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8 things to do in and around the Catskills this summer

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival, go zip-lining, take a yoga retreat and more.

The site of the historic Catskill Mountain House,

The site of the historic Catskill Mountain House, near Tannersville, New York, offers views for miles. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/Jon Lovette / Alamy Stock Photo

Two truly epic events in American history occurred 50 years ago this summer: the moon landing in July and the Woodstock Festival — “3 Days of Peace and Music” in front of a sea of humanity — in August. Americans have not been back to the moon since 1972, but this summer, they will be returning by the van and SUV-loads to the southern Catskills to relive, or just imagine, what it was like at the most famous rock concert of all time.

Ground zero will be the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the contemporary musical venue on the site of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, where it all came together after local officials in Wallkill, where the festival originally was to be held, freaked out over crowd projections. Many visitors also will make their way to the artsy central Catskills village where it was conceived and whose name it still bears. Around the two are lots of things to see and do. Here are some suggestions.  

BETHEL WOODS CENTER FOR THE ARTS

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Cablevision founder Alan Gerry thought of doing something with the long vacant 37-acre festival site. After several concerts in the rough, a 15,000-seat music pavilion and outdoor amphitheater opened in 2006. The museum followed two years later. This year, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (866-781-2922; bethelwoodscenter.org) will host a special “Season of Song and Celebration” with headliners including Peter Frampton, Jackson Browne, Alice Cooper and Heart. The museum ($19.69 adults, $10 ages 6-18) will be supplemented by a special exhibit, “We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of The Woodstock Festival & Aspirations for a Peaceful Future.” Anniversary week (Aug. 15-18) features concerts by Ringo Starr (no, the Beatles weren’t there) and Carlos Santana (who was).

WOODSTOCK

Some 69 miles to the northeast, the peaceful and lovely town of Woodstock (woodstockguide.com) remains true to its early-20th-century artist colony roots but only partially to its psychedelic ‘60s reputation. Now more New Age than groovy, Woodstock boasts an eclectic mix of galleries, craft shops, retro clothing emporiums, quality restaurants, a community theater (Woodstock Playhouse, woodstockplayhouse.org) and a terrific independent bookstore (The Golden Notebook, goldennotebook.indielite.org)

UPPER DELAWARE NATIONAL SCENIC AND RECREATIONAL RIVER

Just west of Bethel lies the Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River (570-685-4871; nps.gov/upde), a 75-mile-long stretch of natural beauty overseen by the National Park Service. Activities include hiking, boating (canoe, kayak, inner tube and raft) and fishing in the remarkably pristine, free-flowing river. A number of outfitters, including Lander’s in Narrowsburg (800-252-3925, landersrivertrips.com), and Cedar Rapids and Kittatinny in Barryville (800-356-2852, kittatinny.com), will be happy to get you rolling on the river. Back on dry land in Narrowsburg, costumed interpreters at the Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History (845-252-6660; nwsdy.li/ftdelaware; $7 adults, $4 ages 5-14) escort you back to the 1760s in a re-creation of the stockade settlement that strove to protect the first European settlers. At nearby Minisink Battleground Memorial Park (free), you can see where they failed miserably in July 1779.

DELAWARE & ULSTER RAILROAD

Nostalgia buffs can literally travel back in time on the Delaware & Ulster Railroad (800-225-4132; durr.org). The two-hour narrated journey goes 12 miles up (and back) the bucolic East Fork of the Delaware River and costs $18 for adults, $12 for ages 3-12. Also available on selected weekdays is a $48 per person onboard lunch excursion on the domed “Rip Van Winkle Flyer.” Serious railway buffs can visit the small Empire State Railroad Museum (845-688-7501; esrm.com, admission by donation) at Phoenicia’s former station.

CATSKILLS HIKING

The Catskills offer great hiking opportunities, both challenging and not-so challenging, depending on your inclination (visitthecatskills.com/hiking). Among the more difficult are Slide Mountain, at 4,190 feet, the highest peak in the Catskills; Giant Ledge & Panther (6.3 miles); and fire-tower topped Hunter (7.5 miles), where you can cheat and take the chairlift halfway up. More of a long walk is the service road up Overlook Mountain near Woodstock for impressive views of the Hudson River Valley. Younger hikers will enjoy the walk in the woods (and subsequent swim) to Vernooy Kill Falls, Russell Brook Falls and Peekamoose Buttermilk Falls and Blue Hole. In a class by itself is beautiful, two-tiered Kaaterskill Falls, which, at 230 feet, is the highest in New York.

SPIRITUAL RETREATS

The last gasps of the “Borscht Belt” resorts coincided with the first deep breaths of a new wave of yoga retreats and Buddhist monasteries. These days, about two dozen are tucked away in sylvan pockets, offering yoga and meditation to stressed-out urbanites. Most impressive is the new Yo1 “holistic wellness” resort on the site of the old Kutsher’s in Monticello (855-200-6004, yo1.com). Others with day or weekend programs are the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne (845-436-6492, sivanandayogaranch.org), the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper (845-688-2228, zmm.org), Dai Bosatsu Zendo in Livingston Manor (845-439-4566, zenstudies. org/dai-bosatsu-zendo), Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush (845-213-1785, bluecliffmonastery.org), and the visually stunning Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery in Woodstock (845-679-5906, kagyu.org).

WORLD’S LARGEST KALEIDOSCOPE

Housed inside a 56-foot-tall former grain silo, the kaleidoscope at the Emerson Resort in Mount Tremper (emersonresort.com, 845-688-5800) is the Guinness-certified largest in the world. Lie down on the floor or lean against the wall and take in the swirling shapes and colors of the Catskill-themed, multimedia “Kaleidashow” ($5; children under 11 free). Hand-held kaleidoscopes can be taken for a spin or purchased in the adjacent country store.

HUNTER MOUNTAIN ZIP LINE

For nearly a decade, Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl has been home to New York Zipline Adventures (518-263-4388, ziplinenewyork.com), operators of the longest (4.6 miles) and highest (over 600 feet) zip line canopy tour in North America. Thrill-seekers have a choice of two adrenaline-charged, roughly three-hour tours — the Mid-Mountain Tour (6 zips and 4 suspension bridges) for $89 a person (now also available at night) and the SkyRider Tour (5 dual racing lines) for $119 a person, $129 on weekends. Back on terra firma, zip on over to colorful and funky “downtown” Tannersville.

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