Visiting Rhinebeck, NY After the Chelsea Clinton Wedding Hoopla

Visit Rhinebeck, NY historic mansions, restaurants and antique shops after the Chelsea Clinton wedding

It will take a while for Rhinebeck, New York, to return to normal, now that it’s been in the world spotlight for the wedding of Chelsea Clinton to Mark Mezvinsky. But Rhinebeck has been around since the 1600s, and it will survive, and will return to being a charming, tranquil place that welcomes visitors. Rhinebeck’s location less than two hours from New York City makes it a popular weekend getaway. There’s something for everybody, from history to food and wine, outdoor activities and, of course, shopping.

Before the Clintons, Rhinebeck’s most famous guest was George Washington, who visited Revolutionary War volunteer soldiers training on the field next to The Beekman Arms. The inn opened in 1766, and claims to be the oldest continuously operating inn in America. Even if you don’t stay here overnight, it’s worth wandering around the lobby to check out the historic documents that decorate the walls. My own favorite is a page from an 1876 guest registration, when the room rate was two dollars a night. George Washington slept here. So did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose home, in nearby Hyde Park, is, of course, the FDR Home, Library and Museum, operated by the National Park Service.

Another must-see in Rhinebeck is Wilderstein Preservation, one of the great Hudson Valley mansions that make this area a fascinating place to visit. Three generations of the Suckley family lived here for more than 100 years. Interiors were designed by Joseph Burr Tiffany, who included some stained glass windows made by his cousin, Louis Comfort Tiffany. The gardens were designed by Calvert Vaux, who also landscaped Central Park in New York City. The Suckley family was distant cousins of the Roosevelts.

Rhinebeck is also famous for its fine antique shops, and several fine restaurants. The Culinary Institute of America is nearby, and many chefs decided to stay in the area and open their own restaurants. These are my own personal favorite restaurants in Rhinebeck, which I included in my guidebook “Eating the Hudson Valley”,published by WWNorton/Countryman Press:

Gigi Hudson Valley Trattoria serves homemade pastas and gnocchi, but the house specialty is risotto, a different one each day. The restaurant is housed in a former auto repair shop on Rhinebeck’s main street, and the exposed ductwork reminds you that Rhinebeck is friendlier than the Secret Service guarding the privacy of the Chelsea Clinton wedding.

Le Petit Bistro is rated as the best French restaurant in the Hudson Valley, specializing in classic fare from frogs legs provencal to cheese-crusted onion soup. It’s a tiny place, so you can expect a long wait for a table unless you have a reservation.

The Dutchess County Fair is held in Rhinebeck each August. This is the second largest agricultural festival in New York State, with 300 exhibitors, animal judging contests, a midway of rides and games for the kids, and concerts featuring world-class performers.

There’s lots to see and do in and around Rhinebeck, including biking and hiking paths with spectacular Hudson River views. But wait to visit until the hoopla of the Chelsea Clinton wedding of the year is over. Visit Dutchess County Tourism for more information about Rhinebeck and nearby towns.

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Comment by David Paul Appell on August 1, 2010 at 1:19pm
Great post, Evelyn! For anyone interested in more details on the highlights of the Hudson Valley, see my post from yesterday in the Tripatini blog.

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