It’s easy to spend years in New York City and never realize the Hudson Valley – with its rolling green landscapes, charming small towns, and laid-back country living – is only an hour or two away. This haven just north of the city is an ideal day or weekend trip, a chance to relax, enjoy nature, and take a break from city stimulation.

In recent years, the burgeoning food and drink scene has prompted some to dub this New York’s version of Napa, and there’s always someplace new, along with plenty of old favorites, to explore. The region is divided by the Hudson River, the west bank of which is sometimes referred to as the Catskills, after the mountain range there. Scroll down for our guide to four of our favorite Hudson Valley towns.

Beacon

Just an hour and change up the Hudson on the Metro-North train line, this once down-on-its-heels town has experienced a renaissance in recent years thanks partly to the presence of art institution Dia:Beacon and innate small-town charms, including river views and rows of brick buildings ripe for renovation.

What To See:

Dia:Beacon: Housed in a former Nabisco-box printing factory near the banks of the Hudson (and a short walk from the train station), this satellite location of the Chelsea-based arts foundation houses Dia’s collection from the 1960s onward. Since opening in 2003, it’s helped revitalize the city of Beacon and contributed (along with sculpture park Storm King Art Center, on the other side of the river and the upcoming Marina Abramovic Institute in Hudson) to the Hudson Valley’s status as a bona fide arts destination. 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY 12508; diaart.org

Where To Eat:

The Hop: This beer store and bar has a five-table dining room, pouring any of the nine constantly rotating beers on tap (say, Goose Island or the Hudson Valley’s own Captain Lawrence) and serving fare like house-made sausages (using local pork and lamb), chicken-liver paté, or even a vegan Reuben. Come September, the pub is slated to move its operation a few blocks down Main Street to a larger space with outdoor seating. 458 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508; thehopbeacon.com

Where To Stay:

The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls: This beautiful, new 25-room hotel is scenically located next to Fishkill Creek at the end of Main Street. The space was designed by the Rockwell Group and the loftlike rooms feature mod furnishings and minibars stocked with local beer and wine. The waterfall-view fine dining restaurant Swift and the Patio, a more casual alfresco spot, are both worth a visit, even if you’re not staying the night. 2 East Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508; roundhousebeacon.com

Hudson

Adorable Hudson is a dream small town, all vintage brick buildings and adorable, artisanal this-and-that. Lately, the place has seen an influx of creative types opening art galleries, design stores, and other ventures, and in 2016 performance artist Marina Abramovic plans to debut her eponymous institute here. From Penn Station, Hudson is a two-hour trip on Amtrak. Better to drive in about the same amount of time, though, if you can – a car comes in handy for exploring.

What To Do:

Go shopping! Hudson is one of the area’s better retail hubs, with many boutiques concentrated on Warren Street for easy strolling and browsing. Hit Ecosystem for earth-friendly women’s styles and funky jewelry; Finch sells handmade and vintage home furnishings crafted from materials like saddle leather, imported woven textiles, and burled wood; and don’t miss Rural Residence for everything required for a genteel country life: pewter candlesticks, correspondence cards, luxury shaving kits, and the like.

Where To Eat:

Fish & Game: Zakary Pelaccio founded New York City’s Fatty Crab and Fatty Cue restaurants, but these days he’s stationed upstate, where he and his wife, Jori Jayne Emde, opened this restaurant inside a 19th-century blacksmith shop last year. The couple and their partners focus on humanely produced local products for the set dinner menu they serve Thursdays through Sundays, and the set lunch menu offered on weekends (reservations recommended). Right now, you might find slow-smoked lamb with carrots and edible flowers, or braised lamb shoulder on the lineup. 13 South 3rd Street, Hudson, NY 12534; fishandgamehudson.com

Where To Stay:

The Hudson Milliner: This four-suite guesthouse opened inside a onetime top-hat factory (hence the name) last year. Rooms are airy and spacious, with hardwood floors and large mahogany-framed windows; they have in-room bathrooms and kitchens with vintage appliances (great for cooking whatever you find at the Saturday farmers’ market). The historic building sits right on Warren Street, the town’s main drag for shopping and restaurants. 415 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534; thehudsonmilliner.com

Phoenicia

Arty, funky Phoenicia makes an ideal laid-back weekend destination. The Catskills village is tiny (300 full-time residents) and offers a great chance to experience the charms of small town life, plus easy access to the great outdoors. It’s a 2.5 hour drive north of New York City, and while it’s handy to have a car in the area for reaching swimming holes, tubing spots, and hiking trails, you can also take the Trailways Bus from Port Authority, which leaves seven times a day and takes just over three hours to reach Phoenicia’s Main Street.

What To See:

If you have a car and the weather is right, there are endless swimming holes and hiking trails to explore. Even if you don’t, there’s a creek to check out, a hiking trail right in town, and Town Tinker Tube, which offers transportation to and from the water.

Where To Eat:

Sweet Sue’s: This beloved diner on Main Street is a Phoenicia and Catskills institution, one many people would contend has the best pancakes – anywhere. If you’re hungry, there’s the pancake sundae, smothered in ripe fruit and whipped cream; if not, the lemon-ricotta version is a lighter option. But don’t worry, there are 20 other varieties as well. Good luck deciding, and be sure to go early to avoid the lines of weekenders passing through or camping nearby, or even off-duty celebrities who vacation in the area. 49 Main Street, Phoenicia, NY 12464; (845) 688-7852

Other favorites: Phoenicia Diner (5681 Route 28, Phoenicia, NY 12464; phoeniciadiner.com) Brio’s Restaurant & Pizzeria (68 Main St, Phoenicia, NY 12464; brios.net), and Peekamoose (8373 State Route 28, Big Indian, NY 12410; peekamooserestaurant.com)

Where To Stay:

The Graham & Co.: This 20-room boutique hotel opened two years ago just a couple of blocks off of Main Street. The vibe is new-school summer camp: Rooms are spare, but warm, with exposed wood and artisanal camp blankets. There’s a pool and bar on-site, along with volleyball and badminton, plus free bikes to borrow for tooling around. 80 Route 214, Phoenicia, NY 12464; thegrahamandco.com

New Paltz

French Huguenots founded New Paltz in 1678, making it one of the oldest towns in the country, and Huguenot Street offers a glimpse of well-preserved colonial houses and other buildings from that era for history buffs passing through. Beyond that, there’s good eating and drinking at this college town’s restaurants and bars, but the biggest draw of all are the outdoors – climbing, cycling, and hiking opportunities abound.

To get to New Paltz, Trailways buses can drop you right in town, but it’d be a shame to be wheels-less up here with so many beautiful outdoor spots within a short drive (not to mention Storm King Art Center). If you don’t have access to a car, it’s always an option to take the bus up and rent one in town.

What To Do:

Storm King Art Center: This park, filled with large-scale (and we do mean large-scale!) and mostly steel sculptures by the likes of Alexander Calder, Donald Judd, Maya Lin, and many others, is internationally famous – and for good reason. It’s worth the 40-minute drive from New Paltz, and several hours once you’re there to wander the bucolic, 500-acre parkland. Bring your camera (hello, Instagram), and a picnic. 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, NY 12553; stormking.org

Where To Eat:

A Tavola: Chef Nathan Snow had a dedicated following at Sfoglia on the Upper East Side before he decided to branch off on his own with his wife, Bonnie (who also cooked there), several years ago. At their own place on Main Street in New Paltz, the couple offers simple Italian food made with local and from-scratch ingredients – think chicken under a brick with charred escarole and potatoes, or slow-braised pappardelle Bolognese. 46 Main Street, New Paltz, NY 12561; atavolany.com

Where To Stay:

Mohonk Mountain HouseSure, it’s pricey, but the stately, Victorian-era Mohonk Mountain House (which resembles a European castle as much as an American resort) belongs on a hotel lover’s list of dream destinations. Guests have access to Lake Mohonk and the surrounding hills, plus daily activities like guided hikes, lawn games, boating, and horseback riding. Non-guests who purchase a meal, spa treatment, or grounds pass can also enjoy the same amenities. 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, NY 12561; mohonk.com

– Jenny Miller