The Glassy’s Healthy Guide to the Catskills
Welcome to this upstate haven for all things healthy.
Forget Brooklyn: The buzziest spot in New York right now just might be the Catskills.
Just two hours north of New York City lies majestic mountains (including some of the best climbing on the East Coast), thriving organic farms, and communities filled with people who are enamored with a slower pace of living.
For those based along the Atlantic, the region’s impressive rebirth seems to have happened overnight; but in reality, it’s been a slow and steady climb towards a new kind of cultural relevance (take it from this born-and-raised Catskiller)—particularly one that resonates with a communal-leaning, wellness-obsessed crowd.
That might be because healing happens to be woven into the fabric of Catskills history. For a time in the 19th century, Sullivan County was a destination for tuberculosis patients to convalesce, and during the Borscht Belt boom of the 20th century, a summer spent upstate was often at the directive of a physician (literally doctor’s orders). And come the summer of 1969, when nearly half a million people attended Woodstock, the area became a symbol for free-spirited, holistic-minded individuals who were looking to feel their best (albeit with the help of mind-altering drugs, but still…).
To this day, the fresh mountain air attracts travelers, second-homers, and vacationers in search of a city respite—but now they do so with farm-to-table meals, acupuncture sessions, and Pilates classes to supplement their relaxation.
And while you can find your way to an avocado toast pretty easily, the region is expansive—and initially overwhelming to navigate if you’re a newbie—so here’s a quick rundown: Ulster County comprises the hip towns of Kingston, Saugerties, Woodstock, and Phoenicia. From a wellness perspective, this area has developed more rapidly throughout the years and offers a bunch of healthy restaurants (a few places that didn’t make the guide cut but are still great: Miss Lucy’s Kitchen, Black-Eyed Suzie’s Upstate, and Garden Cafe) and yoga studios (Saugerties Hot Yoga, Woodstock Shakti Yoga).
Then there’s Sullivan County, which includes the hamlets of Narrowsburg, Livingston Manor, Mountain Dale, Bethel, and Wurtsboro; that area is definitely growing, and although I might be a bit biased (it’s where I’m from), Sullivan County is more of the impossible-not-to-root-for underdog.
If you’d truly like to see the Catskills, you’ll want a car to drive to and from all of the little developing hamlets—and the healthy provisions dotted throughout the mountains. But if driving isn’t your thing, there are amenity-laden bus services like Catskill Carriage and Line that can bring you straight to frequented destinations. Another option is to book a stay at one of the multi-use spots (from the rustic-chic Scribner’s Lodge to the centrally located Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club) so that you won’t really need to do more than walk to get from place to place during your stay; or even better, reserve a spot at a retreat like Sivananda Yoga Ranch and just chill on premises the whole time.
No matter where you end up, the businesses you’re visiting—for your matcha latte, horseback riding lessons, or humanely knit angora sweaters—are vital to the area’s success. “After working and hiring in the Catskills for the last 20 years, I believe investing in small communities is the only way we are going to make it as a planet,” says Ambika Conroy, who’s from the Catskills and opened her sustainability-minded vintage store Ambika Boutique in newly burgeoning Mountain Dale. And that right there is about as feel-good as a weekend away can get.
The Glassy Blackbook: The Catskills
Vibe: A little fun, a lot chill—and completely centered around the natural elements.
Pack: Even in summer it gets chilly at night, so bring a light jacket at the very least (and lots of layers if it’s winter). And no matter the time of year, you’ll want a swimsuit—for river time, sauna hangs, and indoor pool laps.
Drop-ins: In high season, you’ll want to book your mat spot, but the overall ethos of the area welcomes walk-ins.
Walkability: When you stay in one town, like Callicoon or Woodstock, you can definitely walk within it. But if you’re exploring beyond the main street, you’ll have to do it sans sidewalk (read: you’ll need a car).
Cycleability: Cycle away! In addition to trails like the O&W Rail Trail that are perfect for cyclists, drivers are accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.
Supermarket run: There are small markets and your standards (like Peck’s Market and ShopRite) for healthy necessities—plus farmers’ markets in most towns during the warm months for fresh produce.
Water situ: Don’t be scared of the tap—the water in this area’s known to be clean. (In fact, it’s where New York City sources its water.)
Make your base: Woodstock, Livingston Manor, or Mountain Dale, which have the best access to clean eats, yoga studios, and overall good vibes.
If you eat at one place: The Launderette for it’s gluten-free pizza, inventive veggie dishes, and OMG-worthy views of the Delaware River.
If you workout at one place: Whether you’re there for yoga boot camp or a gong bath session, you’ll find your tribe at Justine’s Just Breathe Yoga.
If you relax at one place: The Spa at The Arnold is small but mighty—and mighty relaxing. If your day is jam-packed with activities, you can always opt for one of their 30 minute “mini” treatments.
Check out the complete Glassy Guide to the Catskills.