New Paltz & Environs
The largest historical attraction in the southeastern Catskills is in New Paltz, a likable college town founded in 1678. The Huguenot Street Stone Houses, 18 Broadhead Ave. (tel. 845/255-1660; www.huguenotstreet.org; deluxe [90-min.] tour $12 adults, $11 seniors, $6 students ages 6-17, free for children under 6; standard [60-min.] tour $9 adults, $8 seniors, $4 students 6-17, free for children under 6; tours May-Oct Thurs-Tues [Nov-Dec, Sat-Sun only] hourly 11am-4pm, Sat-Sun every half-hour 10am-4pm), represent some of the oldest remaining architecture in the region. This collection of a half-dozen Colonial-era stone houses was built by a small group of French religious refugees, the Protestant Huguenots. A National Historic Landmark, the Huguenot district once occupied 40,000 acres at the edge of the Wallkill River. The original stone houses, the earliest built in 1692, have been restored with period furnishings and heirlooms and operate as house museums. Also on the site are the bright-yellow 1705 DuBois Fort (now a visitor center and museum shop, where tours begin) and the French Church, a reconstruction of the 1717 original. Visits are by guided tour only: The deluxe tour visits three of the houses and the church; the standard tour goes to one Colonial period house and the church. If visiting out of season, you can still stroll along the street and view the exterior of the houses (and maybe peek in a window or two). Tours are now also available of Locust Lawn, a nearby "American Homestead Farm" (1-hr. tour $8 adults, $7 seniors, $4 ages 6-17, free for children under 6; June-Oct Sat-Sun 2pm).
In the tiny, charming village of High Falls, which backs up to the waters that flowed through what was once the Delaware and Hudson Canal, the D & H Canal Museum, in an 1885 church on Mohonk Road (tel. 845/687-9311; www.canalmuseum.org; $5 adults, $3 children; May-Oct Sat-Sun 11am-5pm), displays original locks and vignettes relating life along the 19th-century canal. A great spot for easy hikes is the D & H Canal Heritage Corridor in Rosendale (tel. 845/331-2100), which runs 35 miles along the D & H towpaths and the Ontario & Western Railway from Ellenville to Kingston. The village of Rosendale is on the upswing, with a cinema in the old town theater and lively new bars and restaurants that belie its small size. The newly renovated Five Locks Walk, an enjoyable, easy half-hour hike in the woods, covers the ground between locks 16 and 20 alongside the canal.
The Mohonk Preserve is more than 6,000 acres of fabulously wild forests, fields, ponds, and streams, all part of the northern Shawangunk Mountains, with more than 60 miles of fantastic trails through dense woodlands and up bleached-white mountain crags. It is the largest privately held preserve (it's owned by a nonprofit environmental organization) in New York State. Not to be missed are the unmatched, breathtaking views from the climb to the tower at Skytop -- at this spot, 1,500 feet above sea level, you can see into six states on a clear day. Day passes and more information are available at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center, Route 44/55 (tel. 845/255-0919; www.mohonkpreserve.org). The legendary Mohonk Mountain House, a fantasy-like Victorian castle perched on a ridge within the preserve, is worth a visit even if you're not staying there -- and it really has to be seen to be believed. Day guests can hike the trails ($13), eat at the imposing lodge restaurant, and ice-skate at the beautiful outdoor pavilion.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Route 44/55 in Gardiner, is 12,000 acres ripe for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and lake swimming. There are 30 miles of footpaths and carriageways, as well as two lakes, waterfalls, and great mountain viewpoints. The panoramic views of the Rondout Valley from an overlook off Route 44/55, just beyond the Minnewaska Preserve, are breathtaking. A park preserve information office (tel. 845/255-0752), which issues climbing permits, can be found along Route 44/55 as you climb on the road above Gardiner. The incredibly sheer white cliffs of the Shawangunk Mountains (www.gunks.com or www.mohonkpreserve.org) allow for some of the best rock climbing on the East Coast. The Eastern Mountain Sports shop next door to the Minnewaska Lodge provides guides and equipment. The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (www.gorailtrail.org), which extends from New Paltz to Gardiner, is 12 miles of linear park, perfect for low-impact cycling, hiking, and skiing.
An up-and-coming boutique winery, with gorgeous views of the Shawangunk cliffs, is Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery, a member of the Shawangunk Wine Trail (www.shawangunkwinetrail.com). Run by a husband-and-wife team, Whitecliff, 331 McKinstry Rd., Gardiner (tel. 845/255-4613; May-Oct Thurs-Fri and Sun noon-5pm, Sat 11am-6pm), produces nice European-style reds and whites. Also in Gardiner, and recently opened to the public, is Tuthilltown Spirits, 14 Gristmill Lane (tel. 845/633-8284; www.tuthilltown.com), a maker of excellent local whiskey, bourbon, and rye, set in a 220-year-old gristmill (tasting and tour $12; July-Sept, Thurs-Mon noon-6pm). Another area winery open for visits is Adair Vineyards, 52 Allhusen Rd., New Paltz (tel. 845/255-1377), set in a 200-year-old dairy barn. Rivendell Winery, 714 Albany Post Rd., New Paltz (tel. 845/255-2494; www.rivendellwine.com), has been fighting local opposition to move to a new location at 507 Albany Post Rd. with Shawangunk Cliffs views; unfortunately, at press time, it has been forced to close its doors; check the website for news of a hopeful reopening.
Though perhaps not as pristine as historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, the two dozen stone houses that populate the downtown area of Hurley, off Route 209, are among the oldest and largest grouping of lived-in stone houses in the country. Main Street is lined with them, dating from the first half of the 18th century. Your only real opportunity to peek inside some of them is on Hurley Stone House Day, held the second Saturday in July, when guided tours are held. For more information, call tel. 845/331-4121.
Historical Revisionism -- The esoteric science of dendrochronology, or dendrodating -- by which wood samples are taken and rings counted and analyzed to determine age -- has recently revealed that several houses along Huguenot Street, such as the Jean Hasbrouck House, are not quite as old as originally believed. Because the dates were off by a decade or so, it likely means that the house was built not by the paterfamilias but his sons.
Woodstock & Saugerties
Woodstock has a name recognition any tourist town would die for, even if it's rather unearned. The watershed 1969 rock concert that took its name and defined a generation didn't actually happen here, but in an open field some 60 miles southwest of here, in Bethel. Still, Woodstock, a longtime artists' community (beginning with the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in 1902), had a vibe and creativity that fueled the '60s counterculture. In recent years, the village has been transformed by high-end boutiques as well as a smattering of T-shirt and hippie shops feeding off the concert legacy. Though touristy and disappointingly commercial, it's still a pretty and enjoyable place, perfect for strolling, and the top shopping destination in this part of the Catskill Mountains (hands-down, the place to satisfy your inner hippie with tie-dye tees and peace-sign art). The long main street, stuffed with shops and galleries, is Mill Hill Road, which becomes Tinker Street. Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, 34 Tinker St. (tel. 845/679-2079; www.woodstockguild.org), offers self-guided walking tours of the legendary Arts and Crafts colony (the largest surviving colony of its kind), as well as artists-in-residence programs and a gallery open to the public. The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, 28 Tinker St. (tel. 845/679-2940), is a long-standing cooperative with a large gallery space exhibiting work of local and nonlocal artists. The Center for Photography at Woodstock, 59 Tinker St. (tel. 845/679-6337), has excellent photography exhibits by well-known artists, along with workshops. Other galleries worth a look include the Fletcher Gallery, 40 Mill Hill Rd. (tel. 845/679-4411); Art Forms, 32 Mill Hill Rd. (tel. 845/679-1100); Fleur de Lis Gallery, 34 Tinker St. (tel. 845/679-2688); and Clouds Gallery, 1 Mill Hill Rd. (tel. 845/679-8155). Cool quilting classes are available at Woodstock Quilt Supply, 79 Tinker St. (tel. 845/679-0733; www.quiltstock.com).
Woodstock may not have been the site of the legendary concert, but it has plenty of year-round live-music concerts, poetry readings, and theater performances. The Maverick concert series, founded in 1916, is the oldest summer chamber music series in the U.S. Check the events schedule at www.maverickconcerts.org and get information and tickets by calling tel. 845/679-8217. The Woodstock Playhouse has performances of theater, music, and dance in the summer season (tel. 845/679-4101; www.woodstockplayhouse.org). With a main stage, bar, and lounge, the Bearsville Theater, Route 212, Bearsville (tel. 845/679-4406; www.bearsvilletheater.com) hosts diverse music groups, dancing, and arts performances year-round.
A worthwhile detour is to the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, 335 Meads Mountain Rd. (which begins as Rock City Rd.; tel. 845/679-5906; www.kagyu.org), high above Woodstock, a must not just for Buddhists, but for anyone with an interest in eclectic architecture. Free guided tours are held for individuals on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm.
Saugerties has been officially discovered. A cute little town upriver from Kingston, just 10 miles northeast of Woodstock, it has a sweet main drag called Partition Street, lined with good restaurants and suddenly teeming with art galleries, antiques dealers, and shops; it appears to be busy transforming itself into a mini-Hudson, the antiquing destination of the Upper Hudson River Valley. Still a peaceful and charming place, it makes quite a good base for exploring both the Catskills and the Upper and Mid-Hudson Valley. Not to be missed is the enjoyable half-mile-long walking trail through woodlands and freshwater tidal wetlands out to the river and Saugerties Lighthouse (off Rte. 9W), built in 1838 (you can even sleep here, as it's a fully functioning B&B). In summer, there's a picnic deck overlooking the river, where locals come to swim, and weekend tours of the lighthouse interior that include a documentary (Sat-Sun noon-3pm; donations accepted; call tel. 845/247-0656 for more information). In summer the formerly blue-collar town gives itself over to a very elite influx of equestrian fans with their fancy horses and trailers. The HITS-on-the-Hudson National Show Jumping Championships, 319 Main St. (tel. 845/246-8833; www.hitsshows.com), are held in Saugerties from late May to mid-September. Admission is free weekdays and $5 on weekends.
Mount Tremper & Phoenicia
The busy main road to Mount Tremper, Route 28, skirts the northern shore of Ashokan Reservoir, a beautiful 12-square-mile lake. Follow Route 28A around the 40 miles of shoreline for spectacular views of mountains rising in all directions; it's especially scenic in the fall. A little farther on, in Mount Tremper, Emerson Place (5340 Rte 28; www.emersonplace.com) is a surprising empire of refined goods and services at the southern edge of the Catskill Forest Preserve purposely built as a tourist destination. Emerson Country Store, inhabiting a mid-19th-century dairy barn, comprises a surprising array of upscale shops. But the major attraction in these parts is the Kaleidoscope at Emerson Place (tel. 877/688-5800). Like a planetarium, only trippier, the 60-foot kaleidoscope inside the old barn silo -- according to the Guinness Book of World Records the world's largest -- gives visitors an opportunity to climb inside the tube of a superhuman kaleidoscope. The psychedelic shows (Thurs-Mon 10am-5pm; $5, free for children under 12) are a blast, with different programs seasonally.
Tiny Phoenicia is an example of the revived Catskills. Only a few years ago, this was just another forgotten little town with gorgeous mountain views. At the end of the 1990s, a small handful of restaurateurs and young people moved in and revamped the place; today it's a symbol, like Rosendale and especially Andes, of the revitalization going on in the region. Though still a little rough around the edges, its perfectly unassuming Main Street now has a handful of creative, stylish shops and an excellent restaurant, all of which cohabit nicely with the longtime local bars. The town is surrounded in all directions by the big peaks of the Catskill Forest Preserve. The Town Tinker, Bridge Street (tel. 845/688-5553; www.towntinker.com), in a barn at the edge of town, rents inner tubes for floating down a 5-mile stretch of the Esopus River, something no kid could refuse. There are two river courses, one for novices and the other, which covers rapids and flumes, for expert floaters. Tubes are $12 per day, and the Tinker even provides tube taxi transportation ($5).
The Catskill Mountain Railroad, Route 28, Mount Pleasant (tel. 845/688-7400; www.catskillmtrailroad.com), operates a Scenic Train ($14 adults, $8 children 4-11, free for children under 4), a 12-mile round-trip between Phoenicia and Boiceville; after departing the Mount Pleasant depot, the train travels along the Esopus Creek. An added bonus on the shuttle is that you can tube down the river from Phoenicia to Mount Pleasant, and then take the train back. If you're lucky enough to be in the area in autumn, check out the Leaf Peeper Special.