The secret appeal of the Catskills for outdoor-loving, retreat-craving travelers is its location. Not only is it easy to get to by bus, but once you arrive, you never have to leave.
Whether your home base is a campy chic hideaway or a hip new hotel in the heart of town, here are two perfect itineraries for a romantic escape to New York’s kooky countryside.
The Mountains Meet Americana
Flee the crowds and concrete to Kate’s Lazy Meadow (from $175/night) in Mount Tremper. Walking down the driveway is like tumbling down a rabbit hole into an artsy, vintage place. Created and owned by Kate Pierson from the B52s, the whimsically decorated, dog-friendly property has a main lodge and several cabins with amenities like fireplaces, kitchenettes, private patios, and living rooms complete with an odd assortment of classic movies, books, and board games.
The property’s outdoor offerings include barbeques, natural woods, and a grassy meadow (so pack your paddle ball). Waddle into the active Esopus Creek, and while away the hours sitting on sun-warmed rocks surrounded by green mountains or take a dip in their salt-water hot tub. Hanover Farms grocery and farm stand is across the street and open about nine months out of the year. This little store has a great selection of local fruits, veggies, dairy and baked goods. Plus a wonderful assortment of gelato, drinks, nuts, chips, cheese and charcuterie to keep you busy cooking and snacking all weekend long. BYOB, romance guaranteed.
If you wish to go off-campus, a 20-minute walk down the road is the Emerson Inn and Spa as well as the Zen Mountain Monastery, which has a comprehensive intro to all things Zen every Sunday. Or, bring your bike. It’s a 15-minute ride to both the gastronomic Phoenicia Diner and scenic Catskill Mountain Railroad; 20 minutes to the town of Phoenicia (deets below), and five minutes to the 1.5-hour hiking trail up Mount Tremper to view one of the last remaining fire watch towers in the Catskills.
A Main Street State of Mind
If small-town life is more your style, head to Phoenicia for your weekend getaway. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and the roaring Esopus creek, this little hamlet offers a surprising array of shopping, dining, culture and outdoor adventure.
In addition to staples, like a bank and grocery store, curious shops invite hours of retail therapy: eclectic vintage clothing, furniture, tchotchkes galore, lovely crafts boutiques, a souvenir shop. Two must-see stores are the old-style pharmacy and Morne Imports, a hunting, fishing and camping supply store. Aisles of outdoor adventure gear, and cool accessories you didn’t know you needed until you spy them on the shelf.
For a casual dinner option, the Sportsman Alamo offers a fully stocked bar and Mexican cuisine.
This tiny town packs a broad punch. The Shandaken Theatrical Society Playhouse offers up classic 16mm movies and full theater productions (some from local playwrights), the Empire State Railway Museum is housed in the old Phoenicia station, and the local library usually has an open shed of used books for sale worth a look-see. On a hot day, whitewater inner tubing down the Esopus is a must (Town Tinker, on Bridge Street).
While there are several motels and B&Bs in Phoenicia, the place to stay is the newly renovated and totally hip Graham and Co. (from $99/night). On the edge of town, this vibey 20-room motel offers a pool, bikes, a large lawn with Adirondack chairs, tons of lawn games, a volleyball net, and a tasty light breakfast every morning on picnic tables in the front yard. Some of its minimalist, outdoorsy rooms offer kitchenettes as well.
Getting to Phoenicia from NYC
Adirondack Trailways stops in the center of Phoenicia as it heads down Route 28 for pickups and drop offs along endless miles of this country road. For Kate’s Lazy Meadow on Route 28, request The Four Corner’s stop and walk about ¼ of a mile to the motel. Adirondack Trailways allows wrapped bikes and skis in the luggage hold. While the Lazy Meadow and The Graham both have wifi, there is no cell service so buy a round trip ticket and get the return schedule in advance. Be aware that the stops on Route 28 are unscheduled. The driver will pick up riders gathered at the designated drop off/pick up points along the route, including Four Corners.
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Note: When Catskills staple Sweet Sue’s reopens, we recommend the multigrain pancakes, home made sausage and a side of cheese grits.
Stacey Wolf James is a psychic and astrologer with a commitment to sustainability and an addiction to travel. She is the author of five published books including Never Throw Rice at a Pisces, the first wedding planning guide for brides who like astrology. When she’s not soothing her globe-trotting soul, she’s on back country roads with her Harley-riding husband or strolling their two bulldogs around Frenchtown, New Jersey. Read more about her: staceywolf.com.