Dutchess County is one of my favorite getaways in the Hudson Valley. There is something here for everyone: historical homes, great farm stands, apple and pumpkin picking in the fall, and nice restaurants and shopping. On our last visit we started at the Vanderbilt Mansion Historic Site in Hyde Park. Built as a country home during the Gilded Age, this site is much smaller than other Vanderbilt homes open to the public, which makes it very manageable for touring with kids. The house can only be toured with a guide but it is a relatively quick tour, lasting only about 45 minutes.
The mansion's location on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River is it's best asset. You can come out and just explore the grounds without paying an admission fee and there is a paved trail which leads to FDR;s home next door.
If you visit, be sure to spend some time in the museum's bookstore. There are some great books for adults and children and a really nice collection of items that would be perfect as a gift or a memento to take home.
For lunch, Rhinebeck is always a good option. There is a variety of places to eat but our favorite is Bread Alone. On the weekends they offer both breakfast and lunch options but everything is delicious. We've tried lots of things on their menu and have never been disappointed.
Also in Rhinebeck are some shops that aren't to be missed. Every time I go in Hammertown Barn, I want to completely redecorate our entire house, all with things purchased here. Right next door is Oblong Books & Music, where we usually spend a good deal of time browsing. They have a fantastic selection of children's books and I usually pick up something for myself as well. Finally, no small town is complete without a general store and Rhinebeck's does not disappoint. The AL Stickle Variety store has a vast array of items for sale including children's games and toys, crafting supplies, yarn and knitting supplies, and kitchenwares just to name a few.
This is a great day if you are in the NYC area and don't mind driving a bit. The area is gorgeous in all seasons and most sites are open year round. I am planning a trip back in the fall to pick some apples and pumpkins and to take in an air show at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.