Sunday, January 27, 2019

U is for: Upstate New York

I love living in New York City.

I love the fact that I can walk out of my apartment building and have basically anything I want at my fingertips.... A Michelin starred restaurant, food options 24 hours a day, concerts, theater, any kind of bar you could ever imagine, shopping, and accessible transportation.... the list goes on and on.

But as much as I enjoy the hustle and bustle, sometimes I like to return to my Montana roots and escape to nature. Go to a place where, when you shut off your Sonos speaker you hear.... nothing. Silence. Peace. Serenity. A place where you can still enjoy world class cuisine and lodging and feel like you're far away from the city, without actually having to go that far.

That place for me is Upstate New York.

Recently, I've had the opportunity to spend more and more time up there. And the one thing I've learned... is there is SO much to discover! A short drive upstate opens up a whole new world for hiking, antiquing, apple picking, concerts, wine & beer tasting, world class eating, and much, much more. Air Bnb named the Hudson Valley a Top-20 worldwide travel destination for 2019, so now is the time to experience what the area has to offer.

When to visit: You can pretty much visit anytime of year depending on what kind of getaway you are looking for. That said, the fall is especially beautiful there, with a bright palette of reds, oranges and yellows painting the countryside during the autumn months. It’s a tricky thing to plan out ahead of time, as leaf peeping season started later than normal in 2018 (and varies depending how far north you venture), but early October is generally a safe bet if you are looking to see some fall color.

To satisfy the music lovers, there are plenty of concerts and festivals, and 2019 marks the 50th anniversary concert of Woodstock, which will be held at Watkins Glen August 16-18th. Last fall, we attended the inaugural Catskills Food & Wine Festival, which featured a great lineup of celebrity chefs and musical acts, and look forward to seeing what they cook up in their second year.

Bonfire Cookout is a unique event for the adventurous foodie, featuring open fire cooking in an intimate, outdoor environment. The 2018 slate included three different dates and themes from August to October, so be sure to check out for updates on 2019 dates.

Where to stay: If you are looking for a truly unique vacation, consider finding your accommodations on Air Bnb. According to the website, the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley saw a 100-percent year-over-year increase in bookings and a 130-percent year-over-year increase in searches between 2017 and 2018. Everything from restored barns to tiny houses to old castles to tree houses are available in the vast area of Upstate New York. (The website Hudson Valley Happenings and its corresponding IG page, @hudsonvalleyhappenings, is a great place to start for lodging and activity ideas.) The following represent a very small sampling of places I’ve personally had the pleasure of experiencing, but this barely scratches the surface, so definitely use this as a starting point and do some of your own research!

Saugerties, NY
The town of Saugerties is about a 2 hour drive from New York City, which is the perfect mix of "let's go for a beautiful drive" and "let's really escape for the weekend." The town itself is home to plenty of restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. During your stay, you can also visit the Saugerties Lighthouse, which is an 1869 landmark on the Hudson River that houses a living museum and a renowned bed and breakfast. Another top attraction in the area is Opus 40, an earthwork sculpture park and arts center. This unique location was founded in 1978, and features over six acres of winding walkways, some 16 feet below ground, as you make your way through the quarry with Overlook Mountain as a majestic backdrop. The site often hosts concerts, art exhibits and lectures, so be sure to check their schedule before you visit.

For the ultimate country escape, consider hunkering down at Barn on the Pond, which is actually just a short walk from Opus 40. That said, once you step foot inside, you may never want to leave. Barn on the Pond is a stunning converted barn, and if you visit during the cooler months, you will be greeted with a warm hug emanating from the fireplace, and the smell of a delicious home cooked meal awakening your senses if you decide to utilize their catering package. High ceilings, exposed beams, a state-of-the-art kitchen and beautiful art pieces and furnishings turn this rustic barn into a true luxury accommodation, with room for 12 of your closest friends. No expense has been spared in preserving the history of the gorgeous building, while also adding the necessary modern conveniences you would expect and need for a relaxing country escape.

As the name suggests, it's set above a serene pond, complete with a stone firepit (perfect for those late-night s'mores cravings!) Patios and decks wrap around most of the property, allowing for outdoor entertaining on warmer evenings and days. A cozy Airstream sits nearby to accommodate overflow guests. There’s a reason this property is the second-most rented converted barn on Homeaway.

If you want the ultimate pampering experience, Barn on the Pond offers a service where they will personally arrange a chef or caterer to prepare a meal (or meals) during your stay so you don't have to lift a finger. On this particular night, Olsen & Company provided a family-style dinner complete with a beautiful table-scape decorated for the holiday season. Each dish was as delicious as it was beautiful and everything was fresh and locally sourced. Olsen & Company also has a small grocery store and cafe in town, so even if you don't elect the catering option, be sure to stop by and pick up a few things for your weekend away.

If you are in the mood to enjoy a dinner out, be sure to check out Black Eyed Suzie's. It's a cozy little spot, but don't let the size fool you... this restaurant is pumping out some big-time flavors and dishes. Fridays are fried chicken nights, and for just $20, you get 2 pieces of buttermilk fried chicken, mashed potatoes, slaw and a piece of cornbread (and you can add a third piece of chicken for just $4.50.) Also do not miss the parker house loaf! Pillowy soft bread topped with crunchy sea salt is what carb dreams are made of. The macaroni was a perfect accompaniment to the chicken, and washed it all down with a cider flight and session cocktails.

Coxsackie, NY
About 130 miles north of NYC, you'll find West Coxsackie, NY, a quaint and peaceful community, perfect for a restful weekend away. If you are an antique collector, you will love the Coxsackie Antique Center, which features over 100 dealers in a 15,000 square foot space at much lower prices than other places in the valley. If you happen to visit during the spring or summertime, be sure to take in some cinema under the stars at Hi Way Drive-In, one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the state. The theater is located just 5 miles south of Coxsackie, and is open from Spring until Labor Day. Prior to Memorial Day, movies are only shown on the weekend, but after that, it’s 7 nights a week! Also be sure to check out the schedule for Lumberyard, a women-led non-profit center for film and performing arts located just down the road in Catskill.

For lodging, consider a stay at Circa 1804 Farmhouse, which is set on a 10-acre farm that is also home to Owls Hoot Barn, a gorgeous wedding and event space. If it’s not booked for a wedding, you can actually rent out the farmhouse and adjoining cabin for a weekend getaway. Opening the front door is like taking a step back in time, with thoughtfully selected antique pieces at every turn and you will immediately fall in love with the gorgeous farm-style kitchen.

The rustic feel of the original wood floors & cabinets paired with a farm sink blended seamlessly with modern appliances including a Viking range, a commercial refrigerator and an espresso machine. If you visit in the winter months, Circa 1804 will provide you with plenty of firewood and a prepped fireplace so you can easily curl up and enjoy a glass of wine with the flames flickering and crackling in the background. The farmhouse can sleep 10 comfortably, making it an ideal spot for a girls weekend getaway.

Next door to the house, you'll find a 2-person cabin which is also available for rent. Owl's Nest Cabin is perfect for couples or to add on extra space to the farmhouse rental. There's also a second house next door that is being remodeled and soon the property will be able to accommodate 40 guests.

Whether you're looking for a quick breakfast or a full sit-down meal, definitely check out the newly-opened Cottage 81, just down the road from Owls Hoot. It's housed inside a beautifully restored farmhouse on Green Vally Farms and is the epitome of farm to table cuisine. All pastries are made daily from scratch (the chef is a son of a baker!) Chef Sean also smokes and cures all of the restaurant's meats in house. The farm just acquired 200 head of Montana Angus beef cattle to source from, as well as pasture-raised chickens for meat & eggs.

Whether paired with a NYC vacation, or a stand-alone destination… the Hudson Valley and Castskills Mountains should definitely be on your 2019 travel list!


  1. This was great! For me, Upstate NY and the Catskills/Hudson Valley areas was always a place that was just on the way to see family in other parts of NY, but this definitely piqued my curiosity on other options. The Barn on the Pond looks flat out incredible - I am trying to think of how to rally a bunch of friends to make a long weekend out of being there! Do you think the catering package would be worth it?

    Thanks Jaymee!

    1. Hi Kevin! Barn on the Pond is a dream! As for catering... depends if you plan to mostly hang at the house or get out and enjoy the town. I think maybe one night it would be fun for a big group dinner and maybe head into town the other night?


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