10 Things To Love About Rhinebeck
By Robert Burke Warren
If you’re looking for a distinctive combo of arts mecca, small-town cool and historic significance, Rhinebeck is the ticket. As we noted a few years back, for both locals and out-of-towners, this charming town is a rich resource for fun, relaxation, and edification. With easy access via train or bus, Rhinebeck offers opportunities for both weekend getaways and day trips, making it a destination point for the urban-weary and/or intrepid country folk.
1. The Beekman Arms: Time travel is possible, and quite a thrill at the oldest operating hotel in the U.S. Opened in 1766, the Beekman Arms has never closed. With its wide floor planks and massive fireplace, it offers hard-to-beat rusticity. But fear not: they have WiFi. Thankfully, the tastefully appointed modern conveniences do not distract from the 18th-century character, and visitors continue to rave. Just passing through? Step in to the downstairs tavern for an ale or a pot of tea, and emerge saying things like, “poppycock!” and “cheerio!”
2. Sinterklaas: Since 2008, this inspired, fairy tale re-enactment of the Dutch Yuletide celebration, wherein Saint Nick arrives by boat and parades through town with oddball sidekicks, has captivated young and old alike. The brainchild of New York City Halloween Parade director Jeanne Fleming, Sinterklaas includes giant puppets, floats from local businesses and organizations, music, and a little delicious spookiness to offset the run-of-the-mill holiday treacle.
3. Oblong Books & Music: While independent bookstores shut down everywhere, this family-owned-and-operated establishment made headlines in 2010 by daring to expand. Four years down the line, all is well (as reported in RI last year). Staffed by friendly and knowledgeable book lovers, including second-generation proprietor Suzanna Hermans, Oblong offers bestsellers, children’s books, nonfiction and great CDs. Tucked away from the bustle of Rhinebeck’s Montgomery Street, Oblong will restore your faith in the quiet power of the book, and the indie bookstore.
4. Upstate Films: For more than four decades, non-profit Upstate Films has offered foreign, independent and classic films, weathering seismic changes in the movie-watching culture while steadfastly providing a cultural and economic anchor to Rhinebeck. Undaunted by the rise of DVDs, they actually expanded in 2010, purchasing the former Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock. Additionally, they host high school classes, workshops, and the Woodstock Film Festival. The two-screened venue is homey and charming, with an old timey popcorn machine, really comfy seats, and great sound.
5. Omega Institute: Since 1977, Omega has been the place for seekers. Yoga initiates, aspiring writers, musicians, couples and students of myriad disciplines come to Omega, many seeking a respite from urban stress. Workshoppers descend on the sylvan beauty of the 200-acre campus to receive instruction from hundreds of teachers, artists, healers and thinkers on the leading edge of their fields. As the arena of lifelong learning expands, Omega remains a world-renowned standard bearer, part spiritual retreat, part summer camp for grown-ups.
6. Old Rhinebeck Aerodome: Opened in 1966, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodome reminds visitors of the early days of flight, with World War I and Lindbergh-era aircraft, vehicles, related equipment, documents, memorabilia and historically significant artifacts. Originally established by veteran collector Cole Palen, the Aerodome became a nonprofit in 1993, and new generations of flight enthusiasts continue to keep it going. In addition to a well-maintained museum, from June to October, the Aerodome offers biplane rides and air shows that present the history of flight and World War I. A great day for families, or anyone looking to be amazed that we humans managed to get airborne.
7. The Center for Performing Arts: Originally a tent, in 1998, the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck finally got a permanent structure, where they consistently bring excellent theater to Rhinebeck and its environs. The cozy barn, built to blend in with the surrounding farmlands, presents high-caliber productions that run the gamut from musical theater to Shakespeare to great American drama. The Center brings in actors from Manhattan as well as the adjoining regions, maintaining a reputation for high quality.
8. Wilderstein: This stately 19th-century home is known mostly as the longtime residence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cousin and close companion Margaret (Daisy) Lynch Suckley, who lived there until her death at age 99 in 1991. Now a sought-after tourist attraction, the Wilderstein home and grounds are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Visitors enjoy views of the Hudson River on one side and the Catskills on the other, picturesque gazebos, charming outbuildings and a winding network of private roads. The building itself, a turreted Queen Anne villa, is one of the more understated of the stately homes of the region, but still quite grand.
9. Terrapin Restaurant: Housed in the handsome former Rhinebeck First Baptist Church, completed in 1825, multi-award-winning Terrapin is a farm-to-table restaurant with a stellar reputation. Chef Josh Kroner, a former instructor at the French Culinary Institute, opened his dream establishment in 1998, and was on the cutting edge of the locavore movement before it had a name. He sources from area farms for his comfort and upscale cuisine, combining French, Asian and American Southwestern flavors for dishes that’ll suit any palette or mood.
10. Rhinebeck Farmers Market: Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Rhinebeck Farmers Market is a year-round endeavor. The vendors offer local fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and assorted other goodies, and there’s always a performance going on, usually acoustic-based acts. Frequent cooking and craft demonstrations offer opportunities to learn a little something while indulging in the various wares. What began as a small collective is now a thriving marketplace and a renowned w eekend meeting spot for locals and passers-by.