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Spotlight: The Catskills

The formidable beauty of the Catskills is closer than you think.

A booming farm-to-table and craft beverage scene has helped the Catskills earn its reputation as a serious culinary destination worldwide. Storybook farms, expansive forest preserves, and pristine rivers ensure the view is always arresting, whether you’re enjoying it from the balcony of a boutique inn or the passenger-side window. Add in fascinating historical landmarks, colorful small towns dotting county routes, and a thriving arts community and you have a getaway that speaks to every traveler.

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Three Things You Can't Miss

Woodstock-store-front

Woodstock

While the famous festival took place in nearby Bethel, Woodstock pays homage to the arts, music, and politics that defined the 1960s. From local theater productions to fine arts studios, the creative residents happily share and showcase their talents with the community on Tinker Street. Set among bucolic mountains and farmland, Woodstock is also the perfect landing spot for the outdoor activities for which the region is known.  

Pan with sunny side up eggs cooked with toast on the side

The Food

Farm-to-table might be a well-worn term, but it’s appropriate when describing the culinary revolution that has transformed the Catskills. Many chic restaurants can tout their relationships with local farms and purveyors, but very few can boast of having them in view of the dining room. In addition to restaurants mentioned below, visit The Tavern at The Arnold House in Livingston and Catskill Lodge in Windham.

Overlook Mountain - Photo Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism

Views for Days

There are overlooks here where you can see into five (!) neighboring states, but you don't have to scale a mountain to appreciate the views. You’re just as likely to be impressed turning a highway corner to a view of tiered waterfalls, or stumbling upon a pristine lake while hiking in the middle of the woods. Every turn is a potential opportunity to glimpse the simple, unadulterated beauty the region is famous for.

family fun

Ashokan Reservoir

Hiking

The best way to truly appreciate this region's natural beauty is by hiking through it! The Catskills region offers trails for every level of hiker, from beginner to expert. Shorter hikes include Ashokan Reservoir (pictured), Crystal Lake Loop Trail, and Frick Pond Loop. Overlook Mountain Fire Tower, Catskill Scenic Trail, and Vernooy Kill Falls are a few that are a bit longer. Find the perfect trail for you.

Girl Ziplining in Woods

Hunter Mountain

Hunter Mountain has long been a top New York destination for skiing, snowboarding, and winter sports, but in-the-know travelers come for the winters but stay for the summers. Whether you’re looking to take up fly fishing, snap a family photo from atop a 3,200-foot summit, or indulge in an adrenaline-fueled day on the highest and longest zipline in North America, you’ll collect loads of memories.

Overview of Kartrite Waterpark

The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark

The Kartrite became the largest indoor waterpark in New York State when it opened in Monticello in 2019. Explore its chills and thrills from the intense tube ride Nor'Easter to the high-speed slide the Krakken, to a shallow lagoon with Puddle Ducks for the youngest swimmers. Enjoy the consistent 84-degree temperature all year long and don't forget to check out the Affinity Springs if you just want to relax.

spend the day

Performers on stage at Levon Helm Studio
Credit: Anthony Mulcahy / Mulography

If you’re looking for a quick retreat into the Catskills, head to Woodstock, the namesake of the festival that left a trail of peace, love, and rock and roll in its wake. You'll get the sense that the good old days are still within reach. Start off with a hike up Overlook Mountain, which, as its name suggests, has some far-out views of the valley. Then, cool off with locals in the Millstream, a popular watering hole.

Afterward, head down to Tinker Street to browse the artisanal offerings—you’ll find everything from pricey boutiques to antique shops and pop-up hippie memorabilia stands. You've probably worked up quite an appetite, so head to Silvia for wood-roasted meats, hearty vegetables, and dishes that put the region's farms to great use! Then it's time to experience the Catskills' buzzing arts scene: take in a show at Levon Helm Studios, the music venue whose namesake founder (RIP) helped make Woodstock a destination for world-class musicians (check the schedule and buy tickets in advance if possible). 

spend the weekend

North-South Lake

Saturday

Spend the day at North-South Lake (pictured), the biggest state campground in the Catskills Park. The grounds are home to historic, diverse trails and two lakes for swimming and fishing, along with rental facilities for kayaks, canoes, and other water-sport gear. Hike to an overlook for sweeping views of five states, fish for largemouth bass, or play a pickup volleyball game at the beach. If you’re traveling with a resident grillmaster, a picnic lunch is easy with an on-site picnic pavilion and charcoal grill rentals.

After working up an appetite, head into Tannersville, home of a charming main street lined with shops and restaurants. Local favorites include the casual comfort-food emporium Mama's Boy Burgers, and the quirky Twin Peaks Coffee and Donuts. Tannersville is also home to a surprisingly hopping nightlife scene, especially in the winter when the après-ski crowd takes over—so don't be surprised if you end up spending the night.

Bar located in Deer Mountain Inn

Sunday

If the thought of spending a few hours floating down a river on an inner tube sounds a little too slow for you, you’ll be perfectly at home amongst the white-water chasers that head to the Esopus Creek each summer. Thanks to a reserve that’s released from the Schoharie Reservoir, creek-goers revel in the adrenaline rush as they navigate whitewater class II/III rapids each weekend. Though the water’s cold, fear not; you’ll still work up a sweat. 

To reward yourself for the surge of courage that saw you through the rapids, head to the rustic and elegant lodge at Deer Mountain Inn (pictured) for dinner. This beautiful boutique hotel is simultaneously rugged and modern, blending old mountain charm with on-trend fine dining. Sample from locally sourced, country-inspired fare like trout and hedgehog mushrooms during the chef’s seven-course tasting menu, while enjoying handcrafted cocktails by the fireplace.

spend the week

Fly Fishing, West Branch of Ausable River

Monday

The folks at Apple Pond Farm have mastered the art of craftsmanship—and will happily let you in on their cheese-making and sweater-spinning secrets. Pay a visit to their family-friendly farm and renewable energy education center to take a turn feeding, milking, and caring for their animals, all while learning new crafts.

The Catskills are considered the birthplace of modern fly fishing (pictured), with more than 1,500 miles of trout streams. "Trout Town USA," or officially, Roscoe, boasts the famous Junction Pool, which is where the Willowemoc and Beaverkill Rivers meet to form an unforgettable opportunity for trout fishing for anglers of all skill levels. After a day on the water, mingle with fellow anglers over a local IPA at Roscoe Beer Company.

Three bikers riding around Plattekill Bike Park

Tuesday

Work up a sweat at Plattekill Bike Park (pictured), home to some of the Northeast’s best mountain biking. Covered with an expansive network of lift-served trails that accommodate seasoned bikers and beginners alike, make sure you book the park ahead of time to enjoy a day of private biking. 

If you’re looking for a gentle, riverside ride, Plattekill Bike Park also rents bikes to ride along the appropriately named Catskills Scenic Trail. Running 26 miles through farm valleys, small towns and along the West Branch Delaware River, the trail makes for a great leisurely afternoon exploring the beauty of the Catskills.

Canoes on beach at Little Pond State Campground

Wednesday

Swing by Lucky Dog Farm and stock up on everything from organic berries and local cheeses to homemade meatloaf sandwiches and treats. The menu changes seasonally, but you'll find fresh, local, organic ingredients whenever possible. Hot tip: Reserve a loaf of their homemade Crocodile Bread to bring home for later—it's quite popular.

Head over to Little Pond State Campground (pictured) in Andes for a day of hiking and exploring nature. Keep an eye out for wildlife like white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bears, coyotes, foxes, and even bald eagles. Wander the 33 miles of foot trails within the Delaware Wild Forest and discover the ruins of an old farm. Trek up to the top of Touchmenot Mountains for sweeping views of Beaverkill Valley. 

Union Grove Distillery vodka bottles presented behind Toss Brian behind bar

Thursday

Like Hunter, Belleayre Mountain is much more than just a popular ski attraction in the winter—it is full of summer fun! At Belleayre Beach, rent bikes, jump in the water, or play a game of horseshoes, volleyball, or basketball.

After a day in the sun, head over to Union Grove Distillery (pictured) to enjoy Delaware County’s ever-expanding craft cocktail scene. Take a tour of the distillery and taste the goods, blended into craft cocktails. Keep an eye out for one of their signature and truly exceptional bottled Vly Creek Vodka. It’s the delicious result of combining wheat with apples run through a local antique apple press and fermented into cider, giving the vodka a subtle hint of fruit. Traveling with kids? The distillery also features an ingenious playroom so everyone gets to join in on the fun.

Man presenting a specialty pie of pizza out of the oven

Friday

Head down to West Branch Delaware River for a picnic. Then careen back up dirt roads to the nearby Mt. Utsayantha in Stamford. If you're up for a hike, venture up the steep one-mile road to reach the 3,000-foot summit, featuring sweeping views of the Catskills Forest Preserve. 

What’s better than pizza when you’ve worked up an appetite all day? Every Friday and Saturday night from 5 to 8 in the so-small-you-might-miss-it town of Bloomville, Inez Valk opens up her tiny farm-to-table cafe, Table on Ten (pictured), for a picnic-style pizza party. Come to mingle with locals and city-slickers and enjoy freshly made pies that show off superb local ingredients.

Benches outside The Vineyard at Windham

Saturday

Whether you’re a history buff, train aficionado, or just in it for the view, a ride along the scenic Catskill Mountain Railroad is legendary. Hop into one of the beautifully maintained antique cars and be transported to a time when train travel was the standard in luxury and elegance. During summer and fall foliage seasons, open-air cars offer unparalleled views. Don't miss the holiday-themed excursions in winter. 

The Five-State Lookout overlook off Route 23 is exactly as scenic as it sounds. Catch a glimpse of blue-tinged mountains in New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts—without the hours of driving required between them. To soak up the view a bit longer, grab a table by the windows at Captain’s Inn Point Lookout (pictured) and enjoy surf-and-turf with unbeatable vistas.

Kayaks on Upper Delaware River with Lander's River Trips, Narrowsburg

Sunday

Take the scenic bypass to Narrowsburg, which straddles the border to Pennsylvania by way of the Delaware River. For an afternoon on the water, pay a visit to Lander’s River Trips (pictured), where you’ll be set up with kayaks, canoes, tubes, and rafts. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely float or craving a white-water rafting adventure at Skinner’s Falls, you’ll be able to find it here.  

Have a picnic lunch along the Delaware River but save your appetite for dinner! Peppino's Restaurant & Bar in Callicoon is a great place with generous portions of Italian specialties (calzones, pizza, pasta, seafood, and more).

Hotels and Stays

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Where to Eat

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getting there

By Train

The Catskills are not directly accessible by major train lines, but Amtrak and Metro-North both stop at stations throughout the Hudson Valley, with Catskills destinations accessible by taxi or rental car.

By Plane

The Catskills region is served by the Greater Binghamton Airport, the Albany International Airport and Stewart International Airport with taxi and rental-car services to take visitors to the Catskills.

By Car

(varies by location; drive times below are to Woodstock):
From New York City: 2 hours
From Albany: 1 hour
From Buffalo: 5 hours
From Boston: 3.5 hours
From Philadelphia: 3.5 hours
From Montreal: 4.5 hours

By Bus

Trailways bus lines make regular stops in the Catskills with service from New York City, Albany, Newburgh, and more.