Inside Chelsea Clinton's Wedding in Rhinebeck

Experience Rhinebeck, New York like Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky.

ByScott Mayerowitz
July 28, 2010, 10:36 AM

July 30, 2010— -- Didn't score a ticket to one of this summer's hottest weddings, the marriage of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky?

That's all right, neither did we. But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the quaint village of Rhinebeck, N.Y., where the couple are expected to say their vows this weekend.

The tiny village 100 miles north of New York City is filled with independent stores, grand Victorian mansions -- 437 buildings in town are on the National Register of Historic Places -- charming bed-and-breakfasts and enough restaurants to appease any appetite.

"It's just a pleasant, peaceful village to live in. It's clean. It's got culture," said Hal Dora, a clothing designer who runs a small boutique downtown on East Market Street. "It's a sweet village."

Don't expect to find a Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, Gap or Taco Bell here.

"We've been very lucky that over the years. We've had very diligent planning and zoning boards that have protected us," said Mayor James Reardon. "Corporate America has been kept out. It's just a really quaint downtown area that's very pedestrian-friendly."

Nobody is quite sure what this weekend's wedding will bring. Reardon fears "a crush of press, paparazzi and curious onlookers coming to the village and really causing us some problems."

"Of course there's a lot of curiosity about what's going on," he said.

Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Ted Turner and former British Prime Minister John Major are among those rumored to be on the 500-person guest list.

On a typical week, Rhinebeck is significantly quieter. And that's part of its appeal.

"It's that little small town that everybody would like to live in," Reardon added. "Just a gorgeous area."

Before Clinton Wedding, Rhinebeck Was a Quiet Town

That said, Annie Leibovitz, Natalie Merchant and other famous folks have discovered the hamlet but keep a low profile.

To get a taste -- literally -- of the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding, book at table at Terrapin Restaurant. Owner Josh Kroner is said to be catering the rehearsal dinner at the Grasmere farm estate on the edge of town.

For a real bit of history, check into the Beekman Arms Inn, said to be America's oldest continuously run hotel. The wedding guests have booked every spare room at this inn, which opened in 1766. They aren't the first famous folks to stay at the Beekman Arms. It has hosted George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benedict Arnold. It was here that Aaron Burr and Hamilton exchanged the insults that led to their famous duel and Hamilton's death. Two centuries later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the inn's front porch to start every one of his political campaigns.

More famous names are sure to be added to the list this weekend.

Unfortunately the reported wedding site -- Astor Courts, a sprawling mansion designed by Stanford White in 1902 for John Jacob Astor IV -- is a private home and you probably won't be able to stop by. But nothing says you can't drive past it and some of the other spectacular mansions that line the hills overlooking the Hudson River.

"The owners of Astor Courts, Kathy Hammer and Arthur Seelbinder, have done a beautiful job restoring it. I have been on the property. I have been in the house. It is absolutely beautiful, what they have done there, and I have to give them a lot of credit," Reardon said. "It's so nice, in fact, that now it's in demand as a location, whether it be for a movie, whether it be a photo shoot and now this type of event."

Okay, back to non-wedding reality.

Most visitors to town are likely to check into one of its charming bed-and-breakfasts. There aren't tons of attractions per se in town, but a lot of places to take a stroll and relax. Plus, it makes a great jumping-off point to explore other communities in the Hudson River valley.

"I don't think you're not going to find another town like it," said Nancy O. Amy, head of the Rhinebeck Area Chamber of Commerce. "The people are friendly here. People go out of their way to help you. It's just a really great vibe here."

Pretend You Were Invited to the Clinton Rehearsal Dinner

While it's a small town, it doesn't mean that you can just stroll into any restaurant and get a table. Amy says folks like to dine out here and reservations are a must. For a classic old-school meal consider the Beekman Arms or The Rhinecliff.

Other picks include: Arielle, Le Petit Bistro, Foster's Coach House Tavern and Starr Place Restaurant and Bar (6417 Montgomery St.).

For some after-dinner entertainment, head to Upstate Films which screens a mix of blockbusters and independent films and is sure to delight.

The next morning head to Pete's Famous Restaurant (34 East Market Street) or Bread Alone for breakfast.

Then take a stroll through town. Self-guided walking tours are available through the chamber of commerce's information cottage at 6372 Mill St. On a walk through town, make sure to pop into the galleries and boutiques.

Now it's time for some history.

Just a short drive away are two spectacular homes that bring visitors back to another time in our nation's history. First is the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt at Hyde Park.

Tour Springwood, the lifelong home of America's only four-term President, pop into the presidential library and museum and then stroll the grounds and gardens of the 300-acre estate. This was FDR's summer White House, a place that he used to escape the heat and politics of Washington.

Two miles north is the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, a great example of the country estates to which titans of industry retreated during the gilded age.

Rhinebeck's Presidential Connection

Tonight, check out a show at the Center for Performing Arts, the Cocoon Theatre or maybe Bard College's Summerscape.

For your final day in town, maybe play a round of golf at the nearby Red Hook Golf Course or get a treatment at the Haven Spa. There might also be something happening at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in town. The site hosts a flea market, car shows, rodeos and a host of other events, including a pigeon show.

Another show in the area -- a bit more noisy than a quiet mansion -- is at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. The museum is home to one of the largest collections of early airplanes in the world, many which regularly take to the air during weekend airshows. There are also plenty of automobiles, motorcycles, early engines and memorabilia from 1900-1935.

Still looking for history? Come back to Rhinebeck and visit the Wilderstein Historic Site, an estate that was home to generations of the Suckley family, including its last resident, Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, a cousin and confidante of FDR. You might bump into the friends of a more recent president there; word is that his daughter is getting married nearby this weekend.

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