Bastion Falls in Green County, Catskill Mountains
Nestled in upstate New York, two hours north of New York City and about 45 minutes south of Albany you'll find the Catskill Mountains. The Catskills are beautiful with pristine views making it a popular destination.
For decades, the Catskills Mountains maintained a prominent status as one of the best destinations in the Northeastern section of the United States. A trip to the Catskills makes for a peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable refuge from the daily grind. In the summer, families flock to the region to enjoy camping, hiking, fishing and rafting. They look forward to horseback riding and drink in the atmosphere and entertainment found at the resorts scattered across the region. In the winter, New York's Catskills region is a fantastic place to hit the slopes or do some snow tubing.
Nestled in the Catskills lies Hunter Mountain. This mountain is a popular ski destination, but that's not all it offers. During the off-season, sandwiched in the base of the mountain are the famous Hunter Mountain festivals. Festivals typically begin in the spring and end in the fall showcasing different themes.
Visitors from near and far come to enjoy the lively music, drink, food, Bavarian dancers and explore the vendors' wares at the annual German Alps Festival. What festival season would be complete without the annual International Celtic Festival? The other themed festivals may vary from year-to-year, but the latter two are typically annual staples to look forward to. Over the years there's been opportunity to reminisce at the Rockstalgia festival (this one was a lot of fun!), which featured older melodies from generations past and the "Mountain Jam" rocked out featuring all kinds of music. The season usually ends with the annual Oktoberfest. During the festivals, set aside some time to take the ski lift to the top of the mountain, it's worth the ride to see the wonderful view from the top.
Hunter Mountain has some spectacular views. It's been a long time for me, but I still can remember taking the ski lift up the mountain during one of the summer festivals.
While Hunter Mountain is one of the best well-known events of the year since it is a series of events (2015 featured some big names at Hunter's country music festival), there are tons of other festivals going on year-round. Be entertained, competitive, intrigued, tantalize your taste buds or learn something new. There's the Wurtsboro Winterfest, Ulster County's Annual Chili Bowl Fiesta, Sullivan County's Sportsman & Outdoor Rec Show and the Empire State Performance Rally, to name a few events. 1
Every year on the last weekend in September, in Saugerties is the annual Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, which is a huge event. The Garlic Festival offers entertainment, lectures on the wonders of garlic, food, fun and information. Farmers markets and vineyards are scattered across the region further enhancing any visit.
The annual Garlic Festival in the town of Saugerties is a popular event and well-known throughout surrounding regions.
Exploring the Region
When not at the festivals or other events going on in the area, it's fun to drive through the beautiful mountains taking in the magnificent views or wander about the quaint towns peppered through Greene, Delaware, Ulster and Sullivan Counties. A trip to the Catskills presents breathtaking views of the various mountains, forests, rivers and streams. Truly unspoiled nature at its finest. Visiting the local towns is a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend some time. You can enjoy poking in the many antique shops, art studios, thrift shops and peruse used book stores. Or stop to dine at one of the local restaurants in a quiet and serene atmosphere. If partying is your thing, the night scene is said to be pretty hopping in some of the towns.
The Catskill region is also full of adventure, history, art and culture. For instance, you can take a Zip Line through the mountains or go on another adventurous type of tour or hike. If you're more into relaxing adventures, there's plenty of golf, boating and fishing too. Not to mention shopping.
Many famous artists, including Thomas Cole who founded an art school in the region, drew inspiration from the beautiful landscape this region showcases. It is also said America's forefathers also drew inspiration from exploring these lands (in Virginia you can still see one of George Washington's paintings of the Hudson River Valley hung in his grandest room at Mount Vernon). And the lands' history extends far back before Europeans (primarily the Dutch) came to the region. Native Americans are said to have settled here 10,000 years earlier. 3
Catskill Game Farm Closure
A perhaps notable absence in the Catskills for many people who vacationed in the region in the past several decades is the Catskill Game Farm. The park was closed down in fall 2006 after a 73-year run. This park was run continuously by one family. Their zoo and amusement park had offered decades of fun for kids and adults over several generations (at least three in my family - I can remember feeding the deer). The Catskill Game Farm had created many good memories for kids who had the opportunity to feed and pet the animals and see exotic and endangered species up close. Sadly, the business ended in conflict and there were concerns about where the animals would end up and who would buy them. 4 I am unclear as to what happened to many of the animals (they were reportedly sold to various buyers), however, the big cats were rescued and placed in a sanctuary (not open to visitors). 6
Lion at the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC
As the Game Farm era came to a close, another facility of a different type still exists. The Catskill Animal Sanctuary, a 110-acre sanctuary for rescued animals from cruelty and neglect Opened in 2001 (I didn't learn of this facility until recently), this sanctuary is open to visitors. 5
If you're looking for something new, or want to revisit something old, consider a weekend or week-long excursion to the Catskill Mountains in the upper Hudson River Valley. Chances are you won't be disappointed.
Greene County, NY, USA