The charm and allure of the Catskills are often lost to its northern neighbor, the Adirondacks, for all who live in New York and the surrounding areas. This region of the state is truly set back from all the hustle and bustle of the city but it's also only two hours from it. This makes its mountain towns somewhat of a no-brainer when it comes to those who want to get away without traveling a tremendous distance to feel as though they're on vacation.
As with all travel destinations, there are some caveats when it comes to vacationing in the Catskills. The first is that you must appreciate a slower pace; despite its proximity to the city, no one is looking to rush through dinner or skip out on a chance to smell the roses. Second, travelers should feel A-okay with scenic mountain views, tons of hiking trails to explore, and a little extra darkness in order to see the stars better. And third, prepare to appreciate the Catskill region and all its quirkiness because up here, it's like an entirely new world.
World's Biggest Kaleidoscope
We know it sounds a little unusual (then again, we did warn you) but the world's largest kaleidoscope is truly a sight to behold and then some. This incredible structure can be found at the Emerson Resort & Spa which also happens to be a great place to book a week-long trip, and it actually made the Guinness Book of World Records due to its size. The kaleidoscope can be found in an old farm silo that's currently being used for this exact purpose, and it's definitely worth visiting.
Inside the silo, visitors can watch an image-based video that was designed by Isaac Abrams, who was an early psychedelic artist, according to Untapped Cities. The space itself was designed by Charles Karadimos, who's an award-winning kaleidoscope artist. It doesn't stop there, though - visitors will also notice music playing in the background by composer and drummer Gary Burke, which comes through on a high-quality sound system.
The Phoenicia Diner Is Retro But Also A Landmark
For anyone who doesn't know, the Phoenicia Diner might appear to be your typical, retro-style diner just as you'd find anywhere throughout upstate New York. However, the locals know it to be more of a landmark and even an entertainment venue, along with being a diner that serves upscale and locally sourced dishes.
Many people would be surprised to know that the menu, curated by chef Michael Hegeman and team, includes dishes such as Local Yokel with crispy pork belly, fresh mozzarella, herby grits, locally-caught trout entrees, and Hudson Valley braised beef. any of these would go great with a drink from the full-service bar - another unusual feature of this diner. The outdoor patio is covered and allows diners to take in the live music that's often scheduled, while the gift shop offers unique Catskill-only gifts.
Ashokan Reservoir Is Full Of Surprises
This massive lake is actually one of many sources of New York City's water. This, along with many others, was created by submerging entire towns upstate. If it seems outrageous, that's because it practically is - but what's even more outrageous is the fact that when the reservoir is low, you can sometimes see the remains of the infrastructure in these abandoned towns.
Two thousand people were relocated in order to create Ashokan with eight towns emptied, in order to flood half of them. The Ashokan Reservoir Promenade is open to hikers and bikers, which runs along the reservoir and will give visitors the chance to explore its banks a little further.
The Abandoned Borsht Belts Are Part Of Catskills History
If you've seen Dirty Dancing then you're definitely familiar with the resorts that once made up the Borsht Belts. What was once an upstate summer resort escape for the Jewish community is now abandoned, leaving behind relics of a decades-long gone. The resorts became less popular as the world of travel began blossoming and allowing for easy nationwide and international travel, but can still be explored to this day.
Ellenville, Greenfield Park, and Spring Glen are all within easy reach of Phoenicia if that's your Catskills home base.
Try You Hand (Or Feet) At A Pedal-Bike Tour Through The Woods
One of the super cool things that visitors can do when visiting the Catskills is wind their way down an abandoned railway. Don't worry - the only cars on the track will be the ones that people are pedaling with their own two feet! Upstate New York has plenty of railroad tracks that have fallen into disuse and one of them, which runs through the Catskills, is home to Rail Explorers.
With the railroad system being out of disuse since 1954, Rail Explorers has converted them into self-guided tours that are taken with the help of some neat foot pedal cars. The trip takes visitors on an 8-mile, round-trip journey along the Esophus River and features stunning views of the surrounding Catskills mountain ranges.