As the weather turns warmer, New Yorkers begin to think about escaping the particular hell that is summer in the city—sweltering days, sweaty bodies in crowded subway cars, overpowering trash smells. And naturally, many of them will make the scenic drive (or Metro-North ride) along the Hudson River to the Hudson Valley and the Catskills.
New Yorkers have long flocked to these regions in search of respite: The painters of the Hudson River School were inspired by the natural beauty of the Catskill Mountains, while Gilded Age tycoons (including the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers) fled chaotic 19th-century New York and built palatial estates in some of the small towns along the river.
While those elements—the pastoral landscapes, quaint towns, and calm vibe—are still very much intact, the two regions are also booming in new and unexpected ways. With more room to spread out—and lower overhead thanks to relatively low real estate prices—cultural institutions, artists, and restaurateurs have descended, taking advantage of the proximity to the city even as it feels a world away.
Spots like Dia:Beacon and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, both of which opened in the aughts, established the Hudson Valley as a bona fide destination; in the years since, many of the towns on either side of the river have followed suit. Now, places like Hudson, Saugerties, and Kingston—all of which were once industrial hubs—are filled with charming vintage shops, galleries, and trendy restaurants that wouldn’t be out of place in Brooklyn. (And that’s no coincidence; many of the proprietors are NYC expats.)
With the changes have come challenges. Airbnb listings, and occupancies, have dramatically increased over the years, leading longtime residents—some of whom aren’t thrilled by the influx of weekenders—to seek regulatory measures for the home-sharing site. And while tourism dollars (and new hotel openings) are up, poverty is still widespread throughout the Catskills.
With all of the attention on the area, it can be tough to discover the real gems—and that’s where we come in. Here, you’ll find guides to the best things to do, including quirky and curious attractions, small-town explorations, and outdoors activities (there’s a lot of nature up there, after all). And if you’ve already visited a bunch of times and are looking to put down roots, we’ve got some real estate inspiration for you, too. —Amy Plitt
Writers: Zoe Rosenberg, Emily Nonko, Lisa Selin Davis, Tanay Warerkar, Alex Bazeley, Asad Syrkett, Amy Plitt
Photographers: Johnny Fogg
Editors: Amy Plitt, Mercedes Kraus, Mariam Aldhahi, Sally Kuchar
Photo director: Audrey Levine
Copy editor: Emma Alpern
Fact-checker: Dawn Mobley