Culture Trip’s Guide to the Catskills

The Catskill Mountains are a scenic escape from New York City
The Catskill Mountains are a scenic escape from New York City | © Philip Scalia / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Chloe Byrne
23 October 2020

It’s not just cascading waterfalls and emerald-cloaked mountains that entice people away from the streets of New York into the bucolic wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. The region is also home to ski resorts, wineries and water parks, along with hotels that have hiking trails right on their doorsteps. Here’s our pick of where to stay, what to do and where to eat in the Catskills.

Where to stay

The Colonial Motel

With its forest-green and cloud-white facade, the 19th-century Colonial Motel holds up a mirror to its natural surroundings. Its rooms are a blast from the past, decked out with filigree bed frames, ruffled valances and antique furniture; some add Victorian-style wallpaper while others are painted sun-yellow. Start your day with a morning brew from in-room coffee makers or – if the season calls for it – a refreshing swim in the motel pool. In the summer twilight, cook up dinner on the outdoor grill and then dine under the stars.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Multilingual staff

Mountain Brook

The idyllic Mountain Brook hotel is the sort of place that will draw you in if you’re passing by. With rough-hewn log decking, wood-paneled rooms, flickering fires and mounted animal skulls, it is the dictionary definition of a rustic lodge. Enjoy a private cabin decorated with antique snowshoes and plaid curtains, and complete with a secluded porch and views of frosted mountains and a whirlpool tub.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
Conference space
Concierge services
Terrace
Smoke-free property

YO1 Health Resort

Squirreled away among dense pine forest and deep lakes, the YO1 Health Resort takes a holistic approach to wellness, offering Ayurvedic therapies, yoga sessions and mindful meditations. Pack your walking boots, swimsuit and gym clothes for hikes along the resort’s nature trails, dips in the light-drenched indoor pool and blood-pumping workouts in the fitness center. If your muscles start to ache, find relief with hydrotherapies such as a whirlpool bath or naturopathic therapies like a hot stone massage. When night falls, get your 40 winks in neutral-colored rooms with pillowy king beds and views of Bailey Lake.
Everything you need to know

At a Glance

Free WiFi
In-room accessibility
Full-service spa
Wheelchair accessible (may have limitations)
Concierge services
24-hour front desk
Dry cleaning/laundry service
Multilingual staff
Smoke-free property

What to do

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ClassHunter Mountain ski lessons
From $35 per person
1 hour 30 minutes

Slip on your thickest coat, step into skis and swish down the powdery slopes of Hunter Mountain. Tailored more to beginners looking to build confidence, this ski lesson is taught by an experienced guide who will show you how to carve your own tracks in the pristine snow. Over the course of the 90-minute experience, you’ll learn the right way to do the always-dependable snow plough, discover the basic skiing stance and even try your hand at a few turns.

ActivitiesZoom Flume Water Park
From $36 per person
2 to 8 hours

Indulge your inner child – or rope in the kids – for a fun-filled day whizzing down the slides at the Zoom Flume Water Park. With a full day pass in your pocket, you’ll be granted access to unlimited use of all water attractions from opening until closing. Shove your things in an electronic locker and spend your time rocketing down the 300ft (91m) slide, drifting on the lazy river or, if you have little ones, splashing around in the mini pool. Take a breather to tuck into lunch at the food court or languish on one of the private cabanas.

ToursLlama/alpaca hike and farm tour
From $50 per person
1 hour 30 minutes
Grab your camera and come meet the animals of a 19th-century farm. Kick things off with a tour of the sprawling 1850s homestead, where you’ll be greeted by purring barn cats twisting around your legs while you are shown the variety of rabbits, cows, sheep and pygmy goats that call the place home. Next, you’ll be introduced to a friendly alpaca or llama and given a basic safety talk before embarking on a hike. Guiding your shaggy-haired walking buddy through sloping pastures and dappled woodland, you will have plenty of opportunities for a selfie along the way.

Where to eat

Garden Cafe

Cafe, American, $$$
Map View

Gulp down fresh, organic juices and dig into locally sourced vegan fare at the Garden Cafe. Found curbside in Woodstock, this is a Pinterest-perfect incarnation of a rustic cafe, with whitewashed beams, artfully distressed wood-paneled floors and tulips blooming from vases on the tables. Outside you’ll find a plant-fringed garden, which is equally enchanting, with a canopy of tree branches providing extra shade. Once you’ve decided where to sit, fill up on a hearty veggie lasagna or keep it light with a salad of baby spinach, apple, dried cranberry and walnuts, drizzled in Dijon vinaigrette.

Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room

Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
© Peekamoose Restaurant
Housed in a renovated farmhouse, the Peekamoose Restaurant serves up seasonal, farm-to-table dishes, hoppy craft brews and Catskill-distilled spirits. The interior is like a well-decorated hunting cabin, presided over by trophy deer heads and decked out with pine cones, tangled woodland murals, antler light fixtures and silver birch tree dividers. Animal lovers may squirm under the sightless gaze of taxidermied creatures, but most carnivores will be busy devouring the wood-grilled loin of pork or slow-braised ribs, washed down with a not-for-the-faint-hearted Raven cocktail – a concoction of thyme-infused port, gin and even an absinthe ice cube.

Ze Windham Wine Bar

Wine Bar, Wine, $$$
Map View

Soak up the heady rush of sommelier-recommended wines with salted charcuterie, creamy cheeses or roasted red peppers at Ze Windham Wine Bar. Inside is a winter-wonderland-meets-Jane-Austen, decorated with ornate silver-rimmed mirrors, cherub oil paintings and porcelain plates – complete with crystal chandeliers hanging above the marble tables and faux-fur throws draped across sofas. This is a great place for sipping and socializing, and a hum of chatter spills from the doors, punctuated by popped corks or the arrival of cheeseboards piled with brie, caramelized onion cheddar and manchego.

These recommendations were updated on October 23, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.