We’ve been embracing train travel more than ever these days. Amtrak has become therapeutic in delivering us from point A to point B without the stress and exhaustion of navigating a car on America’s increasingly dangerous highways. We are comforted by the chug of the train beneath us as we pop in our AirPods and watch the window show. It thrills us that we are well on our way to earning a higher tier status on each of our Amtrak Rewards accounts, and that perks such as companion tickets and discount codes will begin to fill our inboxes soon. Inevitably, this means more train travel.
We’ve been fortunate to see the beauty from Seattle to Vancouver via Amtrak Cascades, and most recently, we’ve been getting the most out of the Amtrak Northeast Regional service with trips to New York City, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Providence. This fall season as the leaves on the trees began to turn their most vibrant shades of orange and yellow, we decided to head to Hudson, New York, a two hour slow, but beautiful chug along the Hudson River via Amtrak’s Empire Service.
We started our fall adventure with a night in New York City and filled our time with some new experiences. We booked a stay at the Park South Hotel and enjoyed the last weekend of the season with a glass of wine by the fire on their Roof at Park South.
For a delicious and uniquely fun experience, we had lunch at KazuNori: The Original Hand Roll Bar. If you love sushi, you’ve got to visit this place. We shared the 6 Hand Roll set since we were opting for a light lunch, but each of us could have eaten our own set easily. They are so small and delightful.
In the evening, before seeing the play Is this a Room, we ate at Lidia Bastianich’s famous theatre district restaurant Becco. You can’t go wrong ordering the three pasta special. The three pastas change daily and you get all three along with a choice of Caesar salad or antipasto misto. On the night we were there, the three pastas included mezzi rigatoni with fresh basil, black olives, tomatoes and onion, mushroom ravioli with truffle butter and sage, and fettuccine with veal bolognese and peas. All were fresh, delicious, and unlimited, but so filling that we couldn’t even think about another helping. For $29.95 per person, this is seriously the best deal in town.
I wish we could say that we loved the play Is This a Room, but it was not as entertaining as we’d hoped. We’d read some intriguing reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker, but the play fell short for us. Maybe it was the dark theater and our bellies filled with pasta that made us sleepy and bored, but we were thankful it was short and inexpensive.
The next morning before picking up the Amtrak Empire in the Moynihan Train Hall, we grabbed coffee and a pumpernickel bagel prior to boarding the train. We were thankful for this because we soon found out that the Empire is a no-frills experience without a cafe car. We’d soon forget that minor detail as soon as the train departed the dark tunnels beneath the city. The Empire’s service runs parallel to the Hudson River and as the train glided along the banks of the river, the fall leaves began to reveal the brightest and most beautiful tones of yellow and orange.
Arriving in Hudson to their adorable little station, we lugged our bags down from the train onto a little yellow stool then down to the pavement. From here, we needed to make our way to our hotel, The Hudson Whaler, which is located on Warren Street, the main thoroughfare of shops and restaurants that make Hudson such an appealing place to visit. It all looks uphill from the train station to town, but we gave it a go using our phones to navigate our way there. Along the way we passed The Wick, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel now owned by Marriott. Ideally, this was our first choice for our stay due to our Marriott Titanium status, but the hotel is booked solid on most weekends which left us to seek an alternative option for our stay. Leaving The Wick behind us, our directions told us to make a left at the end of the road. With a row of warehouses to our right and a steep flight of concrete stairs to our left, we scratched our heads in wonder at just what we were supposed to do next. Yes, we could heave our bags up this flight of stairs and risk being arrested for trespassing, or we could call an Uber. At this point, an Uber seemed like the best decision. Without much cell service to rely on, we made our way back towards The Wick as the Uber app searched and searched for an available driver.
And then we met Don.
Don is the incredibly friendly and helpful doorman at The Wick. When he approached these two weary travelers with suitcases in tow, he expected we were checking in for the weekend. When we told him we were lost and not sure how to make a left at the end of the road, he said, “Well that’s simple. Make a left and go up the concrete stairs. Then walk two blocks and make a right at the corner store. The Hudson Whaler is just five blocks from there.” When we told him we’d called an Uber, he welcomed us inside to warm up from the cold while the app continued to spin. After awhile, Don came back in to check on us and said, “If you’d gone up the concrete steps you would have been checked in by now.” We agreed, and as if fate was on our side, Uber canceled our request and notified us to try again later. Due to the limited availability of Ubers, Don provided us with a list of cab services, and with a warm thank you and goodbye, we made our way to the concrete stairs.
He was right. The Hudson Whaler was exactly where he said it would be, and we were so happy to arrive and set our bags down after an exhausting uphill journey.
The Hudson Whaler is a beautiful newly renovated boutique hotel with a lobby that welcomes you with its rich, dark wood staircase, sparkling chandeliers, and cozy fireplace. The magic is in the details, with handmade chocolate whales, one milk chocolate, one dark, perfectly placed next to your bed, and a remote controlled fireplace to warm your room on cold Hudson nights.
We began our journey through town with a glass of wine and a cheese board at Warren & Vine, a must-visit wine bar with heated outdoor seating. We then strolled up and down Warren Street, taking in all of the shops and restaurants along the way. For dinner, we landed a seat at the bar of Le Perche and opted for their pre-fixe dinner of soup, entree, and dessert. The portion sizes of the pre-fixe dinner at Le Perche are huge. We could have easily shared just the appetizer which was a very large bowl of warm, comforting, and delicious Swiss chard and bean soup. It was so good and so filling that we barely had any room for the boeuf bourguignon and the creme brûlée that followed, but we easily found a spot for these delectable dishes. When there’s boeuf bourguignon, you eat it.
When we arrived to Hudson on a Friday night, it seemed a bit vacant. We were able to walk into restaurants without crowds or a wait, and we started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t the hot spot we’d read so much about. Yet, on Saturday, when we walked the whole of Warren Street, entering and exiting bustling restaurants with no room for us, we realized we should have made dinner reservations, way in advance.
On Saturday, we visited the hamburger diner Grazin’ for lunch. It looks like an old greasy spoon that you’d think would serve the typical breakfast fare, but they don’t. Instead, they serve meat in burger form straight from their farm ,and whiskey straight from their distillery. The kind owner greets you at your table or the counter to welcome you to his unique establishment and will give you the full story of the diner if you ask. He will also buy you a drink if you are jealous of the one your wife ordered (Paul…).
Between Grazin’ and heading back down the concrete steps to the Amtrak Station on Sunday, we visited some other noteworthy places. We highly recommend all of the following:
The Amelia Hotel: check out their events calendar for their literary series in partnership with the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. We were able to hear the award winning poet Monica Youn, the first writer featured in the series. The hotel is charming, Ms. Youn is inspiring, and for an aspiring writer like myself, it was something I will never forget.
Back Bar-We got the feeling that it’s where the locals go, and you should too. You’ll feel like your in your friend’s garage, the friend who knows how to make good dumplings.
Oak-for pizza. For when the pizza craving hits like it always does (on any and all of our trips at least). We got a late night treat-a Margherita pizza with arugula (a warm memory of our favorite pizza in Paris).
Hudson Roastery-for coffee.
Nolitas Cafe-for the breakfast burrito
Governor’s Tavern-trust us.
And, for when you are ready to heave your luggage down those concrete steps and back to the train station, stop at Kitty’s for the chocolate chip cookies. We hear the chicken is good too, but we had just eaten a Nolitas breakfast burrito, so we settled on cookies.
You won’t believe this, because we hardly could. On our trek downhill, down those concrete steps we could have never imagined climbing, two ladies followed us. At the bottom of the steps, they announced, “We followed you because you looked like you knew what you were doing!” And we all enjoyed a good laugh before we headed home.