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10 reasons you need to visit the Catskills

This fall, pack your bags and get out of the city. Here's why the Catskills are the perfect destination right now.

Time Out in association with I LOVE NEW YORK

Recently, you’ve probably heard buzz about the Catskills, and for good reason. These mountains, just a couple hours’ drive from New York City, have been inspiring urbanites for centuries—American artists, music lovers at the famous 1969 Woodstock festival, classic midcentury resortgoers (yep, we’re talking about Dirty Dancing; the movie that made family resorts sexy was set in the Catskills). The mountains are still as beautiful, accessible and soaked in history as ever, but lately, new generations of treasure-hunting visitors have been rediscovering them. These days, a blend of down-home country charm and fresh tastes play off each other here, making the region a fun mix of new and old for an easy weekend away.

Plan your escape to the Catskills now.

1. The mountains meet the Hudson River Valley here

The magic of the Catskills all starts with the landscape and every dreamy vista you've been imagining—forests, streams, peaks, farms, rocky ledges, waterfalls and more—can be found here. Take it all in on sweeping drives like the Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway and the Durham Valley Scenic Byway.

2. There's rugged-fun design hotels to stay in

A crop of hip NYC designers have brought their styling powers to remaking old motor lodges and campy mountain resorts into fun boutique hotels. Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in Hunter sets boho textiles on lofted beds and lights up nightly bonfires. In Phoenicia, The Graham & Co. offers playful touches like free bike rentals, a badminton court, in-room Tivoli radios, and “Catskills vs. Hamptons” T-shirts.

3. Plenty of outdoor adventures, from whitewater rafting to fly fishing

The river systems flowing through the area create killer local recreation opportunities that range from chill (American fly fishing was developed in the Catskills) to adrenaline-pumping (think whitewater rafting on Class IV rapids). Gear up to be as active as you want to at outfitters like Landers River Trips or the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.

4. Find farm-to-table eats at every turn

The Catskills have always been a good spot to go back to the land, and these days restaurants like the Lucky Dog Café in Hamden, the Tavern at The Arnold House in Livingston Manor, and the Heron in Narrowsburg bring local produce, meats, cheeses, fish and plenty of comfort foods directly to your plate.

5. It's an antiquer’s dream

The Catskills may be known for outdoor recreation, but antiquing could be its official indoor sport. Scavenge for American and European country furniture antiques at Antique's at Rick’s Barn in Roxbury and all kinds of curios and oddities at Mystery Spot Antiques in Phoenicia.

6. It's the inspiration for America’s first art movement

A group of NYC landscape painters in the 19th century saw the Catskills scenery as sublime—and they were so inspired that they formed a fresh stylistic movement, the Hudson River School. The school's founder, Thomas Cole, and subsequent artists like Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford painted large-scale landscapes that captured the beauty of the Catskills and more of America's natural beauty. See the places that influenced their work by taking the Hudson River School Art Trail, starting at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

7. You gotta make a Woodstock pilgrimage

Nope, the 1969 concert wasn’t really in Woodstock, but it did happen about 50 miles away at a 600-acre dairy farm near Bethel. Pay tribute to the hippies and rockers who defined a generation on the original site. The grounds now host the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, including the Museum at Bethel Woods, which features groovy interactive exhibits on the festival.

8. The area is sprinkled with Mom & Pop stops

Homestyle businesses have thrived in the Catskills forever. Even as the area welcomes stylish new openings and fresh updates, quaint restaurants like Phoenicia Diner and Colony in Woodstock still (thankfully!) serve up American classics. Onion rings, egg salad, sliders—come on, indulging is completely justified on a weekend away! Plus, neighborhood country stores like the Catskill Mountain Country Store and Restaurant pack their shelves with homemade treats and canned goods, so you can take a piece of the Catskills home with you.  

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