Kingston is a small and historic city about 2 hours north of New York City, in the beautiful setting of the Northern Hudson Valley. Because it’s the largest city in the region, Kingston serves as a central hub for both tourists and locals alike. Like many Hudson Valley towns, it’s history, natural beauty and affordability are attractive to creative and entrepreneur-types. As a result, the area is going through a bit of a revival, and there’s no shortage of new and great things happening here. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of local mom-and-pop or long-standing gems, either–just see all the comments below from readers!
If you’re planning a visit, a good time to plan around is the O+ festival, which is now in it’s sixth year and is a weekend long celebration of music and art, in the name of connecting artists and musicians with affordable healthcare. Another great reason to visit: music venue BSP Kingston hosts some of the best lineups north of NYC! For even more ideas, check out the Kingston Happenings blog with a calendar of community events.
What to do: Kingston is very much a “city”, albeit a small one. Pick an area to hang out in, and explore the area for the day.
• Midtown Kingston: Here is where you might be hard-pressed to do an entire day, but it’ s worth a visit nonetheless. The standout in midtown is Zaborski’s, a huge warehouse that’s literally stuffed to the brim with collectibles, antiques and salvage stuff for the home. The bottom floors are mostly “smalls” like electronics, neon signs, small lighting fixtures, wood boxes, etc. The upper floors are kept busy by first-time home owners and set builders from the city that come here for salvaged bathtubs, doors, lighting fixtures and other architectural salvage. Prices can be a little steep, but pick out a few things and try to get a bundle deal. (Worth noting: it’s not heated or air conditioned, so if you’re doing in summer/winter, dress appropriately.)
Before or after Zaborski’s, there’s a handful of places to grab a bite in this area. For beer and a burger, we really liked the The Anchor. Not quite a divey tavern, but also not gastropub, they have a great beer selection and are known for their burgers. For something quicker, there’s a little sandwich shop closeby called Joe Beez. Like many sandwich shops, their probably-stoner-inspired creations are named after Jerry Garcia and Wu-Tang Clan alike. For quick coffee or pastries, Monkey Joe is across the street from Zaborski’s that might be a good stop before going in to dig.
• Uptown: Uptown Kingston, also known as the Stockade District, is rich in historic architecture and neighborhoods; it’s also got lots of bars, restaurants, shopping and cafes. Wall Street, the “main street” in this part of the city, hosts a farmers market in the summer and is rumored to have a flea market next year. This part of town is very walkable, and the the Trailways Bus drops off here. (Also, the AirBNB home we stayed at is located here!) For breakfast or early lunch, you absolutely cannot beat Outdated Cafe. Part-cafe, part-antique shop, this place combines two of our favorite things and does a superb job at both. While you’re waiting for your order, marvel at the treasures upstairs… And when you’re done eating, head to the basement for a great selection of true vintage clothing and accessories. By the time you’re done with breakfast at Outdated, it might be lunchtime. Diego’s Taqueria is a new Mexican place offering fresh tacos, tortas and salads (and also a kids menu.) We had an amazing lunch at Yum Yum Noodle Bar too; because there’s nothing quite like ramen noodles during cold weather.
It’s easy to kill an afternoon in this part of town eating and shopping. For music lovers, check out Rocket Number Nine on Wall St. for strictly vinyl; also the new Rhino Records has a great selection of books, CDs and vinyl. And on that note, if you’re in town for the evening, make sure to check out the schedule at BSP Kingston for indie shows.
For dinner, our hosts insisted that we check out Duo Bistro… And while it turned out their son worked there–hence the recommendation–it was very, very good. But the most popular restaurant in town is probably Boitson’s, with a farm-fresh ingredients and a cozy, intimate atmosphere. The menu is small (think: focused) but with lots of rotating specials to keep it interesting. Check out the fabulous back patio in the summer! (Side note: You can also stay upstairs at The Inn At Boitson’s.)
As far as nightlife goes, there’s a lot of great bars. This is by no means a sleepy upstate town! We loved Stockade Tavern for classic cocktails and the atmosphere; the tin roof, fireplace and candle-lit bar was the perfect way to spend an evening. For beer lovers, Keegan Ales is a must–the Hurricane Kitty IPA is one of our favorites! We often stop into Keegan on our way into the mountains for a growler.
• Downtown/Rondout: Once it’s own city independent from Kingston, the Rondout area of Kingston is set at the foot of the Hudson River. Because the “main street” (Broadway) here is on a giant hill, it feels vaguely reminiscent of San Fransisco. It’s lined with cool small businesses and feels the most quaint of all the areas in Kingston. Start your morning at Grounded NY for a cup of coffee and pastries; she also does catering for events small and large using fresh, local ingredients from Hudson Valley farmers. Next, head to Milne and On the Hill Antiques for two stellar antique shops with lots of local Hudson Valley and Catskills antique stuff. They’re about two blocks from each other. Next up, stop into Kingston Wine Co. which was opened by two ex-Brooklynites, who left the city in search of a better life. Their large selection and beautiful store have made them the wine destination in the HV/Catskills area. Let Michael and Theresa help you pick out a perfect bottle of wine and tell you about their story of leaving the city and moving to Kingston–it’s a good one!
For lunch, make your way down to Mexican joint Armadillo Cafe. The salsa is fantastic–fresh and light–and otherwise your typical, solid Mexican restaurant. If it’s a nice day, walk off all the cheese and chips at the riverside, and download iPhone app Arrivals by artist Viv Corringham for a guided tour of the area. Check out the many galleries by the water, too!
• The Catskills: If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, Kingston is known as the “gateway to the Catskills.” Take Route 28 (or hop on the Trailways Bus) into the mountains and make a day of stopping at barn sales, or hike in Big Indian and stop by Peekamoose for dinner. For a fun mini-daytrip, Phoenicia is an awesome little town that’s getting tons of press lately.
Where to stay: Kingston’s citizens are a crafty/arty bunch, so it’s no surprise that the AirBNB listings here are pretty fantastic. We highly recommend staying at theChurch des Artistes–which is exactly what you might presume it is from the name. Husband and wife–composer Peter Wetzler and Julie Hedrick–bought this property some 20 years ago as weekenders. They had been renovating and restoring for years before finally moving to Kingston permanently. Though there’s great food in Kingston, whatever you do–don’t pass up their $10 breakfast which is available from 8-10.
We also stayed at the Round Room in this AirBNB, a beautiful home built in the late 1800’s by a lumber tycoon. It’s an absolutely beautiful home–and historic landmark–with unique and original wood details throughout. This room is on the second floor; the other smaller rooms are on the third floor. The third floor rooms share a small but beautiful bathroom, and the second floor’s is shared with Bob the famously grumpy cat. (Despite having three of our own, thus being cat experts–this cat still hated us.) The hosts, Chrissy and Nick Sakes, are an ex-Bushwick couple who left the city in search of a better, more affordable life and landed on this home. It’s a short walking distance to Uptown Kingston, where most bars, restaurants and shopping are located.
As mentioned above, there are also a couple apartments you can stay in above Boitson’s. 20% off all food and drinks during your stay at the restaurant below. Often bands playing in town will stay here so you never know who you will run into! Apartments can sleep up to 5 people between the two if you’re looking for a place to stay with a group of friends or family. Rooms have full bathrooms and kitchen, espresso machines, 48″ flat screen televisions, “an awesome stereo system (with turntable) and a collection of eclectic vinyl on site”.