The Very Best Things to Do in Kingston, New York
Where Dutch colonialist architecture meets contemporary art: here's our list of things to do in Kingston.
In 1918, Aleister Crowley decided to spend 40 days and 40 nights painting, meditating and rappelling on Esopus Island in the middle of the Hudson River in search of absolute peace of mind and inspiration. Little did he know that a few decades later Hudson Valley would become a popular destination for holidaymakers and a famous cultural hub. So, if you’re heading to upstate New York for a few days of peace and quiet, you’ll be glad to know that you won’t have to spend your time in total isolation on a tiny uninhabited island. You could try Plum Guide's list of intriguing things to do in Kingston before considering following in the footsteps of the “wickedest man in the world”.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
Probably the most well-known attraction in town, the Hudson River Maritime Museum offers a chance to explore Hudson River’s rich history from the first expeditions of the Dutch East India Company to the revolutionary shipping industry of the 19th century. Here you can join a workshop on a real wooden boat, travel along the banks of Rondout Creek on a solar-powered vessel or take history tours to discover Rondout’s heritage. The Hudson River Maritime Museum also houses a variety of events throughout the year and exhibits various peculiar artefacts such as maps, paintings, and rusty ice-harvesting tools. If you’re planning to visit in 2020, you’ll be delighted to hear that you will also get the chance to meet the “Queen of the Hudson”. We’re talking of course of the famous ship named Mary Powel that survived the Civil War, the industrial revolution and World War I, solely with the purpose of welcoming moderately indifferent tourists on board.
Kingston Uptown Historic District
As you probably already know, we at Plum Guide have an obsession with fascinating architecture and extraordinary homes, like this idyllic getaway just southwest of Kingston. So, the magnificent area of Kingston Uptown Historic District, with its enduring stone houses and bluestone pavements, could not be missing from a list of things to do in Kingston. Also named Stockade District after the stockades set up by Dutch settlers to fend off sudden attacks by Esopus Indians, this part of town that spans for eight blocks west of the city centre is what’s left of the original small colony that was designated as the very first capital of New York in 1777. The area features several impressive buildings that boast National Historic Landmark status such as the Senate House, the central Kirkland Hotel and the Old Dutch Church. If you really want to feel like you’re travelling back in time, head to the famous Four Corners crossroads, the only intersection in the US with every corner occupied by buildings that have survived the Revolutionary War.
If you’ve believed, even for a mere moment, that your vacation rental in Hudson Valley won’t be as spectacular as the houses you’ll see in Stockade District, think again. Have a look at our curated selection of homes.
Matthewis Persen House
One of the four buildings that stand proudly on the Four Corners is Matthewis Persen House. Dating back to 1661, this is one of the oldest and most symbolic homes in Kingston that has been through wars, revolutions, fires and destruction before facing its greatest downfall; serving as Ulster County's Heritage Gateway. Christened after its longest tenant, Matthewis Persen – who would probably be amazed to know that there are self-guided tours and scavenger hunts passing through his bedroom and kitchen – this is one of few Uptown Kingston homes that are open to the public. There are various cultural events taking place here year-round including reenactments, lectures and tours as well as thousands of artefacts and exhibits to explore.
Explore Kingston’s vibrant art scene
Surprisingly enough, Kingston is home to a spectacular art scene. The city’s most beloved venue is Ulster Performing Arts Center, a 1,500-seat show palace that has accommodated countless acts including film screenings, theatrical plays, dance performances and comedy events but is most known for hosting concerts of major artists like Joan Jett or David Byrne. If fine arts are what you’re after, you’ll find numerous public galleries and artist lofts spread throughout the city waiting for you to discover. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting on the first Saturday of the month, you’ll find them with doors wide open to the public for the city’s popular First Saturday event that sees several art venues welcome visitors with no admission fees. Nevertheless, Kingston’s art is not exclusively constrained indoors. Owing to the initiatives of O+ Festival’s never-tiring members, Kingston has been turned into a vast open-air art gallery with 36 grand murals adorning its elderly walls, most of which are located in Uptown and Midtown. Take a look at our guide to Hudson Valley to discover more artsy areas nearby.
Forsyth Nature Center
When you decide you’ve heard all the stories about revolutions, the Dutch Colonialists and Hudson River’s steamboats you can handle, escape the urban surroundings for a more peaceful environment. Spreading for over 18 acres, The Forsyth Nature Center is a colourful nature preserve that is home to more than twelve gardens brimming with flora and fauna native to the Hudson Valley, as well as numerous animal exhibits. Its educational programs and family-oriented outdoor activities make it undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Kingston if you are travelling with kids. Especially if you are planning to visit during the annual Fall Festival that features all kinds of activities and games for kids, plus live music, arts and crafts workshops and the mandatory traditional hayride. If nature is your thing, you'd do worse than to book a stay at the lovely Burnt Sienna. This Plum Guide home in Hudson Valley boasts an idyllic woodland location, complete with fire pit and a sunny reading nook.