Brace yourselves: The Catskills are having their biggest moment since the height of the Borscht Belt resorts in the '50s.
Hudson Valley Magazine has dedicated its entire August issue to the region, declaring that "The Catskills Are Back," and featuring the pool at Phoenicia's The Graham & Co. hotel on its cover.
[T]he big story of the day is that the Catskills have seemingly overnight transformed from a sleepy, somewhat rundown region to a hip ’n happening hangout for all types of urban culture vultures and — dare we say it — hipsters.
What is this we hear? It seems that every season, at least one new boutique hotel throws open its doors — and more and more city folk flee upstate to the forest. Cultural offerings abound, gastropubs serve up farm-to-table fare, you can even stay in a luxury yurt. Yes, glamping has come to the Catskills. Read more
Above: Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts at the 2013 Catskill Jazz Factory. Photo courtesy of the 23Arts initiative.
Piers Playfair and his wife Lucy believe that the arts are the key to economic development in the Catskills.
“It’s important we have a strong artistic spine,” Playfair said.
The couple decided to bring renowned jazz musicians to the Catskills two years ago, when they founded the Catskill Jazz Factory -- a series of performances, workshops, and master classes -- in the Greene County hamlet of Tannersville.
The Jazz Factory, which kicks off its 2014 season tomorrow night, was such a success that the Playfairs are making it the highlight of new organization that plans to run year-round arts programming in and around Tannersville.
The new initiative, which launched this summer, is called the 23Arts Initiative (23Ai for short), and is named after Route 23A, which runs through Tannersville. Read more
Outdoor recreation opportunities abound in the Catskills, running the gamut from strolling on rail trails to expert-only wilderness bushwhacks. Whatever your adventure level — or your dog’s — there’s plenty to do with a pup in tow here in the Catskills.
What to do
HIKE. Most dogs love to hike, and the many trails that wend through Catskills forests are wonderful places for you to enjoy nature: balsam firs, bald eagles, tumbling cascades and vistas that have inspired generations. Be sure to match your outing to your buddy’s current level of fitness.
Catskill Park regulations do not require dogs to be leashed at all times. Voice control is acceptable in many areas; check the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s website (dec.ny.gov) for details. Some great trails to try are Overlook Mountain (watch out for timber rattlesnakes), Slide Mountain, Giant Ledge and Rochester Hollow. Read more
Above: A design for a local Catskills currency created by members of Transition Catskills.
About two dozen people attended the first public forum of Transition Catskills, a group dedicated to making the Catskills more economically resilient, on Wednesday night at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville.
“This was our first effort to organize a conversation,” said Jeff Tomasi, a former partner at Goldman Sachs who helped found the group.
There will be another film screening and public forum for the Transition Catskills movement on Saturday, July 26, at 4 p.m. at the Roxbury Arts Center in Roxbury.
Tomasi, who owns a second home in the Delaware County town of Middletown, also lives in London, where he first got word of Transition, an initiative that began in England around 2006 and addressed issues of oil dependence and economic instability.
“I’m not a leader, I’m a facilitator,” Tomasi told the group. “I’m not here to tell people how to live. Just here to start the dialogue.” Read more
Longtime Catskills wilderness guide Charles “Sonny” Somelofski has earned a few more gray hairs since this photo was taken — and caught countless more fish. Photo courtesy of
Catskill Outdoor Adventures (catskilloutdooradventures.com).
Charles “Sonny” Somelofski of Catskill Outdoor Adventures in Margaretville (catskilloutdooradventures.com), remembers when the licensing process to become an outdoor guide in New York state was a simple paper questionnaire with a $2 fee that asked whether he could swim, handle a boat, and read a map and compass.
“That was it, back then,” Somelofski says. “Bang! I was able to take people out and do it all.”
Today, being a state-licensed outdoor guide requires a bit more: taxable income disclosure forms, a physician’s statement, and certifications in first aid, CPR, and water safety. Those are the just the basics. Guides can be licensed in a number of different categories, ranging from camping and fishing to whitewater rafting and ice climbing, each with different licensing requirements.
The heart of guiding, however, has remained the same: proving to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that you can reliably take paying customers out into the great outdoors and bring them back again in one piece. Read more
A 20-year-old Cairo man has been charged with assault after allegedly punching one person in the face and dropping lit fireworks down the shirt of another.
Cory M. Thompson was arrested by New York State Police at Catskill following an investigation into events occurring on July 5 at a private residence.
In a press release dated July 10, New York State Police said that last Saturday, Thompson “repeatedly punched an individual in the face,” leaving the victim with facial fractures and a broken eye socket. That same day, police said, Thompson also dropped lit fireworks down another man’s back, leaving him with several burns from the explosion between his shirt and his back.
Thompson was charged with second-degree assault — a class D felony — and third-degree reckless assault, a class A misdemeanor. Read more
A cyclist takes a break for the panoramic view from Castle Point on the Shawangunk Ridge, at the southeastern edge of the Catskills. Photo courtesy of Riding the Catskills (ridingthecatskills.com).
Climb up and over the rocky Shawangunk Ridge to a spectacular vista overlooking the Hudson Valley. Meander along hundreds of miles of carriage lanes and trails through the Mohonk Preserve. Ride through rolling pastureland on 19th- century dirt roads, lined by mossy stone walls and shaded by tunnels of overarching trees. Travel winding country roads for hours without seeing more cars than you can count on your fingers.
The Catskill Mountains were made for cycling. And if you’re not here already, they’re easier to get to than you might think. From New York City, in less than two hours by car, you can leave urban sprawl far behind and discover a cycling utopia. You don’t even need a car to get here: Bring your bike on a scenic 90-minute Metro-North train up the majestic Hudson River to Poughkeepsie, cycle across the Walkway Over the Hudson, and you’re practically in the Catskills. Read more
Strapping on your hiking shoes isn’t the only way to see the Catskills: You can also hit the trail on horseback. Trail-riding companies operate throughout the region, and they offer an alternative way to enjoy the spectacular views and fresh mountain air that make the Catskills a paradise for hikers.
Novice and experienced riders alike should have a pre-ride safety check with the trail ride leader, says Laura Phoenix, a riding coach and equestrian specialist at Country Meadows Equine in Delaware County. Before embarking, beginning riders should be shown how make their mount turn left or right — and most importantly, how to stop.
As you ride, the group should set the pace at the comfort level of the most inexperienced rider, in order to ensure a successful ride for everyone in the group.
After horse and rider have gotten acquainted, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the views.
Spring is a great time to take a trail ride, Phoenix says. Read more