Known for its place in the history of the visual arts in the United States and the hill of the hill and visual perception, Catskills is the stability and security that comes from New York City – a few hours from here. The region has captured artists, creators, and writers for centuries.
Having spent most of my life studying art, and loved American literature, the Catskills and the Hudson River Valley have been a target for me.
After living in NYC for about a year, I finally moved north to explore more of New York State this summer, and again this fall.
Read more about my trips to Catskills & Hudson Valley
Washington Irving has set many novels, including Rip Van Wrinkle, in the Catskills, and the artists of American Romanticism have established their own art school, the Hudson River School, here in the 19th century.
This kind of creative energy and love for nature always makes the region unique, but nowadays, there is more to the history of the Catskills and Hudson Valley.
Discover the hidden gems of nature in the region.
4 incredible experiences & things to do in Catskills & Hudson Valley
1. Discover the history of art by Thomas Cole
In the early 19th century, photographer and poet Thomas Cole visited and eventually lived in the Catskills. Catskills and their wildlife inspire, and they have fostered the belief that art provides a unique spiritual opportunity for American culture to flourish.
Concerned about the industrial revolution and the new railways affecting America's wildlife, Thomas Cole and his Hudson River School, sought to make the United States a new Eden colony.
Visit the Thomas Cole National Museum of Natural History for a short history lesson, but then get out there and explore the same streams that inspired these 19th-century artists. (Kaaterkill's spikes are particularly picturesque.)
2. Taste local poultry at a craft brewery
The reality of the region's heritage as a local site,
The Hudson Valley is famous for its farm-like food and healthy choices. Recently, that has moved into the arts scene due to the influx of new producers and vendors.
West Kill Brewing was re-launched in 2015 and owners Michael Barcone and his wife Colleen use their land for everything from hiking and fishing, to vetting. Located at the end of a 5-mile, end-of-the-road, small-scale farming plant produces seasonal series on its 127-acre farm using fresh water from the Catskill Mountains. Stop by their beautiful living room (described as the true country style with wooden tubs) to pick up some of your brews before checking out some of the hikes near and around them.
Beacon, NY, the Draft Industries craft bars sell a lot of local produce.
3. Surround yourself with modern art
In a region in New York City famous for its creative energy and art history, it should come as no surprise that the same region is still very much a center of arts and culture.
Storm King Art Center (named after Storm King Mountain) is located in Mountainville, NY in the Catskills region and has one of the most modern facilities outside the United States at the moment. Because it is an outdoor museum, it is closed in winter except for a small number on the weekends.
However, the state's largest other modern museum (open year-round) is Preface: Bekoni, located in Beacon, NY. The museum has a large collection of art and contemporary artwork from the old factory.
4. Join the visual area for inspiration
The Catskills region is famous for being a picture. There are many famous hotels and sites throughout the region, with views of the Catskill Mountains. But there are also many natural places that are open to the public which makes walking and nature accessible to everyone.
Most of the trips are in Ulster, Green, and Sullivan counties. Kaaterskill slopes are a fairly easy hike depending on the angle you come from. At the bottom of the waterfall is a small swimming hole, while the view above Kaaterskill Falls is a panoramic view of the mountains. Check out other hiking trails at tourist information centers across the state, or on their official website.
5. Buy locally and support innovation in smaller cities
The Hudson Valley is home to a large number of small businesses, artists, and artists. Every small town in the Catskills, on the west side of the Hudson River, has its own Main Street stadium with small independent coffee shops, gift shops, antique shops, and general stores.
Hudson Valley & Catskills – Visiting Cities and Cities
- Phenicia (Ulster County) – A small town / hamlet (population below 1k) famous for Phenicia Diner, a meat-based chef.
- New Paltz (Ulster County) – A small town (15k people) with a SUNY university and a farmers market open every Sunday in the summer.
- Livestock (Ulster County) – The small town (population 5k) within the Catskills Park is famous for giving its name to the 1969 Woodstock legendary celebration.
- Hudson (Columbia County) – The small town (population less than 10k) is famous for being a home for artists with independent designers and creators, as well as many LGBTQ + friendly sites.
- Poughkeepsie (Dutchess County) – The city (population 30k) with a number of Vassar College-owned businesses and the Culinary Institute, makes it an increasingly hip city for adults and students.
- Beacon (Dutchess County) – A small town near NYC and famous for Dia: Beacon and the arts community, including many airlines from New York City looking for a cheap but equally affordable / cool place to live.
Many of these cities make visitors to the state's winter vacation to ski, but in the summer they are dedicated to tourists and travelers. In East Hudson, the major cities in Dutchess County each have important homes for their local businesses. Many of the local businesses were started by people looking for cheap homes outside of New York City.
Hudson is one of my favorite cities in the Hudson Valley because it is also one of the most popular LGBTQ + friendly cities in New York City.
New York City is understandably catching the attention of many New York State visitors, but Hudson County and the Catskills region are easy to visit in NYC — sometimes even a day trip.
The history of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills region and the art and stories that took place there make it an attractive and transparent place. Whether you are looking for adventure, a place to relax and escape nature, or an opportunity to explore beautiful landscapes, Hudson Valley and the Catskills are fun.