My travels to upstate New York began with a moving experience on the Roosevelt Estate tour in Hyde Park.
Hello, there! As I sit waiting to board a plane at the Newark airport, I figure it’s the perfect time (and excuse) to start gushing about the autumn New York adventures I’ve enjoyed over the last several days. Usually my visits to NY surround fashion week, but this time around it was ALL about exploring the Hudson River Valley region and making memories with my mom and sister. In other words, it was an actual vacation and one that was very much needed.
Heading north, we passed through Hyde Park, New York which is home to the gorgeous Roosevelt estate.
With crystal blue skies and fresh autumn air, it was the perfect day to pull off the road to stroll the grounds and visit the home of one of the most influential couples in American History. The estate itself includes both the Roosevelt’s family home, Springwood, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential museum that includes artifacts from his childhood through his presidency…and up to his death.
Obviously I’ve read about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in history books. I’ve seen several documentaries on their lives through the years and also read biographies on both. But upon visiting their actual home and touring every inch of the museum, the Roosevelts became more real to me than ever before.
Perhaps it’s the striking contrast between the Roosevelts and today’s political climate – or the midterms looming over our heads – but I found touring the estate to be such an incredibly moving experience. If given the opportunity, I absolutely recommend all my fellow Americans visit the estate in Hyde Park, New York to take it all in.
Historically speaking, Franklin Roosevelt led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II. Through the New Deal, he enacted a vision of positive change and created policies that Americans are still benefiting from today. Then, of course, there’s Eleanor – who is arguably the most influential First Lady in American history.
Needless to say, the Roosevelts made their mark.
The Roosevelt Estate Tour
Our visit began in the visitor center. As a national park, the center and grounds are open to the public for free but for an affordable rate of $10 you can go inside the Springwood home and another $10 will grant you entry to the presidential library. We went “all in” and purchased admission to tour both the house and museum – because when in Rome (or in this case New York) why not?
Leading us on a tour was a park ranger, who provided insight at various milestones but largely left us to take in all the details at our leisure. We learned that the estate opened to the public only one year after FDR’s death, making the grounds and home authentic to his life there.
Inside the Roosevelt’s Springwood Home
Obviously the Springwood estate it gorgeous, both inside and out. The home was the birth place of FDR as well as his burial site and remains preserved in the state he left it. Touring room-to-room, it was fascinating to take in all the little details. From old issues of Town & Country magazine in the library to a Scottie dog, paying homage to the Roosevelts’ dog Fala, in the window of his bedroom. Every room featured intimate details that introduced a more personal side of the Roosevelts.
While the Springwood home is definitely a stately feature of the Hudson River valley, it was clearly meant as a place for the family to relax and enjoy more intimate gatherings.
You can forget about the Roosevelts entertaining large parties of guests in vast dining and ball rooms, as the home is much more traditional. Inside there was a cozy sitting room dubbed the ‘Snuggery’, a library, modest-sized dining room and about five bedrooms upstairs.
There is truly something about visiting someone’s home and seeing the surroundings they live in day-to-day that helps you feel better connected to a person. Navigating through the house, my mom, sister and I felt we were connecting on a personal level with the Roosevelts and the empowered vision Franklin and Eleanor shared for America.
Gorgeous Views of the Hudson River Valley
When you step out the back door of the house on the Roosevelt estate tour, you are greeted by the most breathtaking wide-open view of the Hudson River Valley. Twin benches sit perched on a lookout, overlooking rolling hills of trees that span as far as the eye can see. Standing there, it was very easy to envision Franklin, Eleanor and their family enjoying the same beautiful sights together time and time again.
Obviously seeing inside the home was fascinating, but the free views of the grounds are truly the “money shot” of the Roosevelt estate tour experience.
My mom and I couldn’t stop “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the stately trees, the grounds and of course the blossoming fall colors. With blue skies and crisp temperatures of 50 degrees, the Roosevelt tour experience was a very peaceful one and the perfect way to spend an autumn afternoon with loved ones.
The Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
I know, I know. At this point you might be sick of scrolling but in discussing the Roosevelt estate tour I would be remiss not to at least make mention of Roosevelt’s Presidential Library and Museum.
Inside there was a vast collection of artifacts from FDR’s childhood, presidency and, sadly, also his death. With so many fascinating pieces from the Great Depression and World War II eras to be seen, I couldn’t possibly discuss them all with you here. BUT, I do want to touch on the letters that greet you at the entrance of the museum.
Before you get to anything, you’re welcomed by a wall of letters written to Franklin Roosevelt from the American people.
In history books and biographies, I’ve read a lot about how FDR was truly a president for the people. In addition to trademark policies of the new deal such as social security, unemployment, investments in infrastructure and new industries – Roosevelt also spoke directly to the public through his famous ‘Fireside’ radio chats.
Americans felt more connected to their president than ever before and as such wrote countless letters to him – as if they were writing to a friend.
Reading the letters, they were all touching but this one in particular caught my eye. It reads:
Dear Mr. President,
For the first time in my life I am writing to a public official. For the first time in my life I feel that I have a president. I read what you write, I listen to what you say, I believe in you, I talk for you.
You asked us tonight to take stock of our own particular affairs. Yes, I am better off. My brother who was out of work for over three years got a job last January and I no longer have to contribute to his support. I do not earn more money but have a feeling of greater security in my position. But better than the economic side is my feeling of pride and satisfaction in you as my president.
I – together with millions of other Americans – have become ‘president conscious’. For the first time I feel that the leader of my country has some interest in me – that those in my walk of life are not altogether forgotten.
I hope you have a pleasant vacation and that you will continue to enjoy the confidence of your followers. And you will because I am convinced that your program is grounded in sincerity and we Americans fundamentally recognize and ‘lay up to’ this rare trait. It’s what we want. Not perfection, nor miracles but a square deal.
There’s no question, the Roosevelt estate tour instantly became a favorite memory of mine.
For one, the grounds were absolutely exquisite and well worth visiting just to take in the views. Beyond that, though, there was so much heartfelt thought put into every inch of the presidential library and the home truly brought Franklin and Eleanor to life for me.
The whole tour experience is one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting New York. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Manhattan and is absolutely well worth the time. We’re all so lucky that the estate is open to the public as it represents such an important chapter in American history and honors the legacy of one of our finest presidents. Highly recommend.
Looking for More to Do in the Region?
I had such a wonderful time exploring the beauty of New York outside the big apple and took (no joke) a GAZILLION pictures. After the Roosevelt estate tour, my sister, mom and I traveled onto Rhinebeck, New York where we stayed in the oldest inn in the country. (In fact, established in 1766, the inn is actually even older than America itself.)
If you’re looking for more things to do in the Hyde Park, New York area, check out this other posts:
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