Many people lump the Catskills into one big clichéd New Yorker getaway. But each county in the legendary mountainous haven has its own persona. Sullivan County, for instance, has no shortage of vacation-option diversity, earth-sensitive culture, or natural bliss. Here are a few options that might lure you into its quiet, or not so quiet, greenery.
DANCE LIKE A HIPPIE: Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is a beautiful concert pavilion built adjacent to the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival that attracted half a million fans. Up to 16,000 fans can enjoy the shade under the pavilion or sprawl out on acres of grass surrounded by farms and hillsides. The onsite museum—The Museum at Bethel Woods—proves that this is still ground zero for peace and love by reincarnating the legacy of the Sixties with the Woodstock concert as its beacon. The first third of the magical mystery tour sets the historical stage for the era, while the rest of inspired space uses video, relics, fashion displays, iconic pictures, sit-down theaters, and even a magic bus to transport you into the freedom-loving hippie era. Museum curator and Woodstock expert Wade Lawrence noted that for the original festival “half a million fans couldn’t make it here, so they just parked on the highway and started their own parties.” This place is memorabilia heaven for any student of alternative American history. For indoor and outdoor concert schedules, a wide variety of year-round events, and a taste of the museum’s paraphernalia, visit bethelwoodscenter.org.
FEAST: The Dancing Cat Saloon, across the street from the Bethel Woods convert pavilion, is way more than a live music joint. Its hearty cuisine is interweaved with spirits distilled right next door with local grains at Catskill Distilling. Options include Mama’s “Wicked White” Meatloaf, infused with their handcrafted, unaged Wicked White Whiskey, and “Peace” Shrimp & Clams, which is spiced up with their award-winning Peace Vodka and with a hint of everything from pastry dough to cola. The antique bar was transported from a famed haunt in New Haven, CT, and the wood theme never sleeps as carvings—including a few dancing cats—enliven the warm space. dancingcatsaloon.com and catskilldistilling.com.
STAY: Cochecton’s inviting B&B (barn & breakfast) option is the Golden Guernsey, a two-story cabin with a first floor common room, including a reading area, full kitchen, and a supply of games, classic video tapes, and books. The cozy throwback bedroom has a VCR. Chickens and turkeys roam the otherwise quiet, wooded yard area while very few cars pass by each hour. A home-cooked vegetarian breakfast is served each morning and relaxing in-room massages are available. Very close to Bethel Woods. thegoldenguernsey.com.
Villa Roma is a classic, everyone-welcome Catskills resort with an all-inclusive camp atmosphere. The sprawling hotel and timeshare campus (near Callicoon) has something for everyone including nightly family night activities and live music options. The five-course meals served in a dressed-down banquet-like environment is further colored by the friendly international staff. villaroma.com
SPLASH: The Delaware River is the spine of the Catskills and a great place to tube, kayak, and canoe. Contact Lander’s River Trips, 800 252 3925 or landersrivertrips.com.
HIKE: Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor is the Catskills hiking and nature-loving nerve center. This informed hiking retailer takes environmental awareness and mountain climbing advice to another level. The top-shelf gear, clothing, and footwear is matched by an array of maps and guidebooks. Owner Lisa Lyons—“When in doubt, go out!”—should be appointed to our national conservation board. morgan-outdoors.com.
For more information on Sullivan County visit scva.net.
For city folks, consider taking the Shortline bus (coachusa.com) from the Port Authority to Liberty, NY and renting a car via Sam’s. samstowingworld.com (click to Hertz site).
Ps, Narrowsburg, a quaint Pennsylvania-bordering village has an annual Riverfest, featuring bands, local cuisine, and reminders that we all share this planet. artsaliancesite.org.
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My Catskills highlight: At the impressive concert pavilion in Bethel Woods, N.Y., on the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival, I witnessed an overpowering Bad Company show. I managed a photo pit pass for the first four songs, and uh, sorta forgot to snap. Ten feet from singer Paul Rodgers and guitar legend Mick Ralphs, I couldn’t help but just rock it, dancing in the aisles as they say. The career concert photogs looked at me like I was a hack. I did manage a few pics (above). I also got curious looks from the band. I think they were thinking ‘who brought the dancing guy into the photo pit?’