Hudson River Valley
Running alongside the west bank of the Hudson River, a mere 90 miles north, New York’s Ulster County and Catskills region has been a consistent favorite among city-folk seeking nature without sacrificing culture. A world of artist colonies, environmental preserves and world-class dining awaits—not to mention some of the state’s most outstanding vineyards.
Spend a carefree day winding through the Valley along the Shawangunk Wine Trail, named after the mountain range that provides the picturesque landscape of the area. The network of eleven family-owned wineries scattered across the Hudson Valley follow the fine winemaking tradition of the area’s early French Huguenot settlers. Make sure to stop at the 70-acre winery Whitecliff in Gardiner, featuring a tasting room facing the Shawangunk white cliffs. For details on individual wineries, info about special events (such as the June 17 and July 29 Food & Wine Festivals) and a map of the trail, refer to shawangunkwinetrail.com.
After a hot summer day of meandering through grape fields, catch a local theatre production or rock out at the many area live music venues in the creative capital of Ulster County—legendary Woodstock. The Maverick Concert Hall (Maverick Rd @ Rt 375, 845-679-8217, maverickconcerts.org), with its natural setting, presents classical, jazz and special events from June through September in their rustic music chapel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The nearby Woodstock Playhouse (Rtes 212 & 375, 845-679-4101, woodstockplayhouse.org), the oldest continually operating summer stock theatre in the state, is another favorite arts destination. This summer, the Playhouse is pleased to debut a brand-new professional stage. See the website for their remarkably varied lineup.
Belleayre Mountain has devised a summer use for their defrosted slopes with the Belleayre Summer Concert Series (belleayremusic.com). Their 2006 season features Roseanne Cash, Isaac Hayes and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. A complete summer schedule is provided on their website.
For women seeking to unleash their primal urges, the 9th Annual Catskill Mountain Womyn’s World Drum and Percussion Happen’n (June 29–July 2, drumcentral.net) is the place to be. The Happen’n is an extended weekend of multicultural community, drum workshops, technique demonstrations and performances in many traditional styles, at the Full Moon Resort (Valley View Road, Big Indian, 845-254-5117, fullmooncentral.com). for this. The 100-acre site includes a New American-fare café, outdoor concert tent, roadhouse-style music venue, campfire jam sessions and versatile accommodations from B&B-style cottages to campsites.
For a rural retreat with all the city-slicker amenities, make The Roxbury (2258 County Hwy 41, Roxbury, 607-326-7200, theroxburymotel.com) your roost. The retro-renovated motor lodge is bursting with charm and unexpected extras (including DSL, gourmet breakfast and customized packages). Mention GO NYC for a 10% discount off your stay. Also, be sure to stop in for a nightcap across the river at the sleek “family”-friendly Public Lounge (2318 County Hwy 41, 607-326-4026, publiclounge.net).
For a quick bite, locals love the Quarter Moon Café (53 Main Street, Delhi, 607-746-8886, quartermooncafe.com) or for a more entertaining evening, dine at Colony Café (22 Rock City Rd, Woodstock, 845-679-8639, colonycafe.com), with live bluegrass, spoken word or nightly DJs. For a romantic night, treat your lady to dinner at Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room (Rt 28, Big Indian, 845-254-8373, peekamooserestaurant.com), with a tasting menu that is purported to have aphrodisiac properties. Bon Appétit!
To get there: Ulster County is approximately a 1½–2-hour drive from NYC up I-87 N (NYS Thruway). For New Paltz: take exit 18 to Rt 299. For the Woodstock area: take exit 19 (Kingston) off I-87 N, and follow signs to Rt 28 W, then travel about 8 miles to the Woodstock turnoff—Rt 375. Adirondack Trailways (800-776-7548, trailwaysny.com) operates buses from Port Authority to various locations in Ulster County for around $40 r/t (2½ hr. ride). Enterprise-Rent-a-Car (845-485-2222, enterprise.com) has a location in nearby Poughkeepsie, which is accessible by the MTA Metro-North Railroad . They provide train station pick-ups and weekend specials.
Long Island’s East End
The North Fork region of Eastern Long Island is a pastoral wonderland and more laid-back than its counterpart, the South Fork (which includes the happenin’ Hamptons). Recently, the North Fork has become increasingly popular with LGBT urbanites seeking a slower-paced getaway. Here, the East End Gay Organization (631-324-3699, eego.org) and the North Fork Women For Women Fund (nfwfwf.org) sponsor various events throughout the summer and all year round. Don’t miss NFWFWF’s benefit on June 10, with performances by Vickie Shaw and Suede. Be sure to check their websites!
One reason to visit the area is the North Fork Wine Trail (liwines.com). During the past thirty years, Long Island’s wine industry has grown to 3,000 acres of sprawling vines and over 30 wineries producing world-class product. If you happen to be visiting the weekend of June 17, be sure to stop by the Mattituck Strawberry Festival (mattitucklionsclub.org/StrawberryFestival.html), an old-fashioned country fair celebrating all things strawberry.
Cutchogue winemakers proclaim their town is the sunniest in New York State. There you will find at least nine wineries, all known for light Chardonnay and well-balanced Merlot, among others. Bedell is a recommended stop not only for the premier quality wines, but also for their state-of-the-art facility including a tasting room art gallery showing contemporary works by Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor Wood and Uta Barth.
The trail concludes at Ternhaven Cellars in the seaside town of Greenport, which has steadily grown in popularity among gay vacation-home owners. Plan for dinner at one of the excellent restaurants including The Fifth Season (45 Front St, 631-477-8500), a Slow Food concept eatery (local, fresh-picked ingredients); or The Frisky Oyster (27 Front St, 631-477-4265, thefriskyoyster.com), a welcoming New American eatery with a seasonal menu and legendary key lime pie…Save room!
Greenport is also an excellent place to stay, with gay-owned Stirling House (104 Bay Ave, 631-477-0654, thestirlinghouse.com), an 1880s Victorian B&B that offers dramatic harbor views from every room and a wraparound porch, and a 10% discount for GO NYC readers. Be sure to ask about their Wine Camp, a hands-on tour into the world of wine. The retro-modern Greenporter Hotel & Spa (326 Front St, 631-477-0066, thegreenporter.com) offers luxurious in-room spa treatments and over 45 wines by the glass in their French Bistro. Before leaving town, take a nostalgic spin on the beautifully restored 1920s Greenport Carousel (in Mitchell Park, Front St, weekends only).
For a more action-packed holiday, the Hamptons are the place to be for some partying with a cause. This season is loaded with fundraisers for our favorite LGBT causes, including the SAGE Hamptons Event (July 15, 212-741-0375, sageusa.org); the Hamptons Bike Ride for LGBT immigration equality (Sept 16, 212-714-2904, immigrationequality.org); an afternoon reception for Lambda Legal in the Hamptons (Aug 6, 212-809-8585, lambdalegal.org); and the Empire State Pride Agenda 14th Annual Hamptons Tea Dance (July 8, 212-627-0305, prideagenda.org), being held on the amazing grounds of The Ark Project (The Ark Project, 30 Millstone Rd, Bridgehampton, thearkproject.com), the Hamptons’ 100-acre nature preserve, sculpture park and art center.
Save some energy for the pièce-de-résistance of the party season: Dancing On The Beach 6 (41 Two Mile Hollow Rd, East Hampton, tix: gaycenter.org), on Saturday July 22, a benefit for the LGBT Community Center in NYC. Hosts Kim Cattrall and Terrence McNally, with hundreds of revelers, will sway to the beats of renowned DJ Susan Morabito while enjoying cocktails by Absolut. Last year’s event drew 950 guests and raised over $200,000 to support the Center.
After all that excitement, you’ll need a real comfy place to crash. The East Hampton Village B&B (172 Newton Ln, East Hampton, 631-324-1858, easthamptonvillagebandb.com) is a friendly turn-of-the-century Victorian with inviting garden grounds and antique-filled rooms. Plus, it’s located within walking distance to restaurants, boutiques, bicycle rentals and the beach. For more pizzazz, check out the hotels of Hampton Resorts and Hospitality Group (hrhresorts.com): the Atlantic, Bentley and Capri, all in Southampton. Guests are pampered with fine European linens, Aveda bath amenities and in-room spa treatments.
Score your morning-after hangover helpers at John Papa’s Café (18 Park Pl, East Hampton, 631-324-5400), offering an extensive breakfast menu all day and providing robust coffee. The Hamptons’ LGBT set gives Babette’s (66 Newton Ln, East Hampton, 631-329-5377) high marks. This funky café serves healthy international fare with an imaginative twist. For a front-row seat of the breathtaking sunset, splurge for dinner at East Hampton Point (295 Three Mile Harbor Rd, 631-329-2800, easthamptonpoint.com).
To get there: The East end of Long Island is approx. a 2-hour drive from NYC on the LIE (I-495) to exit 71. To reach the North Fork Wine region, turn right and cruise along Rt 24 to Rt 105. At Rt 105 turn left and head towards Rt 25 (Main Rd). Green “Wine Trail” road signs will guide you to the wineries (map available at liwines.com). For the South Fork/Hamptons, turn right at Rt 24 to Rt 27. Proceed east on Rt 27. The Hamptons Jitney (hamptonjitney.com) and LIRR (lirr.org) also offer daily service from NYC. For the automotively-challenged, the MTA offers a “Wine Country” day trip package including transit, a guided tour of the area and tastings on July 8 and Aug 5. Refer to mta.nyc.ny.us/lirr/getaways/LongIsland/WineCountry.htm for more info and reservations.