I had a conversation with a friend the other day about finding the good spots when visiting a new place, and since we just spent the weekend in the Catskill Mountains, I thought I’d share some of my travel tips while I shared some of the awesome things we saw in the mountains. So welcome to a non-local’s local guide to a Catskill Mountains weekend getaway!
Roy and I had an engagement shoot scheduled with one of our 2016 couples for Saturday at their favorite camping spots in the Catskill Mountains, so we thought it would be a great idea to make a weekend of it and cosy up in a cabin for a couple of nights so that we could explore more of the area. Neither of us have ever been to the Catskills before, and let me tell you we were NOT disappointed. The Catskills are charming and absolutely beautiful. If you’ve never been, you’re going to need to make some time if you call yourself a mountain lover.
My number one tip for traveling like a local is to google local’s guides. No brainer, right? That’s where I start, it’s how I find all of the great foodie spots and fun non-touristy things to do. For this trip to the Catskills I also knew about the hip boutique hotel, The Graham & Co., started by design-minded friends from Brooklyn. Unfortunately, it was fully booked this weekend (my Instagram feed is crying!), but we’ll definitely be going back and trying it out in the future. For this trip we stayed at the super cosy Phoenicia Lodge, just outside of town with insanely gorgeous mountain views. After you feel like you’ve exhausted your Google-fu by looking up locals guides on Road Trippers, Vogue, and the like you can branch out by looking at what the hip hotels list on their visitors guides. I used both the Graham & Co. and the Lodge’s listed suggestions to build our weekend itinerary. This was especially helpful for the hiking trails and antique shops.
On Friday we strolled around the small town of Phoenicia where were were staying. It’s big on tubing in the summer months, and has some of the best thin crust pizza we’ve ever had. Seriously. If you’re in the area, get yourself to Brio’s and be sure to order one of the gourmet sesame seed crust pizzas. We recommend the crostini or the chicken + broccoli. Roy tested, belly approved. We also spent some time browsing in Scandinavian Grace, a home goods store + cafe. We also happened upon “Fabulous Furniture” and the wild space-age sculptures on the front lawn were way too interesting to pass up.
On Saturday we went to the Phoenicia Diner, a local favorite and sure to make your Instagram happy with any of their amazing meals. We both went for the skillet meals (a poached egg over duck and cheddar grits for me and the farmer’s skillet with fresh cheddar, bacon, potatoes, and two eggs sunny side up for Roy) and rolled ourselves out into the chilly mountain air. This diner is kitschy in all of the right ways and its design perfectly preserves the 70s pioneer vibe with some modern twists. Do. Not. Skip.
Our couple, Caity + Chad, took us to a now-famous watering hole and a waterfall for their engagement pictures. Naaaature! We kinda felt like we were in Ireland or Scotland with some of the glens we were driving through, with all of the moss covered rocks and the rolling hills.
On Sunday we re-visted the Phoenicia Diner, even though our original plan was to go to the local pancake house Sweet Sue’s, which we were bummed to find has been permanently closed. But it’s ok, because we got to eat more delicious food at the diner. That’s my other tip, even if you’re a planner like me – you need to go with the flow and enjoy your trip!
After a short drive we were strolling around Woodstock. Shout out to Woodstock for fully embracing the hippie thing for those of us who really didn’t have any idea that the Woodstock festival didn’t take place anywhere near Woodstock the town. It’s a peach that way. Its artist community is also on point.
There’s also a flea market every Saturday and Sunday, and we got to meet a man who harvests geodes and all sorts of cool rocks and stones. All throughout town there’s little nods to the peace + love lifestyle and we found it charming.
We’re really glad we decided to make a weekend out of exploring the Catskill Mountains!