The Catskills have long been a popular getaway for New Yorkers. With everything this picturesque area has to offer—quaint small towns, vast open spaces, crystal-clear freshwater streams, and inspirational mountains—it’s hardly surprising.
The Catskills region was a popular summer vacation spot for city inhabitants looking for fresh air, cooler temperatures, and recreational activities from the 1920s until the 1970s. The Catskills featured more than 500 hotels during its 1950s heyday.
The region became known as the “Borscht Belt” due to the large number of Jewish family resorts, and for certain New Yorkers of a specific generation, recollections of its glory still evoke nostalgia.
Best Places to Visit in Catskills
Learn about the best places to visit and things to do in this beautiful countryside, just a two-hour drive from New York City. Whether for a weekend getaway or a week-long vacation, plan a fabulous visit with our list of the top things to do in the Catskills.
1. Hit the Hiking Trails
The Catskills region centers around the state-owned and protected Catskill Park, an unspoiled 700,000-acre wilderness and recreation area.
With around 2,000 miles of hiking trails in the Catskills region, the area offers outdoor enthusiasts plenty of variety. The region boasts a wide variety of terrain and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Northeast, from verdant valleys and gurgling creeks to soaring mountain peaks and thrilling waterfalls.
2. Enjoy a Relaxing Summer Vacation
For generations of New York families, the Catskills are synonymous with carefree summer vacations. By the 1940s, the Catskills also became well known for the “Borscht Belt” resorts that attracted famous Jewish comedians and entertainers.
During the Catskills heyday, legendary hotels like The Concord, Grossinger’s, and the Nevele Grande Resort treated middle- and upper-middle-class Jewish families to fabulous all-inclusive accommodations, complete with meals, entertainment, and recreational activities.
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The movie Dirty Dancing and episodes 3, 4, and 5 of Season Two in the Netflix series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel capture the vibrant Catskills summer vacation scene that thrived in the 1950s and 1960s.
3. Go Fishing on the Delaware River
The Delaware River in the Catskills is a premier destination for fly-fishing in the Northeast. The world-class trout fishing of the Catskills draws visitors from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states in the region, as well as fly-fishing enthusiasts from abroad.
The main fly-fishing destinations in the Catskills include Roscoe, Livingston Manor, and Deposit. Some areas of the Delaware River (and on other rivers in the Catskills) only allow catch-and-release fishing.
The community of Roscoe, which bills itself as “Trout Town USA,” is proud of its fly-fishing heritage. This small historic town has a handful of restaurants and cafés, as well as several shops that sell fly-fishing gear.
4. Visit Farmers’ Markets and Farmstands
The Catskills region is prized for its magnificent pastoral landscapes, which captivated the Hudson River School artists. This picture-perfect countryside is dotted with rural villages and blanketed with a patchwork of small farms.
Since 1885, New York State has protected over 700,000 acres of land, the Catskill Park. This “Forever Wild” land is the heart of the Catskills region.
5. Have meals at farm-to-table establishments
A vast area of open, plain land and rich valleys, perfect for farming, are protected by the Catskill Mountains. Nowadays, farm-to-table eateries are popular in the Catskills, utilizing the region’s abundant produce. Regional ingredients from nearby farms and occasionally from the nearby fields are used in the cuisine.
The Beaverkill Valley Inn in Livingston Manor, New York, is well known for its farm-to-table restaurant and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A restaurant at the hotel uses vegetables from its organic vegetable farm. All of the breads and pastries are made from scratch, and the chef also uses farm-fresh produce, eggs, and meat from nearby ranches.
6. Stay on a farm or at a spa resort
The serene setting of the Catskills has been used by a number of spa establishments. You may unwind in a relaxing environment by booking a stay at one of these opulent resorts. Without “roughing it” in a campsite, it’s the best way to take in the outdoors.
Comfortable accommodations in a modern design are available at the Emerson Resort & Spa on Mount Tremper, along with luxurious wellness services. You might receive a body scrub, mud wrap, relaxing massage, facial, or face treatment. The resort also offers “chakra renewal” and crystal reiki therapy as well as other spiritual rejuvenation activities.
7. Take in the views of the mountains
A total of 35 tall peaks with an elevation of 4,180 feet may be found in the Catskill Mountains. Inspiring scenery includes wooded undulating hills, forested mountains, granite vistas, little valleys, and winding streams.
You can hike to the renowned summits of the Catskill Mountains if you have outstanding physical condition and are up for the endeavor. Beautiful Catskill Mountain vistas can be had by ascending the hiking paths to the tops of Indian Head Mountain, the fabled Slide Mountain, and Hunter Mountain (the Hunter Mountain Fire Tower).
8. Set Up Camp in Beautiful Sites
Wake awake to the golden glory of the sun on the horizon after sleeping under starry skies in the clean mountain air. Whether your campground is next to a tranquil lake or a babbling creek, camping in the Catskills will let you get closer to the natural world. It offers the opportunity to unwind in a pristine natural setting.
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The largest and busiest campground in the area, North-South Lake Campground in Haines Falls, is home to renowned hiking paths including the Escarpment Trail. In addition to having access to water, hot showers, and flush toilets, there are seven camping areas with more than 200 tent sites.
9. Visit the Cute Little Towns
In the Catskills, charming small communities are scattered across forested hillsides and valleys. There are small towns that once had a thriving population with main streets that are only two blocks long and faded half-abandoned villages. As a result of the recent tourism revival, other localities have also been revitalized.
The small town of Phoenicia, located in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, has a lot to offer tourists on its welcoming main street, which is lined with a number of eateries and quaint locally-owned businesses.
10. Stop at Old-Fashioned Diners
Authentic old-time diners are scattered throughout the Catskills. Stop at one of these cozy dining establishments, for a taste of the local food and culture.
Catskills diners are renowned for their classic all-American cooking. The menus feature hearty dishes such as pancakes, scrambled eggs, omelets, hamburgers, fish and chips, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Selena’s Diner in Tannersville has an inviting dining room with an old-school feel. The menu includes typical diner fare such as pancakes, waffles, omelets, sandwiches, burgers, and salads. This is a great place to refuel after an invigorating hike in the region. The trail to Kaaterskill Falls and other popular hikes are nearby.
Some of the top Catskills attractions can be found in the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, about a two-hour picturesque drive north of New York City. Hike in the Catskill Park while in the mountainous area.
Explore the residence and original studio areas of renowned landscape artist Thomas Cole. On a fun, family-friendly Skyride to the top of the Hunter or Windham mountains, take in the stunning vistas.