As hard as it is to believe, to the immediate north of honking, teeming, steaming New York City  lies some of the most splendid scenery in the Northeast. The visual feast begins at the edge of the Bronx , where for a 21-mile stretch the blue-gray Palisade cliffs drop precipitously into the Hudson River—never mind all the traffic and crowded towns nearby.
Farther north and to the west sprawl the scrappy Ramapo Mountains , while to the east you’ll glimpse the long, dark, silent reservoirs of New York City’s water system. Midway up the Valley begin the Hudson Highlands , an extension of the Appalachian Mountains made up of steep cliffs, craggy bluffs, and brooding blue-black peaks. Lush, loamy farmland, heavy with fruits and vegetables, characterizes the regions to the east, west, and north of the Highlands.
Along with its seductive landscape, the Hudson Valley lays claim to dozens of major historic sites, ranging from Revolutionary War battlefields  to grand river estates . The region also offers first-rate cultural institutions, offbeat museums, gourmet restaurants, luxurious hostelries, and glorious state parks.
The easiest way to explore the Hudson Valley is by car. However, many towns along the east bank of the Hudson River and some in Westchester’s Harlem Valley and Orange County are serviced by Metro-North Commuter Railroad (212/532-4900 or 800/638-7646), which leaves Grand Central Station in Manhattan . Taxis are usually available at the villages’ railroad stations. Amtrak (800/872-7245) provides rail service between New York City  and Rhinecliff, Hudson, and points further north.
If traveling up the Hudson Valley by train, be sure to sit on the left-hand side of the car. The railroad hugs the eastern shoreline and offers spectacular views.
Adirondack-Pine Hill Trailways (212/967-2900 or 800/225-6815) and Shortline Bus (212/736-4700 or 800/631-8405) offer daily bus service between the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan  and many Hudson Valley communities.
Travelers can opt to fly into either New York City or the Albany County Airport. Among the major airlines flying into Albany  are American (800/433-7300), Delta (800/221-1212), Northwest (800/225-2525), and United (800/241-6522).