City dwellers heading to the country for a weekend away are sometimes looking for alone time, a break from interacting with others. That’s entirely possible at Habitas on Hudson, the international eco/sustainable hotel company’s newest property and first in the U.S., but it’s not what the company’s founders want to encourage. They want guests at this hotel which opened in early December in Staatsburg, 4.5 miles outside of the chic, gastronomic town of Rhinebeck, to mix, share experiences and make new friends, a sort of easy to get to (a two hour drive or 90 minute train ride) weekend camp for stressed city people.
“We are excited to open our first HOME in the U.S. in Upstate New York,” explains Oliver Ripley, Co-Founder & CEO of Habitas. “We are seeing a big shift in people rebalancing their lives post pandemic and Upstate New York offers the perfect refuge in nature while giving people the proximity to New York City. Habitas on Hudson is a home for a growing generation of people who share similar values and a mindset, focused around human connection, giving back and being in nature.”
The first thing you notice upon arriving at the Neo-Classical manor house is the liberal use of vibrant color, a design plan Habitas inherited from hotelier Andre Balazs who originally acquired the former Belvedere Mansion with plans to transform it into a resort; he’s still involved as a partner with Habitas. (Locals remember Belvedere as a longtime wedding/event space which hosted, among others, the 2010 wedding of Lin-Manuel Miranda and his wife Vanessa Nadal.) The stately white columns are now a vivid two tone blue, the lampposts are shocking pink, the salons on the ground floor decorated with a combination of plum and purple striped and olive green chairs and the second floor salon a pastiche of orange, blue and gold with a radiator painted bright green. The 20 rooms, expected to expand to 30, spread between the Manor House, separate Lodge and Stonehouse and named after authors such as Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters are calmer, uncluttered and designed with natural fabrics and neutral colors. (With a sense of humor, though, since the books left for guests to peruse in the Charlotte Bronte room are Lady Chatterly’s Lover and The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh.)
Visits begin with a welcome ceremony adapted from the company’s first resort in the Mexican Riviera Maya town of Tulum—the choice of a wooden spirit animal plucked from a bag to direct the stay’s intention and the sprinkling of crystals over a flame. Further activities to encourage mind/body connections include sessions with Eden Sky Orion for astrology readings (that is her real name) and Franck Raharinosy for breathwork, both illuminating and enriching. The two come up from Manhattan on a regular basis; Franck will likely spend even more time here starting in the spring teaching tennis on the nine acre property’s court. Also expected later in the spring and summer, guests can experience activities such as guided hikes on nearby trails, swimming in the property’s pond, storytelling accompanied by s’mores around the firepit, stargazing and an outdoor cinema. Rhinebeck’s Rain Spa has also set up an outpost here for massages in a temporary space with an expected move to a separate stone house; a barrel sauna and cold plunge are also in the cards.
On winter days, guests can be found in the cocktail lounge learning the art of the perfect margarita, another feature borrowed from Tulum, playing ping pong or foosball in the game room on the main floor or learning how to make pasta or biscuits in the show kitchen adjacent to the dining room. Even with excellent restaurants down the road in Rhinebeck and the menu here in the restaurant The Social compact now but due to expand, there are real reasons to stay on the grounds. Chef Nick Cox, Kentucky-born and a New York restaurant veteran, turns out densely flavored, perfectly executed dishes such as crunchy banana pancakes and a rich tomato stew baked eggs Shakshuka for breakfast, lamb kofta kebab sandwich with tahini, roasted tomatoes, sumac red onions and pickled cabbage for lunch and pappardelle with duck ragu and seared seabass with grilled bok choy and chipotle beurre blanc for dinner plus a brownie with dark chocolate, dulce de leche and caramelized milk chocolate ganache that is as irresistable as it sounds. As the seasons open up more produce from local Hudson Valley farms and Cox installs his planned barbecue outdoors, that list will only grow. His food is worth a trip on its own.