Photo by Christopher Luther
There are so many reasons that the Hudson Valley and Catskills have been having a “moment” for decades. The beauty. The people with their wildly eclectic skill sets. The deep, broad history. This is true all over the place; it’s hard to go wrong with a visit up here, especially in leaf peeping/harvest/holiday season. That said, we are also a collection of very different worlds. Each business, each hiking trail, each downtown, each riverfront, has a unique flavor. So does each county. And nobody knows more about what’s good than those county tourism directors. Here, to inform your explorations, are some of the highlights of what they had to say:
LISA WISELY, DELAWARE COUNTY, HEAD OF MARKETING AND PROMOTION FOR GREAT WESTERN CATSKILLS, HOME OF 169 NAMED MOUNTAINS:
THE LAY OF THE LAND: It’s very untouched up here because of the watershed; we’re a little protected that way. Fall is a great time to take advantage of that. There’s nothing prettier anywhere than Utsayantha Mountain in Stamford in fall; there’s a fire tower you can just drive to with fantastic views. Then if you want a flat hike, there’s the Catskill Scenic Trail, 26 miles of it, and the Andes Rail Trail, lovely, with little benches along the way. You can do anything on those except ride motorized vehicles, although the Catskill Scenic Trail does intersect with our snowmobile trails. There are lots of medium-strenuous hikes: Bramley is great, four miles, and a gorgeous view at the top.
PICK YOUR SCENIC SCENE: There are towns up here you can get to by Trailways bus that have plenty going on to fill a weekend. Fleischmanns is building an exciting restaurant and gallery scene, and there’s a gorgeous venue in a restored estate. They also have vintage baseball—it’s super fun, the games are free, and they wear period garb and play by vintage rules. Margaretville has great food and shopping. Andes and Delhi each have really solid food, drink, gallery, and entertainment scenes that can keep you busy all weekend, right in the middle of the truly great outdoors. Then there’s a whole bunch going on out in Hancock, East Branch, and Deposit that’s fabulous—food, exploring, festivities.
THE EATS: There are so many good new restaurants out here it’s unbelievable. Brilliant chefs who’ve come here to cook because they can find affordable properties amid all these amazing local ingredients. We don’t have a big-box supermarket handy, but what we do have is loads of fresh and artisanal food for chefs to play with.
Our Farmers’ Markets are epic. Our Taste of the Catskills festival is happening in Delhi October 12-13; you can find loads of good food and there’s live music and a lot to do—there are festivals all over the place in harvest season. You can go tour East Branch Farms, where they do kimchi, and eat fermented food at their Korean restaurant; you can go to Dirty Girl Farm and meet the dairy goats.
STAYING HERE: We have plenty of gorgeous, comfy inns restored and run by artful people, from quirky little Victorian B&Bs to cozy boutique hotels, pretty much any vibe you want. The Hanah Mountain Resort has an 18-hole golf course and a heated indoor pool, the Roxbury Motel has unbelievable themed rooms and suites; they just opened a whole new property at Stratton Falls, and they are just bananas creative. So are the people doing the off-grid stays and glamping out at Bellfire Farms.
VIBES: I think part of what’s helping us thrive is that economic development folks are open to the idea of helping new businesses with grants and loans and freedom. They don’t start from no, they start from yes, and only intervene if problems arise—positive development is very welcomed. Strangers say hi here, people are helpful. I think that it’s a really kind place and I think that even though there are a lot of diverse political views and cultures, I think that everyone has this “Just do you and don’t bother anybody” mutually respectful kind of thing. As long as we all look out for each other as human beings and are willing to share space, we’ll be fine. There’s a shared understanding that we appreciate our visitors and treat them well.
Taste of the Catskills
Photo by Kip Shaw
The Roxbury Motel
“We carry on the Borscht Belt legacy of truly exceptional, inclusive hospitality here in whole new ways, as a premier destination for entertainment, health, wellness, and cuisine.” - Roberta Byron-Lockwood, President/CEO, Sullivan Catskills
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
ROBERTA BYRON-LOCKWOOD, PRESIDENT/CEO, SULLIVAN CATSKILLS, BIRTHPLACE OF NORTH AMERICAN FLYFISHING:
Sullivan County Fall Views
Photo by Jeffery Blum
PEACE AND LOVE: Bethel Woods is the number-one outdoor amphitheater in New York and, believe it or not, 13th in the world. Regardless if you're coming for a concert or event, to visit the museum, or just to tour the grounds, it’s a beautiful experience and we feel incredibly lucky to be able to showcase it to the traveling public, from local to global.
A LEGACY OF LODGING: We carry on the Borscht Belt legacy of truly exceptional, inclusive hospitality here in whole new ways, as a premier destination for entertainment, health, wellness, and cuisine, which was true many years ago. Obviously, with an entirely new look that’s thoughtful, smart, and sustainable. It takes all the forms, everything from luxury to family to moderately priced to whole new adventures in glamping, and it's just an incredible experience across the board. We have some of the finest properties: Investors from the city and surrounding tri-state areas have rediscovered our Sullivan Catskills, creating an emerging, energetic scene that's thoughtfully designed and increasingly progressive.
Resorts World Catskills
“I think that everyone has this ‘Just do you and don’t bother anybody’ mutually respectful kind of thing. As long as we all look out for each other as human beings and are willing to share space, we’ll be fine.”
- Lisa Wisely, Head of Marketing and Promotion for Great Western Catskills
The DeBruce Lodge
Photo by @rachmarie.s
We have the amazing campus in Monticello where you find Resorts World Catskills—everything from the gaming floor to the rooms is beautiful—and the Kartrite Resort, which is New York’s biggest indoor waterpark. We still have the classic Catskills resort vibe at Villa Roma. We’ve been working with the Borscht Belt Historical Marker Project to highlight the locations where that history happened, so you can imagine the spot in 1965, full of happy families.
EAT HERE NOW: We have restaurants that forage and locally source everything, creating distinctive culinary scenes for our visitors. We get visitors who expect only the best, and we think we truly do provide that. Foster Supply Hospitality, one of our own local investors that has several properties, has been recognized as a James Beard Award winner for Best Restaurateur; they’ve also been recognized in places like Fodor’s and Conde Nast for their extraordinary inns. Our food scene has exploded in the Sullivan Catskills. We worked with Bethel Woods on a Catskills Cuisine festival with 10 celebrity chefs, local chefs, demonstrations, local marketplaces; it was such a wild success that next year we'll be back, bigger and better.
This fall, Bethel Woods has the Harvest Festival farmers’ market going for several weekends, and the first weekend in October, the Big Sip celebrates 50 wine and spirits vendors. Lots of great food there, too—there’s always great food.
Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
Dove Trail Creation
, Photo by @smileforthebirdie
HAPPY TRAILS: You really have to see the Upper Delaware from the Hawk’s Nest on Route 97 and then drive down into Narrowsburg and do the Scenic Byway. I’m not sure how many places have a riverfront that’s a national park, but our Upper Delaware is—it’s stunning. And the hamlets along it—I mean, Narrowsburg never disappoints, always something new, but I could say that about each of them. We have a county bigger than the state of Rhode Island without a single city, but our hamlets and towns, each with a story and a beauty all its own, are incredible. Now we have the Dove Trail to explore; that’s gotten really fun. It started before COVID, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock; we thought we’d put doves and plaques in 15 places, asking businesses to sponsor them and local artists to uphold the theme—you know, Peter Max colors, kinda psychedelic. Well, 15 turned into 25; everybody started hearing about it, and by the anniversary, we were unveiling 50 of these 7-foot-by-5.5-foot doves. Then COVID hit and people were so in need of socially distanced fun, it took off like wildfire. This year we’re in the high 70s, and it’s become something bigger, a legacy trail, one of the longest free public art trails in the US. Our international visitors make it part of their itineraries.
LISA BERGER, ULSTER COUNTY TOURISM DIRECTOR, HOME OF NEW YORK’S FIRST CAPITAL AND THE SHAWANGUNK RIDGE:
Fall Views at Buttermilk Falls
TO YOUR HEALTH: We are seeing a lot of our beloved places reinvest in themselves, and we’re seeing continued interest in this being a place for people to connect with nature, with themselves, and their spirit, and with how they define wellness. Some people define wellness as hiking or extreme adventure. We’ve got that. Other people find wellness at a spa, with treatments and mindfulness classes. I’m seeing our resort owners revitalizing and re-energizing their spa facilities. Buttermilk Falls in Milton is in the midst of a huge renovation, redoing not just their spa but their big signature restaurant, Henry’s, and it should be ready by fall. Emerson Hotel and Resort just did a major spa refresh, and it’s beautiful. Mohonk Mountain House added a big outdoor pavilion to theirs last year, and they’re using it for yoga classes and all kinds of wellness things. They’re going to be doing cold-water plunges at Mohonk all through winter. Inness, the people who redid the Rondout Valley Golf Club, they’re adding a spa to their superb resort out there. And East Wind just opened a brand-new outpost in Oliverea, with everything set way, way up in the forest. There’s a lot of investment in making superb health and wellness experiences, where people come up here to detach and relax and be restored.
Views from the Shawangunk Mountains
OUTDOOR RECREATION, INDOOR DESTINATIONS: It’s a great year for flyfishing on the Upper Esopus; the snowpack melted late, and the rainy cool spring was great for the fish. Then of course you have the Shawangunks to play in; all those miles of carriage roads and views for days, in the middle of an ecosystem unlike any other on the planet. We also see a lot of people looking for new hiking and biking experiences, especially when they can connect them to our downtowns. We have an incredibly varied trail network. You can take the Empire State Trail and the Green Line and travel Kingston from the Stockade to the Rondout waterfront—I suggest stopping at the breweries. You can ride the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and stop in at Coppersea Distillery, then ride to the spectacular Rosendale trestle and go down into the hamlet; there’s lots to eat and quirky little shops, and you can stay to see a movie or head out to the Century House and the Widow Jane Mine—they’re doing a lot of really cool things out there.
“I always encourage people to check out the hidden history. It’s vivid and relatable, and we’re preserving and protecting it, just as we’re preserving our gorgeous forests and farmlands.” - Lisa Berger, Tourism Director, Ulster County
Historic Huguenot Street
Hudson River Maritime Museum
HIDDEN HISTORY: Another thing that just keeps coming beautifully into focus is the history of the marginalized, which I think can be more exciting than any millionaire’s mansion. I mean, of course, we’ve got Colonial history in the Kingston Stockade, but we now also have the Pine Street African Burial Ground. The Ulster County Historical Society is focusing on the history of the 12 towns that were submerged when the Ashokan Reservoir was built. The D&H Canal Museum tells the stories of the people who worked the canal. Historic Huguenot Street has transformed into an incredible 10-acre open-air museum with an emphasis on the lesser-told stories—the slaves and women and displaced Indigenous folks. The Hurley Heritage Society has been getting more into the stories of the people of color who lived at Eagle’s Nest.
Down by the Rondout in Kingston, you have the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History. The museum and cultural center, according to its website, “preserves and honors the legacy of Reher’s Bakery and amplifies immigrant stories of the Hudson Valley, past and present.” They’re awe-inspiring— very dedicated to helping people find their connections. And their bakery tours end with a free brine roll. Then of course there’s the Maritime Museum. There’s always a lot going on down by the waterfront, too. I always encourage people to check out the hidden history. It’s vivid and relatable, and we’re preserving and protecting it, just as we’re preserving our gorgeous forests and farmlands.