Visiting Franklin D. Roosevelt National Park and Hudson Valley, NY
Located in the Hudson Valley of New York State, about halfway between New York City and Albany is one of many sites designated as a national park: the former home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The estate known as Springwood—located in Hyde Park, NY—is where the former President of the United States was born and remained the place he always felt was home. This mansion is also the location of the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, as well as the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. A lot of history lives amongst the walls and gardens of this former power couple, and visitors will be able to appreciate the depth of how their relationship and leadership truly changed the landscape of American lifestyle and politics.
Whenever visiting a national park, one of the first and most helpful spots to stop is the visitor’s center. Every national park provides these informative spaces to assist the public in points of interest, maps, history, animal and plant life, and general information about the park. Each visitor’s center is unique to the park for which it is built, and it serves as the central hub of activity about how to sign up for tours, accommodations for special needs, finding trails, or even information about locations which may be closed temporarily, among many other things. Park rangers are there during normal park hours to offer assistance to visitors, and to help plan the best way to spend your time at the park.
The Extensive Grounds
Aside from the extensive grounds full of gardens and trails, there are actually several structures and points of interest in this national park. Visitors may wish to visit the graves of both the former president and first lady, located in the rose garden on the property.
While alive, both FDR and Eleanor had smaller sanctuaries to which they retired when needing time away from the bustle of the mansion or the White House. These smaller cottages are located in the area of the estate, and visitors may be intrigued by the lifestyle of both the president who gave a famous hot-dog picnic for Queen Elizabeth at his cottage and his wife, who built a factory on the property where her own getaway cottage was situated.
Also, on the estate grounds, the FDR Library is the nation’s first of its kind built by a president. Roosevelt oversaw the building of the structure on the Springwood property, which he later donated to the US government. It is now managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. An impressive 14,000 volumes are kept in the library, all collected by Roosevelt himself. The former president also kept collections of stamps, naval paintings, lithographs, and other items of interest, all of which are on display on the grounds.
The Springwood Mansion was originally built in 1826 and was purchased by FDR’s father in 1867. In 1916, the house underwent significant renovations to achieve the grand size it is today. Roosevelt’s mother, Sara, remained in the home until her death in 1941, but the former president still maintained the home as his primary residence until his death. It was the presence of her mother-in-law, which apparently spurred Eleanor to desire her own place to retreat from the home, which was largely still managed by Sara while she was alive.
Visitors to the estate can learn the particulars of the lifestyle of the Roosevelts in much more detail if a tour with one of the park rangers is secured ahead of time. Do note that tours fill up quickly, so calling well in advance of a trip is a good idea.
To actually see the home itself, a one-hour guided tour that begins at the visitor’s center is the only way to do so. Otherwise, the library, museum, and grounds can all be accessed as a self-guided tour. Additional information is provided on self-guided tours by calling a phone number located on signs at each point of interest. Instructions for this feature are on the website or can be explained at the visitor’s center. There is a fee to visit the buildings on the grounds, but touring the grounds themselves is free until sunset. Since the Vanderbilt National Historic Site is nearby, tickets to either the FDR or Vanderbilt sites will gain entry to both parks for the same day.
Those who enjoy hiking will be pleased to explore the 34 miles of trails within the Hyde Park system. The trails are part of a large system of public lands and private land easements and have been part of the National Recreation Trails system since 2006. Nine trails are currently listed on the Hyde Park Trails website, which gives details about each trail according to the difficulty, as well as maps and distance in miles. It may be worth a little planning to learn whether or not hiking between certain sites might be an enjoyable way to get from one site to another.
Scenic Train Ride
If you happen to be a train buff, there is a scenic train ride from Poughkeepsie, which runs along the Hudson River and takes riders to the site of the FDR Library and Museum. An hourly bus service takes visitors from the train station to the visitor’s center. For more information, visit the page on the National Park website.
Stopping for Lunch or Dinner
Making a day of visiting the many sites around the FDR National Park may get you hungry. Quite a few restaurants are located right on Albany Post Road, which is the address for the National Park. American Bounty is a restaurant within two miles of the park, and is more of a fine-dining spot which features seasonal foods of the Hudson Valley. This restaurant has a more upscale ambiance and menu but does cater to vegetarian and vegan diners.
For visitors who prefer the casual, the Eveready Diner is also in Hyde Park, and serves everything from breakfast to late-night food. This restaurant is considered American fare, and also offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free menu options. Hyde Park Brewing Company is another more casual option that also features American food. This has some slightly more unique choices like lamb burgers or schnitzel and has options for vegetarians.
Planning Your Visit
If you are planning a visit to the FDR National Park, you may wish to arrange your visit before April 2020 if you want to tour the mansion. At that time, the mansion will be closed until October of 2020 for renovations. Extensive work must be completed to update systems, preserve items against deterioration, catalog collectibles, and other various and important activities to maintain the historic structure. The park states on their website that if work is completed before October 31, 2020, the mansion will be re-opened early. To learn more, visitors can read the information on the website or can call the visitor’s center to plan their visit around the construction.
While in the area, keep in mind that the Hudson Valley has plenty of other interesting places to see. Woodstock, NY, site of the famous music festival of 1969, is within a 45-minute drive, and is home to many famous celebrities. The small town has a quaint downtown area full of shops and restaurants to enjoy. Several state parks and other historic sites are located in the nearby region as well, including Samuel Morse’s estate. The Frances Lehman Art Center and the Innisfree Asian Gardens are also within a short drive.
The Hudson Valley is a beautiful location, full of history and natural wonders. Visitors planning to enjoy the National Park may want to plan a stay to explore the many places dedicated to culture, art, nature, and history. Franklin D. Roosevelt felt most at home in the Hudson Valley of New York, and his heart always brought him back to his beloved estate in the country. Whether seeking hubbub or peaceful places, the Hudson Valley has it all.