Northern Dutchess County

Ferncliff Forest Preserve Tower viewsTwo hours north of Manhattan, there's a place where working farms still exist, horses ride to the hounds, antiques really are bargains, and pies win prizes.

From Manhattan, northern Dutchess County is a 2 1/2-hour drive up the Taconic State Parkway to Route 199 and Red Hook, or via the Saw Mill River Parkway to I-684, then Route 22 to Amenia or Millerton. Amtrak service between New York and Albany stops in Poughkeepsie and Rhinecliff. Metro-North, the commuter train, has two lines to the county: the Harlem Line into  Dover Plains and the Hudson Line into Poughkeepsie

Where to Stay - Beekman Arms 4 Mill St., Rhinebeck - Built in 1766, the Beek is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the country. The inn has 59 rooms spread throughout the main building, the Delamater House (an American Gothic dating to 1844), and newer buildings added to accommodate business meetings. While done in classic American prints, antiques, and reproductions, rooms all come with modern conveniences wifi, cable TV, refrigerators, and air-conditioning.

Northern Dutchess was quite the society retreat at the turn of the century and after. Many Gilded Age estates are now National Park Service properties; some are open to the public year-round.

Vanderbilt Mansion Rte. 9, Hyde Park; In 1895, Frederick William Vanderbilt purchased 676 acres along the Hudson and began building this mansion, designed by McKim, Mead & White. Guide Margaret Laffin paints a vivid picture of country life as it is no longer lived (Vanderbilt kept a full-time staff of 40 here, even though he and his wife were there just three months a year).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site Museum & Library Rte. 9, Hyde Park; Recognizing his place in history, FDR willed his house (and the 290-acre estate) to the American people in 1943. The curators haven't shied away from controversial aspects of his presidency, including the internment of Japanese-Americans and U.S. knowledge of the Holocaust.

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site Rte. 9G, Hyde Park; The simplicity of Eleanor Roosevelt's retreat, 1/2 miles from FDR's house, reflects her unaffected personality. The humble stone cottage has played host to the likes of Churchill, JFK, and Nehru; it's mind-boggling to picture Eleanor sharing her bathroom with the Khrushchevs.

Samuel F.B. Morse Historic Site, Locust Grove 370 South Rd., Poughkeepsie; Purchased by inventor-artist Samuel Morse in 1847, Locust Grove has beautiful gardens, a good collection of 18th- and 19th-century English and American furniture (Federal, Queen Anne, Chippendale) in the main Tuscan-style villa, and an exhibition of Morse's work. Visitors can try sending messages on model telegraph machines.

Mills Mansion State Historic Site Old Post Rd., Staatsburg; This 1896 Beaux-Arts mansion was designed by McKim, Mead & White as a showplace for the fall social season. Guest Edith Wharton used it as a model for her fictional Bellomont estate in The House of Mirth. The grounds are surrounded by 1,000 acres of state park with trails along the Hudson.

Montgomery Place River Rd., Annandale-on-Hudson; This Classical Revival mansion is still worth a visit; the walking paths are extensive, the gardens bloom all summer, and the breeze that washes over the side porch will lull you into inertia. Come fall, there's apple-picking in the orchards.

Antiques are big business around here; on weekends, the area is crawling with dealers and decorators from New York City and points much farther afield.

By Geoffrey Gonzalez  Things to do in Northern Dutchess County