When it comes to picnicking, the Hudson Valley is the mother lode, with grassy knolls an
- Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
d emerald lawns aplenty. And we suspect that this socially distant pastoral pastime will be at its peak this summer, as folks have had months to perfect the art of the takeout feast (not to mention all that practice cooking).
But a good spread needs a good view to match. Readers have given the Chronogrammie for most cherished picnic spot to the Vanderbilt Mansion, a stunning hangout smack in the middle of Millionaire’s Row, offering panoramic Hudson River and Catskills views and surroundings that were once the exclusive domain of Gilded Age aristocrats. What better backdrop for an al fresco meal, whether it’s a takeout lobster bake with all the trimmings or a simple supper of bread, fruit, and cheese?
Frederick Vanderbilt spent a ton of money establishing his Beaux Arts mansion; now it’s available to all of us, sunup to sundown, seven days a week, all year-round, free of charge and with gratis parking to boot. (You can even bring your leashed dog.) The Hyde Park location means you’re minutes from some of the world’s finest chefs. Call in an order to a Culinary Institute outpost or your favorite Rhinebeck eatery, and you’ll be settling onto your checkered blanket while the food’s still hot.
The property was obtained for the National Park Service by neighboring millionaire Franklin Delano Roosevelt upon Vanderbilt’s death in 1938. Its 211 acres of park land include centuries-old trees, stunning Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views, and terraced Italian-style gardens maintained by the volunteers of the Frederick William Vanderbilt Garden Association, which formed to rescue the grand grounds from ruin in 1984.
Thanks to the volunteers, the garden features mass after mass of brilliant annuals, thriving perennials, and two tiers of roses. There are multiple fountains, statues, shady arbors, and a reflecting pool where the statue Barefoot Kate has dipped her marble toe since 1902. Right now, early July, is the perfect time for a stroll through the Rose Garden’s blooms down to the bank of the Crum Elbow Creek. Two-thousand rose bushes abloom? This, friends, is the good life indeed.