Just two hours northwest from the hustle and bustle of New York City you can find the quaint and quiet country charm of the Catskills. Set in the eponymous Catskills Mountains, this region boasts waterfalls, forestry, and natural sights so beautiful you'll find it hard to believe you're so close to the city. Of course, gorgeous scenery isn't the only thing offered here. Head beyond the beaten path to find art, monuments, museums, and more Catskill culture.
If you're traveling to the Catskills to experience its vast natural beauty, you can't miss a trip to Kaaterskill Falls. While Niagara Falls may be more famous, Kaaterskill is significantly taller, reaching 260 feet. Hike the mile-long trail to the base of the falls for a truly breathtaking view, or head to the upper viewing platform less than half a mile from the parking lot. Wherever you stand, the sight of this two-tier waterfall is unforgettable. Just remember to snap your Instagram pics from a height, as the water spray at Kaaterskill's base is a recipe for photographic disaster.
Empire State Railway Museum combines the allure of nature with the marvel of industrial history. There are restored engines to examine, preserved baggage cars to tour, and plenty of fascinating railroad history to learn along the way. While the trains are no longer functional, you can still explore the old rails trailing through the foliage on a pedal-powered bicycle.
According to Hunter Mountain, the New York Zipline Adventure Tour is higher, longer, and faster than any other zipline in North America. If you want a little more thrill in your Catskills nature exploration, this is the place to be. Soar through over 4-and-a-half miles of mountain scenery — at up to 50 miles per hour — for a unique birds-eye view of this stunning location. For an even more magical experience, try Hunter Mountain's moonlit Night Zipping tour across illuminated tree platforms.
Apple picking is a tradition for many of the Catskills' locals, and it's a ritual you should pick up if you're visiting during the fall. The mountain region is home to several orchards, but Boehm Farm is definitely one of the best. There, you'll find over 20 varieties of apples, from the sugary Fuji to the tart Granny Smith. If you're not an apple fan, the farm has several types of peaches, cherries, and plums to pick — plus homemade jams, pies, doughnuts, and more.
The Catskills is known for its quaint atmosphere, but if you really want to go back in time, Callicoon Theater is worth a trip. This historic cinema is a relic of years gone by with all its post-Art Deco décor intact. From the waterfall curtain to the Manley popcorn machine, almost everything remains as it once was. The only signs of the modern world that you'll find here are state-of-the-art projectors, hi-fidelity sound systems, and a present-day movie roster.
You can never take in too much nature on a trip to the Catskills. However, that doesn't mean you need to hike everywhere. When you get tired of walking, head over to the Catskill Scenic Trail. There, you can explore 26 miles of well-maintained and wonderous woodland on horseback. Bike rentals are also available nearby at Roxbury's Plattekill Bike Park, and at the right time of year, you can even traverse the area on skis.
Often referred to as the Mount Rushmore of New York, Pratt Rock is the Catskills' most distinctive monument. You'll need to hike three miles to see the sight, but the trail is suitable for travelers of all agility levels. Once you reach the peak, you'll find incredible stone carvings that constitute the country's first Civil War memorial. If you want to learn more about Zadock Pratt, whose life is depicted in the carvings, you'll find a museum dedicated to his life nearby.
For a hike that shows you more than just scenery, seek out the Hudson River School Art Trail. Whether you visit just a few stops or endeavor to see them all, the art trail will take you on an unforgettable tour through 19th-century landscape paintings of the Hudson River School — America's first major art movement. Many of the trail's stops are located at popular sites like Kaaterskill Falls and North-South Lake, so feel free to combine your art tour with other activities.
It's been 50 years since the Woodstock Festival, but 1969 lives on in the area's array of hippie fare. Travel to Woodstock as part of your Catskills trip to nourish your mind and soul with traditional yet progressive food, souvenirs, and more. Even meat lovers should try the vegan cuisine offered here, though there's plenty of pasture-raised beef and chicken available too. In the evening, take in a live music show or shop for handmade artisan goods.
The Catskill Forest Preserve — more commonly known as Catskill Park — encompasses over 280,000 acres of forestry, wetlands, and great lakes. On a sunny day, a picnic in the meadows with farmers' market fruits is one of the best things to do in the Catskills.
The park is also a great place to go wildlife spotting, with a healthy population of birds, deer, and porcupines. Of course, the forest area is also home to rattlesnakes, coyotes, black bears, and bobcats, so always hike carefully.