Empire State of Mind: New York’s Hudson Valley & the Catskills are This Season’s It-Escape
I’ve lived in New York City for nearly 30 years, but I am still sometimes startled by the natural beauty that can be found just a few hours beyond its boroughs. And just north of the city, reachable by train or car in less than three hours, the upstate regions of the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains—with their emerald forests, quiet glens and wildflower-dotted meadows—are some of the most enchanting escapes. The Hudson Valley and the Catskills have long been getaways of choice for New Yorkers—drawing artists in the 1800s, with the foundation of the Hudson River School; developing sophistication in the 1920s, with the opening of resorts in the 1950s and 1960s (which were memorialized as icons of American nostalgia in Dirty Dancing); and growing their cool factor with the arrival of hippies and Woodstock—and then the 2020s wave of urban creatives who left the city during the pandemic.
Now, with a signature mix of fashion and funk, Hudson Valley and the Catskills are attracting a new generation of discerning bons vivants, thanks to their almost overwhelming volume of charms. There are craft breweries, cideries and natural-wine bars (on my list: Subversive, Shrewd Fox, Plan Bee, Seminary Hill and Sonder—and The Maker Hotel’s Carriage House for a cocktail); family-run, sustainable farm-to-table restaurants, ranging from rustic to Michelin-grade (including Arrowood Farms, Wm. Farmer and Sons, Silvia, Feast & Floret, Butterfield and The DeBruce); antique design shops, vintage clothiers, textile collectives and bookstores (Finch, Minna, Magic Hill, Nest, The Quiet Botanist, Blackcreek Mercantile & Trading Co., Spotty Dog Books and Ale, Hammertown Barn, Sundry, Rough Draft Bar & Books); bakeries, cafés, cheese shops and ice cream parlors. And, of course, there are miles of forested hiking, biking and ski trails that traverse valleys and waterfalls; lakes and the Hudson River for boating excursions; and awe-inspiring stargazing and birdwatching. This season, there’s also a new collection of chic cabin-style hotels for the next generation. These are the five properties to know for your next trip.
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Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection in Gardiner, New York
Just a 90-minute drive from New York City, tucked away amid 140 secluded acres, where the Hudson River Valley meets the foothills of the Catskills, the latest property from Auberge Resorts (The Lodge at Blue Sky, Mayflower Inn and Spa, Hotel Jerome and many others), Wildflower Farms opened on September 30, 2022, with 65 freestanding cottage-style accommodations, brought to life by architects Electric Bowery and designer Ward and Gray. A plethora of wellness and outdoor activities are on offer. Guests should be sure to make time for visits to the nearby Mohonk Preserve for hiking and rock climbing, as well as the many distilleries and wineries and art and design galleries of the area. This fall and winter, don’t miss the tasting tour at Tuthilltown Distillery (to experience New York’s First post-Prohibition distillery), a botanical mixology class, winter flower arranging and pressed-flower pottery-making with local Hudson Valley artist Demetria Chappo, ice climbing, farm-to-table activities like foraging, exploring the vegetable gardens and orchards (and feeding the resident chickens, and collecting their eggs, every morning), cooking classes, picnics—and, of course, finding peace and reflection among the sprawling fields of wildflowers. The rustic main restaurant, Clay, features locally-sourced plates like black angus tartare with yolk, shiso and sourdough, hen cooked in clay, celery root with truffle, sweet potato with black garlic, and hen of the woods mushrooms with parsley. Availability this fall is already getting snapped up—but we’re sure that a winter visit will be just as lovely.
Little Cat Lodge in Hillsdale, New York
Little Cat Lodge is a 14-room Alpine-inspired hotel and restaurant situated on seven acres at the base of Catamount Mountain, within a century-old lodge and local landmark formerly known as Swiss Hutte. The redesign of the property is the brainchild of James Beard award-nominated restaurateur Noah Bernamoff and New York nightlife mainstay Matt Kliegman, who most recently launched Rockefeller Center’s new hotspot Pebble Bar (in partnership with celebrity investors Justin Theroux, Pete Davidson and Nicholas Braun); they also operate the historic grocery store Otto’s Market in Germantown. The pair has brought on top talent in the form of interior design firm LOVEISENOUGH (behind New York’s Le Crocodile, Rule of Thirds, MáLà Project and others) and the James Beard Award-nominated executive chef Jason Bond, to helm the Tavern bar and Dining Room restaurant. Evoking a quaint chalet hidden high in the mountains of Switzerland or Italy—or a rustic cabin deep in the Berkshires—Little Cat Lodge combines romance and nostalgia with the woodsy, artsy aesthetic of the Hudson Valley. Twelve guest rooms equipped with private terraces or patios are located in the Guest House, with a pair of two-bedroom suites located in the Main House (accommodating parties of up to six in each). Lodge amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and pool bar, barrel saunas and hiking paths to the adjacent Catamount Mountain Resort (with prime ski access in the winter)—plus, it’s pet-friendly! Open year-round, Little Cat Lodge promises to be a unique upstate getaway for hikers, skiers, shoppers and those simply looking for a little peace and quiet.
Inness in Accord, New York
Opened July 2021, Inness is set on 225 acres between the Catskill and Shawangunk mountain ranges, offering a chic country escape (reminiscent of England’s Heckfield Place) that combines classic charm (vintage furniture, woven rugs, wood-burning fireplaces) and contemporary appeal (natural wine lists, Aesop bath products, Scandi-minimalist palettes). Guests can choose to stay in one of the 28 freestanding cabins or in the 12-room farmhouse, and shared amenities include a Mediterranean restaurant and outdoor grill (which incorporate local, seasonal produce and ingredients from Inness’ own garden), a nine-hole golf course designed by King Collins Golf, two hardcourt tennis courts, two salt water pools (and a seasonal pool bar), 60 acres of hiking trails and an in-the-works spa and gym facility (slated for spring 2023).
Related: Where to Go this Fall 2022
Piaule in Catskill, New York
On the site of a former bluestone quarry in the Catskill Mountains, bounded by Kaaterskill Creek and stands of oak and maple trees, Piaule is a 50-acre modernist retreat—from the homewares brand and studio of the same name—focused on low-impact design and sustainability. Here, the guest experience is focused on achieving serenity and immersion in nature—with minimal interruptions from technology and the outside world. In the same vein, the service level is very casual and hands-off; Piaule is ideal for relaxed, private guests who are happy to come and go independently, while based in a uniquely beautiful setting—but guests looking for tailored, five-star attention will be disappointed. The intimate main house—which is small but striking thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and a zinc fireplace—contains the reception and an all-day restaurant serving local fare.* The 24 standalone cabins were created by Garrison Architects to emphasize natural light, organic structure and privacy, with materials like white oak and local bluestone alongside décor from Piaule and other international makers. Also of note is the spa and wellness center, which is hidden within the hillside and offers a relaxation area and tea room; a few treatment rooms for facials and massages; a bluestone steam room, cedar sauna, cold plunge pool and heated, screened-in outdoor swimming pool; and a movement studio for reiki, sound bathing, yoga, meditation and more. Inspired by the works of James Fenimore Cooper, whose great novel The Last of the Mohicans was set in these lands, Piaule’s architects have shared what they hope guests will take away from the project: “While we detached ourselves [during the 20th century] from our natural surroundings and became entitled to fossil-fueled lifestyles, we overlooked more subtle warnings that now glare in sunsets over the Catskills that are hazed by wildfire smoke from the west coast. If we can escape our bubbles, find our transcendentalist roots, and refocus on our landscape, we might gain the ability to reprioritize, which would do more than any innovation to ameliorate our current crisis.”
* Note: Piaule is still in the process of acquiring its liquor license, so there is currently no alcohol available for purchase. However, guests are welcome to bring their own beverages of choice to enjoy in their rooms and at the restaurant (where bottle openers, seltzers and other basic wet bar items are provided). There are several wine, beer and liquor stores in the area—along with craft breweries and wineries.