Somewhere between the stillness of nature and the abundant expressions of vibrant art, you’ll become enchanted by the villages of the Catskills.
Small towns in the Catskills may be connected by country roads, but they retain an individual character. They each have pride in their hamlet. Between these villages, you’ll find rustic-hip farmers making cider from New York’s famous apples, quaint curiosity shops, religious communes, and the spirit of the artisan at every turn. That isn’t to ignore the main reason people move here: the incredibly beautiful landscape. The Catskills are a small but beautiful mountain range that offers skiing, hiking, rafting, streamside campsites, and some of the country’s best fishing. There is no shortage of memorable restaurants and hotels, and the best of which display the excellent local products of the region. Each one of these tiny towns has a central business district to stroll. Some might be as simple as two storefronts, others are a few blocks long. They each capture the wild spirit of the mountains. In the Catskills, the Bohemian Ethos of the 1960s has aged well.
WHERE: Accord, New York
The most remarkable business in town is probably Westwind Orchards, an artisan cidery that has a brick oven pizza garden. Perhaps that is unfair to Arrowood Farms across the street, one of the few breweries in the United States to grow their own barley and hops. That isn’t to discount the golf course, boutique wine shop, antique shops, and art gallery. The small community of eccentric local makers makes this one mighty small town. On the way in, stop by Saunderskill Farms—a wonderfully kitschy roadside farm stand with plenty of photo-ops and fresh coffee. On the way out pick up some steaks at The Applestone Meat Co‘s meat automat. It’s a 24/7 vending machine for grass-fed cuts of beef from an artisan butcher. Campfire fajitas never tasted so good.
WHERE: Bovina, New York
Bovina’s name was conceived to convince cattle farmers to move to its fertile grazing land. Until recently, the town’s population had been on a steady decline since the Civil War. Bovina Center refers to the Downtown strip where you’ll find big-city locavore dining and craft beer menus at the Brushland Eating House and Dry Town Tavern. Their presence here is baffling, considering the whisper-quiet nature of this pasture. We recommend staying at their inns after you dine. It remains the smallest and most sparsely populated town in the county. Ironically, since more travelers are discovering the serenity of this village, you might need to book ahead for drinks or dinner. Still, the closest thing to traffic here is when a flock of sheep crosses the road.
WHERE: Margaretville, New York
This is the largest village in the Middletown conglomeration, in the heart of the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. Being the “metro center” for this grouping of small towns, Margaretville has the largest selection of hotels and restaurants, and the only traffic light in Middletown, but it’s even more remarkable for cultural attractions. An artist-run co-op, the Longyear Gallery offers regular events where you can meet local artists. Margaretville is also home to one of the most iconic structures in The Catskills, the colorful Bussey Building, built back in 1860. It’s now home to Margaretville Auxiliary Hospital Thrift Shop. It’s one of the best places to buy second-hand goods in the Catskills, and all the profits go to help the Hospital.
WHERE: Roscoe, New York
Roscoe bills itself as “Trout Town, USA.” The fishing here is some of the best on the East Coast, with five world-class trout streams and a fly fishing museum in town. Aside from angling, this town is proud of its spot on the old railway. They keep an old train in the folksy town square. Go to the Roscoe Diner and see if you can spot your Alma Mater among the pennants of American universities that adorn the walls. This town also boasts a craft brewery in Roscoe Beer Co and a craft distillery in the Prohibition Distillery. Soak up the local booze with some carbs from the Northern Farmhouse Pasta, the first artisan pasta company to make their products from all New York grown wheat.
WHERE: Callicoon Center, New York
While the larger town of Callicoon offers Delaware River recreation, tiny Callicoon Center hasn’t developed the artistic and gourmet attractions that draw city folk up for the weekend–and that’s its charm. The Anytown USA backdrop of their two-block downtown area, features the Erie Train Station, a defunct rail station, and little else. The closest place to get a bite to eat is just two miles down the road at the Cabin at Hessinger-Lare. It’s an old log cabin that’s been re-envisioned as a local tavern. Just down the road in the virtual ghost town of North Branch Inn, a cozy old inn and tavern with two lanes of handset bowling. The Inn offers homey hospitality touches like warm cookies to be eaten by a roaring fire.
WHERE: Phoenicia, New York
Phoenicia is like Woodstock with fewer tourists and more recreational activities. It retains a late ‘60s Bohemian groove, but it doesn’t insist upon it. On the way into town, make sure to stop at the Phoenicia Diner. It’s a classic American diner with some upscale flourishes like locally-smoked trout hash, New York maple syrup, and superb coffee. Once in Phoenicia’s funky downtown you can either hang around for awhile and browse the vintage clothing stores, antique shops, and art galleries or just go to Mystery Spot Antiques, which is all of those things and more. Alternatively, you can work off a hearty breakfast by spending the day tubing down Esopus Creek.
WHERE: Fleischmanns, New York
Fleischmanns is where to go if you want more of that mountain feel. It’s the gateway to Belleayre Mountain skiing. Fleischmanns is also known for diversity (a feat in a ski town of a few hundred). The village contains both a Shaolin Buddhist Temple and a branch of the Congregation B’nai Israel that was founded by Jewish Farmers in the area a century ago. The restaurants in the area reflect the diversity as well. Try some Moroccan mint tea at the outdoor garden of Bebert’s Condiments Cafe & Gallery. On the way out, grab a jar of Berbert-inspired condiments to take home. It’s a nice change of pace from yet another jar of apple butter.
WHERE: Livingston Manor, New York
Livingston Manor has two creeks running through it, and a gorgeous downtown. The town features the kegs of the Catskill Brewery, the cakes of the Brandenburg Bakery, and a lovely park. One of the classic Catskills experiences is getting a sandwich at Main Street Farm, where all of the region’s best products, whether craft cider or farm fresh vegetables, are available in a quaint grocery store with a cozy cafe. If you want some more substantial fare, check out the frozen-in-time, Robin Hood Diner. Stay at The Arnold House, just around the bend from the town center. This Inn offers a pool hall, lake house, and spa all in one gorgeous mountain top setting. Don’t miss the karaoke night. Day hikes around Shandelee Mountain are more rewarding than exhausting.
WHERE: Andes, New York
About halfway between Bovina and the Middletown Villages is the town of Andes, the unofficial antique capital of The Catskills. The best place to start your hunt is the peculiar Kabinett and Krammer, a taxidermy studio and antique shop. The quiet town center is home to the Andes Hotel, one of the oldest in The Catskills, operating since 1850. This obviously charming town got even better in with the addition of the Wayside Cider barn tasting room. Wayside pours cider from foraged, wild Catskills apples and hosts regular concerts. There is nothing more “Catskills” than tasting craft cider and browsing antique shops.
WHERE: Oak Hill, New York
Up north a bit, right along Catskill Creek, is the musical town of Oak Hill. This town is home to the famous annual Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, and excellent record store, Preserved Instincts. If all the tunes get too distracting, deaden them with a quiet walk through the Oak Hill Cemetery, a serene village resting place that is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The only restaurant in town is a branch of The Yellow Deli, which is an international chain of sandwich joints operated by the Twelve Tribes, a fringe Messianic Jewish sect. They do a pretty good Reuben.