So historic sites, in keen competition with one another for the tourism dollar, have risen to the occasion, scheduling more frequent special events and activities designed to engage the visitor’s interest on a more participatory level. Why just peer at somber portraits of old Yankees and Knickerbockers when you can race up and down flights of stairs and passageways instead, seeking the elusive detail in a painting that’s still missing from your scavenger hunt checklist? Why just watch reenactors in Colonial garb dip beeswax candles or make goat cheese or shape red-hot nails on an anvil when the historic restoration down the road will let you try your hand at doing it yourself?
One type of activity that has been growing in popularity at Hudson Valley estates is the opportunity to sit down to a well-prepared meal of dishes popular during the time period in question, using ingredients that would have been available “back in the day.” It resonates with the growing impulse to “eat locally” while putting the experience into a more exotic context through time travel. Locust Grove, the estate of Samuel F. B. Morse designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, located on Route 9 just south of the Poughkeepsie city limits, has jumped onto this particular bandwagon with a vengeance. Several times a year, chefs from high-end local restaurants have been coming in to present a select few diners with seasonal menus that reflect the elegant home’s history.
If you call right away, reservations may still be available for the season’s opening candlelight tour this Saturday, December 4 at 5:30 p.m., followed by a four-course holiday dinner at the Museum Pavilion prepared by chef Charlie Fells of the Artist’s Palate restaurant. The menu will recreate authentic recipes unearthed from the archives at Locust Grove. The all-inclusive cost for the evening, which wraps up at 9:30 p.m., is $110 per person, $800 for a table of 8.
If you miss this special dining extravaganza, you can still enjoy the beauties of Locust Grove in winter on a more modest scale. For an entry fee of $10 per adult, $6 each for children under 12, you can tour the decorated mansion any Saturday in December and the week after Christmas between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., with the last guided tour of the day setting forth at 3:15 p.m. Every year the Italianate villa is decorated according to a specific theme, and this year, a different Christmas tree in each room will illustrate a verse from the beloved cumulative carol “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
This thematic pattern sets the scene for special kid-friendly activities scheduled for Sundays in December – the 5th, 12th and 19th – when Locust Grove will be open from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Children can embark on a “Hunt for the 12 Days of Christmas,” questing throughout the mansion for items related to the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, milkmaids, swans, geese, golden rings, calling birds, French hens, turtledoves and partridge who densely populate the song. After solving the clues pertaining to all 12 days, participants return to the Museum Pavilion for a holiday storytelling performance by Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi, scheduled to begin at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. The Holiday Hunt Event fee of $8 per child, $10 per adult covers the one-hour hunt in the mansion, a storytelling session, cookies, cider and a holiday keepsake.
For reservations for the Twilight Holiday Tour and Historic Four-Course Dinner on
Saturday, December 4, or for additional information about the Holiday Hunt Events on Sundays or the Decorated House Tours on Saturdays, contact Locust Grove’s director of Public Programs Ursula Morgan at (845) 454-4500, extension 217, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at www.lgny.org/index.html.