Skip to main content

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line


The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north. 

Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line

One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red. 

Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson

Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.  

Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings

Still, October is a great time for a walk. Exploring the villages along the Hudson line may be accomplished on foot, and many cater to visitors with signs and maps indicating the village’s main attractions. Visiting them may require an initial physical strain because they are situated at a higher elevation, but in many cases, their waterfronts provide plenty of things to see and do without too much climbing. 

This post shows some of the sites of attraction near the train stops in Hastings-on-Hudson, Peekskill, and Beacon.

Former studio of sculptor Jacques Lipchitz in Hastings

Hastings-on-Hudson, a village twenty miles north of Midtown, provides a good gateway to an autumn walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. Getting up to the trail does involve some effort, an uphill walk for two or three blocks. Once there, the attractions are worth the effort. Near Draper Park on Aqueduct Lane, be on the lookout for an unusual modernist structure. This was once the studio of sculptor Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973), a Cubist sculptor who decided to make his home and studio here after walking the trail.

Draper Park

Hastings-on-Hudson was once a hotbed of astronomy. John William Draper (1811-1882), a NYU professor of chemistry, took the first clear photograph of the moon, a daguerreotype, in 1840 from the university’s rooftop observatory on Washington Square. (See the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2019 moon exhibit for reference.) 

The Draper home in Hastings, now the Hastings Historical Society

In 1847, after receiving great acclaim for his work, Draper bought twenty acres in Hastings-on-Hudson for his growing family. His son, Henry, followed in his father’s footsteps and built an observatory on the property. From here, Henry took increasingly clear photographs of the moon, and he and his wife Mary Anna built a second observatory. The two went on to take spectrum images of nearly a hundred stars. The Draper home became a tourist attraction for astronomy buffs and celebrity inventors, including Thomas Edison and Samuel F. B. Morse. The structure now serves as home to Hastings Historical Society.

The Newington-Cropsey estate in Hastings

In the village, be sure to stop at the bridge on Warburton Avenue for a bird’s eye view of the Newington-Cropsey lands, once home to Hudson River School artist Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900). Not coincidentally, Cropsey specialized in the Luminist possibilities of autumn colors and light. While the foundation grounds and museum are temporarily closed, the view of his estate from afar makes for a fulfilling day trip vision. 

Railroad crossing in Peekskill

After sampling Hastings, board the train north to Peekskill for a peaceful exploration of the waterfront. Once a busy industrial site, home to the predecessor for Crayola, the city of Peekskill has come to develop a mountain town vibe. 

The Taco Dive Bar in Peekskill

With its proximity to prime hiking destinations such as Anthony’s Nose, Bear Mountain State Park, and the Appalachian Trail, Peekskill is a favorite for post-hike activities. Peekskill Brewery, adjacent to the train station and waterfront, is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Taco Dive Bar, with plentiful outdoor seating, is even closer to the train.

Fireman’s Memorial, Peekskill Landing Park

Or, bring the take-out tacos to Peekskill Landing Park and enjoy a sunny autumn day on the waterfront. The park is home to many fine sculptures, including the Fireman’s Memorial, dedicated to 911 responders, and Carole A. Feuerman’s “The Golden Mean,” a polished bronze diver.  

Carole A. Feuerman’s “The Golden Mean,” a polished bronze diver, Peekskill Landing Park

The train ride from Peekskill to Beacon passes by many historic sites and landscapes such as West Point, across the river from the Garrison stop, and the imposing Storm King Mountain with its 1,300-foot elevation from the base of the river.

Storm King, as seen from the train

The Beacon waterfront may be a good place to wrap up the adventure. As with most of the stops on the Hudson line, a sole stop in Beacon could provide plenty of adventures for a day trip. Art fans from the city often spend hours at Dia:Beacon, the enormous converted Nabisco factory that now houses a great collection of contemporary site-specific work. Hikers frequent the steep paths up Mount Beacon for views of the Hudson Highlands and the Catskill Mountains.

 A stop on the Hudson River School Art Trail

For this trip, an easy walk from the Beacon train stop to Long Dock Park leads to a stop on the Hudson River School Art Trail. (https://www.hudsonriverschool.org/) The Thomas Cole National Historic Site developed this project in partnership with Olana, the home of Frederic Church. The stop in Beacon celebrates the popularity of Storm King Mountain in Hudson River School paintings.    

Long Dock Park in Beacon

Taking a trip on Metro-North doesn’t need to be planned entirely in advance. Whimsical choices can add a little excitement and interest to any excursion. For this trip, I decided to buy a one-way ticket to Hastings-on-Hudson on the Metro-North and then see how I felt after seeing the sights. I proceeded to Peekskill and then to Beacon in such a manner. 

Waiting for the train in Beacon

Other day trips could include a different set of stops - perhaps Irvington, Garrison, and Cold Spring on a Saturday, or Dobbs Ferry, Ossining, and Poughkeepsie on a Sunday. Closer to Halloween, the Tarrytown and Philipse Manor stops would make a good choice for a cemetery walk in Sleepy Hollow. 

Weekend days are the best, because more businesses and restaurants are likely to be open. Expect to change trains in Tarrytown or at the Croton Harmon station and listen for any track changes. Download the Metro-North's apps for train times and tickets to start planning for the weekend. 

Images from Sunday, October 4.

Related Posts on Walking Off the Big Apple:

• Think these places are too far away from New York City? Not if you live in Upper Manhattan.  See this related post, “When the Mountains are Closer: Day Trips from Upstate Manhattan.” For residents of Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood, a trip up the Hudson River is often faster than a trip to Brooklyn or Queens.

More on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail:

In Washington Irving Country: A Walk Between Irvington and Tarrytown on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail 

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail 










Popular posts from this blog

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements. UPDATED October 10, 2020.  Many favorite local destinations have now reopened.  Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations    • Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map  (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity. • As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER. • The  9/11 Memorial  reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices. • (update) Libraries: NYPL. T he library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.   • Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets.  • The High Line  reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entra

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

Where's Cindy? New York Location Shots in the Work of Cindy Sherman

In light of the current Cindy Sherman retrospective at MoMA , let's ignore the usual question, “ Who is the real Cindy Sherman?” and instead pose an important but less discussed one, “ Where is Cindy Sherman?” And as it relates the evolution of modern New York culture, we should also ask, "When?" Cindy Sherman. Untitled Film Still #21. 1978. Gelatin silver print. 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 (19.1 x 24.1 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel One of the most often reproduced images of the series, this photograph is shot near 26 Broadway, originally the Standard Oil Building, in the Financial District (left). The modern glass building on the right at 2 Broadway was originally built in 1958-1959. Before we get to the where and when of Cindy Sherman, a few words are in order about art theory and the shifting practice of art. When Sherman attended art school in the mid-1970s, young artists faced a whole new set of possibiliti

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge:  "The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apr

At the New Moynihan Train Hall, and the Zen of Going Nowhere

After slowly wandering around the Moynihan Train Hall , opened earlier this year in the James A. Farley Post Office Building across from Penn Station, an Amtrak worker approached me and asked if he could help with directions. “No,” I replied, “I’m just here to look at the station.”  Moynihan Train Hall, between Eighth Avenue, Ninth Avenue, 31st Street, and 33rd Street in Midtown Manhattan I wasn’t taking a train anywhere, not an Amtrak train to Philadelphia or to Boston. I was here to look at this impressive, even enlightening building. The architectural design is somewhat restrained and serious. Bright signage at the Moynihan Train Hall At a time when the idea of actual travel is just picking up, for some New Yorkers like myself, just the novelty of seeing a new transportation project in the city seems to suffice. It’s like mental preparation for taking an actual trip.  Looking up I remember catching Amtrak trains at the old Penn Station, not the beautiful and monumental edifice that

Walking on Snow

❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ For the better part of this new year, snow has been either on the ground or in the forecast. In the city landscape, the streets look enchanting for a day or so and then devolve into a dirty mess. This sort of snow is unappealing for an invigorating walk. A snowy path in Inwood Hill Park The forest, on the other hand, has managed to stay enchanting throughout each bout of winter weather. The presence of owls and hawks, bright red cardinals and sweet chickadees, and brown squirrels and black squirrels transform the woodlands into a fairy tale. An Eastern Screech-Owl at home in the winter forest I've spent much of the whole pandemic year, going back to March 2020, in the woods of Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. While I have been accustomed to walking through the park in spring, summer, and autumn, I've never managed to engage with the deepest parts of the forest when a lot of snow was on the ground. Last winter there wasn't much snow anyway. Eastern Screech-Owl

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine