Sunday, July 06, 2014

Woodstock, NY | Catskill Mountains

Pros: Great cultural resources, Unique shops and boutiques, Lots of restaurants, Outdoor resources
Cons: Can get very crowded in the summertime, Hard to find parking at times

Between the cultural and natural resources of Woodstock, it’s an amazing place to visit, but when you hear the name Woodstock you might first think of the 1969 festival, but that was actually held in Bethel, NY.  Woodstock has its own charms though and stands out on by itself as a destination worth your time.

Today, Woodstock is a small village tucked against the eastern escarpment of the Catskill Mountains and is in the shadow on Overlook Mountain. The village boasts a number of different restaurants, shops, galleries and cultural activities and is well worth the visit if you are in the Catskill Mountains.

Where’s Woodstock? 

Located within the Catskill Park but outside of the major mountain ranges (it rests at the base of the eastern escarpment), Woodstock in nestled at the base of Overlook Mountain. It can be accessed via Route 212 and Route 375 and is about a half an hour from the Saugerties or Kingston exits on the New York State Thruway.

Places to stay? 

There are a number of different hotels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds within the Woodstock itself and in the vicinity nearby. I’d suggest you have reservations ahead of time for most of the year, especially in the summertime when the most people visit the Woodstock area.

What makes Woodstock special? 

For most of the last century Woodstock has been home to an active artist colony and has hosted a number of different artists. Today the artist colony is still there and there are a number of different galleries and spaces where you can explore and learn about the arts and crafts being created in Woodstock.

The artists colony in Woodstock draws a lot of people to the area, which has resulted in a small town with some really big cultural offerings. Not only are there art galleries and display spaces, but playhouses and theaters along with musical concerts throughout the area.

That cultural base has also drawn in unique retail outlets which make up the heart of the village. You can walk down the street visiting small shops that sell local jewelry, art, books and more. Best of all – you won’t find a single chain store in the area – almost all the shops are unique to Woodstock.

In addition to the shopping opportunities, Woodstock hosts a number of restaurants and people can find almost any kind of food that they are looking for. There’s everything from simple pizza places to more elaborate (and fancy) restaurants.

What to do in Woodstock? 

Depending on what you want to do, you can probably find it in Woodstock. Being in the Catskills, the natural world is never far. There are several trail heads within 15 to 20 minutes of Woodstock that let you hike and climb into the mountains to the north and west. The Esopus River is nearby and offers visitors a chance for white-water rafting and tubing. In the wintertime, Belleayre Mountain, Hunter Mountain and Ski Windham are all nearby ski resorts.

For those who want to stay right in Woodstock, there are art galleries, display spaces, theaters and concerts to visit and attend. Not only that, many of the artisans offer various classes and workshops throughout the year for those who are interested in the arts. You can attend a workshop on painting or photography or get your chance to act on stage.

If shopping is what you like, there are plenty of unique and individual shops scattered throughout the downtown village of Woodstock. You can stroll along the streets exploring these shops and then when you get hungry, there are a number of different places to eat – from very simple to very fancy.

One of my favorite activities in Woodstock is getting to people watch. The town attracts so many different kinds of people and its fun to sit in the Town Square and watch everyone go by. I usually get myself some ice cream and we sit and relax and watch the world go by.

Getting around Woodstock 

For the central village area of Woodstock the easiest way to get around is to park in one of the municipal lots and then walk around. The village area is small enough to walk around and gets so crowded that it’s hard to drive and find a parking spot in the village itself. For the more distant activities in Town, it’s easy enough to drive and find parking either in provided lots or along the street.

My experiences in Woodstock 

Having grown up in the Mountains just to the north of Woodstock, I often visited first with my parents and then on my own with friends and nowadays with my spouse.

On almost every visit we take the time to explore the shops in downtown. My favorite is the bookstore, which is so crowded with books that I always find something new on each visit. Not only are there lots of books, but it’s one of the best resources of local books around.

We often go down to Woodstock for dinner too – always calling ahead for reservations, especially in the summertime. There are a number of great places to eat and while not every meal has been perfect, we haven’t run across a place we really haven’t liked.

Final Thoughts 

It might not be the real location of the Woodstock festivals, but Woodstock, New York has a vibe that is all its own. Filled with artisans and their work spaces, playhouses and theaters, unique shops and almost limitless restaurants, Woodstock has a lot to offer in such a small area. I think it would be hard for anyone not to find something that they enjoyed in Woodstock.

Not only that, Woodstock is in the Catskill Park and is surrounded by the natural resources of the Catskills. You can go hiking nearby, tube down the Esopus River or in the wintertime go skiing.

Between the cultural and natural resources of Woodstock, it’s an amazing place to visit. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to fully explore it – since there is just so much to find and explore.

More to Explore in the Catskills

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