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Autumn in NY's Hudson Valley: FDR, Rockefellers, Stone Barns farm, Storm King art and a bridge

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TARRYTOWN, N.Y. - Exploring the region north of New York City isn't just for locals, and autumn is one of the nicest times of year to do it. The Hudson Valley offers history, culture and outdoor attractions with Hudson River scenery as a backdrop, just an hour or two from Manhattan. Here are five places worth visiting.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

You could easily spend a full day touring sites dedicated to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, starting with exhibits at the presidential museum and library that bring to life FDR's leadership during the Great Depression and World War II.

Self-guided museum tours include footage of the aftermath of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and a radio broadcast of one of FDR's famous "Fireside Chats." FDR's political accomplishments are astounding — the only U.S. president elected four times, responsible for creating everything from Social Security to the Securities Exchange Commission. But his personal life is equally interesting, from his domineering mother, to his struggles with polio, to his relationships with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and other women.

Nearby National Park Service sites include Springwood, where FDR was born and lived; Val-Kill, Eleanor's retreat; and Top Cottage, FDR's private digs. Park rangers lead tours of the homes, providing glimpses of the Roosevelts' lives, from FDR's use of a manually operated elevator at Springwood after he was paralyzed from polio, to the guest list at Val-Kill, where Eleanor hosted John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and many others.

Open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through October, and until 5 p.m. November-March; adults, $9 for the museum ($18 if you add Springwood; Val-Kill and Top Cottage are separate), http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/museum/. The grounds and white marble tomb where FDR and Eleanor are buried are free to visit.

WALKWAY OVER THE HUDSON

A short drive from Hyde Park in Poughkeepsie, this bridge offers a scenic stroll across the Hudson River, 1.28 miles (2 kilometres) each way, 212 feet (64 metres) above the water. It's the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world — no cars, but bikes are OK — with free and paid parking nearby; https://www.walkway.org/ .

STORM KING ART Centre

This unique 500-acre (200-hectare) park in New Windsor houses more than 100 outdoor sculptures, many of them massive structures in bold shapes and colours that create dramatic silhouettes amid rolling fields, woodlands, waterways, open skies and mountain views. Take the free tram for a terrific overview of the grounds, then start walking or rent a bike onsite for a closer view of your favourite works. Highlights include Roy Lichtenstein's whimsical, colorful "Mermaid," emerging from a pond like a cartoon watercraft; Maya Lin's "Storm King Wavefield," an undulating, grass-covered earthwork; and through Nov. 9, Zhang Huan's enormous steel-and-copper disembodied Buddhas.

Open Wednesday-Sundays through Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (until 4:30 p.m. in November); adults, $15; http://www.stormking.org/ .

KYKUIT, THE ROCKEFELLER ESTATE

The Hudson Valley's historic sites range from Philipsburg Manor, an 18th-century farm and mill, to Sunnyside, the riverside home of Washington Irving, the 19th-century author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

But for 20th-century history, nothing beats the Rockefeller estate at Kykuit (pronounced Ky-kut, an old Dutch term for lookout). The 40-room mansion and grounds with unspoiled views of the Hudson (the Rockefellers bought up property to preserve the view) offer a fascinating look at the family's wealth and trappings, from ancient Chinese vases, encased in plastic boxes so kids wouldn't knock them over, to basement hallways lined with Nelson Rockefeller's modern art collection. Generations of Rockefellers lived here, starting with John D., co-founder of Standard Oil, America's first billionaire; his son John Jr., the philanthropist; and Junior's offspring, including Nelson, a New York governor and vice-president under Gerald Ford.

Located in Sleepy Hollow, a variety of tours are offered Wednesday-Sunday through Nov. 9, plus Mondays in October; http://www.hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit .

STONE BARNS CENTER FOR FOOD & AGRICULTURE

This isn't the usual agritourism attraction with machines dispensing pellets to feed baby goats. Instead, Stone Barns is a non-profit working farm dedicated to education. Come see free-range turkeys and chickens, a barn full of piglets, greenhouses, organic gardens overflowing with flowers and herbs, vegetable fields, compost heaps, a buzzing apiary and wooded paths.

Located near Kykuit in Pocantico Hills, Stone Barns belonged to the Rockefellers and was turned into an education site by David Rockefeller (John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s son) in honour of his late wife Peggy, an advocate for farmland preservation. The farm has a commercial partnership with chef Dan Barber, who operates two fancy restaurants, Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, but for an affordable sample of Stone Barns flavours, visit the onsite Grain Bar for salads, frittatas, sandwiches and sweets.

Open Wednesday-Sunday, with a $10 admission fee per car Friday-Sunday; http://www.stonebarnscenter.org/ .

GETTING THERE

The Hudson Valley is an hour or two by car from Manhattan, depending on your destination. Driving is the easiest way to go, especially if visiting more than one site, but there is some public transit available. Coach USA buses run from Manhattan's Port Authority station to Storm King. From the MetroNorth train station in Tarrytown, it's a 10-minute cab ride to Stone Barns or to where Kykuit tours meet at the Philipsburg Manor Visitor Center. MetroNorth and Amtrak trains serve Poughkeepsie, with the River Station restaurant, across from the train station, running free shuttles to Hyde Park.

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