A Quick Weekend Getaway to the Catskills
If there is one movie that I will always watch whenever it's on is Dirty Dancing. It brings up memories of sleepovers and singalongs and trying to get someone to lift you up in the pool (because you know nobody's got Patrick Swayze's arm strength).
There's Baby and Johnny's love story, the dancing of course, and summer time at an exclusive Jewish resort in the mountains of New York state. Summer in the Catskills looked like the perfect place to find love and adventure. And I decided that, for my thirty-first birthday weekend, it was time to find out.
Let's ignore the fact for a moment that I already had love, most of these resorts are closed, and I am a terrible dancer. I want my Dirty Dancing moment! So, after a little research, I settled for the Sullivan County area of the Catskill Mountains in New York state, just 2 1/2 hours from Central NJ.
Where we stayed
The Glen Wilde, Mountain Dale
Staying at the Glen Wilde was part of the reason we found ourselves exploring Sullivan County. Awhile back when I was super obsessed with boutique hotels and resorts on Instagram (still am tbh), I stumbled upon the dreamy and definitely wild bungalow community that is the Glen Wilde.
While it is definitely not the expansive Kellerman's resort, it still has the authentic Catskills feel of vacation bungalows tucked away in the mountains. The property has about a dozen or more traditional bungalows but only a few have been updated so far. Of course, they're beautifully redone and have really cozy sleeping lofts.
In addition to custom and cozy digs, the little community has areas for relaxing with friends, a bonfire on most Saturday evenings, and a community table with lights strung among the trees. It really felt like the Catskills experience I was craving.
Where we explored
Bethel is best known as the place where thousands of hippies rocked out to Woodstock. Apparently it was going to be held in Woodstock, NY, another Catskills small town further north, but their residents protested. So it was held on a farm in Bethel.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is the museum, concert venue, and preservation organization for the 1969 Woodstock field. There's a museum, though we decided to skip it in favor of wandering the field. It was crazy to think that thousands of people camped in these fields and listened to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
Since Bethel was our first stop on Saturday, we needed a spot to grab lunch. We stopped at the charming Bethel Market Cafe. It's in a red Victorian home and has only a few mismatched tables with mismatched chairs. There was a huge counter with fresh baked goods that smelled so delicious. We had the most delicious sandwiches and it was truly the perfect relaxing start to our trip.
We ventured about a half hour north on some pretty windy back roads to Livingston Manor. Of course, it's another charming Catskills town with bakeries and local boutiques. And antique stores because what would a small NY town be without its antique store?
We happened to roll into town just as the town was wrapping up its annual Trout parade. Yup, trout like the fish. Apparently the area around Livingston Manor and its many creeks are great for trout fishing. The locals and wannabe locals (aka weekend regulars from NYC but mostly Brooklyn) walk in the trout parade in pretty elaborate costumes.
Livingston Manor had a few amazing little spots. We popped into the Bradenburg Bakery that smelled AMAZING and got buttery, flaky croissants. We poked around the expensive Market Farm where we could have purchased maple syrup for $16 for a few ounces. Though it's expensive, everything is mostly local but all from small businesses. Just outside of town is Catskills Brewery. It was quite busy but there's a big outdoor area where you're encouraged to picnic and drink a beer.
I think the best part about Livingston Manor was all the places to enjoy the water. The creek runs through the town and there was a little park and benches alongside it. We saw kids swimming and trying to catch fish in their hands. There was even a tire swing!
Another super sweet town nestled on the Delaware River, Narrowsburg is quaint with many local shops and restaurants. We ended up going to Narrowsburg twice because we wanted to eat at two of their restaurants. I also can't emphasize enough the gorgeous views of the mountains and water in Narrowsburg. Picture perfect!
We first went to Narrowsburg for dinner at The Launderette. Equipped with a brick oven, it serves the most delicious and unique pizzas like the potato, egg, and chorizo pizza. It had slices of purple potatoes on top! The pizza was so, so good but the views of the river were incredible and the tables are almost all outdoors. The sun setting over the water was a beautiful way to end our Saturday.
We returned the next morning to have brunch at The Heron. We were a bit nervous because it was recommended for brunch by the New York Times and Travel and Leisure and that usually means crowds. It was a bit busy but we were seated right away. The interior was super cute and the food was amazing. I had a big stack of blueberry pancakes and regret nothing.
Would I visit the Catskills again?
Yes! It was so relaxing and beautiful. I love driving in the car and exploring and the Catskills was all of that. There was plenty of little shops and quaint towns to explore. It's just the place to go to if you want a relaxed and unplugged weekend.
A couple more things to know before you go...
You will have to drive. This is a double edged sword: the scenery in the Catskills is perfect but be prepared to drive no less than 20 minutes from place to place. And small towns like Narrowsburg are small and there may only be 2-3 restaurants or shops to explore.
You will really unplug. Whether it's good or bad, there is limited cell phone service. I often lost reception while we were enroute and had to hope and pray it would come back so we didn't get lost. It was nice though, to focus on the moment instead of being on my phone.
There is an overwhelming population of "hipsters". Though to be fair, they call themselves "hicksters". They're transplants and weekenders from NYC, mostly, stereotypically from Brooklyn. This can be good and bad: they usually start great restaurants and open well-curated shops. But sometimes it overshadows the rough local charm of these small upstate NY towns.