The Beekman Arms is the literal and metaphorical center of the Village of Rhinebeck. It claims, among a very long list of bragging rights, to have had its doors open continuously since 1776: that George Washington stayed in room 21, that it is the oldest Inn in the country, that much of building hasn’t changed since Colonial days. Roosevelt was a regular and, undisputed, Chelsea Clinton had her wedding reception in the Ballroom (for the record, my wife and I preceded her by 30 years). It is a most handsome Inn, so very inviting any time of year, with a lobby’s fireplace so cozy on a winter’s night with a hot toddy. And you feel transported back in time.
And you feel that timeless charm when shopping or just ambling around town or driving its beautiful backroads. The Rhinebeck area has 437 National Historic RegisteredsSites! Founded in 1686, it has always been prosperous and sophisticated, and it hasn’t changed much since the late 1800’s when it became known as “The Parlor of Dutchess County”, a summer retreat for railroad and Wall Street barons with tree-lined streets, warm hospitality, gracious homes and grand estates. A classic American small town, it has become a major destination.
Between the cultural centers of landmark-rich Rhinebeck to its south and the explosive gentirification of Hudson to its north sits the tiny but vibrant hamlet of Germantown.
In 2006, the actor/director Griffen Dunne wrote in the NY Times, “Germantown…is a one-horse town”, but that changed a year later when Otto Leuschel revived the dusty General Store, serving locals and tourists alike with fresh baked goods and carefully curated foods to go. Otto’s Market has become a true destination.
Between Rhinebeck and Germantown lies the Village of Tivoli. A major attraction of Tivoli is how it stays authentic, how easily day trippers pass it by “on the left” on their drive from Rhinebeck to Hudson, despite it being one of the sweetest, most genuinely charming villages in the Hudson Valley. Its main street, Broadway, is a dead end. It is also ridiculously adorable, with Victorian homes and storefronts along it in proper scale for a town of 1,100 people. And — oh! — those views of the Catskills on the other side of the Hudson River can be dangerously distracting..
The Village of Tivoli has some of the feel of a small college town because it is so close to Bard College. This borrowed interest is mutually beneficial to the students and the town itself. Therefore, it is no surprise that it has a thriving arts scene as well as several restaurants catering to students and their professors alike (for example, think organic and quinoa at the two bakeries, not junk food). Surprising to me, it is quiet, even the whisky bar and Mexican restaurant keep noise on the downlow.
I’ve been told more than once, so maybe it’s true, that in the 1950’s Tivoli was a favored summer retreat for the beat generation of writers like Allen Ginsburg, who came to Bard to read, Tivoli to relax. Nowadays Bard Summerscape, featuring Frank Gehry’s stunning architecture as its venue, has become a world-class serious-music and theater/performance summer festival in July and August. And for pure enjoyment there’s the nearby Spiegeltent for dancing, drinks, performance and just plain good times.