Looking for all the amazing things to do in Kingston, New York? You’ve come to the right place! This guide will cover all the must-see sites and what to check out during your visit to this historic Hudson Valley town and one of the most charming towns in New York!
Getting to Know Kingston, NY
This guide will cover all the best things to do in Kingston, but before we do, it’s worth knowing a few things before your visit one of the most charming towns in the Hudson Valley.
Kingston, New York is a historic city located at the base of the Catskill Mountains in Hudson Valley. Founded in 1652, Kingston played an important role in the American Revolution and even served as the first capital of New York State!
The city is split into 3 main historic districts:
- Stockade District
- Rondout District
- Midtown District
Probably the most popular is the Stockade District, which was the site of the first town settlement. Here, you can see the Old Dutch Church, built in 1659 among other historic landmarks in Kingston, New York.
There’s also the Rondout District, which runs along Rondout Creek and was once a thriving shipping port. This is where the Hudson River Maritime Museum is located, another popular Kingston attraction.
And Kingston’s Midtown District is the most commercial of the 3, with a mix of historic and modern buildings. You’ll want to come here for a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as exciting street art.
Today, Kingston is known for its vibrant history, beautiful architecture, and thriving arts and cultural scene. The city is home to many museums, galleries, and craft boutiques. It’s also popular for its food scene, boasting a variety of top-notch restaurants and cafes.
Located about 90 miles north of New York City, Kingston is easily accessible by car or train. It’s situated along the Hudson River, just north of Poughkeepsie, and is a popular destination for visitors exploring the Hudson Valley region.
What to do in Kingston
Tour the Rondout Lighthouse
One of the top Kingston attractions is the Rondout Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse located at the mouth of Rondout Creek on the Hudson River. Built in 1915, the lighthouse served as a beacon for ships navigating the Hudson River until 1954.
Today, the Rondout Lighthouse is maintained by the Hudson River Maritime Museum and offers tours from May to October.
You can only reach the lighthouse by taking a boat from the museum’s dock during tours. Once there, you’ll climb to the top of the lighthouse tower for panoramic views of the Hudson River and the surrounding area on a guided tour.
During tours, you’ll learn about the history of the lighthouse and its keepers, as well as the important role that lighthouses played on the Hudson River. The tour also includes a visit to the keeper’s quarters, where exhibits showcase the daily life of lighthouse keepers and their families.
Tours of the Rondout Lighthouse are popular, and you should book in advance to secure a spot! But even if you’re in Kingston out of season, it’s still lovely to catch views of the lighthouse from shore, especially surrounded by fall foliage.
If you don’t want to take a tour but still see this historic Kingston attraction, head to Kingston Point Rail Trail or Sleightsburgh Park for views.
Visit the Historic Four Corners
A visit to Four Corners is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Kingston, especially if you’re interested in American history or like interesting historic spots!
Four Corners is actually an intersection located at Crown and John Streets in the Stockade District of Kingston. And it’s the only spot in the US where you can see buildings on all 4 corners that predate the Revolutionary War!
The houses at Four Corners, all of which date back as early as the late 1600s, are rare examples of Dutch and English architectural styles used during the colonial era. They are the Dr. Matthew Jansen House, the Matthewis Persen House, Kingston Academy, and the Franz Roggen House.
Dating back to 1663, the Jansen House is the oldest. It’s a Dutch stone house style that was popular in the Hudson Valley at the time. The next oldest is the Persen House, which existed as early as 1698. Next is the Roggen House, built in 1752. It’s thought that the Roggen House was part of the Underground Railroad! And the Kingston Academy Building is the largest of the buildings and was built in 1773.
During the Revolutionary War, the British burnt down most of the buildings in Kingston and much of the Hudson Valley. It’s not common to find such well-preserved structures from this era. It feels like stepping back in time!
Both the Jansen House and the Roggen House are privately owned. (We’ll check out the bar in the Kingston Academy building below!) And the Persons House is a history museum that runs from May through October. It’s a great stop if you want to learn about the region and see lots of historic artifacts.
But even if you can’t go into all the houses, Four Corners is still a joy to walk around. All these houses have been beautifully restored and offer a glimpse into life in the Hudson Valley during the colonial era.
Read and Drink at Rough Draft Bar & Books
If you love the combo of books and good drinks as we do, you’ll love Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston, New York! It’s set inside the Kingston Academy building, one of the historic Four Corners buildings that predate the Revolutionary War. Inside, this cozy and welcoming bar and bookstore features historic details and tons of charm.
What sets Rough Draft Bar & Books apart is its warm and inviting atmosphere, which encourages visitors to stay and enjoy a good book. And we love the play on words in the name too! The bookstore offers a wide selection of books, both new and used. You can browse the shelves while enjoying a cup of coffee or a beer, and there’s also a selection of bar snacks and small plates available.
The bar hosts a variety of events, including book clubs, trivia nights, and author readings. It’s a popular spot for both locals and visitors. And the business is also committed to sustainability, with a focus on sourcing local and organic ingredients for its menu. You can visit Rough Draft Bar & Books every day from 8 AM to 8 PM.
If you like this concept, Hudson, New York also has a bar/bookshop called Spotty Dog Books & Ale and is another amazing town to check out while you’re in the area!
Hudson River Maritime Museum
You’ll find the Hudson River Maritime Museum located along the Roundout Creek inlet just northeast of the Loughran Bridge. It’s a fascinating stop where you can learn about the history of the Hudson River. Housed in an old ferry terminal, the museum features a wide range of exhibits and artifacts covering different aspects of the maritime history of the Hudson River.
You can see exhibits on the role of the Hudson River in the American Revolution, the development of steamboat technology, and the history of the Hudson’s shipping industry. Even if you’re not interested in boats, it’s worth a visit just to see the beautifully restored vessels that are displayed throughout the museum. I loved the stunning yacht from the 1920s!
What makes the Hudson River Maritime Museum one of the most popular things to do in Kingston is the Riverport Wooden Boat School. This is a program where you can take classes and workshops on traditional boatbuilding and maritime skills. At the museum, you can also take boat tours of the Hudson River aboard the Solaris, a gorgeous restored wooden boat.
The museum’s knowledgeable staff are passionate about what they do and provide a wealth of information on everything you’ll find here. You can visit Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM. There’s a small admission fee and kids under 5 are free.
Check out Vintage Trains at the Trolley Museum of New York
If you’re in Kingston on the weekends, the Trolley Museum is a fun and unique visit! Located across the street from the maritime museum, it’s a low-key attraction on an actual retired trolley line. It features a collection of vintage trolleys, train cars, and other vehicles that used to run throughout the region and around the world.
Kingston was once a major transportation hub and had an extensive trolley system. The trolley lines in Kingston operated from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century. They played a significant role in the city’s development and growth. With the rising popularity of cars and buses, the trolleys stopped running in 1939.
In the 1970s, residents formed the Trolley Museum of New York which continues to be a beloved destination for both tourists and locals to this day. The museum’s main exhibit is its collection of trolleys from the early 1900s to the mid-20th century. You can walk through the restored trolleys and learn about their history.
One of the most popular attractions is the chance to ride on a vintage trolley along an actual historic trolley line a short walk from the museum. The Trolley Museum also features vintage buses, cars, and trucks. And there’s a working restoration shop, where you can see volunteers restoring museum vehicles.
Inside the Trolley Museum, you can see model trains, artifacts, and more. There are hands-on activities for children and a gift shop. The museum also hosts different events and programs throughout the year. You can visit Saturdays and Sundays from late April/early May through late October. Hours are announced seasonally on their website.
Check Out the Cool Vintage Clothing Stores
A big draw to the Catskills and the Hudson Valley is the concentration of vintage and antique shopping to be found there. Kingston is a popular destination for shoppers with its own assembly of curated boutiques, consignment shops, and vintage clothing stores.
You’ll find most of them around the Stockade District, like Lovefield Vintage. This was one of our favorites, featuring a lovely collection of retro pieces, accessories, and vintage knick-knacks.
And Capital Vintage offers a mix of both vintage clothing and household goods.
Head down Broadway to Rewind Kingston if you prefer a classic, casual thrift store with great clothing and other fun items like vintage VHS tapes and Barbie dolls.
Or for a more catered experience, you can book an appointment on the weekends at MOD.VIN. It’s located on the southern end of Broadway in the Roundout District.
Find Your Next Treasure Antique Shopping
One of the best things to do in Kingston is go antique shopping. You could spend a few days here and never run out of places to visit! These are just a few of our favorites:
Zaborski Emporium is awesome if you love hunting for treasures, come here! It’s housed inside an old factory. Inside this 40,000-square-foot warehouse, you’ll find everything from salvaged architecture pieces to collections of rotary-style phones and antique cameras.
Milne Antiques is another one of our favorites. Do you love cottage core? French antiques? Custom restorations? Rebecca Milne has it all. Come peruse her curated storefront or book an appointment for an antique appraisal.
Kingston Consignments is the place to come for that classic antique store feel with tons of mid-century items. You’ll find vintage furniture, home goods, textiles, kitchenware, wall art, and much more.
More Shopping at all the Cool Boutiques
One thing that Kingston is not short of is great shopping. We especially loved all the cool shops in the Stockade District! You’ll find them all along Wall Street and N Front Street, which is where Rhino Records is located. It’s one of those places with a guy behind the counter who’s a walking encyclopedia on the massive body of records you’ll find here. It’s also a great place to find old VHS tapes, CDs, and books.
Further down N Front Street is Rocket Number Nine Records. We loved the relaxing vibes here as we flipped through bins full of vintage records.
Nearby, Newt Boutique is absolutely darling if you love curated gift shops. The vibes are immaculate with one-of-a-kind totes, pretty stationary, scented candles, and more.
And you have to stop at Blue Cashew Kitchen. This home goods store is stunning with the best collection of high-end kitchenware and unique food items. While you’re there, ask about the cooking classes they offer!
Walk Around To See All the Street Art
If you’re interested in art and wondering what to do in Kingston, definitely go on a street art tour. Kingston, New York has a thriving street art scene that has become a popular attraction in recent years.
Many of the murals in Kingston have a strong social or political message. Other murals are simply meant to beautify public spaces and showcase the creativity and talent of local artists.
You can find murals throughout every neighborhood, covering a diverse range of styles and mediums. These include large-scale murals on the sides of buildings, as well as smaller installations and graffiti-style art.
If you’re hanging out in the Stockade District, look especially along Crown Street and N Front Street. The largest concentration is in the Midtown District, all up and down Broadway and along St. James Street.
The Kingston street art scene is a beautiful example of community. It all centers around O Positive, a non-profit group with the goal of supporting marginalized and underrepresented artists in Kingston.
Their biggest event is an annual mural festival in October, which brings together local and international artists to create murals throughout the city. The festival aims to beautify public spaces and promote community engagement through art.
But the ultimate purpose of O Positive is to bring together artists and local businesses and organizations. Through these relationships, local artists receive necessary medical care and other services so they can focus on their art. What a wonderful cause!
Overall, street art in Kingston, New York is a dynamic part of the city’s cultural landscape. It provides a glimpse into the diversity of the city’s residents and is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the area.
Grab a Bite to Eat at Rosie General
Rosie General is a popular restaurant located in the heart of Kingston’s Roundout District. The family-owned cafe and bakery is known for its delicious farm-to-table cuisine and cozy atmosphere.
At the storefront, you can pick up a variety of things to go, like fresh baked goods, meat and cheese by the pound, and fresh produce. We got a few things including their chili crisp, which we finished in our kitchen way too fast!
They also have cold drinks and classic deli items like potato salad and marinated olives. We got homemade chili crisp and a few other things. It’s also a great place for a sit-down breakfast or lunch.
The menu at Rosie General features a variety of seasonal dishes that showcase the flavors and ingredients of the Hudson Valley region. But the restaurant is probably best known for its old-school feel. And the restaurant’s interior is decorated with vintage-inspired decor, including ample indoor and outdoor seating.
Keep in mind when visiting Rosie General that because of their strict rules on sourcing, they don’t make substitutions and may not cater to every diet. Stop by Tuesday through Sunday, from 9 AM to 4 PM (the kitchen closes at 3). Note that the breakfast menu is served all day on Tuesdays.
Learn about Sojourner Truth at Ulster County Courthouse
The Ulster County Courthouse is one of the oldest court buildings in New York State. The original Ulster County court actually dates back to 1683 and played an important role in the formation of government in New York during the Revolutionary War. It was burnt down by the British during the war. The current courthouse was built in its place in 1789, in the heart of the Stockade District in Kingston.
The courthouse is especially significant for its connection to Sojourner Truth, a famous abolitionist and women’s rights activist who was born into slavery in Ulster County in the late 18th century. The courthouse is where Truth won the momentous court ruling saving her son from enslavement at this site in 1828.
Today, visiting the Ulster County Courthouse is one of the popular things to do in Kingston. Outside, you can see the Sojourner Truth historical plaque, a powerful monument that pays tribute to this remarkable woman and her enduring legacy. You can’t go inside the courthouse. But if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Ulster County Courthouse and the historic Stockade District, take a walking tour.
A few doors down on Wall Street, the Friends of Historic Kingston Museum offers a great informative walking tour that includes a stop at the courthouse. The tour includes accounts of the history of Ulster County and the role that the courthouse played in the fight for social justice and equality.
Get a Sweet Treat at Sweet Maresa’s
Also on Wall Street is the cutest French bakery, Sweet Maresa’s. Stop in for an afternoon pick-me-up of vegan macarons and coffee! The beautiful café is full of light, gold fixtures, and Art Deco detailing. Here, it’s all about the little touches, with hand-stamped labels, edible flowers, and more.
The bakery was founded by Maresa Volante, a self-taught baker with a passion for French pastries. Sweet Maresa’s is committed to using locally sourced, organic, ingredients whenever possible. Plus, all the sweets you’ll find here are vegan. They also use compostable packaging materials and donate leftover food to local charities.
At Sweet Maresa’s, you can indulge in a wide variety of treats, including beautifully crafted macarons in a rainbow of colors and flavors. The bakery also offers a range of other desserts, such as cakes, tarts, cookies, and chocolates. You can also choose from coffee, chai, and vegan hot chocolate. Everything is made with the highest quality ingredients and expert craftsmanship. And everything is stunning to look at!
Visit the Senate State Historic Site
One of the best historical landmarks in Kingston is the Senate State Historic Site. During the late 1600s, Dutch settlers established what is now the Stockade and Uptown districts of Kingston.
Since it was built in 1676, the Senate House was an important gathering spot during the early history of New York State and the United States. It was also the first place the New York Senate gathered after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1777.
Today, the Senate State Historic Site includes 3 historic structures, the Senate House, the Museum, and the Loughran House. You can visit them from mid-April through the end of October. The hours are 10 AM to 5 PM Wednesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 PM on Sundays. There’s an admission fee for everyone over 12 years that gives you access to a tour of all 3 buildings.
The Senate House itself features Dutch colonial architecture, with many of the original features still intact. Inside the museum, you’ll learn about the American Revolution and the early history of Kingston. You’ll also learn about the lives of the people who lived in the Hudson Valley during this period.
The museum has tons of artifacts, like Dutch colonial furniture, works by artists who lived in the region at the time, and documents related to the American Revolution. And a tour of the Loughran House shows how prominent town residents lived in the 1800s.
Visit the Old Dutch Church
One of the most popular things to do in Kingston for anyone interested in the history of the area is visit the Old Dutch Church. Like much of the Stockade District, the church has a long history connected to the tumultuous events of the early United States. The church was originally established in 1660 as part of the Dutch colony.
Over the years, the church saw many major events in New York’s history, including wars with the native tribes, as well as Dutch, then British, then American rule! The original church was burnt down and rebuilt several times, with the current bluestone structure being built in 1852.
During the American Revolution, the Old Dutch Church sided with the rebel patriots. George Washington visited the church and you can see a letter from the first president inside the church. And during the Civil War, the church fielded the 120th Regiment which played an important role in ending the conflict under General Ulysses S. Grant. Today, the colors of the 120th Regiment fly inside the church.
Between services and church events, you can walk through and see old artifacts and relics that tell the story of the church and the city of Kingston. A major highlight of the Old Dutch Church is its cemetery. It’s the final resting place of several notable figures from Kingston. This includes George Clinton, the only person to serve as Vice President under 2 different presidents.
While you’re planning your visit, make sure to check the church calendar. They host events throughout the early. This includes fun weekly gatherings, a farmers market, and patriotic events throughout the year.
Take a Scenic Ride on Catskill Mountain Railroad
While you’re in Kingston, don’t miss out on a chance to ride the Catskill Mountain Railroad! You’ll find it near the Kingston Plaza shopping center in the Stockade District. Riding the train is largely geared toward families, but it’s truly fun for all ages.
The railroad was originally built in the 1860s as part of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad. It played an important role in the development of the region by connecting the Hudson River to the Catskill Mountains before it shut down in the 1950s.
Today, the Catskill Mountain Railroad offers a variety of scenic train rides that take visitors through some of the most beautiful parts of Hudson Valley. The railroad operates on a seasonal schedule, with different rides available throughout the year. You can choose between open and closed train cars, and most rides take about 90 minutes.
One of the most popular rides is the Fall Foliage Train Ride, which takes visitors on a scenic journey through the stunning fall foliage! And the Twilight Limited Specials that run during the summer are a must. You’ll enjoy an evening ride in open cars with live music and views of the starry night sky.
Take a Hudson River Sightseeing Cruise
One way to take in all the beauty of the Hudson River and Hudson Valley is by water! If you’re looking for a relaxing way to float down the Hudson, check out the Hudson River Cruises sightseeing cruises which depart from Kingston.
From aboard the Rip Van Winkle II you’ll get to see the Hudson River lighthouses up close, Gilded Age mansions from a unique perspective, bridges, scenery, and other Hudson River landmarks in the area.
Better yet, you don’t just get to look at these beauitful regional landmarks, but learn about them too as the sightseeing cruises are all narrated whether you’re sitting in the lower indoor deck or upper outdoor deck.
This is definetely what to do in Kingston if you’re looking for a leisurely way to explore the area! Advance purchase of tickets is highly encouraged.
Things to do Nearby Kingston
Visit Woodstock, NY
Located just 20 minutes from Kingston, Woodstock is a charming and artistic community that deserves its own getaway and is one of the best towns in the Catskills to visit! But if you only have half a day, it’s close enough that you can still enjoy this lovely village! Woodstock is known for its arts community, food scene, and beautiful natural surroundings.
One of our favorite things to do in Woodstock is explore the colorful boutique shops, gift shops, and art galleries, especially along Tinker Street. We also love to sample local cuisine in the village’s many restaurants, cafes, and bakeries.
The area around Woodstock boasts great hiking trails and outdoor activities too. We suggest Overlook Mountain for great views of the area and interesting ruins along the way.
And Woodstock is home to fascinating cultural attractions like the Woodstock Playhouse and a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery that you can visit!
Enjoy another chance to stretch your legs and visit Opus 40, just west of Woodstock and one of the most unique things to do in the Catskills and cool places to visit in the Hudson Valley region. It’s a 7-acre sculpture park and museum that features the work of artist Harvey Fite. He spent over 37 years sculpting a massive sculpture park out of a bluestone quarry.
You can explore the intricate stone pathways, terraces, and Fite’s sculptures, as well as installations by guest artists. The park includes Fite House, which was the residence and studio of Harvey Fite. Admission gives you access to the house and the park, and you can pay additional fees on Sundays for guided tours.
Opus 40 also hosts a variety of events throughout the year. And the park holds different hours in every season, which they keep up to date on their website.
Visit New Paltz, NY
For more things to do near Kingston, NY, New Paltz is a must-visit! This charming college town is home to many boutiques, galleries, and cafes, especially along Main Street. And for more regional history, plan a few hours on Huguenot Street, one of the oldest and best-preserved colonial-era communities in the country.
If you’re looking for more outdoor things to do in New Paltz, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail runs through here. It’s part of the greater Empire State Trail Initiative and is a popular destination for hikers, runners, and cyclists with easy-to-follow paved paths.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve
And if you really want to get moving and enjoy the natural beauty of Hudson Valley, consider a day at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. This stunning natural oasis is located outside of New Paltz, about 20 minutes south of Kingston
The park boasts over 24,000 acres of pristine wilderness, including gorgeous waterfalls, clear mountain lakes, and scenic hiking trails. We recommend hiking the moderate 4-mile hike to Awosting Falls, a 60-foot cascading waterfall!
One of the most popular features of Minnewaska State Park Preserve is the Shawangunk Ridge, which offers stunning panoramic views of the Hudson Valley. Visitors can hike to the top of the ridge or take a drive along the scenic overlooks.
To get to Kingston, New York from NYC by train, you can take an Amtrak train from Penn Station to Rhinecliff-Kingston Station.
Kingston, NY is known for its rich history as the first capital of New York State. It offers charming architecture, a vibrant arts scene, and cultural attractions like the historic Rondout waterfront district, museums, galleries, and lively festivals throughout the year.
Start your day in Kingston, NY by exploring the historic uptown Stockade District, with its charming shops, cafes, and historic sites. Afterward, head to the Rondout waterfront for dining, shopping, and a scenic Hudson River boat tour.
Best Things to do in Kingston, New York Post Summary:
- Tour the Rondout Lighthouse
- Visit the Historic Four Corners
- Read and drink at Rough Draft Bar & Books
- Hudson River Maritime Museum
- Check out vintage trains at the Trolley Museum of New York
- Check out cool vintage clothing stores
- Find your next treasure antique shopping
- More shopping at all the cool boutiques
- Walk around to see all the street art
- Grab a bite to eat at Rosie General
- Learn about Sojourner Truth at Ulster County Courthouse
- Get a sweet treat at Sweet Maresa’s
- Visit the Senate State Historic Site
- Visit the Old Dutch Church
- Take a Scenic Ride on Catskill Mountain Railroad
- Take a Hudson River Sightseeing Cruise
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