Go Orange! Orange County, NY
Harness Racing Hall of Fame
Purple Heart Hall of Fame
Boat Ride of the Hudson
Of eight counties named Orange in the United States, Orange County, NY, was the first. And, that is only one claim to fame for this county on the Hudson River. It is home to America’s oldest continuously operating winery, America's oldest continuously garrisoned Army installation, the oldest active harness racing track for trotters in North America, and Washington slept here.
From the vines
"Put on your drinking boots!" said Colleen Hughes of Brotherhood Winery at the beginning of the tour of Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville. Established in 1839, it is the oldest continuously operating winery in the nation. John Jaques, a French immigrant, who produced the first commercial vintage, started the winery. The winery changed hands over the years and in 1886 the large stone building with underground cellars were added. The cellars are the largest in the U.S. Brotherhood, on the NY State and National Register of historic places, is just one of the six wineries in Orange County, most of which are included on the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Each Orange County winery has it’s own special flavor. Try Doc’s Hard Apple Cider at Warwick Winery tucked away on the country road south of Chester and Palaia Winery in Highland Mills serves up music with it’s wine several times a week.
Duty, Honor, Country
West Point is America's oldest continuously garrisoned Army installation, the nation's first engineering school, and the home of the United States Corps of Cadets since 1802. Built in January 1778 it was the first military post after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The motto of West Point "Duty, Honor, & Country" has not changed. The West Point Museum and bus tour of the Point is a trip through American history. At Trophy Point see a few links of the chain that crossed the Hudson River preventing the British from invading the rest of New York State. Pointing to the sports field, the guide shared, "Eisenhower was a member of the Century Club. This is where he had to walk off his demerits." In the West Point chapel is the world’s largest church organ with free concerts held at three on Sundays.
After Benedict Arnold’s act of treason there was no way to be sure that the security of West Point had not been breached so Washington set up his headquarters in nearby Newburgh. He spent more time at his Newburgh headquarters than anywhere else during the Revolutionary War and it is where he created and awarded the original purple heart badge. Not far away in New Windsor is the new, interactive National Purple Heart Hall of Honor remembering those who received the award throughout America’s wars.
Shop ‘til you drop
The village of Sugar Loaf has a rich and colorful history. It once served as the sacred burial ground for the Minisink Indians but the Wawayanda Patent and the building of King's Highway in the late 1730's led to the founding of Sugar Loaf by colonial settlers. Sugar Loaf became known as a craft and provision center for farmers and as a horse trading area. By 1830 the villagers of Sugar Loaf prospered providing the nearby farmers with supplies and services, boasting a wagon maker, cabinet maker, carpet factory, cheese factory, tannery, two coopers, a blacksmith, general store, a grist and sawmill. In the late 1960's, America experienced a craft revival. With a history of over two centuries as a center for handmade goods, Sugar Loaf symbolized this craft renaissance. New artisans moved in and the hamlet's population doubled. Now, in the 21st century many of these creative people still live and work at their crafts with the same commitment and skill as their predecessors. Wander the boardwalk, stroll down the alley, smell the aroma of scented candles being made, and chat with the artists. Most of the working studios are housed in quaint homes over 100 years old and are open to the public.
If a designer label not the personal signature of the designer is of more interest then head to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley where they claim to have the "world’s largest collection of luxury designer and name brand outlets." Looking for something old? No problem. In every quaint village, around every turn is a shop to thrill the antique hunter.
Get your heart racing
Before baseball, there was harness racing, the sport known as "American’s Original Pastime." Founded in 1838, Goshen is the oldest active harness racing track for trotters in North America. At the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, Gail Cunard explained, "Harness racing has no boundaries. Drivers are black, white, male, female, and we have a driver in his 80s." Thanks to the world’s only 3-D Harness Racing Simulator even visitors can feel the thrill of being a driver – bumps, turns, and all – all except dirt actually flying in their face. Nearly all of the harness racing trotters today can trace their lineage back to Hambletonian 10 – a stallion bred on a farm in Sugar Loaf.
Need to rev up your engine to get your heart racing? Orange County Choppers is in New York not in California as many think. The custom motorcycle manufacturer opened their new international headquarters designed to combine their production and retail facilities in Newburgh in April 2008.
America’s smallest forest has only one tree, an eastern cottonwood that’s over three hundred years old. The Balmville tree outside of Newburgh is on the National Register of Historic Places. But, over 25 percent of Orange County is made up of parks, reservoirs, and nature preserves with trails for hiking and biking. It is home to the Shawangunks, low, undulating mountains that border the Hudson River. The area has been designated by The Nature Conservancy as one of the "75 Last Great Places on Earth." Nearby is The Storm King Art Center, a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. The five hundred acres of landscaped lawns, field, and woodlands are the gallery for over 100 post-World War II sculptures by internationally renowned artists. Take a sightseeing cruise through history and the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on the Pride of the Hudson. For more information on things to see and do check www.orangetourism.org or call 800-CALL-NYS.