Rolling right along: Hudson Valley railway getaway

At 100 minutes, the Metro-North train ride south to Manhattan allows ample opportunity to snag a catnap. But in speeding right along, riders miss some of the best gems of our Hudson Valley. Today, we explore. One look out your train-car window and you'll understand maybe it's about the journey after all.

Poughkeepsie: Get movin'.
Riders -- commuters and vagabonds alike -- board with backpacks and briefcases at the Poughkeepsie train station, the northern terminus of this line. Leaving hourly, the line keeps a convenient schedule for day-tripping ramblers. Before the whistle sounds, head over to the Caffe Aurora at 145 Mill St. A cozy pasticceria nestled quietly a few blocks from Marist College, its old-world aesthetic boasts creamy filled-to-order cannolis and the frothiest cappuccini this side of Little Italy.

Beacon: Eat a popsicle, explore a castle.
Only a few minutes down the line lies Beacon, an old factory town -- once dubbed the "Hat Making Capital of the U.S." -- rich in the arts (it boasts Dia:Beacon, one of the world's largest contemporary art galleries) and architectural revival. Zora Dora's Micro Batch Ice Cream and Paletas at 201 Main Street -- a Willy Wonka whimsy of a popsicle shop -- features frozen treats peppered with the likes of caramel corn and chili powder. The highlight of this sidestep, however, comes in the form of a Hudson River Adventures boat tour to the infamous Bannerman's Castle situated on Pollepel Island. This crumbling edifice has survived centuries of haunted folklore and a short stint as an ammunition storage facility. 

Cold Spring: Take a walk on the wild side.
Within walking distance of the train station is the intermediate level 3.8 mile Bull Head Trail on Mt. Taurus. From the top, hikers can see for miles around with Breakneck Ridge, the Shawangunks, and the Catskills in the distance. For you water folk, Hudson Valley Outfitters now offer paddleboard and kayak excursions and instruction.

Garrison: Channel your inner Monet
A stop at Garrison gives you time to step back and, well, smell the roses. At Olana, the Persian-style home of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church, visitors are welcomed to explore this architectural marvel and take in the scenery of the valley below. The house's galleries are available to tour, as well as a smattering of other seasonal outdoor activities. Carriage rides, anyone?

Tarrytown: Get Rattled
Spook-enthusiasts will be delighted by Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, made famous by Washington Irving's Tale (and, consequently, site of his final resting place). Take a stroll upon the shady grounds and through the Old Dutch Church, all having solidified their place in legend and lore. The Pocatino River flows nearby, purportedly the spot where the Headless Horseman frightened Ichabod Crane into his demise. End your day with a lantern-guided tour and a nighttime photography workshop in the cemetery grounds.

[originally published September 9, 2010]