When You’re Tired of the City, Escape to the Catskills

Drive two hours northwest of Manhattan and you’ll find a cluster of quaint towns full of things to do.

July 30, 2019
Photo by 6SN7/Flickr Commons

Pack your bags! In honor of life’s most delicious highways, we give you Hit the Road, Snack, our travel guide of things to eat, see, and do this summer from coast to coast.

In the past few years, the sleepier areas of upstate New York have become home to some of the most exciting artists, musicians, chefs, and makers. Drive two hours northwest of Manhattan and you’ll find yourself in the Catskills, a cluster of quaint towns in Greene, Delaware, Ulster, and Sullivan counties. With dozens of clothing and home goods shops, antique stores out the wazoo, restaurants, galleries, and performance venues galore, not to mention numerous hiking and biking trails, there’s enough going on in the Catskills to cover a longer vacation or jam into a fully-packed weekend. Rent a house or book a stay at one of the many boutique hotels for artistic workshops, cooking classes, and farm tours as well as charming accommodations and killer food.

Like neighboring Hudson Valley, the Catskills are best explored by spending days hopping from one town and county to the next, and there’s no easier way to do that than by car.

However, unlike the Hudson Valley (which is a bit more developed), some parts of the Catskills still don’t have cell phone service for stretches of the highway, and they don’t all have Wi-Fi. So if you’re completely unfamiliar with the area, screenshot or download the route onto your phone or (gasp!) locate a paper map of the area before getting in the car.

Greene County

Drop off your stuff at the Spruceton Inn in West Kill or Scribner’s Lodge in Hunter and put on your hiking shoes, as this area is all about the outdoor activities. Head to Elka Park to hike Kaaterskill Falls, a 1-mile trek up a 260-foot waterfall. For less of an incline, try North Point in Haines Falls.

Delaware County

About an hour’s drive (relatively short in these parts) west will bring you to Andes, a charming town with little shops and galleries. Start your morning at Two Old Tarts, then browse around town and pop in at a few shops, like Paisley’s for home goods and textiles and great vintage finds at Clementine Vintage Clothing. Grab a snack and a tall glass of cider at on your way out at Wayside Cider Taproom. Drive 30 minutes south and you’ll arrive at Little Pond Campground, where you can take a dip in the water (or rent a canoe) and spread out a blanket for a picnic on the small beach. Better yet, stop at a grocery store on the way for burgers and veggies to throw on one of the outdoor grills.

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Open Sat 11-5, Sun 11-5

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Is it Saturday? You’ve got to make a stop at Halcottsville’s Round Barn for the Pakatakan Farmers Market. Hikers should head to Delhi for the 4-mile Bramley Mountain Trail or the easier Catskills Scenic Trail in Hobart.

Ulster County

Okay, much of this area is often referred to as part of the Hudson Valley as well as the Catskills. Check out this guide for more to do there. Call it whatever you want, but definitely spend some time in Ulster County.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Glen Falls House in Greene County!! A boutique resort that has been restored. Waterfalls, glamping, hiking and swimming holes. The restaurant Trotwood on the property is a delicious farm to table place featuring local bounties.”
— Nicole B.

Drive south for an hour and you’ll hit Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain in Shandaken, a 6-mile hike with incredible views of the area. It’s best to do this hike as early as possible, then refuel 20 minutes away in Phoenicia at the iconic The Phoenicia Diner. Planning to stay the night? The Graham and Co is centrally located, so you can still explore the rest of the town.


Though the actual music festival took place an hour away in Bethel at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, it’s still worth the 20-minute drive out to Woodstock for shopping and wandering. Some highlights: Anatolia Rugs, The Center for Photography at Woodstock. For a more nature-heavy visit, Overlook Mountain is a stunning hike.


Grab coffee and a mid-morning meal at Village Coffee and Goods or Outdated Cafe (everything, including your table, is for sale at the latter!), then browse for books with a pint at Rough Draft Bar and Books. Head over to Brunette to start the night with a glass of natural wine and elevated bar snacks (get the dressed-up hot dog!), or pick up a few bottles at Kingston Wine Co. to take home.

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Sullivan County

Head west for about 45 miles and you’ll land in Livingston Manor, a small, charming town that could’ve been the set of Gilmore Girls. Hop into Main Street Farm Market & Café for breakfast or lunch, good coffee, and various artisanal (often Catskill-made) ingredients—you might actually feel like cooking after taking a gander. Save room for a scone (or grab a pie to go) at Brandenburg Bakery. Fill up a growler at Catskill Brewery. If going out is more your speed, The Kaatskeller’s thin-crust pizzas and kale Caesars should do the trick. Book a room at The Arnold House or The DeBruce, both of which offer impressive dining options and plenty of on-site and nearby activities for kids and grownups.

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Drive 30 minutes southwest into Callicoon. On Sundays, your first stop should be the Callicoon Farmers Market. Callicoon Wine Merchant is next, even if you don’t drink—their meats, cheeses, and tapas are more than enough. If it’s too hot or too rainy to hike and bike, The Callicoon Theater is a must, as they show both new releases and old classics, as well as host local film fests.

Narrowsburg is just 20 minutes away, and though small, the hamlet is packed with food and activities. But first, where to stay: if you’re a fan of 50s-style decor and not afraid of camping, book this vintage airstream might be a better option. Browse around the local shops, like One Grand Books, Sunny’s Pop, and Nest (there’s also one in Livingston Manor!). When hunger strikes, The Laundrette is a great place to chill with a cold beer, sourdough pizza, and seasonal vegetable dishes.

Did we miss anything? Let us know your favorite things to do in the Catskills in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nicole Bilu
    Nicole Bilu
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    Jennifer Anne Brown
  • boulangere
  • Kduyer245
  • Rebecca Firkser
    Rebecca Firkser
Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.


Nicole B. August 3, 2019
Glen Falls House in Greene County!! A boutique resort that has been restored. Waterfalls, glamping, hiking and swimming holes. The restaurant Trotwood on the property is a delicious farm to table place featuring local bounties.
Jennifer A. August 2, 2019
I was so quick to add thoughts to your article that I forgot to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Thank you for writing it.
Rebecca F. August 2, 2019
So glad to hear that, Jennifer! And thank you so much for all these suggestions, I can't wait to check them out next time I'm in the area :)
Jennifer A. August 2, 2019
Jennifer A. August 1, 2019
Don't forget the Narrowsburg Farmer's market on Saturday's. Sprouted Root Kitchen serves up some awesome Vegan food! Then swing down to Barryville for their Farmer's market on Saturdays too. Lots of Rafting, Kayaking & Hiking in the area. Last of all run up Route 55 to the Corner Piazza for wood fire pizza. Quaint outdoor seating. The Rueben Pie & the Dessert pies are to die for.
Jennifer A. August 1, 2019
The Corner Piazza is in Eldred, N.Y.
boulangere July 31, 2019
Or venture into Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and Northern California.
Susanna August 3, 2019
Huh? What does that have to do with this piece?
Kduyer245 July 30, 2019
Don’t miss a visit to Hobart, the Book Village of the Catskills, with five independent bookstores, each with its own personality and focus. A great place for booklovers!