Famous for its place in American art history and a landscape of lush mountains and scenic views, the Catskills are an idyllic and peaceful respite from New York City—just a few hours drive away. The region has captivated artists, creators, and writers for centuries. Washington Irving set many of his stories, including Rip Van Wrinkle, in the Catskills, and American Romanticism artists formed their own school of art, the Hudson River School, here in the 19th century. That kind of creative energy and love for nature has always made the region special, but these days, there’s more than just history in the Catskills. Discover these hidden gems amongst the natural beauty of the region.
4 off the beaten path experiences in the Catskills
Escape to a desert island at the One Grand Bookstore
Located on the banks of the Delaware River, this quaint shop opened in 2015 and was started by former Out Magazine Editor in Chief Aaron Hicklin. Rather than stocking thousands of books, One Grand houses a curated selection of titles chosen by celebrated thinkers, writers, artists, and other creative minds—just the kind of aesthetic you’d expect to find in the creative Catskills. The rotating selection of books is based on what each person would take to their metaphorical desert island—a glimpse into the minds and thoughts of everyone from Tilda Swinton to Christiane Amanpour. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy the views with a hand-picked book recommended by your favorite creators.
Enjoy home-cooked meals at Mountain Brook Inn
Like so many of the independent bed-and-breakfast accommodations in the Catskills, the Mountain Brook Inn offers incredible panoramic views over the Catskill Mountains in an Adirondack style lodge—and all with a sweet and human touch from the owner Gary and his Saint Bernard Otis. But what sets it apart is its fantastic breakfast menu of home-cooked cakes and freshly baked pastries. Take a slice (or two) of the daily home-made coffee cake and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea by one of the many fireplaces that adorn the main building’s open rooms such as the library or dining room. It’s the perfect escape, made even better with the exclusive, sign-up only Saturday night dinner. Locals and visitors come together each week for a family-style meal prepared by chef Gary himself.
Learn art history with Thomas Cole
In the early 19th century, the painter and poet Thomas Cole visited and eventually lived in the Catskills. The Catskills and their wild beauty inspired him, and propelled him in the belief that art offers a spiritual opportunity unique to America’s evolving culture. Worried by the industrial revolution and new railroads impacting America’s wild nature, Thomas Cole and his Hudson River School, sought to immortalize America as a new environmental Eden. Visit the Thomas Cole National Historic Site for a brief history lesson, but then get out there in the nature and seek out the same waterfalls that inspired these 19th century artists. (The Kaaterskill Falls are especially picturesque.)
Taste local brews at craft brewery
True to the region’s legacy as an environmental haven, the Catskills are popular for farm-fresh foods and hearty-but-healthy options. Recently, that’s moved over into the craft brewing scene thanks to new producers and brewers. West Kill Brewing launched back in 2015 and owners Michael Barcone and his wife Colleen use their land for everything from hiking and fishing, to brewing. Located at the end of a 5-mile, dead-end road, the small craft brewery brews a series of seasonal beers on their 127-acre farm using fresh water from the Catskill mountains. Stop by their cozy taproom (decked out in true country style with wooden taps) to sample some of their brews before checking out some of the nearby hikes on and around their property.