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Weekender: The Catskills

Joshua Paul

Photo: Joshua Paul

The Catskill Mountains, some 100 miles northwest of New York City, were originally popularized in the 19th century by artists of the Hudson River school, who romanticized the region's rugged beauty. Opulent hotels quickly sprang up, and the upper crust of Victorian New York flocked here to escape the summer heat. During the 1950's, the Catskills came to be called the borscht belt as sprawling family resorts gave comedians like Mel Brooks and Red Buttons their start. Today, adventurers from Manhattan's art and fashion worlds are exchanging the overcrowded haunts of the Hamptons for the Catskill counties of Sullivan, Delaware, Greene, and Ulster. Replacing "the scene" with "the scenic," they're discovering winding country roads, endless mountain valleys, and enough open space to hide away in—at least until Monday.

Where to Stay
River Run Bed & Breakfast Inn Main St., Fleischmanns, Delaware Co.; 845/254-4884; doubles from $70. Settle into one of the streamside hammocks or snuggle by the parlor fireplace. At this inn right in the center of town, the eight rooms, half of which have private baths, are named for Catskill Mountain rivers. The two-bedroom fifties-style suite, with a separate entrance and kitchen, is a deal at $150.

Fairlawn Inn Main St., Hunter, Greene Co.; phone and fax 518/263-5025; doubles from $100. Built in 1902 as a summerhouse for a New York businessman, the Fairlawn stayed in the same family until 1993. That means much of the original woodwork, such as the wainscoting and parquet floors, is still intact. All nine rooms have bathrooms with pedestal sinks and claw-foot tubs.

Christman's Windham House 5742 Rte. 23, Windham, Greene Co.; 518/734-4230; doubles from $170, including meals. Falling somewhere between an inn and a resort, Christman's has 49 rooms, including nine in the 1820's Colonial main house. The rest are in five cottages near the golf course, tennis courts, and pool.

Beaverkill Valley Inn 7 Barnhart Rd., Lew Beach, Ulster Co.; 845/439-4844, fax 845/439-3884; doubles from $350, meals included. While fly-fishing is taken seriously here, relaxing on a porch swing is just as highly valued. The 20 rooms are decorated with solid antiques, but not over-doilied. Saturday dinner is a three-course, Continental affair in the dining room, with a preceding cocktail hour.

Copperhood Inn & Spa 70-39 Rte. 28, Shandaken, Ulster Co.; 845/688-2460, fax 845/688-7484; doubles from $570 for two nights (the minimum stay), including meals and one spa treatment. A wooden suspension bridge crosses Esopus Creek to a private island where miles of grassy paths wend past apple trees, tennis courts, and a low building housing 18 guest rooms. The spa menu lists a full range of luxury treatments, but the emphasis is on fitness, with classes such as the popular daybreak meditation session.

Emerson Inn & Spa 146 Mount Pleasant Rd., Mount Tremper, Ulster Co.; 877/688-2828 or 845/688-7900, fax 845/688-2789; doubles from $500, including meals. The attentive yet unobtrusive service will make you feel like a long-lost relative. Find solitude in a nook on the book-lined upstairs hallway, or socialize at one of chef Gilbert Steiner's celebrated French-inspired dinners, where a sommelier will gladly give you the wine label so you can find that vintage again.

Mohonk Mountain House 1000 Mountain Rest Rd., New Paltz, Ulster Co.; 800/772-6646 or 845/255-1000, fax 845/256-2100; doubles from $310, including meals and activities. Of the many upscale mountain houses that were once prevalent in the Catskills, Mohonk is the only one left. Built in 1869, the 251-room hotel retains the Victorian notion of a family retreat: there's no cocktail lounge, jackets are required at dinner, and air-conditioning has yet to be installed. Ask for a room on the west side, where views of the misty Catskill peaks are unimpeded.

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