You may picture the once-bustling Catskills area as a sleepy anachronism, a relic leftover from its heyday in the last century. But that’s all changing as a new generation of vacationers discover the charms of this quiet, unspoiled area of southeastern New York. The success of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has piqued interest in this idyllic area and its simple pleasures.
With an updated focus on farm-to-table dining and the arts, along with its stunning natural vistas and outdoor activities, the Catskills are the perfect destination if you need to get away from the rigorous stresses of everyday life and get in touch with “you” again. Whether for a weekend or a summer, this is your place. Start packing.
1 Where to Stay
Much of where to stay depends on a person’s budget, but there are lots of options. There are hundreds upon hundreds of private houses for rent in great locations and it’s easy to find one for just about any number of guests. Prices also depend heavily on the time of year and holidays such as Labor Day.
The homes range anywhere from very expensive to sort of expensive, but they aren’t so far out of line as to make them completely unaffordable. If you look around enough you can usually find a decent deal. If a house is not in your budget there is an array of really nice private inns and hotels.
Need to stay where the Maisels summered? The Scott Family Resort on Oquaga Lake is the setting for the fictional Steiner Resort in season two and was approached previously as the film location for Dirty Dancing. It is one of the old-school resorts, having been family-owned and operated since 1869.
Camping is a great option but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rough it. Glamping in the Catskills is a huge thing and it can get as luxurious as someone wants it to. The real savings come by pitching your own tent in either an inexpensive pay by the night campground with indoor plumbing or by roughing it in one of the free camp areas scattered about.
For RV’ers there are some very nice parks where your vehicle will not be crammed into a spot like a sardine. Spaces are spread out and nightly campfires are common.
2 Restaurants and Cafes
The Catskills are no place to go if your diet simply must have prepackaged chain restaurant food to survive. But if you like freshly prepared food or farm-to-table type meals, this is your place.
Some highly regarded restaurants to seek out are The New York Restaurant, Barnwood Restaurant, Angela’s Italian Bistro and Brewery, and 394 Main Wine Bar.
The New York Restaurant features live music in a casual environment and it has been likened to a saloon from years ago. The owner, Natasha Witka, said political correctness is incorrect in her establishment. The menu is extensive and their meats are hand cured in-house. They are well-known for serving simple food with complex flavors.
The Barnwood only serves food made with the freshest ingredients to be found. From ribs to burgers to battered fish to meatloaf, this downhome restaurant is known for satisfying even the pickiest of palates.
Angela’s Italian Bistro and Brewery is a favorite spot for locals who say they serve the very best pizza in the entire world. Everything is made in-house with fresh ingredients and you can literally taste the difference. They brew their own beer and can whip up a pasta dish that’ll make you want to slap your mamma.
394 Main Wine Bar is vegetarian-friendly so if you aren’t into eating a big old T-Bone they make some of tastiest dishes on the planet. They source their veggies locally so everything is always fresh.
3 Things to do
Imagine this. You are standing thigh-deep in a rock-bottomed mountain stream, your body gracefully swaying in perfect rhythm with each new cast of the flyrod in your hand. Both sides of the stream are blanketed with thick forests of birch, maple, and fir trees. There are no unnatural sounds to distract your thoughts and now and then a deer surfaces upstream for a cool drink of clear water. If you know your literature, this is the same place where Rip Van Winkle fell asleep under a tree for 100 years. Surrounded by the undisturbed stillness, the story’s not hard to believe.
The obvious hiking, fishing, exploring, and camping are top on visitors lists of things to do, but the area offers other attractions as well. If you don’t want to do any of these obvious things, don’t let this stop you from visiting the Catskills.
Music concerts, special events, and festivals of all variety are almost a daily occurrence. Live music can be found in many of the bars and restaurants. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there’s plenty to entertain. Winter is a quieter time, with much of the area closing down.
For wine lovers, there is Windham Vineyard and Winery which treats visitors to cheese and wine sampling. The hosts are very friendly and the winery is elegantly furnished. Wine is reasonably priced so you can take a couple of bottles back to your hotel or campsite. It has been said that fall is the best time to visit the vineyard because of the changing leaves on the trees surrounding the fields. There are also two distilleries in the area, Prohibition Distillery, and Catskill Distillery Company.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is gallery which encourages artist expression. The displays are very well organized and placed and range from modern to classic.
The Museum at Bethel Woods houses a very well laid-out history of the area which includes a tribute marker to the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969.
There is a waterpark located in East Durham called the Zoom Flume. Though the waterpark is small, it’s set in a rural environment and very well contained so the kiddos can run around as they please with no worries.
For animal lovers, The Catskill Animal Sanctuary is a fun visit. The place is impeccably clean and the animals are loved and well care for. All of the animals were rescued from farms where they were being neglected or abused. The owners promote a vegan lifestyle though they don’t push this on their guests.
There is so much to see and do in the Catskills it would take a book to list them all. For a location where you can truly forget all your troubles and cares for a while, this cool, calm, and collected destination should be on everyone’s list of places to visit.