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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Susan Bednar

Local Field Trip: Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Location: 218 Spring St, Catskill, NY 12414

Public Parking: Yes

Hours: Grounds: Everyday, dawn to dusk | Museum: Hours vary seasonally: check the website.

Food: Allowed on grounds & trails.

The Era of Romanticism encapsulated a quickly expanding America, encouraging a new age for forward thinkers, writers, artists, and entrepreneurs. The Hudson River School of Art was a movement that formed throughout New England, commemorating the vast beauty of the uncharted lands that had yet to be built upon. Thomas Cole was founder of the Hudson River School, known to this day as the father of the American Landscape. In the later years of his life, Cole purchased a farm in Catskill, New York that currently functions as a national landmark and museum. While this post is dedicated to visiting the artist’s home, you can read more about his life in our blog post A Brief History of Thomas Cole. We hope this curated guide aids you in what to do when planning out a local field trip to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

The Hudson River Art Trail:

If the weather permits, take advantage of the morning light and explore the grounds of the historic property. Traverse the Hudson River Art Trail, a curated tribute to the sites that inspired the masterful artworks that came from the artists of the Hudson River School. The Thomas Cole House partners with multiple organizations, including Olana Estate to sponsor the Hudson River Art Trail. Olana’s grounds expand across 250 acres of protected land, including many hiking trails, waterfalls, and various historic landmarks. Stand in the exact spots where the artist would have sketched in nature, comparing the paintings to the land in real life. Be sure to pack a light picnic for lunchtime - stop at one of the many dedicated picnic tables, benches, or rest areas and enjoy!

Plan a multiple-day trip dedicated to seeing the entire trail, sprinkling in visits to the 16 preserved sites along the trail. Included in this list is the infamous Kaaterskill Falls, the Catskill Mountain House, and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. Plan a trip dedicated to seeing more of the trail, as it spans over New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Wyoming. The Hudson River School website has a great list of more intensive itineraries to reference for planning your trip, including ideas for spending a couple hours to a couple of weeks.

There is a range of beginner-friendly to advanced self-guided tours of the trails (which are all dog friendly)! To encourage hiker safety, the website has downloadable lists of what to bring on hikes and paddle expeditions. Guided Tours of the trails are offered seasonally and are updated on the site calendar.

Historic Home Tour:

Spend some time touring the home of the legendary artist by booking a tour. The Thomas Cole House offers 50-minute sessions where guests can experience the artist’s house, studio, and grounds with the input from a knowledgeable guide. Gaze upon the works of the greats as you explore the home, with original paintings of the Hudson River School artists hang upon the walls. Dive deep into history and watch a short documentary about Cole's life, the Hudson River School artists, and the influence they had on the expansion of the Catskills. If you want to sample the home before visiting, the website offers a digital tour of the home for viewing. Private tours are available by appointment - reserve by emailing (include the size of your group along with the requested date & time of the visit).

Exhibition Experience: The Parlors

Enjoy an immersive installation by taking part in The Parlors. This video exhibition combines technology-driven storytelling with a theatrical experience. Feel as if you’re stepping back into history in the historical room, as audio from Thomas Cole’s journals & private letters are projected onto the walls while an informative narration plays aloud (voiced by Jamie Bell). Walk around the room and discover furniture "coming alive" as projections play from within physical props (like "Cole's Journal"). This Museum exhibition won the Bronze metal in the Experience Design & Technology Awards in 2018, celebrating the immersion of social media and technology as a lens in which history can be explored. This innovative exploration at historical storytelling is definitely something you’ll want to put on your day trip itinerary.

Museum Exhibitions:

If you plan your visit around the museum’s exhibition schedule, then you can spend your evening touring the rotating exhibitions on property through the year. One of 2023's installations includes “The Pollinator Pavilion”, designed by internationally renowned artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood. Keep an eye on their events calendar for more information.

Hudson River Skywalk:

Witness the views that the Hudson River School artist’s captured through their paintings. After you’ve toured the grounds and visited the gift shop, the sun will be close to setting. For the perfect view over the water, make the short drive over to the Hudson River Skywalk. This pedestrian scenic walkway spans for six miles on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge that connects the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Frederic Church’s Olana. Since you’ll be perfectly in the center of Hudson and Catskill, you’ll have your choice of restaurants to go to for dinner. Both historic towns offer a variety of restaurants, from casual joints to finer dining.

We hope you enjoyed this curated guide to planning a field trip to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Want to take a deeper dive into history? Check out our blog post: A Brief History of Thomas Cole and A Brief History of Frederic Church. Thank you for reading.

the {verdigreen} hotels team

Looking for somewhere to stay in the Hudson Valley? Check out one of our three upstate properties in Woodstock, Tannersville, and East Chatham.

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