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10 Top-Rated Things to Do in Cold Spring, NY

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Dec 11, 2020

North of New York City, Cold Spring, NY is a small village perched on the Hudson River. The historic village was founded by European settlers in the early 18th century. Today, its central downtown is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places as the Cold Spring Historic District.

Cold Spring grew over the years as a popular weekend getaway for New Yorkers, and eventually became one of the most affluent suburbs in the Hudson Valley for those fleeing big city life. Today, it is heralded for its historic landmarks, charming restaurants and cafés, art galleries, hiking, and other things to do on and along the Hudson River.

Bound by the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands State Park, it is one of the most picturesque villages in the Hudson Valley. From the banks of Cold Spring, visitors can see dramatic mountains like Mount Taurus and Breakneck Ridge, as well as Storm King Mountain and the U.S. Military Academy — West Point — across the river.

From botanical gardens to historic mansions, a thriving Italian art institution, and plenty of public green spaces, Cold Spring is a regional highlight in the Hudson Valley, with plenty of tourist attractions to explore.

Plan your sightseeing and learn about the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in Cold Spring, New York.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Ferry to Bannerman Castle

Bannerman Castle
Bannerman Castle

Just up the Hudson River from Cold Spring sits tiny, historic Pollepel Island. The tree-covered, rocky island nestled amid the Hudson Highlands is a green little oasis between Cold Spring and Beacon, just up the river. But more than a beautiful slice of nature, Pollepel Island is also home to one of the most beautiful and historic places in the Hudson Valley: Bannerman Castle.

The castle is evocative of a traditional Scottish castle, built by the Bannerman family who emigrated from Dundee, Scotland in the mid-19th century.

The castle was built in 1901 by Frank Bannerman, a businessman based in Brooklyn. His son, David Bannerman, discovered the island while kayaking the Hudson, and inspired his father to purchase the island. Frank and his wife, Helen, used the house on the island as a summer residence. Today many of the beautiful gardens and paths she designed still exist.

It's possible to tour the island and the castle grounds, whether on a guided sightseeing tour or a self-guided tour. Visitors can take themselves to the island with their own kayak or canoe and walk the winding, historic trails. Guided tours are 20 minutes long.

2. Hike Breakneck Ridge Loop

Panoramic view of the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands from Breakneck Ridge
Panoramic view of the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands from Breakneck Ridge

Though technically short in length, the Breakneck Ridge Loop is one of the most challenging hikes in the Hudson Valley, and it all begins in Cold Spring. What awaits those who are up for the challenge, however, are unparalleled views of the Hudson River and beyond.

But the journey up is not for the faint of heart. Picture steep climbs, rock ledges, and plenty of scrambling on both hands and feet. It's highly recommended to bring that gear along with you. They don't call it Breakneck for nothing.

The trail follows the white-blazed markers, and along the way expect viewpoints out over Bannerman's Castle and even Storm King Mountain across the river. Eventually the trail splits — the right fork leads to a challenging climb, while the left bypasses this route in exchange for an easier hike. The two paths converge up ahead at a stunning viewpoint over the river.

The rest of the route involves strenuous climbing, but the many overlook points are well worth the energy. Breakneck Ridge is one of the most favorite hiking spots in the Hudson Valley.

3. Explore Stonecrop Gardens

Stonecrop Gardens
Stonecrop Gardens | Iliazd / photo modified

Sprawling more than 15 acres, Stonecrop Gardens began as a private garden in the 1950s, when Garden Conservancy founder Frank Cabot and his wife built their home in Cold Spring. In 1992, the gardens opened to the public, leaving visitors dozens of Hudson Highlands acres to explore.

The gardens sit perched high above the Hudson in the Highlands at 1,100 feet. The gardens on display span 12 acres, including woodland and water gardens, perennial beds, a Cliffords rock garden, an English flower garden, and more.

Today Stonecrop's gardens include more than 50 plant families. A 2,000-square-foot conservatory houses more delicate specimens, while greenhouses showcase plants from all different types of climates and topographies. Employees are experts in their fields and can offer visitors tips and insights for how to create their own gardens at home.

In 2019, the garden introduced its Garden Masters Series, which offers higher-level education and events at the gardens that are typically not open to the public. Via advanced registration and tickets, those who want to dig a little deeper into the world of horticulture can investigate these masters series classes.

Address: Stonecrop Gardens, Cold Spring, New York

4. Discover West Point Foundry Preserve

The heart of Cold Spring's history can be found at the West Point Foundry Preserve. During the American Industrial Revolution, the foundry was known for producing steam engines, ships, and artillery.

The foundry was originally one of four ironworks that President James Madison selected to supply the U.S. military. West Point Foundry is the only one that remains. From 1818-1911, the foundry produced Parrott guns and cannons that were used during the Civil War. The foundry was also responsible for manufacturing some of the United States' first locomotives. Today what remains is a vast expanse of preserved land, veined with hiking trails that lead to notable historic points.

The 90-acre preserve is cut by Foundry Brook. Its web of trails weave around the ruins of old foundry buildings and landmarks shed light on each point of interest's contribution to the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War.

The preserve is ideal for walking and learning about the history of Cold Spring, but there is ample opportunity for wildlife viewing. An audiovisual tour is available, as well.

Address: 80 Kemble Ave, Cold Spring, New York

5. Get Wild in Hudson Highlands State Park

View of the Hudson River from the Hudson Highlands
View of the Hudson River from the Hudson Highlands

A wild 8,000 acres of lush, rolling mountains unfolds surrounding the Hudson River. The Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve is one of the most scenic spots in the region.

The serpentine Hudson River snakes around towering rock faces that are blanketed in moss-colored trees, veined with trails, and primed for possibilities. For those who aren’t familiar with the awe-inspiring natural beauty of New York State, the Hudson Highlands are the perfect place to get acquainted.

The hiking trail network includes a variety of different options, from the challenging Breakneck Ridge to less treacherous options that are more sneaker-friendly. A portion of the Appalachian Trail even runs through Hudson Highlands.

In addition to hiking, visitors can rent kayaks and canoes to see the Highlands from the river perspective. Camping and fires are prohibited in Hudson Highlands State Park, but there are plenty of campgrounds nearby for adventurous travelers looking to spend a night out in nature.

Address: 3260 NY-9D, Cold Spring, New York

6. Picnic at Foundry Dock Park

Decades ago, this now-tranquil riverfront oasis was once filled with the clanging sounds of the West Point Foundry loading dock for the 19th-century ironworks center (now the West Point Foundry Preserve).

Today the scene is a tad different, with sweeping views of the undulating Hudson Highlands. It's also the entry point from which to explore Foundry Cove and Audubon New York's Constitution Marsh Sanctuary.

The park is a great place to visit to watch kayakers venturing down the Hudson to explore the Foundry Dock Cove. This is also one of the closest spots to the MetroNorth Railroad station, so visitors coming up from New York City will be sure to see it as they disembark the train.

Visitors to the park can also rent kayaks and canoes themselves from Hudson River Expeditions. These are great for exploring the waters around Cold Spring, or taking the paddling journey out to Bannerman Castle.

The historic Foundry Dock Park and the nearby Chapel of Our Lady, as well as the West Point Foundry Preserve, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

7. Hike Bull Hill

Bull Hill (Mount Taurus)
Bull Hill (Mount Taurus) | Eden, Janine and Jim / photo modified

Bull Hill (otherwise known as Mount Taurus) tends to fly under the radar when the much more famous Breackneck Ridge is in the same area. But less than a mile up the road, the lesser known mountain is one that should not be missed.

While Breakneck Ridge provides one of the more challenging hikes in the region, Bull Hill is gentler, though provides equally epic views from the top and several lookouts along the way. From the summit, viewers can take a gander across the river to see the Crow's Nest and Storm King Mountain.

The entire hike is four miles round trip, and can take two to three hours, depending on speed and how many times you stop to snap photos. Along the way, hikers will find the remnants of an abandoned quarry, and many outposts that lead to views of nearby mountains and the river below. The trails are dog-friendly.

Eventually, the Washburn Trail up Bull Hill ends at the blue trail, which connects to the Breakneck Ridge trails, if you're feeling extra ambitious.

8. Peruse Main Street

Cold Spring, NY
Cold Spring, NY

The heart of Cold Spring lives and breathes along Main Street. Sloping down the eastern bank of the Hudson River, Main Street is flanked with antique stores and coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques. From outdoor dining to live entertainment, there is always something buzzing along Main Street.

The main draw for tourists, Main Street is a mom-and-pop-shop haven. It even has green park areas along the river, complete with benches and a gazebo. This part of Cold Spring is also regarded as its historic district and has some of the best examples of preserved 19th-century townhouses, with both colonial and Victorian design.

Step into 19th-century Cold Spring and explore the houses, churches, and other buildings that were constructed just before the Civil War, when the West Point Foundry was at the height of its production.

Today, the Historic District comprises much of Main Street and downtown, including the Hudson River waterfront park. The Historic District has more than 200 buildings.

A local favorite along Main Street is Bijou Galleries, which is known for its vintage collectables, art, decor, and antiques.

Address: Bijou Galleries, 50 Main Street, Cold Spring, New York

9. Stop at Little Stony Point

View of the Hudson river in the fall from Little Stony Point
View of the Hudson river in the fall from Little Stony Point

While some of the best hiking in the Hudson Valley can be found in Cold Spring, you don't have to commit to miles in the woods to get a feel for the great outdoors. Little Stony Point is a small, wooded peninsula perched on the Hudson River with views of nearby towns and a few beaches where locals love to pitch a beach chair and spend a summer afternoon.

To reach the point involves a quick, easy walk, but if you did want to stretch your legs, a one-mile loop trail takes you along the river's edge, as well as past an old mining shaft that is tucked within the rock face. Across the street is the trailhead for Bull Mountain, as well. On any given warm day, and into the fall, there are locals and visitors spending time drinking in the beautiful views from Little Stony Point.

Address: 3007 Bear Mountain-Beacon Hwy, Cold Spring, New York

10. Browse Art and Antiques

The towns and villages of the Hudson Valley are known for their enclaves of artists and creators. Cold Spring is no different, and it has the galleries to prove it. Dozens of galleries are scattered across Cold Spring and the surrounding towns, making it a perfect spot for visitors to peruse the worlds of both local and international artists.

Magazzino Italian Art is one of the best-known in Cold Spring. The museum-meets-research center is dedicated to those studying and practicing postwar and contemporary Italian art. Its ongoing exhibition, Arte Povera, is one of the most comprehensive studies of the particular movement, which came to be during Italy's transition in the 1960s.

Address: Magazzino Italian Art, 2700 U.S. 9, Cold Spring, New York

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