Delve into our communal past during New York Heritage Weekend

Photo of farm field in Dutchess County by Dion Ogust.

Special events & deals throughout the region to unlock the mysteries of history

Along with “staycations,” “heritage tourism” is a marketing concept that has gotten amplified buzz in these past few years, ever since the bottom fell out of a lot of people’s annual vacation budgets. It’s a brilliant notion for the Hudson Valley in particular, considering the wealth of cultural and historical resources that we have close at hand, and within easy driving distance of a major metropolitan area.

Last year, New York State got on the bandwagon big-time by launching an initiative called New York Heritage Weekend, with the intent of kicking off the summer tourism season a couple of weeks earlier than its traditional Memorial Day weekend onset. It was a big success; so it’s going on to its second incarnation this weekend, with plenty of things to do both locally and farther afield in the state.

The official premise behind New York Heritage Weekend is to “celebrate the state’s unique role in shaping America” by organizing “heritage and cultural destinations” to offer free or discounted admissions or present special events all on the same weekend. “New York’s history is a profound competitive advantage for the state,” notes the state Heritage Weekend website. “Protecting, preserving and promoting our heritage resources is a critical component of economic development and revitalization of communities throughout the state. Heritage Weekend demonstrates the power of leveraging our cultural and historic resources.” So it’s a win/win proposition, whether you’re a host community or just somebody looking for something cheap and interesting to do this weekend.

Heritage Weekend events are organized around specific themes: Military History, Arts and Culture, Corridor of Commerce, Innovation, Architecture, Freedom and Dignity, Traditions and Cultures and Community Heritage. At the events listing webpage,, you can search by areas of interest or geographically. There are hundreds to choose from, from Montauk to Buffalo to the Adirondacks, but here are a few happenings in our own neck of the woods.


Ulster County

Hurley: Saturday, May 19, 5 p.m. at the Twin Lakes Resort – Heritage Dinner

The Hurley Heritage Society will celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Hurley with an evening of dining and entertainment. The menu will include Dutch-themed selections such as Dutch cheeses, vegetable dumpling soup, poached salmon, pork loin, rye and pumpernickel breads and apple tarts. The Adirondack Baroque Consort will perform 18th-century music on historic instruments. This event is not suitable for children under age 12. The cost is $40 per person, and advance registration is required. Contact (845) 331-8852, (845) 331-7228 or visit


Sunday, May 20, 2 p.m. at the Hurley Heritage Society Museum –

Guided Walking Tour of Historic Hurley

Hear the story of Hurley’s 350 years of history, its citizens and its famous stone houses as you stroll down Main Street with your guide. Weather permitting, a tour of Hurley’s burial grounds, dating back to the 17th century, will also be included. This tour goes on rain or shine, so dress for the weather conditions. Persons with mobility issues should note that this event takes place on an uneven sidewalk, and parts may take place in an unpaved cemetery. The fee is $3 for adults, free for children under age 12. For more information call (845) 331-8852 or visit


Kingston: Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. at the Matthewis Persen House – Grand Opening of “Rondout Revisited”

The first section of the exhibit, “Circa 1820,” describes Rondout when it was still Kingston Landing, a small community comprised of a handful of farms and stores and several docks to accommodate the river trade. The second section, “Circa 1914,” captures Rondout in the years after the closing of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, during which time it continued to thrive as a commercial center and transportation hub. The third section, “The Urban Renewal Years,” documents Rondout during the 1960s, when it was in serious decline. For more information, call (845) 340-3040 or visit


Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. at the Friends of Historic Kingston Gallery – “Saving the Best to Last: Preservation in Kingston”

An exhibit in the Friends of Historic Kingston Gallery will showcase the life and work of noted antiques dealer and preservationist Fred J. Johnston and other preservation “stories” in Kingston. Guided tours of the circa-1812 Fred J. Johnston House feature his antiques collection in eight elegant room settings. Please note that the second floor of the House is not handicapped-accessible. The fee for the tour is $5. For more information call (845) 339-0720 or visit


Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. at the Senate House State Historic Site – Spring at the Senate House

This celebration of spring will feature activities from the 18th century, including children’s games, 18th-century musicians, spinning and weaving, wool-dyeing and planting a vegetable garden. Bring home a plant seedling as a souvenir. House tours start at 10 a.m. and the last one starts at 4 p.m., for a fee of $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and students and free for kids aged 12 and under. For information call (845) 338-2786 or visit


Sunday, May 20, 11 a.m. at the Hudson River Maritime Museum – Build a Boat

From a unique and fascinating collection of maritime artifacts and annual exhibits that touch on economic issues past and present to bold plans to partner with the river’s major environmental education flagship, Clearwater, the Hudson River Maritime Museum is taking its place as a significant resource in the region. Tour the Museum free of charge and join staff and volunteers in the free “Build A Boat” workshop to build model boats, design sails and create maritime crafts. For more info call (845) 338-0071 or visit


Milton: Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, 1 p.m. at the Milton Train Station – Trains, Trains, Trains

Tour the rehabilitated Milton-on-Hudson Train Station that was built in 1883. Learn the history of train travel along the Western Shore of the Hudson River. Look at the display of train paraphernalia. Enjoy the views of the Hudson River. Watch the trains go by. This is a great chance to “trainspot” – sightings guaranteed! For more information, call (845) 236-7288.


New Paltz: Saturday, May 19, 12 noon on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail – History along the Rail Trail

New Paltz has a rich history dating back to its settlement by Huguenots in the 1600s. The Wallkill Valley Railroad, built in the post-Civil War era, originally served as both a passenger and freight line, bringing tourists to the mid-Hudson Valley and local agricultural and industrial products to the New York City metropolitan area. Carriages from the Mohonk Mountain House met passengers at the New Paltz station – the last one still in existence on this rail line, now La Stazione restaurant. The trail runs parallel to historic Huguenot Street in the heart of the Village of New Paltz. Relics of the railroad and local industries and businesses can be seen along or near the trail, as well as magnificent views of farms, orchards and the Shawangunk Ridge. The portion of the trail from Mulberry Street to Plains Road is wheelchair-accessible. For more info call (845) 255-2761 or visit


Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, 11 a.m. at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center – Historic Huguenot Street Opening Weekend

To celebrate Heritage Weekend, deluxe 90-minute docent-guided tours of the museum houses, French Church and burial ground will be buy-one, get-one-free ($15 for two). Each tour lasts approximately 90 minutes; starting times are 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Tours are limited to 15 people on a first-come, first-served basis and are offered rain or shine. Please mention New York Heritage Weekend to take advantage of the discount offer. Some buildings only have first-floor handicapped access due to their historic nature. There is some walking between museum houses, but a golf cart is available. These tours are not suitable for children under age 5. For more information call (845) 255-1889 or 255-1660, or visit


Saugerties: Saturday, May 19, 11 a.m. at Opus 40 Sculpture Park & Museum – 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Raising of the Monolith

This event, delayed due to the damage that Opus 40 sustained as a result of Hurricane Irene, will be an all-day celebration. Highlights will include a reading from children’s book author/illustrator Iza Trapani at 11:30 a.m. At 2 p.m. Jonathan Richards, sculptor Harvey Fite’s stepson who grew us at Opus 40, will give a presentation explaining how Fite erected the enormous monolith. From 3 to 6 p.m. there will be square dancing with experienced caller Sandy Corey. The event is free of charge, but donations are appreciated. For more information call (845) 246-3400 or visit


Sunday, May 20, 3 p.m. at the Saugerties Historical Society’s Kiersted House – Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to “Woodstock”

Weston and Julia Blelock, co-editors of Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to Woodstock, will offer a PowerPoint presentation and book-signing. This book explains definitively and for the first time why the festival was named Woodstock, and why it continues to be so closely associated with the town, even though the concert actually took place in Bethel. This event is not suitable for children under age 16. For more info call (845) 679-8111 or visit


Woodstock: Saturday, May 19, 2 p.m. at the Historical Society of Woodstock – William B. Rhoads’s Ulster County, New York: The Architectural History and Guide

William B. Rhoads will be giving a slideshow and reading selections from his book Ulster County, New York: The Architectural History and Guide, which celebrates three centuries of Ulster County’s architectural heritage. This meticulously researched title provides an in-depth guide to 325 sites in 20 Ulster County townships and the City of Kingston. Admission to the event is free, and refreshments will be served. For more info visit or call (845) 679-8111.


Dutchess County


Red Hook: Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. beginning at the Elmendorph Inn – Bicentennial Heritage House and Barn Tour

More than two centuries of Red Hook architecture are represented in this self-driven tour of rarely open houses, barns and churches. Highlights include Barrytown’s elegant Edgewater, one of America’s finest Classical Revival houses, the Heermance Farm, a remarkably intact early-18th-century Dutch stone farmhouse, a meticulously restored Greek Revival farmhouse and imaginative adaptations of a church, a barn and a former gristmill into residences. The closing reception will be at the stately Maizeland mansion. Not all tour sites are wheelchair-accessible. The fee is $25 and advance registration is required. Call (845) 758-1920 or e-mail [email protected] to register. For more info visit


Rhinebeck: Sunday, May 20, 12 noon at Wilderstein Historic Site – Wilderstein Guided Tours

Get $1 off the regular house tour admission all day at this exquisite Queen Anne-style mansion that was the home of Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, cousin and confidante of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. House tours begin regularly throughout the day from noon until 3:30 p.m., and last for about an hour. For more info call (845) 876-4818 or visit


Staatsburgh: Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, 1 p.m. at Staatsburgh State Historic Site – Titanic Tour at Staatsburgh

Special tours beginning at 1 and 3 p.m. will highlight the striking parallels between a visit to the estate and a voyage on the Titanic. Fortunately for Staatsburgh’s owner, Ruth Livingston Mills, her ticket was for the Titanic’s scheduled second crossing: the return trip from New York to Europe. But among the many victims of the liner’s sinking was the Millses’ friend and neighbor, colonel John Jacob Astor. The tour fee is $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors. Children aged 12 and under get in free, but this program is not suitable for children under age 10. For more information, call (845) 889-8851 or visit


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