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The Best Things to Do in the Catskills

For an action-packed New York getaway, the Catskill Mountains region is the perfect destination for epic adventures. Spend a day hiking the trails at Catskill Park, enjoy panoramic views on a family-friendly Skyride to the summit of Hunter Mountain, or go shopping for antiques—you’ll never run out of things to do in the Catskills. 

Here are our favorite things to do in the Catskills.

Go Hiking in the Catskills Forest Preserve

USA Hunter Mountain National Park Scenic aerial view of Fire Tower hiking destination
PhotoSpirit | Adobe Stock

The Catskill Forest Preserve (also known as Catskills Park) consists of 286,000 acres of protected state land, with waterfalls, meadows, marshes, and cool camping spots. Miles of scenic hiking trails snake across the Catskills, offering adventure for new and experienced hikers alike. Brave formidable mountain summits, take a family-friendly walk and discover remote waterfalls.

Experienced hikers and enthusiasts can brave the 7-mile climb to the highest fire tower in New York—Hunter Mountain fire tower. On a clear day, hiking to the top will reward you with stunning views as far as Vermont. You can also go easy with a flatter hike through dense forests. You might even be lucky enough to see a black bear or other wildlife as you trek beside gorgeous streams.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Hunter Lodge, a Bluebird by Lark, offers quick access to hiking trails around Elka Park and stunning views of Hunter Mountain.

Take a Thrill-seeking Adventure to Hunter Mountain

Golden fall season at the Hunter Mountain, NY, USA. Scenic skyride.
FashionStock | Adobe Stock

Hunter Mountain is the second-highest point of the Great Northern Catskill Mountains, and it offers some of the most thrilling adventures in the area. Here, North America’s longest and highest zipline lets visitors zip over a canopy of trees all year long. You can also take a breathtaking Skyride chair lift to the mountain summit in the summer. 

In the winter, over 50 trails offer plenty of opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, or snow tubing. If you time your trip right, you can partake in fun festivals in the area, like the Taste of Country Music Festival and the TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain has an outdoor pool, sauna, and condos featuring kitchenettes and fireplaces. This hotel regularly offers room deals making it an affordable choice.

Visit Gnome Chomsky

Gnome Chomsky is located at Kelder's Farm and was the world’s largest gnome at one point in time.
Kelder's Farm

Driving along Route 209 in Kerhonkson, you’ll find a unique roadside attraction, Gnome Chomsky—the world’s third largest garden gnome. Towering over the roadside at 13.5 feet, Gnome Chomsky is located at Kelder’s Farm and was the world’s largest gnome at one point in time.  

If you’re traveling with kids, a photo with the friendly, bearded giant will surely put smiles on their faces. The surrounding farm is also kid-friendly, with a playground, a 10-hole mini-golf course, a petting zoo, and seasonal pick-your-own-produce. 

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Minnewaska Lodge is nestled in a state park preserve at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains. Only 5 miles away from Kelder’s Farm, this boutique lodge offers stunning mountain views and quick access to hiking trails.

Sample Local Flavors at a Microbrewery

Catskill Brewery at Livingston Manor, where you can enjoy tasty beer, food, and live music.
Catskill Brewery

There are two attractions the Catskills never run out of, nature and craft beer. Whether you’re a connoisseur or want to try new unique flavors, there’s always a pint ready to be poured. 

Take a few hours to check out the Catskill Brewery at Livingston Manor, where you can enjoy tasty beer, food, and live music. Or, devote a day or two to following the Catskills Beverage Trail, a collection of places to sample fresh brews and artisanal wine and spirits.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Hotel Vienna is centrally located to The Vineyard at Windham and other breweries along the Catskills Beverage Trail. Clean, modern bedrooms, private balconies, and proximity to skiing at Windham Mountain make this hotel an excellent place to unwind.

Browse Stunning Art at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Catskill, NY - USA - Aug 4, 2022 Landscape view of the National Historic Landmark, Cedar Grove. The home and studio of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of American painting.
Brian | Adobe Stock

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is the former home of Thomas Cole, the father of American landscape painting. Cole settled in Catskills and was inspired by the region’s natural beauty and rich landscape. Created in the 1800s, they served as protest art to condemn deforestation and encourage environmental preservation. 

Now you can immerse yourself in Cole’s art on display at the site’s museum, along with the works of other notable Hudson River School masters. You can also hike nearby trails to explore landmarks that inspired some of Cole’s most famous works.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: A 10-minute drive from Thomas Cole National Historic Site, the Hudson Whaler lies across the Hudson River. This boutique hotel has a fitness center and is well-situated so that you can explore the surrounding Hudson Valley on your getaway.

Kaaterskill Falls

Aerial view of the Kaaterskill Falls - New York
demerzel21 | Adobe Stock

If the thought of a cascading waterfall excites you, you’ll love Kaaterskill Falls. Kaaterskill Falls drops over 260 feet and is easily the most beautiful waterfall in the Catskills. For decades, this mesmerizing Catskills attraction has inspired painters, photographers, and other tourists.

You can take in the beauty of the falls from multiple angles. Walk to a viewing platform above the falls for a summary but picturesque view, or hike to the base to see the iconic waterfall in all its glory. The best time to visit Kaaterskill Falls is in the fall when the foliage turns a gorgeous auburn color and the hiking conditions are better. Be careful, though, as the trail gets muddy and slippery. Make sure to pack your best hiking boots!

Nearby Recommended Hotel: SunView Motel is a no-frills property 4 miles from Kaaterskill Falls and a short ride to the Hunter Mountain ski area. Large rooms with double beds make it perfect for a family trip.

Discover Great Craftsmanship at Opus 40

Opus 40 is a large sculpture on a 6.5-acre bluestone quarry
Opus 40

The result of a determined sculptor’s hard work, Opus 40 is a large sculpture on a 6.5-acre bluestone quarry. Constructed entirely by Harvey Fite, this rock configuration also features stone ramps, pools, platforms, and stairs. The surrounding 63-acre park offers meadows, trails, quarries, and picnic tables, so you can hike here with a packed lunch to eat out in nature.

Plan to attend one of the music concerts regularly held at this site or visit the onsite gallery to discover artwork by local artists.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Enjoy a unique stay in one of AutoCamp Catskills airstreams. The accommodation offers private fire pits and free onsite parking for guests.

Visit the Site of the Woodstock Music Festival at Bethel Woods

Bethel, New York, United States of America – September 11 ,2016. Monument at the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival in Bethel, NY, installed in 1984.
Alizada Studios | Adobe Stock

One of the best things to do in the Catskills is visit the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival site. This famous festival that transformed American culture allowed young people to spread a message of unity and peace in a time of uncertainty and conflict. 

Fun fact: Woodstock Festival wasn’t held in Woodstock but 40 miles away at Bethel. The grounds house The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts theater and museum today. Visit the museum to learn about the volatile history of the 1960s and the festival that brought together a generation. Remember to pick up souvenirs: you can buy tie-dye gifts, posters, and peace and love themed items.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Best Western Monticello offers complimentary breakfast, spacious rooms, and an indoor pool. It’s a great choice if you plan to spend some days exploring Bethel and Woodstock.

Take a Psychedelic Trip at the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope

Fifty-six feet tall and housed in a converted grain silo, the Kaatskill Kaleidoscope is the trippiest attraction in the Catskills.
Emerson Resort

You might want to lay back when you visit the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope at Emerson Resort. Fifty-six feet tall and housed in a converted grain silo, the Kaatskill Kaleidoscope is the trippiest attraction in the Catskills.

Kaleidoshows here are suitable for all ages and typically last about 15 minutes. Apart from the shows, you can learn about the history of kaleidoscopes and the artists that create them. Visit the stores nearby to buy original scopes signed by their artists.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: The Kaatskill Kaleidoscope is located on the grounds of Emerson Resort & Spa at Mt. Tremper. Resort guests can watch shows at the attraction for free. The hotel offers modern and cabin-style rooms, so you can choose what matches your taste. 

Discover the Overlook Mountain House Ruins

The Skeletal Remains of a Overlook Mountain House near Woodstock, New York
Jonathan W. Cohen | Adobe Stock

If you’re hiking one of the several trails running through Overlook Mountain, stop at the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House. Close to the mountain’s summit, Lewis Wagonen built this concrete masterpiece in 1871 and it was originally one of the first luxury hotels in New York state. Since then, it’s burnt down three times and was never fully reconstructed. 

Probably more popular now than it was in its heyday, the ruins are one of the most visited unique Catskills attractions. Hikers often rest here for a bit before summiting the mountain. Stroll through the main halls or pose for pictures in front of a staircase that leads nowhere. This spot is sure to make a cool story after your trip.

Nearby Recommended Hotel: Located in an accessible but serene part of Woodstock, Woodstock Way Hotel is 15 minutes from the Overlook Mountain trailhead. In a rustic but chic setup, well-appointed rooms offer knotty pine furniture, turntables, and records. The onsite coffee shop makes delicious drinks all day.

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