07/24/15 11:00am

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Sunset at North South Lake

Ask an upstater to direct you to the nearest swimming hole, and you might get an answer. Or, your request might be met with stony silence. Upstaters are notoriously secretive about their swimming holes, even though a quick search on the Internet will lead you to a wide selection of places to take a dip.

Still, when you stumble upon an undiscovered swimming hole that you can enjoy all to yourself, the last thing you want to do is blow it up. The good news is, there are plenty of places to swim in the Hudson Valley and Catskills that don’t require a compass, hip-waders, a head-lamp, or a weathered map with a giant X marking the spot.

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07/17/15 11:00am

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Photo of Delaware River by newyorkfishing.us

Drop the name “Henry Hudson,” and most people will immediately connect the 17th century explorer to its namesake, the Hudson River. But that wasn’t the only New York waterway that Hudson traversed during the early 1600s.

He and his crew on the Dutch East India Company expedition dipped their oars in the rapid, crystal-clear waters of the Delaware River, a portion of which forms the New York-Pennsylvania border in the Catskill Mountains. There’s a lot of beauty in those parts of the Catskills, located just beyond the reach of the Borscht Belt. Things have always been a little more rural and rough and tumble.

Take, for example, some of the Upper Delaware’s earliest settlers. Crowded out of their land in Connecticut, westward they pushed until they reached a tribe of Lenape and promptly purchased a 10-mile stretch of their land along the river they called Cushetunk (a Lenape word meaning “land of hogs”). Little did those settlers know they were on disputed turf.

While New York and Pennsylvania squabbled over where to draw the boundary lines, that scrappy group of Connecticut gents played finders-keepers and claimed the land as theirs. How’s that for an origin story? (more…)

07/10/15 11:00am

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Byrdcliffe Theater, Woodstock, via Village Green Realty

One could consider Woodstock to be queen of the Catskills art colonies. Creativity, arts and music run through the Ulster County village’s very veins, from the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild perched atop a slope above town, to the Woodstock School of Art just outside of the village on Route 212.

Art galleries number close to the double digits, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Woodstock is pretentious. Its residents are down to earth and won’t have any problem if you decide to show up to brunch in yoga pants.

In fact, you probably saw lots of them at class earlier, since there are four studios within the town of Woodstock. The close-knit community is big into supporting local businesses and getting in touch with their spiritual side.

If that — coupled with a mountain setting — sounds like your cup of artisanal chamomile tea, we suggest taking the 2.5 hour drive and spending a weekend. (more…)

06/26/15 11:22am

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Stone Church, Cragsmoor. Photo used with permission from Friends of the Stone Church

As we continue our three-part series on art colonies in the Catskills, we turn our attention to the mountain hamlet of Cragsmoor in Ulster County. Never heard of it? Not surprising.

Other places with walkable Main Streets and charming locavore eateries get most of the attention, while Cragsmoor remains a hidden gem, tucked away in a remote spot near the top of the Shawangunk Ridge. (more…)

06/19/15 11:29am

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Old Studio of Artist Hall, Palenville, N.Y. Via Wikipedia

It’s not hard to find the creative muse among the hills and verdant valleys of the Catskill Mountains. Artists have been doing it for ages; in fact, there’s a whole art movement based around the views of the Catskills from the Hudson Valley.

Painters from the Hudson River School like Thomas Cole, Frederic Erwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, and Asher Brown Durand all took inspiration from their surroundings, a legacy that continues with up-and-coming art communities in the Hudson Valley and Catskills like Kingston and Beacon. (more…)

06/12/15 11:30am

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Main Street, Rosendale. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we took a look at Germantown, a hidden gem East of the Hudson River. This week, we take a look at Rosendale, another hidden gem, one located West of the Hudson.

Where Germantown is more pastoral, Rosendale has a funky, artsy vibe to go with its small-town charm. Located in central Ulster County about 10 minutes north of New Paltz, Rosendale village is essentially a one-stop-light town along the Rondout Creek. But there’s a lot happening along the half mile stretch of Main Street.

Rosendale’s history lies within its abandoned cement mines. Well, not so abandoned. (more…)

06/05/15 11:25am

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Hudson Valley Manor House, Germantown. Photo via Airbnb.com

With the increasing popularity of Hudson Valley towns and the subsequent influx of newcomers to the area, it’s getting harder and harder to unearth a hidden treasure every now and again. There are two places, however, that don’t get as much attention as their neighboring communities even though they deserve it just as much: Germantown in Columbia County, and Rosendale in Ulster County.

Germantown, a Hudson Riverside hamlet in the town of Germantown, is sleepy, idyllic, and rife with historic properties, such as the Hudson Valley Manor House, depicted above. It might not be the place to go for exciting nightlife (or much nightlife at all, for that matter, unless you count watching fireflies as “nightlife”), fancy restaurants, or tony shops.

But if you want old world charm, outstanding views of both the Hudson to the west and the hills to the east, and picturesque farmland, then it might be what you’re looking for in a Hudson Valley escape. (We’ll take a close look at Rosendale next week.)

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05/29/15 11:00am

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 Olana in Hudson, Frederic Church’s studio and home in Hudson. Photo by Rolf Müller via Wikimedia Commons

Nary a week goes by that doesn’t include a mention in the press about Hudson, N.Y. Why, earlier this month, Jetsetter.com included Hudson River city in its top 10 Coolest Towns. In Niche’s rankings, Hudson is in the top 23 best towns to raise a family in New York, certainly a far cry from its origins as a rough-and-tumble whaling town and Hudson Valley’s infamous red-light district.

With all the attention paid to its antique stores, galleries, restaurants, sauerkrauteries, and music venues, we sometimes forget that there’s a whole Columbia County outside of Hudson that’s pretty darn spectacular, especially in the summertime.

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05/22/15 11:00am

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This posted originally ran on July 25, 2014. It has been updated.

Today, we want to show you around the Hudson River village of Athens in Greene County (west of the Hudson, about 2.5 hours from Brooklyn). It’s a worthy destination for a serene Memorial Day weekend getaway or a visit any time.

We went there just to explore the waterfront park since its recent upgrade, and overall, we came away feeling quite charmed by it all, even if Athens seems to suffer from that same eerie weekday quietness that other places around here do, as if the whole town is waiting for something to happen.

There are lots of empty storefronts with “for rent” signs in the windows, almost no cars driving around, and we encountered only two other people out walking. There is, however, a brew pub that emits the most tantalizing malty fragrance for two blocks surrounding its location, not to mention the most charming outdoor dining area on the waterfront that is connected to the historic Stewart House boutique hotel.

Other stuff we discovered on our jaunt: Athens has a town pool, a huge cemetery, and tons of great houses. Take a visual tour of the town after the jump.

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05/15/15 12:09pm

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The circa-1850 Bussy Building in Margaretville

The Delaware County village of Margaretville has had its ups and downs. Charming though its streets may be, all that charm couldn’t protect them from flood damage of historic levels when Hurricane Irene rolled into town in 2011.

However, Margaretville did just exactly what so many other plucky, tough-as-nails Catskill Mountain towns do when disaster strikes: It got up, dried itself off, rebuilt what it could, and got on with life.

While you won’t find a happening nightlife in Margaretville (you’re in the wrong mountain range if you want that, although we hear Hunter Mountain gets pretty rowdy during the winter), what you will find is a centralized village packed with historical architecture, mom-and-pop shops, a swell bookstore, and close proximity to outdoor recreation of all sorts, including hiking, fishing, swimming, kayaking, bird watching — we could go on.

Margaretville’s population is around 600, and the village is situated in the town of Middletown near the border of both Catskill Park and Ulster County and along the banks of the East Branch of the Delaware River. It’s located approximately 3.5 hours from Brooklyn.

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05/08/15 11:00am

ashokan reservoir

You can’t tell by looking at it, but a wealth of history lurks beneath the still blue surface of the Ashokan Reservoir. Several towns’ worth of history, in fact.

Roads, blacksmith shops, churches, private residences, thousands of acres of farmland, and untold personal items all became submerged when the reservoir, located in Ulster County, was constructed in the early 20th century to provide water to New York City. While it still supplies water to New York, the 190-foot-deep basin has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Catskills, providing visitors a place to boat, fish (with the appropriate permits, of course), and behold some seriously gorgeous views. (more…)

05/01/15 11:30am
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Orpheum Theater, Saugerties

Saugerties offers the best of upstate in one place. Look to the west, and you’ll find the Catskills. Look to the east, and you’ll find the Hudson River. Bisecting the town and village across the center is the Esopus Creek, making Saugerties a point at the intersection of some very fun, very pretty outdoorsiness.

Located in Ulster County about 2.5 hours north of Brooklyn, Saugerties has seen its fair share of hard times, not unlike its other upstate counterparts. Locals can recall a time when the village’s indie movie house, the Orpheum Theater, showed adult movies. During the 1990s and early 2000s, however, Saugerties found itself in the midst of a renaissance.

Brooklynites and others started coming up to look for antiques in between hikes in the Catskills and kayak trips down the Hudson and Esopus. Meanwhile, quirky, independent shops started to move in, locavore eateries began opening up, and a large-scale equestrian center made Saugerties its home, turning the once-languishing Hudson Valley burg into one of the area’s most popular (and coolest) small towns.

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Saugerties Lighthouse

If you visit: Grab a pint of craft beer goodness from the Dutch Ale House. You can stick around for one of the burgers, or you can head down the block to Miss Lucy’s Kitchen on Partition Street for sophisticated, simple and seasonal fare. Browse the selection at the Hudson Valley’s largest indie bookstore, Inquiring Minds Books and Cafe.

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