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Summer Stroll: Rhinebeck, Red Hook, and Tivoli

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Elizabeth Olson at The Gallery @ Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Elizabeth Olson at The Gallery @ Rhinebeck

Between a glorious stretch of the Hudson to the west and rolling farmland to the east, Northern Dutchess has always been physically stunning, but it's the people who make it so amazing. To the south and north, the Culinary Institute of America and Bard College have been magnetizing brilliance for generations as graduates of these savvy institutions opt to hang around, cooking and creating. Throw in a few handfuls of city expats with fresh air dreams, and the sum of it all means that if you haven't wandered around Rhinebeck, Red Hook, or Tivoli lately, you're missing out. Each village is utterly different; the common theme is the fine art of intelligent community building and fine, fine food—and there's always something new and cool popping up.

Upstate Films and Liberty Public House in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Upstate Films and Liberty Public House in Rhinebeck

"Rhinebeck really is the small town everyone pictures when they think 'quaint small town,' says Claudia Cooley, executive director of the Rhinebeck Chamber of Commerce. "Victorians, brightly colored little shops—it feels like a prosperous, historic village because, well, that's exactly what it is."

The intersection of Market Street and Montgomery Street - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The intersection of Market Street and Montgomery Street
Bruce Tripp at Milea Estate Vineyard in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Bruce Tripp at Milea Estate Vineyard in Rhinebeck

For about 250 years, Rhinebeck has been "on the map as a place for relaxation and respite. Those of us who live here love it passionately, and I think that's something visitors breathe in with the air."

From the village's central intersection, you'll find yourself beckoned in every direction. "Within four blocks, you have 25 different foodie destinations—not just restaurants but places like Oliver Kita. Oliver just got named one of the top 10 chocolatiers in America. The Beekman Arms, they're in their 251st year of doing business and it's such a great little place to eat. The Amsterdam just opened; the chef is a charcuterie expert. Even the pâtés and toast points have this slightly fire-roasted edge. So delicious. The menu doesn't compete with the other places, it complements them."

Barbara Schreiber and Susan Kravitz at Rhinebeck Department Store - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Barbara Schreiber and Susan Kravitz at Rhinebeck Department Store

It's very Rhinebeck, this mentioning of the village's oldest and newest restaurants in one breath. It's hard to imagine a more curated, yet wildly creative mix. "The closest thing we have to fast food is Buns; they use all Hudson Valley beef, they have turkey and lamb burgers," says Cooley. "Aba's Falafel got so beloved at the farmers' market that they're opening a storefront. Then there are the new spring menus all over town—but then, most of the menus get updated every few weeks anyway." Then again, you could always grab something from Sunflower Natural Foods or the farmers' market and picnic at Ferncliff Forest or atop Burger Hill, perhaps with a bottle from the Milea Estate Vineyards, new and award-winning in neighboring Staatsburg. Or go with a tried-and-true staple like the French Dip sandwich at Foster's Coach House.

The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck's production of "Kiss Me Kate" - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck's production of "Kiss Me Kate"
Jonna Paolella and Cynthia Curnan at Olde Rhinebeck Inn - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Jonna Paolella and Cynthia Curnan at Olde Rhinebeck Inn

Between meals, you'll find around 60 retailers; here too, there's collaboration. Cooley ascribes it to the womenfolk. "'First-floor Rhinebeck' is almost a matriarchal society,'" she says. "The Chamber, Enjoy Rhinebeck, much of the retail is woman-run. Store owners work together to make sure you won't find five shops selling the same thing." What you will find are best-in-class classics: cottons and wools and country-wear at the venerable Rhinebeck Department Store, hand designed and tailored women's clothing at Haldora, resort wear at Willow Wood. Sparkle it up with something made by one of the 75 artists—or the in-house master goldsmith—at Hummingbird Jewelers. There's a top-notch community of healers—the newest, Rubystar Healing Arts, is born of a mission to "increase light and love on the earth and help heal the world." This month, "Oliver!" is being staged at the Center for Performing Arts and Upstate Films is wrapping up its activism-focused Engage film series. The newly established Gallery@Rhinebeck is tapping into the wider region's star power for its ongoing Hudson Valley Celebrity Series with local notables like Elliot Landy and Danny Shanahan.

The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck

Rhinebeck has been something of a low-key celebrity magnet ever since George Washington hung out. "Paul Rudd, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Hilarie Burton invested in Samuel's Sweet Shop, and they're there a lot—people are too cool to fuss," says Cooley. "We have our tree-lighting festival, much smaller and more local than Sinterklaas, and there was Jeffrey driving his pickup truck in the parade, kids throwing candy from the back. I think well known people love it that you can wear your cashmere and muddy work boots and no one turns a hair."

Bruce Lubman at Hummingbird Jewelers in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Bruce Lubman at Hummingbird Jewelers in Rhinebeck

The single most important thing made in Rhinebeck? Memories. "Make time for a barnstormer flight at the Aerodrome," Cooley urges. "Take your loved ones. Turn to them when the plane is banking over Rhinebeck and Red Hook. The propellers throbbing, the wind in their hair, the town looking like a postage stamp—you will see each other's inner 12-year-old in a state of ecstasy."

Law professor, activist, and erstwhile Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout in Rhinebeck - JOHN GARAY
  • John Garay
  • Law professor, activist, and erstwhile Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout in Rhinebeck

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