Traveling to New York City and then leave this awesome city to go to the countryside? Oh yes! Ok, I have to admit – I’ve spend some time in Manhattan before we took a rental and left the big city – in need of some calm, quite time in the nature. Without a doubt, it needs time, it needs some knowledge of NYC (otherwise FOMO will kick in) and in the best case friends who know where to go – I, luckily, have all three things. So before I’ll be your friend in the know, I have to thank mine – Christina – she suggested to do this trip. But because not everyone can have such an incredible friend, here’s my guide to the best spots outside of NYC but close enough so can easily reach it by car or train. It’s all around the Catskill area, full of nature, mountains and good spirit. So hop on:
- Shopping at Woodbury Common Outlet
Ok, this is not the most intellectual way to start a Do-To-List – but everything has to be in balance, right? Like doing some cultural things, enjoy nature, eat yummy food and do some shopping. It might sound trivial to you, but for me a US-trip has to include shopping. Don’t be afraid about the word outlet here, because Woodbury Common is not your ordinary mall. It’s filled with labels you actually want to have: Chloé, Céline, Lululemon and some department stores like Barneys. The prices depends – sometimes it’s 90% off, some european designers turn out to be more expensive than in the EU – but you’ll have a hard time not finding at least one little bargain. It’s also build like a little village and you shove from house to house – which is far better than most malls I know.
498 Red Apple Ct, Central Valley, NY
- Get arty at Dia:Beacon
So maybe you have been to Fondazione Prada, or maybe the Getty Center or Louisiana in Denmark? Dia:Beacon might be less famous – at the moment – but it is just as impressing. It’s an amazing art center near the Hudson river, around two hours from Manhattan. Wandering through the impressive and extensive halls filled with contemporary art (like Dan Flavin) is such an remarkable experience. It’s mostly installations – many of them made for this unique location.
3 Beekman St, Beacon, NY
- Stay at the Catskills’ cool hotels
We stayed at The Scribner’s lodge – if you picture yourself in a cool yet cozy hotel this would it be! It’s the most hipsterish version of a mountain resort: Pendeltonesque blankets, light wood, indoor and outdoor fireplace and cool people all around. Plus some complimentary S’mores to grill by yourself by the outdoor fire. Picture perfect gets a new meaning here. So, would you have expected such a pretty place about 2,5 hours from the city? Me either. But this little resort is worth the trip alone. 13 Scribner Hollow Rd, Hunter, NY
Another nice location: The Graham & Co. The atmosphere is more “camp” and less hotel, but it features a nice pool, cool amenities and design, too.
80 Route 214 Phoenicia, NYThe cozy Scribner’s Lodge:
The the cool Graham & Co.:
- Eat at Phoenicia Diner
This is the american diner of your dreams: super cozy, great comfort food (skillet-meals, avo toast to waffles. Make sure to get the last, though), coffee refills and down-to-earth-nice service (no snotty hipster-waitresses) plus an overall nice design (from the menu to the merchandise. Yes, merchandise. And yes, I bought some). Phoenicia of my favourite breakfast spots in the whole world! You shouldn’t miss this!
5681 NY-28, Phoenicia, NY
- Visit Woodstock
Yes, it’s a hippie town. But not like I did – and you probably do – imagine. The mix of spiritual bookstores, small vintage shops, fleamarkets in the summer, music sessions, cool cafés feels so balanced and peaceful without being too chliche. I loved the mix of people, from young to old, and of course the great food options with organic and vegan options. The perfect spot for a relaxed afternoon. A good point to start: The vegan Garden Café with it’s lovely backyard and yummy cakes.
6 Old Forge Road, Woodstock NY
- Shop Vintage
Those you read my other guides know: I love vintage shopping. And Woodstock is especially nice for this! There are some shops along the way and a lovely fleamarket called Mowers (Maple Lane, Woodstock, NY) – it’s rather small, but very charming. These places are not for big names, but for beautiful, quality pieces with some history and patina.
- Hike in the Catskills
I have not been into hiking, I almost never hiked in my life – But at the moment I’m trying to do new things and especially be open to those I thought I don’t like. And it turns out: I loved hiking! The season was just perfect, warm, late summer sun with a gentle breeze, the first days of indian summer. We went to a mountain near Phoenicia and it took us about 1,5 hour to get up – not too hard, not too easy and perfect for beginners like me. So you definitely have to check out the beautiful nature in the Catskills – although you might think you are not that into it. It’ll get you, trust me!
- Get some groceries
From Hunter, Phoenicia to Woodstock: There some really nice organic markets with local and fresh produce and even some beauty-gems (Witchhazel toner!). It’s worth stopping by even if they do not look fancy – just to get some snacks, treats or toner. I liked the Sunflower Natrual Foods Market for example: 75 Mill Hill Rd, Woodstock, NY.
- Calm down by the water
There are some small rivers around and even little waterfalls – perfect for refreshing in summer. But what I found extremely relaxing was the Ashokan Reservoir – It’s the reservoir that serves New York City with water. You can’t swim here and only do fishing with you have a special permit – and I can’t tell you what makes it so special, but the atmosphere here is just so calming. Just take an hour or so to check it out for yourself.
- Do it with a rentalThe easiest way to get around is by car – There is a bus going to Beacon and Woodstock from NYC, but getting to the hotel, diner or particular points might get complicated. Some hotel, like The Graham & Co., offer bikes, which is practical of course – but remember you are in the mountains and these bikes don’t have a gear shift. I even found driving and parking in Manhattan easy, there are traffic jams but that’s all you have to deal with.