When one thinks of New York, one inevitably imagines the city of New York. The five boroughs of the most populous city in the country, however, are contained within only three hundred square miles; on the other hand, upstate New York is a sprawling, agrarian land mass that encompasses the majority of the land area of the state. Its population is low. There are one-stoplight towns, unincorporated villages, farms, and retreats for artists and writers making the great exodus from Manhattan.
New Yorkers often speak of their city as the cutting edge, the best place on earth, the centre of everything important. They may be correct. Nevertheless, they all seem quite willing to indulge in escapism — and make use of the many trains heading beyond city limits.
Going upstate once New York grows tiresome has always been a rite of passage for the intellectual elite. It’s a tale seemingly as old as time. Countless young professionals have traded in their brownstones for rustic country farms, meticulously renovating and transforming old spaces into curated boutique experiences that one is unlikely to find elsewhere.
Just a few hours outside of the city, quaint luxury is waiting to invite the burnt-out New Yorker home. With a blend of elegance and rusticity, these places are so enchanting that you too may wish to consider subletting your apartment in the West Village and taking some time to unwind in a place where you can see the stars.
Cedar Lakes Estate (Port Jervis, NY)
Two entrepreneurial sisters spent their childhoods on their family camp in the idyllic Port Jervis, population 8,000. Located on the New York-Pennsylvania border with an intimate view of the Delaware River, the picturesque hometown of Stephanie and Lisa Karvellas was the perfect place to carry on a family tradition dating back to the 1980s.
With an eye for aesthetics and an understanding of how to incorporate urban luxury into a rural getaway, the young sisters strategically created a sophisticated and elegant resort that draws honeymooners, corporate events, and weddings, along with the occasional solitary traveller. The private cottages with ensuite bathrooms that characterize Cedar Lakes make this an ideal place to unwind in privacy.
Despite the private chef, yoga instructors, and spa treatments available, Stephanie and Lisa’s vision demanded a balance between luxury and simplicity. A pick-your-own-produce garden is available for guests who wish to get their hands dirty.
What is the best time of year to visit? Without a doubt, the fall — although cottages book quickly during peak season. Anyone who has experienced a Hudson Valley autumn will emphasize how visually stunning and emotionally transformative the experience is. At Cedar Lakes, the experience is accentuated and heightened. Stephanie and Lisa suggest renting one of the onsite rowboats out on the lake as the leaves are changing. The sight is awe-inspiring.
The Hudson Milliner (Hudson, NY)
Keeping with the current boutique hotel trend of renovating industrial buildings into rustic and timeless guesthouses, the Hudson Milliner was built from the ashes of a 19th-century hat shop, which inspired its iconic bowler hat logo.
Hudson, once prosperous due to the whaling industry, has undergone a transformation over the past several hundred years. It now serves mainly as a refuge for musicians, art collectors, and boutique retailers seeking fine antiques. There is a vintage feel to the entire town, and the Milliner has worked to ensure that its ageless guesthouse has the unique ability to transport guests back in time while maintaining all the comforts and conveniences that urbanites expect.
The Milliner is located on prime real estate on Hudson’s main thoroughfare; Warren Street is only a stone’s throw from every major restaurant, bar, and shop that guests could hope to visit. Sick of the gridlock? This is a town that can be experienced almost entirely on foot, with no need for a rental car.
The Stewart House (Athens, NY)
Just across the river from Hudson and situated just north of the town of Catskill, the quaint town of Athens is a way station between two of upstate New York’s most famous locations. This uniquely liminal space enables the urban traveller to experience the best of both worlds: striking riverfront views at the Stewart House’s River Grill and rich history served in the form of local comfort food at the Ca. 1883 Tavern and Captain’s Table.
The Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley below have captivated tourists since the 1600s; the Stewart House, in its early years, was frequented by Old Hollywood stars and intelligentsia escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. The sleepy town of Athens ensures privacy and secrecy, even to the most elite guests.
Each room at the Stewart House is decorated tastefully, with a timeless vintage ambience. Most rooms have at least a partial view of the Hudson River, which you can watch from your sunny window as you sip coffee early in the morning. What’s more, each room comes with two complimentary cocktails or glasses of wine.