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Weekender: The Catskills

Joshua Paul

Photo: Joshua Paul

Rail Journeys
Catskill Mountain Railroad (Rte. 28, Mount Pleasant, Ulster Co.; 845/688-7400; round-trip $6) runs along Esopus Creek to the Phoenicia depot, a National Historic Landmark, and back. (Or you can tube down the creek to Mount Pleasant and take the train back.) The Delaware & Ulster Rail Ride (Rte. 28, Arkville, Delaware Co.; 800/225-4132 or 845/586-3877; round-trip $10) takes riders on a trip from Halcottsville to Roxbury.

Spas
Spend a day or a week at the New Age Health Spa (Neversink, Sullivan Co.; 800/682-4348 or 845/985-7600; doubles from $140, $882 weekly, including meals), surrounded by endless fields and wooded paths. The spa has a full range of activities and treatments, and lives up to its name with such services as astrological charting, tarot readings, and hypnotherapy. The Spa at the Emerson (845/688-7900; day packages from $370) lets non-guests book one of four daylong packages, which may include skin brushing and sea-salt exfoliation, massage, algae and mud wraps, reflexology, and an aromatherapy facial.

Tubing
Floating down Esopus Creek isn't a sport—it's a leisurely pursuit. Town Tinker Tube Rental (Bridge St., Phoenicia, Ulster Co.; 845/688-5553; $15) loans out inner tubes for a 2 1/2-mile trip; tubers return via Tinker Tube taxis or on the Catskill Mountain Railroad.

Museums and Historic Places
A monument to the 1969 Woodstock festival stands in a roadside corner of a nondescript, fenced-off field (Hurd Rd., Bethel, Sullivan Co.). Owner Alan Gerry plans to begin a Tanglewood-like summer concert series in 2004 on an adjoining property; the New York Philharmonic has already signed on for six performances. Plans call for a Richard Meier—designed pavilion, an indoor hall, and a festival stage.

Get a taste of 19th-century technology at the Hanford Mills Museum (County Rtes. 10 and 12, East Meredith, Delaware Co.; 800/295-4992; admission $6), a working water-powered sawmill. When the guide opens the millpond's floodgates, the water wheel begins to move, the leather belts and pulleys start to whip around, and the gears make the saws sing. Somehow it seems a lot more sensible than an electric switch.

John Burroughs, a 19th-century naturalist who wrote often about his native Catskills, influenced the likes of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. The Burroughs Memorial (Burroughs Rd., Roxbury, Delaware Co.; 315/768-7224) includes the rustic lodge where he summered, as well as his burial site at Boyhood Rock.

To see what the Catskills were like when New York State was a Dutch colony, visit the buildings that make up the Huguenot Historic Society (18 Broadhead Ave., New Paltz, Ulster Co.; 845/255-1660). Some of the stone houses, built by settlers fleeing religious persecution in France, date back to 1692. The same people also built the houses you can still see off Route 209, in the town of Hurley.

John Roebling, who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, also engineered the aqueducts above the D&H Canal to bring coal from Pennsylvania to Kingston. Walk the locks at the D&H Canal Historical Society & Museum (Mohonk Rd., High Falls, Ulster Co.; 845/687-9311; $3).

Opus 40 (High Woods, Saugerties, Ulster Co.; 845/246-3400) gives new meaning to the word handcrafted. For almost 40 years, until 1976, sculptor Harvey Fite worked on his "environmental" sculpture—six acres of steps, terraces, pools, and arches made entirely out of bluestone, fit together without mortar. Concerts are held here in the warm months.

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