HYDE PARK, N.Y. (WGGB) — Located about two hours from Springfield, Hyde Park, N.Y. is a town of approximately 20,000 residents that’s steeped in history with many great spots to visit.
A culinary school might not be at the top of your list for things to see on a road trip, but as you drive onto the 170 acre campus at the Culinary Institute of America, it’s clear that it’s much more than a cooking school.
It’s an institution that’s producing the top players in the culinary world.
“Many of Americans greatest chefs have trained here. You name it, people have people say this came here — one of these people could be the world’s next great celebrity chef. You get to see today,” says Stephan Hengst, the Director of Communications at the CIA.
“The Culinary Institute of America is a must see. People come from all over the country and world to train. The teachers are experts in their trades. When you come here, you are dining in their classrooms. I’m eating the food that these great chefs are preparing. You can take a class on a Saturday or a week long boot camp,” Hengst adds.
“Coming to the CIA is unique because there is no where else you can get food at this level. When you walk through the hallways, it’s like a big fish bowl. You can see into all of the classrooms. The students are also your servers, so they can tell you about their experiences. You can come and have a great meal. Visiting is an easy trip and you can easily have a great time here. ”
Although you may think at restaurants of this caliber that you’d need to make reservations a year in advance, calling just a couple of weeks ahead should be fine. Even if you’re in town on a whim, you should be able to get a table especially during the week.
Located not far from the CIA is another of Hyde Park’s most popular attractions.
The Vanderbilt Mansion is just a short ride down Route 9 and is surrounded by grand gates and fantastic grounds, all right along the Hudson River. A National Historical Site managed by the National Park Service, the Vanderbilt Mansion is one of the oldest estates in the Hudson River Valley.
“This estate belonged to Frederick Vanderbilt, built in 1898 as a country place. For the spring and fall, they would commute to New York City. It was more of a pleasure grounds. The mansion is 44,000 square feet of usable space,” says Allan Dailey, the Supervisory Park Ranger at the mansion.
The mansion and it’s grounds can take you back into the late nineteenth-century America, which makes it a popular tourist spot.
“This is literally one of the most remarkably in-tact estates. We have a landscape that is several hundred years old. A house that sits on the landscape with an view of the Hudson. It’s much the way it was when the house was lived in from 1898 to 1938,” Dailey notes, adding that the mansion has “a lot of outdoor activities and well as indoor and outdoor activities with lots of outdoor gardens.”
“There’s more to do than a house tour,” Dailey says.
Tours at the Vanderbilt Mansion are about one hour and are offered from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and run typically on the hour.
And the Vanderbilt’s weren’t the only historically significant family to call Hyde Park, NY home. Also along Route 9 is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Springwood, the lifelong home of America’s only four-term president, F.D.R.
“Franklin’s father James purchased the property in 1867. It’s actually a very small estate here along the Hudson River Valley. It was purchased for $40,000 and came with 110 acres and a 17 room house. [A pretty big house by today's standards?] It was considered a small estate, because of the other families in the area,” says John Foraker, Interpretative Ranger of the Homestead.
“Next town up above us and so forth. What makes the biggest impression on people when they walk onto the estate? It’s the property itself, when they learned about the history of the president. Significance of growing up as a boy here. He was born here, was raised here. Beginning of his 4th term as president ‘Everything within me calls out to the Hudson river.’ What is the biggest impact? Just to learn the history of the president. The major significance — overcoming polio and so forth. It’s very important for people to understand that it helps form his as a person and its something that he will carry on into his presidency.”
F.D.R.’s better half, Mrs. Roosevelt also had a favorite spot in Hyde Park – her beloved retreat Val-Kill. Although it’s a Roosevelt property, Val-Kill gives visitors an inside look into the private life of this First Lady.
Dimitrios Stratis, ranger at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, notes “Val-Kill was just an extension of the Roosevelt property. It was a spot where the Roosevelt’s enjoyed recreation…picnicking for fun. Mrs. Roosevelt eventually turned this into her own retreat.”
It was also a spot where dignitaries visited, including Winston Churchill and the King of Great Britain.
“Val-Kill became a personal space for Mrs. Roosevelt. She would usually be here at Val-Kill. When FDR passed away, Mrs. Roosevelt makes Val-Kill her residence. It’s her home. It remains her home until she passed away in 1962,” Stratis adds.
Stratis notes that those visiting the property are most struck by how “comfortable and unpretentious” the site is.
“People can relate to Mrs. Roosevelt. You can see the objects she handled and cared about. All of the people she loved and helped and helped her in return. The objects of art are really the objects that Mrs. Roosevelt found important — and most of these are photographs, they’re people,” Stratis says.
All these historical estates offer more than just a window into American history. Val-Kill, along with F.D.R.’s home and the Vanderbilt Mansion, all offer beautiful grounds for visitors to enjoy and hike.
If your driving through Hyde park, there’s one place you just can’t miss. Along route 9 is a traditional 50′s-style diner that’s offering everything from classic milkshakes to homemade desserts and even breads right down to the breadcrumbs on their amazing onion rings.
If there’s one place to do lunch here in Hyde park, it’s the Eveready Diner.
“It was a dream of my uncle’s and father. They were immigrants from Greece. They liked to work in the community and fill the needs of the people from around the area,” says Costa Vanikiotis.
This family-oriented eatery is a landmark in town.
“We like to cater to families, to children, to students of the community. We have a lot of colleges and school. We have a big community college that we try to cater to and do our best to get everyone in here hungry and leave happy. [It's got a fun atmosphere.] We have lot of young energy. A lot of students that work for us — a lot of local people. We try to surround ourselves with good energy to make the day go by quicker and makes everything better,” Vanikiotis adds
And it’s not just breakfast that’s offered all day long at the Eveready. Diners can enjoy the entire menu anytime they like.
In summary, Hyde Park is a sleepy little town with many hidden treasures, a great spot for a road trip.