Holiday fun in the Hudson Valley, New York + new hometown things

Hello and happy new year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with loved ones. I spent the past 3 weeks in my hometown in Poughkeepsie, New York where I rang in the holidays with family. No matter what is going on in life, I always love ending each year at home as it’s often the only time each year when my siblings and parents all get together since we’re all spread out. Since 2022 was filled with my gap year travels, I hadn’t seen my family since last Christmas, and it was so heartwarming to all be together again and do our favorite holiday traditions. Joe also flew out to New York during the second half of my visit, so this year was extra special as we got to spend the holidays together for the first time. πŸ™‚

A lot of our family’s energy was spent hanging out with my brother’s corgi (judging by the number of pictures on my phone). He is almost 2 years old, so there was still plenty of excitement for the newest member of our family. He was a constant source of positive energy as we loved taking him for walks around the neighborhood and watching him run in the snow.

My sister and I decorated our Christmas tree – one of our favorite traditions. My sister always puts together the best Christmas playlists, and my mom is always in charge of the Christmas lights as it’s a surprisingly confusing task that only mom can do. πŸ˜‰

Christmas day was a very nice one. We all stayed home, opened gifts, and ate way too much sugar.

Our annual family photo in our living room. Taking this photo was quite the feat. My dad assumes the role of professional iPhone photographer and gives us all directions…and many, many takes later, we get the perfect shot. Another one of our quirky family traditions. πŸ˜›

Chirstmas dinner was hot pot, our favorite!

Aside from downtime at home, I spent more time than usual exploring different sites around Poughkeepsie, especially since I wanted to show Joe the best of my hometown. Is it just me, or do people also see their hometown in a totally different light as an adult? Also, thanks to the exodus of New York City folks who moved up to the Hudson Valley during the pandemic, a lot of rural towns I knew growing up have transformed into charming, bustling communities with a poppin’ young professional scene.

One of these towns was Kingston, about 40 minutes north of Poughkeepsie. Anna visited Kingston from NYC for a weekend trip, and I drove up so we could catch up! Long-time readers of this blog will remember Anna as my best friend from SF when I first moved there…she moved to NYC in 2019, and we’ve stayed close friends since. It was so heartwarming to see each other again and catch up about life – it felt like no time had passed. And as a bonus, we got to explore the new-and-improved Kingston, which felt like a mini-Brooklyn. πŸ˜›

One afternoon, my siblings, Joe, and I did an outing to Beacon – 30 minutes south of Poughkeepsie. We went to an arcade / bar and explored the main street of Beacon. Of all the towns we came across, I loved Beacon the most! Compared to suburban Beacon I knew growing up, it’s now a fun, hipster town with lots of eateries and nightlife. We had a fun time bonding together over drinks and games.

Another day, Joe and I visited New Paltz, 30 minutes west of Poughkeepsie. My dad teaches at the college in New Paltz, and I hadn’t visited since I was a kid accompanying my dad to work. As an adult, I appreciated the town and its quaint college-town vibes.

After our New Paltz visit, we drove up to Minnewaska State Park, which has my favorite hikes in the area. We drove up a mountain and there was plenty snow, which was a beautiful sight as we didn’t get much snow down in Poughkeepsie. We did my favorite hike, Lake Minnewaska – the white snow along the frozen lake was so beautiful.

The Hudson Valley is also known for having many historic estates along the Hudson River. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and we crossed all my favorite ones off the list.

Joe and I visited the Roosevelt estate, where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt used to live. The Roosevelt mansion is one of the top attractions of the area, as it’s a beautiful, massive property right along the Hudson River. We opted out of the mansion tour, but we enjoyed walking around the grounds, soaking in the history, and walking through the network of trails.

We also explored the Vanderbilt estate, a short 3 miles next to the Roosevelts. The Vanderbilt mansion is my favorite one as I feel like the hikes are the prettiest. The fall is an especially magical sight.

Another one was the Locust Grove estate, which belonged to Samuel Morse (the inventor of morse code). Constantine came with us and he was in dog heaven.

And that sums up a wonderful visit back home! As for what’s next, Joe and I are heading back to Texas, which will be our home base while we figure out what’s next. As this blog knows, I quit my job earlier this year to fulfill my lifelong dream of traveling for a year…6 months backpacking through Asia, road tripping in our RV, weddings in Hawaii and Colorado, and family time in Texas and New York…it was honestly the best year of my life. I won’t go too much into gushy reflection because I already wrote a whole post on here. πŸ˜‰

But all good things must come to an end, and while I’m filled with the usual amount of excitement for a new year, I can’t help but feel sad that my gap year is over. I knew this slightly depressing period would happen so at least I was mentally prepared for it. Despite this inevitable sadness, I’m trying to channel my gratitude for finally completing this dream of mine. I know I have my whole life ahead of me, and despite facing uncertainty ahead, I’m feeling motivated and hopeful. ❀

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