In Hudson, there's the newly renovated St. Charles Hotel (1618 Park Place, 518-822 9900; $79 to $109) and Hudson City Bed & Breakfast, which owns the Victorian Joshua T. Waterman House (326 Allen St., 518-822-8044; $109 to $169).
WHERE TO EAT: At the top of the list is the Beekman Arms Tavern (4 W. Market St., Rhinebeck), operated by New York chef Larry Forgione, who also owns An American Place in Manhattan. Dinner for two is about $50. In downtown Hudson, the Charleston (517 Warren St.) serves American food with an elegant Southern touch. Dinner for two, with appetizer and dessert, costs about $70.
WHAT ELSE TO DO: You can feast on history and art near Olana. Not far away is Kinderhook, home of Lindenwald, the farm estate where Martin Van Buren (president No. 8) resided. Nearby Chatham is an arts town where the Berkshires crowd spills over into New York. Chesterwood, home of Daniel Chester French, who sculpted the statue in the Lincoln Memorial, is also close by in Stockbridge, Mass., as is the Norman Rockwell Museum. Closer is Thomas Cole's cottage across the river from Hudson in Catskill, N.Y.; to the south is Locust Grove, the mansion of Samuel F. B. Morse, who had a modest painting career before he invented the telegraph.
INFORMATION: For more information on the Hudson Valley, contact New York State Tourism, 800-225-5697, www.iloveny.com, or Columbia County Tourism, 800-724-1846.
Artistic Boom in Hudson
About five miles north of Olana, the once-booming arts town of Hudson, N.Y., is again becoming a mecca for artists, with many new galleries and a gentrified downtown filled with transplanted New Yorkers. The residents hope to return the area to its heyday of the late 19th century, when Frederic Edwin Church and others turned the region into a mini-arts capital in the woods. Mark Twain visited Church at Olana, and a gaggle of other artists and writers lived nearby.
Hudson is emerging from a long period of decay. An arts colony, hip restaurants and 63 (!)antiques stores, most of them along Warren Street, are fueling the boom. The old Hudson Opera House has just been renovated and is being used for performances, workshops and exhibits. And the film team of Merchant-Ivory bought a nearby mansion as a residence with an adjoining art gallery.
Warren Street, the main drag, is filled with Federal-era buildings--many designated landmarks. But the area next to the Amtrak station has seen better days. Hudson is very much a town in transition.
Sadly, one boon to Hudson could cloud Olana's future. Plans have been announced for the construction of new power plants and cement factories along the river. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently declared the Hudson Valley one of its 11 most endangered sites (and recognized it as a national treasure), emphasizing the peril to Olana, whose skyline could be marred by a new 400-foot-high smokestack across the Hudson. The usual economy vs. environment debate has ensued.