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Val-Kill was Eleanor Roosevelt's country retreat
“The greatest thing I have learned is how good it is to come home again.” –Eleanor Roosevelt (NPS/W.D. Urbin)

Eleanor Roosevelt and guests
Eleanor Roosevelt shared her private home with visitors from around the world. (Photo: FDR Library)

bird watchers gaze to the sky
Visitors participate in an annual, nationwide bird count right in FDR’s backyard. (NPS/W.D. Urbin)

NPS.gov homepage photo: Val-Kill was the place where Eleanor Roosevelt could truly relax. (Photo: FDR Library)

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Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
New York

There's no better way to get to know one of the most admired women of all time than to visit her at home. If you are in New York City, you owe it to yourself to explore the beautiful Hudson Valley, beloved by the Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts. In less than two hours, you can drive or catch a train to Historic Hyde Park and discover the intriguing private lives of some very public people.

Eleanor Roosevelt accomplished so much in her many roles: First Lady for 12 years, champion of human rights, skilled diplomat, and prolific writer. But even “the First Lady of the World” has to have some downtime, and Val-Kill, her country retreat in Hyde Park, is the place that Mrs. Roosevelt called home. What made Val-Kill a perfect retreat for her, also makes it a perfect getaway destination in Women's History Month, and an ideal spot to spend a mother-daughter day out.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of one president (Teddy Roosevelt) and the wife of another (Franklin D. Roosevelt). A shy, intelligent, and intensely private woman, Eleanor had public life thrust upon her. What she made of it is a fascinating story that we tell at Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.

As you enter Val-Kill, you think, “Wow, this isn't a palace, it's someone's home!” Because Eleanor had never had a home of her own, and because this beautiful spot was where the Roosevelt family came to picnic and enjoy themselves, FDR built her “a home of her own” here. Here, too, she enjoyed both privacy and socializing, escaping from the formality of Springwood, the Roosevelt family home, and inviting her own guests, including world figures such as John F. Kennedy and Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev.

You can't help but be affected by Eleanor Roosevelt's story through your visit to Val-Kill. There is an orientation film, and a ranger-guided tour gives you insight into this remarkable woman. She overcame an unhappy childhood, which helped inform her social conscience and formed her determination to fight for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you would like to experience the active life that she enjoyed here, consider building your trip around some good hikes. From Val-Kill you can hike up the hill to Top Cottage, FDR's own personal retreat, or you can take the recently restored Roosevelt Farm Lane trail to the Home of FDR National Historic Site and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Historic Hyde Park, New York, has another jewel in its crown: the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. There you'll find a very different residence — one with luxurious Gilded Age decoration, magnificently restored Italian gardens, and a million-dollar view of the Hudson River. Come visit for a day, or stay a little longer. Historic Hyde Park makes a world-class getaway!

By Scott Rector, Chief of Interpretation, Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites