Flying to Historic Kingston, New York

Now a hip haven, this Hudson Valley destination was once burned by British Forces.

Kingston-Ulster Airport (20N) has a 3,100-foot runway, easy parking and a nice FBO. [Credit: Shutterstock]

Flying the busy Hudson River Corridor past New York skyscrapers is a classic mission for general aviation pilots. If you take relatives and friends for rides there, they will never forget the experience.

But if, like me, you would rather see the river with more altitude and less traffic, fly north. Once free of New York’s Class B airspace you can start spotting cities and towns along the river like Haverstraw, Croton-on-Hudson and West Point (remember to stay clear of the small ring of restricted airspace over the U.S. Military Academy). Continue past Peekskill, Beacon and Poughkeepsie and, about 80 nm north of New York City, you will reach Kingston.

Kingston-Ulster Airport (20N) has a 3,100-foot runway, easy parking and a nice FBO. It is a few miles from the downtown area but taxis and rideshares are readily available.

Kingston, which might be larger, livelier and more complex than you think, has been a destination at least since the arrival of Dutch settlers in the early 1600s. The place also is no stranger to varying degrees of conflict, from tensions between the Dutch and indigenous local communities to British forces burning the city in 1777 during the Revolutionary War.

In recent years and especially during the first few months of COVID-19, much of the discord in Kingston has developed between the people who have lived there a long time and the mostly wealthier folks who arrived after fleeing New York City ’s pandemic chaos. Do not let those difficulties keep you from visiting, though, because it is an interesting town with lots to do. The following are a few of the many attractions.

Rondout Light

This lighthouse marks the area where the Rondout Creek meets the Hudson River. This was the spot where barges carrying coal from Pennsylvania via the Delaware and Hudson Canal would enter the Hudson River on their way to New York City. This activity and the railroads that followed made Kingston a transport hub from the 1830s through the mid-1900s.

Kingston's Uptown shopping district. [Credit: Shutterstock]

Uptown Shopping

Kingston’s Uptown area, which is part of its Stockade Historic District, is a great place to shop for a range of products including clothing, jewelry and crafts. Many of the stores have front overhangs that cover the sidewalks making window shopping easy even during rainy weather. Readers might already know about Half Moon Books, a used book shop where one could easily spend hours perusing the vast collection. If not, then put it on your to-visit list. There is a second Half Moon store across the Hudson River in Tivoli, New York, by the way.

Take a ride in a vintage trolley. [Credit: Shutterstock]

Trolley Museum of New York

Located on the site of the former Ulster and Delaware Rail­road yards, the museum building was built on the foundation of an engine house that dates to before 1900. The building includes a visitor center with displays and windows overlooking the restoration shop on the lower level. You can also take a 1.5-mile ride in one of the vintage trollies, which volunteers rescued from being scrapped as they were phased out of service in the 1950s

Ulster Performing Arts Center

From music (Elvis Costello is slated for early March) and dance to comedy and plays, this restored theater has you covered. Opened in 1927 as the Broadway Theater for vaudeville performances and movies, it has been painstakingly refurbished over many years. Today it has 1,510 seats and air conditioning but retains its vintage style. In 1979 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old Dutch Church

This historic house of worship, also known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, has been through the wars—really. Established in 1660, it was burned in 1663 and again in 1777, when British forces burned most of the city during the Revolutionary War. But Kingston’s persistent residents rebuilt it. The version that stands today was built in 1852 using local bluestone, which is a big thing in the Kingston area. Pilots heading for the city can check their course by spotting the church steeple, which is visible from miles away.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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