With the Holidays Over, There's Lots of Ways to Have Fun and Relax Nearby

Winter is wonderful in the Hudson Valley.

The holidays are over, and it’s time for indulging in some personal pleasures.

Hudson Valley Tourism says there are plenty of ways to unwind close by, with lots of activities for outdoor recreation, fireside sitting — or both.

Slide your way into 2012 snow tubing down groomed lanes at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery. Rope tows take you back up the hill with a backdrop of the white capped Shawangunk Mountains in the distance.

Sip hot chocolate by the open fire in the lodge, or bring your sled, skates and cross country skis for more snow fun. Another way to go downhill rapidly is at Thunder Ridge Ski Area in Patterson. Thirty trails range from slow and gentle slopes to meet the needs of the newest skiers and snowboarders, and advanced trails for the daring and adventurous. It's a family place where even toddlers can take to the slopes.

All that crisp air can really make you work up an appetite, so head for the Hudson Valley Rail Trail WinterFest in Highland on Jan. 14. Bring the kids for chestnut roasting, marshmallow toasting, wagon rides along the trail, children's games and crafts, and ice carving demos.

Twenty local restaurants compete in the Fire and Ice Chili Tasting Contest to win the coveted "Best of Fest" award. Warm up with hot drinks and a bowl full. Still hungry? The indoor alternative to WinterFest is the Albany Food & Wine Festival Jan. 12 through 14 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. With more than 30 innovative chefs and 250 global wine, spirit and beer suppliers, food and drink enthusiasts can watch dueling chefs in the invitational mystery cook-off. Try your best in the Slider Slam competition and stroll the booths to sample gourmet dishes from area restaurants.

Too much to eat? Walk it off during the Winter Ecology Walks at Land Conservancy areas in Columbia County.

Join ecologists as they guide you through different natural habitats and find out more about the land use history of this region. The first walk is Jan. 21, and more walks will take place in the weeks to come. The next day on Jan. 22, Grafton Lakes State Park hosts its Annual Winter Festival and Ice Fishing Contest.

Kids can sculpt the white stuff and enter the snowball-throwing contests. Dash through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh and then hop a dog sled for a trail adventure. Ice fishing may net you a prize in the competition, but everyone is a winter winner at this fun family event.

Art galleries are a terrific way to unplug and The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in Poughkeepsie has a show that is aptly named. The solo exhibition Marco Maggi: Lentissimo is open from Jan. 20 to April 1, an exhibition of 14 colorful new works by Marco Maggi. Named for the Italian word for very slow, Lentissimo explores the artist's relationship to time while inviting viewers in for quiet, careful observation.

Music can also soothe the soul, and a concert by the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra at the Performing Arts Center in Purchase is just the ticket. On Jan. 22 they'll perform an overture by Vaughan Williams, Dvorak's Symphony #7, and Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major. It's a real treat since they are one of the most respected orchestras in Europe.

But to really relax and get away from it all, book a weekend at Catskill Maison B&B in Windham. Built in 1782 as a wayward inn, the luxurious accommodations have breathtaking mountain views with many in-suite amenities. Breakfast is three courses with locally sourced ingredients, and you're just a mile down the road from Windham Mountain for great skiing.

The Overlook Lodge in Bear Mountain State Park is another way to experience luxury close to fantastic outdoor recreation. Skate at the scenic ice skating rink and cross country ski before enjoying the gourmet fare at the newly renovated 1915 Café. Overlook has gorgeous views of the Hudson River and is within minutes of the Trailside Zoo, open all year long.

For more info...

Snow Tubing. Thomas Bull Memorial Park, Montgomery. 845-457-4949, www.orangecountyparks.com 

Thunder Ridge Ski Area, Patterson. 845-878-4100, www.thunderridgeski.com

Hudson Valley Rail Trail WinterFest, Highland. 845-691-9911, www.hudsonvalleyrailtrail.net

Albany Food & Wine Festival, Albany. www.albanywinefest.com

Winter Ecology Walks, Columbia County. 518.672.7994, http://clctrust.org/events/

Winter Festival, Grafton. 518-279-1155, www.nysparks.com

Marco Maggi: Lentissimo, Poughkeepsie. 845-437-5632 fllac.vassar.edu

Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Purchase. 914-251-6200, www.artscenter.org

Catskill Maison B&B, Windham. 518-734-3232, www.catskillmaison.com

Bear Mountain Inn, Bear Mountain. 845-786-2701, www.visitbearmountain.com


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