [...] is free”. Ryan, while you were not technically wrong and I don’t know you, you are dead to me. Not unlike Van Buren.

All is not lost near Kinderhook though, as Golden Harvest Farms, the Harvest Spirits distillery, and Samascott Orchards are only a few minutes away. GHF and its distillery are open year around but close at 5pm, they boast great products and a disturbingly affectionate cat — if you are not into alcohol. Don’t bother with the orchard in winter (right?) but give it a chance in summer, it’s a little known business that feels much less cramped than many other orchards around Albany. Extra points if you spot the strange pig that thinks it is a goat.

…or Art Omi – noon

Now if there is a place I knew would be open, that would be Art Omi. It is outdoors, after all, and I’ve been on premise 3 or 4 times in the past, including at 1AM for a sneak visit under the full moon (photos soon-ish). Find the visitor center 1405 County Rt. 22, Ghent, NY 12075.

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Omi International Arts Center is a not-for-profit arts organization with residency programs for international visual artists, writers, musicians, and dancers. The 300 acre campus is also the site for The Fields Sculpture Park, a public exhibition space with nearly 80 contemporary sculptures, presenting the works of internationally recognized contemporary and modern artists. Below, photos I took in summer.

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Several pieces are added or exchanged every year, making Art Omi worth a repeat visit once in a while. It appears that some of the more delicate pieces are stashed away during winter, I could be wrong, I would still recommend setting your first visit for spring or summer.

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In the picture above, the fine choice of bread (again with the bread?) offered by the visitor center that day, straight from Cafe Le Perche in Hudson, NY. Wait, aren’t we going to Hudson later on? How coincidental!

Bash Bish Falls – 1:30 pm

Next destination, the Bash Bish Falls State Park in the Taconic Mountains of southwestern Massachusetts, only half-an-hour behind schedule. The falls are made up of a series of cascades, nearly 200 feet in total, with the final cascade being split into twin falls by a jutting rock, dropping in an 80-foot over boulders to a pool below (source: Wikipedia).

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As AOA points out, the falls are actually in Massachusetts but you can (and should) park in New York’s Taconic State Park, then walk to them. It’s a very easy, 15 minutes hike along the stream. Once you are done basking in Mother Nature’s fine work, you can walk up (or drive to) the summit to enjoy the view into New York, or you can forget to do so, as we did. I’ll be back, Bash Bish Falls is located next to the 4,169 acre Mount Washington State Forest which offers 30 miles of trails, including the South Taconic Trail and wilderness camping.

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I bet the river is really inviting in summer but it seems you should refrain from diving, pools are shallow and swimming is clearly not allowed. In October 2009, AOL Travel named Bash Bish Falls as one of the “Most Dangerous Tourist Attractions” in the U.S. and in 2010 AOL Travel again named it one of the ten “Most Dangerous Travel” destinations this time in the world. To which I must add: “Stay at home, AOL Travel!”.

Alternate stop, Olana

AOA suggests making Olana an alternate stop, 5720 Route 9G, Hudson, NY. I would even advocate you spend less time in Hudson and go for Olana anyway. It’s a tricky decision considering galleries and stores close early in Hudson — keep that in mind or start your day earlier.

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Olana is a gorgeous site, doubly so at sunset. The grounds are open daily and guided tours are offered for the former home of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (photo above, left). Make sure you walk down to the pond but take your sweet, romantic time climbing back up. A stop near the Rip Van Winkle Bridge can’t hurt either, if you aren’t too afraid of heights (photo above, right). For more details and photos about Olana, feel free to check out the post I wrote last year.

Hudson – 4pm

We reached our final destination late afternoon, in dire need for a warm place to crash. I love Hudson. While it is arguably the only street worth checking, Warren Street is almost a mile long and packed with galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. Expect a second visit, they close early and there’s just a lot to see if you are into antiques, paintings, or clothing. Let me suggest you print a Hipster Bingo sheet too (also available here), it’s the perfect town to practice and there’s even an app for that.

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My favorite gallery, Carrie Haddad Photographs, closed last year unfortunately, but keep an eye open for what curator and friend Melissa Stafford has in store. AOA got it right, there is also a beautiful view on the Hudson River and a tiny lighthouse in the distance if you walk all the way down Warren Street (photo above, left, taken last November). For more details and a lot more pictures, have a look at the post I wrote in 2010.

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What about the food? It’s mighty fine. I mentioned Cafe Le Perche earlier, I’ve enjoyed a fancy diner at Swoon Kitchen Bar in the past, tasty organic sourdough pizza at Baba Louie’s, and succulent lamb meatballs with couscous and mint/yogurt sauce at Red Dot. My friend Bennett swears by the flan at Mexican Radio and kudos must be given to Lick which sells ice-cream in summer, bread in the fall, and becomes a small veggie market in winter.

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I am, however, resolutely partial to Le Gamin, a French Cafe located 609 Warren St. (photos above and below). The joint is hands down the best French bistro around and I can vouch for its Crêpes, Gratin dauphinois, Niçoise salad, or Tarte Tatin. The trick is, it’s also a very French bistro; I had heard rumors, read bad reviews on Yelp, but I had yet to experience anything but excellent service. I had suggested my friend C. to keep an eye open the first time she went there with her parents, and sure enough it didn’t go so well for them.

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Could it be possible they were able to detect our bond of Frenchness a mile away? The smell perhaps? I wasn’t sure until C. and I stopped by that day. We enjoyed a very satisfying meal and since I had finished my dessert early, I excused myself to go to the bathroom while she finished her crepe in caramel sauce. I came back, we paid, and as soon as we got out, she burst out laughing. While I was gone, our waitress had returned to move our plates out of the way. My pal C. had been done with hers by now but the young girl scolded her for not finishing the last bit of caramel sauce on her plate and walked away empty handed, as if she was giving her a second chance to fix this terrible mistake. Good times! I still love you, Le Gamin.

Head Home?

You are done, time to go home. Thanks AOA. Are you really tired? I didn’t think so. Club Helsinki, 405 Columbia Street, has terrific music during the weekend and both the Hudson Opera House and Time & Space Limited have events worth checking too. Have a seat, we are just getting started.


  1. Jennifer says:

    Lovely. We take this trip often. (Almost exact itinerary.)
    I’m sorry you missed the pastry at Mado. I don’t often gush or speak in superlatives but the pastry at Mado is magnificent. Such a talented woman. Do try to visit when she is actually open and if it is on offer, do try the Pissaladier.

    BTW, we’ve swam at Bish Bash. The top pool is off limits but they turn a blind eye to people swimming in the lower pools.

  2. J says:

    Ditto on the swimming. Ask Laura- we once spent an awesome summer afternoon there.

  3. Albert Gnidica says:

    My kind of day! Done it many times…the best.
    You and the NY Times with these hour by hour jaunts are so cool! My fav things to do
    and these photos are flippin awesome!

  4. Sebastien says:

    I’ll definitely try the pastry… one day. And the pools.

  5. adrienne says:

    Wow what great adventures you do find! Been to Hudson many times and never knew about this. restaurant. Definitely on my to do list….great photos and again so informative