- Distance from Washington, D.C.: 104 miles
- Best time: Year Round
- Best for: RomanticArts and CultureOutdoor
Say "Woodstock" and the legendary Summer of Love concert (actually held in a field in nearby Bethel, NY) immediately springs to mind. Visit the town of Woodstock, one of the Catskill Mountains best-known enclaves, and you'll be able to enjoy not only remnants of the late-'60s hippie era, but also a thriving arts scene, a robust culinary revival, and access to outdoor activities from hiking and kayaking to skiing. Meanwhile, nearby Saugerties is transitioning from sleepy to chic with the addition of a new luxury hotel and restaurants headed by chefs who've relocated from New York. Summer and fall (when weekend concert series and arts festivals up the liveliness quotient) are optimal times to visit these Ulster County towns, but cozy inns and eateries serving hearty fare make even the colder months enjoyable. For an artsy, neo-retro weekend in the mountains, here are our favorite spots to eat, play and stay. –By Donna Heiderstadt
Woodstock and Catskills Cheat Sheet
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1.Get into the laid-back Catskills vibe as you browse the eclectic shops and galleries along Tinker Street and Mill Hill Road in Woodstock, such as Loominus for luxe hand-woven chenille scarves and throws, Candlestock for unique beeswax candles and a peek at its 40-year-old "drip candle mountain", and the Woodstock Artists Association Gallery & Museum.
2.Head to the 2012-opened Creekside Grille at the Woodstock Golf Club to enjoy sunset cocktails overlooking the greens and a babbling creek.
3.Walk across the street to the yellow-clapboard farmhouse that's now Cucina, where the modern Italian menu of fresh seasonal ingredients can be enjoyed on the atmospheric porch in summer or next to a roaring fire in winter. Dishes may include a warm asparagus, snap pea, endive, and avocado salad with truffle vinaigrette or pork tenderloin with sage, prosciutto, and semolina gnocchi.
1.Enjoy breakfast at Café Mezzaluna in Saugerties, a vibrant "bistro Latino" filled with artwork and music, where great coffee complements morning specialties such as strawberry-banana pancakes. If kayaking or hiking, order sandwiches to go to tide you over during your activities. Alternatively, in Woodstock, you can enjoy excellent coffee and generously sized breakfast burritos and more at Bread Alone.
2.Take advantage of the gorgeous natural surroundings: In summer or fall, hike one-mile trail (roundtrip) to Kaaterskill Falls, the highest two-tiered cascade in New York, or kayak the Hudson River with Atlantic Kayak Tours, which offers paddles for beginners to experts. In winter or early spring cross-country ski at Mountain Trails Cross Country Ski Center in Tannersville, where you can traverse 22 miles of groomed trails, or downhill ski at nearby Belleayre (55 trails and eight lifts) or Hunter (55 trails and 11 lifts) mountains. Both ski areas also offer summer adventures, including mountain biking at Belleayre and ziplining at Hunter.
3.Slip in another moment of rural reverie with a 60, 75- or 90-minute warm stone massage, using heated basalt river rocks and Native American traditions, at the River Rock Health Spa.
4.For dinner, reserve a table at Joshua's Cafe, where the Mediterranean-influenced menu (Greek, Moroccan, Middle Eastern) is not only flavorful, but offers plenty of vegetarian options.
5.Woodstock offers an array of performance and exhibition venues, and depending on your artistic or musical interests, you can check out the schedules at the following: Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, where you can enjoy contemporary art exhibits and classical music performances; the Bearsville Theater, for indie and alternative music; and the Woodstock Playhouse, for summerstock musical theater. You can also scan the line-up at the Belleayre Music Festival, a summer-long concert series, or if you're visiting in late May, join the festivities at Mountain Jam, the annual four-day rock extravaganza.
6.Wander over to the Woodstock's retro Colony Cafe, with its circa 1929 ballroom, for one last cocktail and/or dessert. Tip: it's cash only.
1.Relax and people-watch over Sunday Brunch at Woodstock's streamside The Bear Cafe, where chef Eric Mann serves up an array of classics, from eggs benedict to Hudson Valley duck confit.
2.Browse for antiques at the Saugerties Antiques Center, which has 20 vendors under one roof, or at the Antiques Barn in New Paltz.
3.For one last stop, don't miss cozy gastropub The Dutch Ale House to sample from 15 craft beers on tap alongside casual grub like a bacon, egg, and cheese burger with a side of fries.
Where to Stay
If you're on a budget, but still want a cozy, upscale ambience, book one of the smaller rooms at The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream (rooms from $143/night). It may look like a motel from the outside, but inside the 18 rooms are full of elegant antique charm—plus there's air conditioning, cable TV, and free wi-fi.
In Saugerties, the luxury boutique Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern (rooms from $250/night) is the Catskills' sleekest property, just opened in late 2011. Set atop of the scenic falls of Esopus Creek, its 30 rooms offer contemporary elegance with a soothing palette of pale blue and taupe, king-sized beds with fine linens, and iPod docking stations.
When to Go
The Catskills, and Ulster County in particular, is a year-round destination and each season offers its own pleasures:
Summer weekends are packed with music, arts, and crafts celebrations, notably the Belleayre Music Festival (every weekend from June through August); to check what's happening visit Ulster County's events calendar.
Spring blossoms with picturesque babbling brooks and wildflowers—plus the heady revelry at the annual TAP New York Craft Beer & Fine Food Festival (last weekend in April) at Hunter Mountain.
How to Get There
By car from New York City: Neighboring Woodstock and Saugerties are 90 minutes from New York City. Take the New York State Thruway (Interstate 87) North to exit 19 Kingston. Head West on Rt. 28 toward Pine Hill. After six miles turn right onto Rt. 375 and drive three miles to Woodstock. Saugerties is 15 minutes east along Route 212.
By bus: While it's advisable to travel by car to best explore the towns, you can also get to Woodstock from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Adirondack Trailways. The trip takes two-and-a-half hours.