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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Weekender's Guide to: CATSKILLS NY (winter)

There is nothing better than having an open weekend in a new place. The modus operandi of the weekend was wake up, go out for a hike, come back and jump in the shower, and then spend the rest of the day exploring some of these quaint New York towns. It's the perfect way to spend a winter weekend, really. If you only have a few days, you can easily hike up one of New York's tallest waterfalls, visit abandoned hotel ruins, stop by a lighthouse, walk the streets of an artsy quaint little town and have some amazing meals with a view. Grab some extra layers and head to New York - it's the winter getaway you never knew you needed. 

Perched on the Hudson River at the Saugerties Lighthouse 

Visiting in winter generally means you get to move at a slower pace. The days are shorter and you can't plan to "do it all". My perfect day starts with a hike, and then taking it slow, enjoying the simple act of walking down a different sidewalk hand in hand, reading menus until you find a good spot for lunch.  After lunch, grab a coffee and some chocolates at one of the local stores and maybe do a little bit more walking.  Wrap up the evening with some kind of cool local/iconic tourist stop before finding a good local bar or brewery.  Picture perfect weekend, right?  It's how I like to wander - a mix of a nice hike, cute town, and gooood food. 

Hiking Recap Video 

Before we get too far into my "you need to eat here" rant, let's clear up some confusion. You are visiting the Catskill Mountains (known as the Catskills), Catskill itself is a town, and when I say "The Catskills " I am generally referring to this area (see map above). The Catskill Mountains, also known as the Catskills, are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains, located in southeastern New York. Catskill Park in the Catskill Mountains covers 700,000 acres. So let's go through some of these famous towns in the Catskills, where I stopped, what I ate, and what you can do if you find yourself in the Catskills of New York.

We drove through Catskill on our way to the Tiny House Resort on Friday evening.  We stopped at Creekside for dinner (sort of old-school american) and were impressed with the food at this quaint unassuming restaurant right on the creek.  I had the crabcakes and a salad (fried goat cheese - important detail) and Adam had the steak.  My previous visits to the backwoods of New York taught me that good food can be hard to come by but this meal was a good one and had us impressed as we left Catskill behind to head to the Tiny House Resort. There doesn't seem to be much to do in the Town of Catskill, but we had a great meal on the creek before launching off to a few of the iconic towns in the area. For lunch (and breakfast one day) we stopped at Two Mama's deli and mart in Catskill to pick up deli sandwiches and a few last minute supplies before hitting the trails - delicious and thoughtfully made and perfect for a breakfast on the go or lunch on the trails.

Main Street Hudson, New York

I was surprised how much I adored this quaint little town.  SO what I am saying is you need to make the time to cross the Hudson and spend some time in this trendy little town. We just walked up and down the mile-long main drag (Warren Street), popping in and out of adorable shops and stopping to read the menus of some amazing restaurants.  It's been called "Brooklyn North" and I can totally see why.  You know I love a good bar/bookshop and the cutest stores which allow for ample window shopping. Stop and eat at some highly rated restaurants.  We did a lot of menu reading and were pretty bummed when we didn't make a reservation on a Saturday night (busy, even in March!).   

Antique or art lover?  There are plenty of galleries to stop in and there is the famous Olana State Historic Site the one-time home and studio space of Frederic Edwin Church (19th-century Hudson River School of American landscape painter).  Traveling with kids?  Check out the FASNY Museum of Firefighting (complete with firehouse poles to slide down and ladders to climb).

View from the Kaaterskill Falls overlook 

As you make your way from the towns on the Hudson and head into the woods, you find towns like Hunter and hamlets like Haine's Falls. The drive up Route 23A to Kaaterskills Falls and Hunter Mountain is a stunning winding road up the mountains along Kaaterskill Creek.  You have to remind yourself you are still in the Northeast and just a few hours from the Connecticut border. 

Check out Hunter Mountain (ski resort) and snow tubing park. It's a smaller mountain but the perfect spot to do some skiing or tubing with the kids. If you want to lace up your hiking boots (as you should, you are in the Catskills!) this is the perfect spot.  In this area of the Catskills, you can Hike Kaaterskill Falls (winter guide) (and here is the summer guide to this gorgeous iconic 260' tiered waterfall) or Hike North-South Lake (a pretty lake with a campground and hikes offering sweeping views of the mountains from the escarpment).

Viewpoint on our North South Lake hike

Walk out to Saugerties Lighthouse

A horse show town for a few weeks in the summer, a Main Street with cute shops and restaurants, and a quick quiet hike to the lighthouse. Add in views of the Hudson, shopping and antiquing, and you have Saugerties. We started our stay in Saugerties with a quick walk out to the Lighthouse (1/2 mile walk each way, dog-friendly). After our walk, we had a delicious lunch at Rock Dah Casbah off Main Street (very cool interior, New American style food - great vegetarian/vegan options). We had awesome salads and split a fantastic mushroom appetizer. There is a nice little main drag to walk and we popped in and out of stores, coffee houses and chocolate shops. For dinner, we ate at the Red Onion and again were impressed with the quality of restaurants in this area. We started off with grilled Spanish Octopus; Adam had the risotto and I had the squid ink pasta with grilled squid. We ate, we walked around, we saw the lighthouse, and left quite content.  Need more Saugerties travel inspiration - check out this Weekend Escape Plan.

1869 Saugerties Lighthouse signage

Boots to borrow on your hike out to the Lighthouse 
Rock Dah Casbah - Saugerties

I am sure you have heard of the famous Woodstock, New York.  You are probably thinking of a lot of peace and love, tie-dye and hippies. That whole music festival? Yeah, it wasn't actually here, it was in Bethel, which is about 1.5 hours southwest. BUT, you can still get that vibe that Woodstock was famous for, walk along Main Street, do some shopping, grab a coffee, and enjoy a good meal.  You can also go on a pretty epic hike to Overlook Mountain (I did it in the summer but I'm sure you can hike it in the winter too) where you can see abandoned hotel ruins and climb one of the Catskills fire towers.  Views, history, hotel ruins, and a fire tower wrapped up into one great hike. 

Overlook Mountain Ruins, Woodstock

These towns are relatively close to each other, easy to get to, and all have their own unique identity and charm.  In just about every town you are guaranteed to find some great hiking and good food.  This trip was an excellent reminder that adventures do not always require a plane ticket or a drive to a famous national park.  Sometimes the weekend you need and the adventure you crave is just a 2-hour drive away.  If you want some more information and more towns to visit, check out this guide.

Happy Wandering, 

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