I grew up going skiing in upstate New York. It was, let me be completely honest, unextraordinary in every single way — especially the food. I remember being very hungry.
Fast forward a few decades and (much to my surprise) upstate New York has completely transformed. Towns revitalized, hotels and motels restored to their former glory, and a slew of new restaurants, bars, and shops opened. This is thanks largely to artists and artisans who have flocked to the region, attracted to the landscape, like-minded people, and room to build and grow.
Today, upstate New York — the Catskills and Hudson River Valley, in particular — is an expansive destination where you can find pleasures simple and sophisticated. It has, in short, become extraordinary — especially if you love food.
There's no better time to visit than the fall, when the air is crisp, the farm stands are overflowing, and the apples are ready for the picking. We polled a combination of locals, Kitchn editors, and frequent visitors for their top picks for what to eat, drink, and do on a weekend in upstate New York. Here's what made the list.
1. Spend an afternoon in Hudson, New York.
There's no shortage of places to visit in upstate New York, and if you're looking for the undiscovered, your best bet is to veer west of the Hudson River, where winding roads lead to exciting, if only occasional, bites and design finds. But no other upstate town offers the combination of charm, ivied brick facades, window shopping, and provisions like Hudson.
Read ,ore: Plan Your Perfect Day in Hudson, NY
It's the perfect jumping-off spot if you're new to these parts and, with seemingly new additions to the scene near-daily, it's also worth a repeat visit.
5 Must-Visits in Hudson, New York
2. Go apple picking at Westwind Orchard.
There's also no shortage of orchards in upstate New York — the Empire State produces upwards of 29 million bushels of apples per year — but Westwind Orchard is one of our favorites for a few reasons. The owners, Laura and Fabio, have not only resurrected an historic apple orchard, but they also grow (all organic) pears and raspberries and, on summer and fall weekends, the farm hosts pizza and movie nights.
3. Have breakfast at a diner.
The most popular diner in the Catskills may well be Phoenicia Diner, known for its locally sourced spin on classics — like smoked trout on a bagel and line-caught tuna salad. We're also fans of the less-known Gracie's Luncheonette, where you won't have to wait for a table. Try to get there early, though, because the giant doughnuts do sell out. Also, ask for a seat by the picture window in the back and you'll have a great water view.
4. Visit a farm stand or farmers market.
Stopping by a farm stand or farmers market to stock up on acorn squash, hearty greens, and golden beets is a must-do for any upstate visitor. Of course, not all stands and markets are created equal. We love Boice's Farm in Saugerties, Migorelli Farm on the east side of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, and Davenport Farms in Stone Ridge. The Kingston Farmers Market on Saturdays has the most delicious chewy, sourdough bread from Jon's Bread (also, try his rye!).
5. Drink wine in Kingston, New York.
Fun fact: Kingston was New York's first capital and it's having a moment — not least because it has two of our favorite establishments for wine-lovers. The first is the pretty-in-pink wine bar, Brunette, where you can (and should) pair your wine with tiny, elegant salmon roe nachos or hot dogs with radishes, jalapenos, cilantro, and pickled onions. The second is Kingston Wine Co., which stocks local and far-flung finds, as well as spirits, liqueurs, shrubs, bittersm and everything you need to fix yourself up a proper fall cocktail.
6. Go for a hike (with a picnic).
Our favorite kind of hike is one that ends with snacks! The Red Hill Fire Tower is a three-mile round-trip hike with a picnic area (and a fire tower) at the top. If you want something more ambitious, Kaaterskill High Peak and Giant Ledge reward you with excellent views.
Where to Shop for Picnic Provisions
7. Eat apple cider donuts and drink apple cider.
Apple cider donuts are pretty much the best part about fall in upstate New York. Of course there's the leaf-peeping and the produce and the llamas ... but really, it's all about the donuts! At Adams Fairacre Farms, a sort of combination grocery store and farmers market, there is a steady supply of always-hot cider donuts.
8. Pet some alpacas.
Alpacas are not for eating — and no, we haven't tried — but they are adorable and you'll need to take a break from all the eating you are doing with some cuddly creatures (with super-soft noses). We love Buck Brook Alpacas (and by the way, you can also sleep close to the cuteness in their three-bedroom barn).
9. Have a meal (or two) at Table on Ten.
Located in tiny, out-of-the-way Bloomville, Table on Ten is the restaurant that put upstate New York on our radar. If you're staying in the Hudson River Valley or the eastern Catskills, it's a trek — but one that's well worth it for wood-fired pizzas, satisfying salads and sandwiches (like chicken liver, smoked ham, pickled fennel, and greens on a baguette), and pies! If you plan in advance, you can book a room and squeeze in dinner and brunch the next morning.
10. Go antiquing.
The antique shops of upstate New York are ripe with cool kitchen finds that will remind you of your trip. You'll snag anything from enamelware and cast iron cookware to vintage food tins and wooden crates that can be reimagined as stylish garbage cans and drawer organizers!
5 Antique Shops to Visit
Ready to make the trip? Check out our Bite-Sized Guide to Upstate New York, with helpful tips, kitchen tours, and a few of our favorite recipes.