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3 ways to experience the beautiful Catskills

Petula Clark waxed poetic about downtown—where you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares. But what if it’s actually the music of the traffic in the city that you need to get away from? If you’re looking to escape, things will be great for you in the Catskills! Here are three ways to explore this beautiful, wild, bucolic region just a few hours’ drive from the heart of New York City.

Family Farm Stay

Where to stay:

On a farm, of course! The platform tents at Stony Creek Farmstead make for a lovely vacation. These structures aren’t exactly roughing it—they offer electricity, kitchens and a wood burning stoves. But since your walls are canvas, you’ll wake up to the sounds of the trickling creek, and fall asleep to chirping crickets.

Where to eat:

With access to all sorts of farm-fresh ingredients, you may not want to leave at all. Your yurt is outfitted with everything you need to fry up the eggs you collected, along with warm bread, cheese and preserves purchased at the farm store. On Saturdays, Stony Creek fires up their outdoor pizza oven.

If you’re looking for someone else to do the cooking, the seasonally open Unclebrother serves up a limited daily menu. The young, creative team here makes beautiful and delicious food with local ingredients. There’s an air of fun about this place. It doesn’t hurt that it’s housed in a former mid-Century car dealership.

What to do:

The whole point of staying on a farm is helping out with the chores. Meet the farmers in the barn for the morning milking. Collect eggs, pick veggies, feed pigs.  Saturdays at 11am, the farmers offer a guided tour.

If you’re want to explore a few different farms, why not sign up for one of Table to Farm’s tours? There are plenty to choose from, so pick one that piques your interest.

Table to Farm Tours

For those wanting to get off the farm for a bit, check out Rail Explorers’ Catskills River Run Experience. This pedal powered (with electric assistance) vehicle rides on the Ulster & Delaware Railroad tracks. It’s easier than a bike, and since you’re on rails, you don’t need to look where you’re going (and there are no trains sharing the tracks). Fun for all ages, and a lovely way to get into nature!

the catskills - samantha brown

Romantic Bohemian Getaway

The Catskills offer a perfect opportunity to get away with your sweetie. Fair warning: many of the now-locals fell in love with the area while on a romantic vacation. Maybe you’ll be one of the next batch of city folks to ditch the concrete jungle for fresh air.

Where to stay (& eat!):

Check out Brushland Eating House. It won’t take long to feel like a local in this town of less than 600, especially if you book your stay in one of Sohail and Sara’s lovely AirBnB properties. These two former Brooklynites decided to ditch the city and open their own restaurant in tiny Bovina. There are four properties to choose from, each furnished simply and stylishly.

the catskills - samantha brown
photo by brushland eating house

Be sure to enjoy dinner at Brushland Eating house, their cozy restaurant that stands on Main Street. Ingredients are sourced locally, and cooked with heart. An added bonus: Sohail and Sara are Catskill evangelists, and love connecting with guests. If you’re looking for something extra-special to see or do in the area, they’ll give you all sorts of ideas.

 The Catskills - Samantha Brown
photo by brushland eating house

Where to eat:

Table on Ten. They host Brick Oven Pizza nights on Friday and Saturday nights, and the cafe is open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday.

The Catskills - Samantha Brown
photo by P A O L A + M U R R A Y

Even if you’re not sure cider is your thing, a trip to Wayside Cider won’t disappoint. In addition to delicious ciders, they also serve beer, cocktails, and food—from charcuterie and cheese plates to sandwiches and savory pies. The vibe is rustic and laid-back, perfect for brainstorming how you’re going to buy your own place upstate one day.

What to do:

If you visit the Catskills and you don’t go to a farmers’ market, did you really even visit the Catskills? There are many markets to choose from. You’ll find a big one on Saturdays at the Round Barn in Halcottsville. For something more quaint, visit Dirty Girl Farm in Andes on Saturday from 10a-2p.

The Catskills - Samantha Brown

There’s nothing better than a scenic drive through the region’s bucolic towns. A few worth mentioning? There’s Delhi (pronounced Del-High), the charming college town a lovely little downtown. The Stonehouse, a boutique from stylist Andrea Menke, features textiles, home décor and more from her global travels. Tay Tea opens the doors to its warehouse and small shop on weekends, where the public can taste their blends and stock up on beautiful loose tea.

Over in Franklin, NY, you’ll find Kabinett and Kammer’s new digs. This shop features tons of taxidermy, antiques, quirky natural history pieces and more. It’s fun to browse—you never know what you’ll find.

The Catskill Mountains Guild in Margaretsville features wares from many local artists. It’s really a great bet for finding a little keepsake to take home with you.

Funky Arts Vacation

Sure, the mountain air and fly fishing gets a lot of press. But if your idea of the great outdoors is enjoying a cocktail on the patio, there’s plenty of great stuff in the Catskills for you!

Where to stay:

So many great options. You could drop your bags at The Roxbury Motel, which boasts many themed suites. Sometimes a “themed hotel” can feel a little.. off-putting? But here, it’s quirky and fun. There’s a Wizard of Oz-inspired room; a Sound of Music suite inspired by the curtains Maria fashioned into clothing; and my favorite, Samantha’s Clouds, inspired by Bewitched. They also opened a second location at Stratton Falls— all I can say is WOW.

The Catskills - Samantha Brown
photo by roxbury motel

For a more mainstream hotel experience, check out the Hotel Dylan in Woodstock. There’s certainly a peace and love vibe, but with a more polished feel. You may check out a board game or vinyl record to bring back to your room—how fun is that? The hotel’s restaurant Santa Fe (whose original outpost resides in the Hudson Valley), does killer Mexican food and cocktails.

Lastly, if you’re a B-52’s fan, you won’t be able to resist Kate’s Lazy Meadow. Yep, as in Kate Pierson from the B-52s. This funky property boasts cabins that feel a bit like stepping into one of the band’s music videos. Let’s rocket through the wilderness!

Where to eat:

The Phoenicia Diner is what happens when a mid-Century roadside eatery gets a modern day makeover. Though the restaurant dates back to the 1960s (and looks the part), the menu is infused with many of the ingredients grown locally. Cornmeal waffles; bagels with locally smoked trout; reuben with house-cured corned beef… it’s both homey, and so, so cool.

The Catskills - Samantha Brown
photo courtesy phoenicia diner

What to do:

Bumming around small towns is at the heart of any trip to the Catskills. So many scenic drives, so little time!

The Catskills - Samantha Brown
photo by noah kalina

Head to Patrition Street in Saugerties for excellent antiquing, book browsing, and shopping. Green antiques offers Mid-Century modern finds, a great way to bring your vacation vibe home with you. It’s also worth mentioning Alleyway Ice Cream, where you’ll find creative flavors like Strawberry Pop-Tart; Earl Grey & Scones; and vegan Peanut Butter and Jelly ice cream.

The town of Catskill offers lots for people who love the great indoors. See a movie in the 1920s vaudevillian Community Theatre. You’ll also find a bona fide pirate bar in town, as well as Catskill Mill, a hub for artists started by the founder of Etsy.

And while this is about an hour away from the hotels listed, the Greenville Drive-in is one of the country’s last drive-in movie theaters. There’s an onsite beer garden and snack shack. What’s more, they play classic movies, like Dirty Dancing and Bringing Up Baby. It’s the perfect summer activity, no matter your age.

Have you been to the Catskills? What are some of your favorite spots? Share in the comments!

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If you’re looking to escape, things will be great for you in the Catskills! Here are three ways to explore this beautiful, wild, bucolic region just a few hours’ drive from the heart of New York City.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Hi Samantha,
    We just traveled to San Francisco CA and found a hidden gem about 30 minutes away in Woodside CA on Kings Mountain: it’s a rustic restaurant in the woods called the Mountain House. The food is five star and the environment couldn’t be friendlier! It’s one of those hidden gems only the locals know about, yet they are very friendly to visitors. Check it out next time you are near San Francisco. You will fall in love with it!

  2. For weeks I’ve been searching for NY state scenic drive info with no luck. I think THIS is what I need. I’ll look these over. A suggestion would be a map with your roads highlighted so reader can easily see if near a traveler’s route

  3. We loved watching Samantha Brown’s travel show. I would ask Samantha what she would recommend for seniors who do have a problem walking long distances. Any suggestions are great.y appreciated.

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