Been thinking about a visit to Sullivan County aka “The Sullivan Catskills”? I just took my first-ever trip to this picturesque region of New York State and was amazed how it mixed a rustic vibe with a little bit of funkiness and kitsch thrown in for good measure! There are also plenty of luxurious yet casual accommodations that would be impressive to even the fussiest of travelers. To use the old cliche, the Sullivan Catskills truly has something for everyone! Here are some of the memorable spots that I visited but to check out dozens of others, be sure to visit www.sullivancatskills.com. (This helpful tourism site makes trip planning super easy!)
I stayed at the visually stunning Bradstan Hotel in the Eldred Preserve which was once the site of small cottages that fishermen would stay at, fish at the well stocked local ponds and get their catch cooked on site. The Branstand provides great fishing in its numerous bodies of water in back of the property but they are “stocked” by nature only. Come here for a luxury lodge experience. Visitors get luxury cabins that around about 760 square feet with every amenity you can think of and then some! I was so impressed with my cabin not only because of the elegant yet cozy neutral-toned decor but because I had so much more than I could have asked for including a Keurig coffeemaker, heated bathroom floor and towel racks, chiropractor approved king sized multiple layer mattress, large soaking tub with jets, separate glass shower, luxury toiletries including bath salts and makeup wipes and oversized pillows. The restaurant on the property is called The Homestead in honor of the luxury Catskills resto of the same name that burned down a while back. Food here has gotten favorable write ups on foodie websites around the world but their specialty is smoked trout (Sullivan County is considered the ultimate trout fishing destination for the entire East Coast). There is a complimentary breakfast buffet for all guests which includes authentic French bread, sweets and quiches cooked on the premises. There are numerous coffees and teas included as well. For more info, go to www.eldredpreserve.com.
I went over to visit Kenoza Hall to do some yoga in their full service Hemlock Spa and then check out their uniquely furnished main floor which includes a plush dining room, bar and numerous seating areas. This is a quaint country boarding house that was renovated and had extensions built but magically still retains its quaint flavor. The decor totally knocked me out as it was a mix of shabby chic with traditional country furnishings. There is stunning velvet furniture scattered about with plenty of vintage antiques including my personal favorite, Depression Glass vases and candy dishes. Kenoza Hall is a stunning example of a boutique hotel as it has only 22 rooms that include large soaking tubs and an award winning culinary team. The lake views from all the rooms of this early 1900s white Queen Anne style building truly give the guests serenity. Amenities include Sferra linens, complimentary wifi, turndown service and alpaca blankets on all beds. For more information, go to www.kenozahall.com.
One of Sullivan County’s most popular eateries is Northern Farmhouse Pasta owned by Queens native “Pasta Bob” Eckert–who takes making homemade pasta very seriously. He used products only grown or sourced locally including cheese and vegetables. The result is truly delicious fresh food that has made its way onto The Food Network. I tried about a dozen dishes but being a sucker for homemade linguini, I had to demolish a dish of it with black garlic pesto. It was a rich and satisfying treat but Northern Farmhouse also has numerous flatbread and fish choices. The mushroom flatbread stole my heart. The portions are large and can be shared. The old cottage that Northern Pasta took over is as charming as the day is long. This quaint eatery can only fit a few long tables so capacity is about 50 persons. For more info, go to www.northernpastahouse.com.
A truly unique brewery and food experience can be had at Upward Brewery. The building was designed by the owners and it has a hipster hang meets Girl Scout camp vibe. Ask anyone behind the bar to see the brewery action in the back and you will be glad that you did. Upon closer inspection of the light and area premises, you will see a beautiful outdoor space on a lake that kids ice skate on during the summer and a bunch of Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit. Local kids also sled down the mountain here while their parents might be sitting around relaxing on the Upward Patio with some delicious dumplings from the bargain priced Upward Kitchen. This is a spade that described description except that everyone fits in here and you can bring the family. About seven or eight types of beers are made on the premises (the most famous being Golden Ratio and Base Camp) and served on tap to customers. If you want, you can get cans to go. The owners David Walton and Dana Ball met while being in a band together and Ball was actually was brewing beer early on in a small East Village apartment! For more info, go to www.upwardbrewing.com.
Sullivan County is a hotbed of breweries and distilleries and one of the most popular is Catskill Brewery. This is a Livingston Manor, NY “go to” for people who are fussy about their brew and you can also purchase cans to go. We prefer actually sitting in the bar area and getting to take in the actual brewery action nearby. Many employees are available to take you deeper into the back and explain the brewing process and talk about new and traditional brews being made at the moment. Catskill Brewery has won many awards for their products and their Freak Tractor is the stuff of legends in the artisanal beer community. This is a casual fun place you can find yourself hanging in for hours and when you walk in the door you will feel that everyone there is like an old friend. For more info, go to www.catskillbrewery.com. Be sure to take one of their cool logo beer glasses as a souvenir!
Catskill Provisions Distillery is a very special place and that is not just because it is the home of artisanal spirits including vermouth, gin and vodka made right on the premises and in a second nearby location. It is an award winning distillery owned and operated by a former Manhattan magazine publisher named Claire Marin who is only one of four female distillers in the US. Created in a vintage 1950 firehouse, this place is concurrently charming, comfortable and cutting edge. It is in the center of one Callicoon, one of Sullivan County’s most beautiful cities that has the vibe of Petticoat Junction and seems lost in time. You can grab a vibe in the cozy dining room or come in for a tasting at your leisure. Let me just warn you right now that all those tiny cups of liquor during the tastings will add up. Many of the Catskill Provision spirits are made with honey which give them a unique flavor and color. I recommend staying the whole afternoon for a complete tasting and maybe even doing their famous brunch which includes remarkable flatbreads, herbed chicken sliders and charcuterie items. Don’t miss the gift shop which includes all the “provisions” at a much cheaper price than anywhere else! For more info, go to www.catskillprovisions.com.
Do Good Spirits is a New York State craft distillery that has unforgettable tastings that includes discussions of what makes their brand different from commonly known and mass produced brands of spirits. Do Good Spirits is the home of the multiple award winning Bootlegger New York Craft Vodka, Gin and Bourbon as well as Beaverkill Bourbon Cream. The Bourbon Cream blew my mind–to me, the closest thing that it resembles is a White Russian or Brandy Alexander (it’s sweet and creamy). The Do Good Spirits tasting room is open daily from 10 – 6pm for tastings and the tastings handled by founder Brian Facquet are particularly detailed and fascinating. (He serves as the President of the New York State Distillers Guild so he knows his stuff.) You can also set up a tour of the facilities and to get a very fascinating up close look of the making of artisan spirits. The gift shop features great prices on both the popular and limited edition Bootlegger products as well as super creative brand merchandise. For more info, go to www.dogoodspirits.com.
The Roscoe Beer Co. not only is one of the most widely respected microbreweries in the “Sullivan Catskills,” but it’s 1600 square foot tasting room is the kind of place that you would want to hang out all day. It actually feels like the bar in the old sitcom Cheers to me! I like all the oak paneling and the way that first responder badges are displayed over the taps and on the walls. (It is customary for EMS workers from all over the US to drop off one of their badges when visiting and they are quickly hung up.) Come here for a tasting or just mill about–by the way, there is fabulous homemade root beer here on tap which is perfect for kids or if you are just a total root beer maven (like yours truly)! The tasting at Roscoe Beer Co. includes the fascinating stories behind the beers and there is always one on hand this time of year with a bit of of an “autumn spice” theme that is good enough to make you forget your Starbucks pumpkin spice coffee. One of their most popular microbrews is their Tail Ale pale ale which you should taste on tap and then continue the party by taking some home in cans. Roscoe is known as Trout Town USA so don’t be surprised to run into a lot of fisherman coming in for a glass of ale after a long day of casting. For more information, go to www.roscoebeercompany.com.
Many of the journalists/influencers who joined in me in my visit to Buck Brook Alpacas decided that it was one of the most memorable experiences of their lives–that is because you get really up close and personal with these charming creatures. You get to walk them around the farm on a leash and they miraculously go at the same pace as you do! You also get to feed the alpacas sliced apples and pet them. The alpacas are docile, love people and it is heavenly to run your fingers through their soft fur. You can even meet some of Buck Brook’s more glamorous alpacas who are headed to compete in local contests and learn from the owners what factors make certain alpacas more valuable. The gift shop features great alpaca fiber gift items including adorable handmade sweaters, glove and hats. For more info, go to www.buckbrookalpacas.com.
As you might know, Bethel, NY is famous for the amazing Bethel Woods Center For The Arts on the site of the original Woodstock festival back in 1969–but did you know that Bethel Woods Center For The Arts has stunning light displays that celebrate different holidays and seasons? The present display is called Peace, Love & Pumpkins and features not only hundreds of hand carved pumpkins with images of everyone from Herman Munster to Bella Lugosi but also famous Woodstock idols “pumpkin art” pieces. There are amazingly detailed pumpkin portraits of Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Richie Havens and Janis Joplin that are truly incredible. It took five artisans a full year to put this amazing display together and you can actually see some incredible pumpkin carvers creating new items to add to the display while you are visiting. Wear comfortable shoes as you will do a half mile of walking around the Bethel Woods Art Center to see this amazing pumpkin fantasy! There is a place for snacks about halfway though. For more info, go to www.bethelwoodscenter.org.
Top off your trip back into the city with a pit stop at Hawk’s Nest which is a real gem for those who appreciate great views. It looks especially beautiful with the foliage changing colors right now (the changing of the leaves happened a little late this year possibly due to larger than average rainfall). Hawk’s Nest does not really have an address but Wikipedia officially describes the locale as “northeast of Long Eddy.” Every Sullivan County resident knows where it is so just pull over and speak to a local or put Hawk’s Nest in your GPS or Google Maps app. You can print a topo map of Hawk’s Nest right here, by the way: www.topozone.com/new-york/sullivan-ny/summit/hawks-nest-7/. (There is incredible wildlife at Hawk’s Nest and eagles have even been spotted!)