Hillsdale.

It seems to me that the secret to being a long-term and semi-mentally well-adjusted Manhattanite is to locate a periodic weekend escape hatch outside of town. Doesn’t have to be fancy; just a quiet place where you can unwind, walk on some wet leaves or sit in the sand. I respectfully submit that even the most hard-core urban dweller can benefit from a place where you can connect with nature a bit. And for a few years now, we have enjoyed traveling up north for a Columbia County weekend and finding small cottages to rent.If you’ve never been to Columbia County, it’s about two and a half hours north towards the eastern part of New York State, southeast of Albany and immediately west of the Massachusetts border. The land up there is completely beautiful with gentle rolling hills, winding roads and charming small towns like Hudson, an antiquing mecca for decorators and collectors.To our shellshocked city senses, it truly seems like virtually unspoiled country. There are no shortage of great weekend rental properties, and one of our favorite sites to find a home is VRBO. With VRBO’s help, we’ve stayed on a working farm from 1801 in Ghent, a sunny house up on a bluff that surveyed the twists and turns of the Hudson river in the (aptly named) town of Hudson and most recently, a charming little house in Hillsdale that sat right by a chattering stream in the woods. Other than the peace and scenery, one of the other things that keeps us traveling back is the sweet eats. Due to it being an agricultural region, the proximity of amazing produce makes for some pretty fantastic farm-to-table feasting. Half the fun is scouting fresh local ingredients and then cooking a big dinner in our borrowed home for the weekend, but the options to dine out are also stellar. If you’re planning a weekend trip (and you should, it’s great any time of year) here’s some of our own “must-visits”:

Stroll Warren Street in the town of Hudson (“Upstate’s Downtown!”) – over 60 antiques shops from high-end to low-brow, lots of cool home stores (Courtney loves Lilli & Loo) and a disproportionately large amount of galleries featuring wonderful art & photography exhibits.

Swoon Kitchenbar. Terrific food, great atmosphere. It’s all about the Brown Sugar Brined Pork Loin.

Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. Award winning sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt, and you can visit the sheep. For the kids, you sickos.

Local 111 Restaurant. We went here on a date night one time. As fresh and delicious a menu as anything I’ve ever had. For real.

Olde Hudson Specialty Food. Man, I love this little grocery. They’ve got the whole shebang there, much of it sourced locally. And the staff really seems to love working there. Refreshing.

Grazin’ Angus Acres. Strictly grass-fed animals that have more freedom to roam than we do. The steaks are thick and juicy, and here’s a tip: get a dozen eggs to scramble at home. Like nothing you’ve ever tasted.

Hudson-Chatham Winery. This historic farmhouse winery sits among a fragrant carpet of grapevines and makes for a happy place to have a tasting. Grab a couple of bottles on your way out; we suggest the Merlot, the Blanc de Blanc, or the Baco Noir Reserve. Or all three.

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