Go back to the future for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
Tue May 12 2009
BEST WEEKEND TO GO: August 15--16
DISTANCE: 103 mi -- about 1 hour 58 mins (up to 2 hours 30 mins in traffic)
WHY GO What went down this weekend 40 years ago? A whole lotta rain, wacky tobacky and free love, not to mention lyrics and guitar riffs that force you to admit that the baby boomers were once damn cool. The place to soak in the peace—or something like that—on this year's auspicious anniversary will be Sullivan County's Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a 15,000-seat music venue and museum set on the actual, mythical site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival (and about 70 miles west of Woodstock the town). "Even if you weren't at Woodstock in 1969, welcome back, because really, the whole world was here that weekend," says Wade Lawrence, director of the Museum at Bethel Woods, a shrine to local legend that opened in summer 2008. Hendrix and Joplin won't make it to the reunion on August 15, but the Heroes of Woodstock concert (200 Hurd Rd at Rte 17B; lawn $19.69, reserved seating $40 and $69; bethelwoodscenter.org) will see some familiar faces, including those of Jefferson Starship, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Ten Years After, Canned Heat and the Levon Helm Band. They're old, but kicking—and no doubt raring to rock that alfalfa field once again.
WHY STAY: Make time to spin through the Museum at Bethel Woods (200 Hurd Rd at Rte 17B; 866-781-2922, bethelwoodscenter.org; $13), which not only houses a permanent exhibit about the '60s and Woodstock, but from June 12 to September 7 will host "Give Peace a Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In for Peace," featuring large-format photos by the late Gerry Dieter, who documented John and Yoko's 1969 pacifism plea from a mattress at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel for Life magazine (which never ran them, choosing instead to cover the Vietnam conflict). If you've had your fill of nostalgia, head to Kittatinny Campgrounds (3854 Rte 97, Barryville, NY; 845-557-8611, kittatinny.com), about a 15-minute drive away on the banks of the Delaware River, to rent canoes, rafts or kayaks, or break the peace with a paintball battle.
WHAT TO EAT: The area's good eats are clustered in White Lake, about three miles from the concert venue. For fresh-caught fish dinners and martinis or syrupy French-toast brunches, locals point to the Front Porch Caf (1577 Rte 17B, White Lake, NY; 845-583-4838; thefrontporch.us) overlooking White Lake. Late-night revelers hit Benji and Jake's (5 Lake Shore Rd, White Lake, NY; 845-583-4031, myspace.com/benjiandjakes), a stone-oven pizza and music venue. On your way out of town, stop by the Candy Cone for a cool double dip (sugar-free options abound along with the real stuff).
WHERE TO STAY: The towns around Bethel offer an array of mud-free sprawling spots. Locals say the Bradstan Country Hotel (1561 Rte 17B, White Lake, NY; 845-583-4114; $200--$225 per night), a five-room B&B, has comfortable rooms and a killer morning meal. The 118-room Days Inn of Liberty (52 Sullivan Ave, Liberty, NY; 845-292-7600; $145 per night), about 12 miles away, features Wi-Fi and the spirits of the Who, Grace Slick and Country Joe McDonald, all of whom supposedly crashed in the motel's late-'60s incarnation. In addition to canoes, the Kittatinny Campgrounds (3854 Rte 97, Barryville, NY; 845-557-8611, kittatinny.com; campsite fee $11 plus $13 per person/night) also offers 350 sites on 250 woodsy acres for those who wish to pound in tent poles.
GET THERE: You can take the Coach USA/Shortline Bus from Port Authority directly to Bethel Woods (round-trip $64; 800-631-8405, coachusa.com/shortline). By car, take the New York State Thruway (I-87) North to Exit 16 Harriman; from there, follow Route 17 West to Exit 104; go west on Route 17B for about ten miles, then turn right onto Hurd Road at the Bethel Woods sign.