The apogee in a wave of nature-focused Upstate hospitality projects that have opened since 2020.
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Wildflower Farms represents the apogee in a wave of nature-focused Upstate hospitality projects that have opened since the pandemic. For New Yorkers, and other urbanites from the Northeast and around the world seeking to unplug in the beauty of the Hudson Valley, the resort offers a singularly luxurious package, from the excellence of its surprisingly progressive food-and-beverage program to its spacious, thoughtfully designed cabins. Thistle Spa speaks to the growing importance of wellness for hotel guests in this part of New York. But maybe the most appealing aspect of a visit is that Wildflower is, as its name suggests, a working farm, as you are reminded in delightful ways throughout your stay. My wife and I took our kids for a vacation before dropping them off with the friends in the area and spending a romantic day and night alone celebrating our anniversary—so trust me when I say that Wildflower is great for families and couples alike.
Set the scene
Many Upstate properties get an immediate demerit for not being separated enough from a noisy highway. Wildflower, which you approach via a long dirt road, is not one of them—though I wished there were more separation of the big gravel parking lot and some of the back-of-house infrastructure from the rest of the hotel. As soon as you leave your car, however, you’ll forget about that, your attention diverted by what Wildflower calls the Great Porch, a covered alfresco communal area between the shop and the restaurant, with a central firepit that is the fulcrum of the resort. All day long, urban refugees in Patagonia and Arcteryx post up here for coffee, small plates, s’mores, and some of the most photogenic (and delicious) cocktails in New York State.
The seeds for Wildflower were planted seven years ago when Phillip and Kristin Rapoport, residents of nearby Gardiner, purchased the 140-acre former tree nursery (and a dairy farm before that) with the intention of sharing it with New Yorkers who felt like they had to go west for upscale immersions into nature. As you meander along the trails that ring the hotel, you occasionally encounter the property’s former product, growing in rail-straight rows. Working in partnership with architects Electric Bowery and interior designers Ward and Gray, the Rapoports, avid hikers and climbers, turned the site into a luxury-minded showcase for the region’s beauty, including the Shawangunk Kill, the river that runs along the property’s western woods, and the Shawangunk Mountains, or “Gunks,” a picturesque bedrock ridge north of Wildflower.
There are 65 free-standing cabins in all, just under half of which sit in the woods, up the hill from the burbling soundtrack of Shawangunk Kill. The rest float on the meadow, many with prime views of the ongoing drama of sunlight and mist on the Gunks. All have some private terrace space and floor-to-ceiling windows to bring the beauty indoors. My family stayed in one of the five Ridge Suites, which, in addition to providing a great vantage point on the magnificent scenery, had a gas stove in the bedroom and a round wood-burning fireplace in the living room (where the kids slept on a foldout sofa); a generous walk-in closet; a superbly curated minibar; an outdoor shower; and best of all, a cedar hot tub sunk into the terrace that proved the ideal place to watch a sunset. Rates from $1,250 per night.
Food and drink
The resort’s restaurant is called Clay, after the sticky and challenging but rewarding soil that nurtures the crops grown on property. Clay, which is open seven nights a week and is meant to cater to the local community as well as Wildflower guests, has an eclectic, New American menu with some pan-Asian accents that is full of unexpected delights. Order a bunch of the small plates, which are all wonderful; a mysterious, haunting celery root dish with dates and a succulent squab stand out in my memory, along with an incredible dry-aged porterhouse for two (or three, or four), cooked over an open fire and served with Szechuan peppercorns and a white bean chimichurri that makes for a scrumptious date-night feast. Also, if you go to Clay for brunch, you must order the cinnamon roll, even if you are not a pastries kind of person; it will ruin you for other cinnamon rolls, but it will be worth it. The menus, in addition to being seasonal, vary depending on whether you’re at Clay or on the Great Porch. While sitting by a roaring fire on the latter, I had one of the most marvelous cocktails in recent memory, a haunting, romantic concoction of rye, Campari, and Cardamaro (a lovely wine-based Italian aperitif I clearly need to get to know better), alongside some tasty warm olives and spiced nuts.
Thistle is a major point of emphasis for Wildflower, with a range of treatments that incorporate botanicals grown on the farm or elsewhere on the property. Before their treatment, guests can lounge on daybeds beside the peaceful indoor saltwater pool and adjacent sauna. (There is also a beautiful outdoor pool and two hot tubs, steps from the entrance, and a generous room for couples’ treatments.) A nice touch: the vat of bone broth alongside the usual teas and nuts.
Wildflower is located in one of the most classic and accessible corners of the Catskills, just two hours north of the city. The historic, 17th-century hamlet of New Paltz is the closest regional point of interest, with the great dining options in the fast-changing river city of Kingston a bit north of that and the beloved villages of Woodstock and Saugerties a bit further. For hikers, cyclists, and mountaineers, the Gunks are right there, and countless trails and natural wonders are a short drive away, on either side of the Hudson River. Many of the region’s great art destinations, including Storm King, Dia Beacon, and Opus 40, to say nothing of the numerous noteworthy galleries that have opened in the area.
Warm, genuine, and diligent, but still somewhat disorganized. This was perhaps to be expected, as Wildflower hadn’t even been open a week yet, and achieving consistent, high-quality service has been an elusive challenge for nearly every property Upstate over the last two years. But given the kind of experience it promises (and its price point), Wildflower needs to become a well-oiled machine, which I have no doubt it will.
You’d hope that a luxury resort in the Hudson Valley would be a good place for families, and Wildflower delivers—without compromising its core mission to be a one-of-a-kind sanctuary for adults. The number one way it does this, besides just being a beautiful place in the country, is by thoughtfully packaging its farm experiences. My kids loved learning about what’s being grown on the six-acre farm during a tour with Jax Hughes, one of Widlflower’s handsome “farming farmers,” who looks like he just stepped from the pages of a magazine about living your best rustic life and proved to be a natural with children. After that, he took us into the woods to plant ramps. On another day we visited the chicken coop and collected eggs that we brought to Clay to have prepared for breakfast (the extras we gave to friends later) and fed beets to some of the most attractive pigs we’d ever seen. There’s also an extensive trail network through the woods and meadows, and a natural playground with a little zipline. There isn’t a kids’ club, and there are not enough activities (at least not yet) to occupy a family through more than a couple of days on the property, but the surrounding area is a paradise for families, and as Wildflower adds new experiences (like classes at its Maplehouse cookery school), it will become an even more family-friendly destination.
A preservationist mindset motivated the Rapaports’ purchase of this acreage and informs the way it is being used. Only four percent of the land has been developed, and 54 of the property’s total 141 acres have been put into a conservation easement, including 33 in agricultural conservation to support continued farming in the Hudson Valley. The design of the resort was conceived to earn an Energy Star certification.
In addition, the resort participates in community solar as a means of lowering its carbon footprint and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting the regional economy with clean, locally produced electricity. Wildflower Farms also rightly sees education as a central plank of its sustainability mission; its various farm experiences, including the ones my family took part in, have been designed not only to be fun but to promote the preservation of heritage breeds and small, local farms.
All of the hotel’s public spaces have accessible entrances and pathways. There are also accessible spaces in the self-parking facility, and accessible transportation can be arranged with advance notice. The exercise facility, pool, and jacuzzi are all accessible. The hotel offers four accessible cabins and suites in total, in all three room categories.
Anything left to mention?
While I spoke about the farm experiences as being great for families, they’re also a lot of fun for unattached adults, and the resort offers a bunch of other nature immersions that are geared more purely toward grown-ups, including forest bathing, foraging, classes in pickling and preserving, flower arranging, snow-shoeing, and much more. More is coming, too, from the classes at Maplehouse to a farmstand to alfresco culinary experiences among the crops.
The resort also includes several private gathering spaces, both around Clay and in the soon-to-open Barn at Maplehouse, that seem tailor-made for weddings and other celebrations. One last thing: I challenge you, when checking in or out, not to buy some sort of wonderful something—a gardening tool or a bar of Saipua soap or a napkin set or a poncho—from the beautifully curated Shop (designed by Gardenheir New York), where reception is located.