Best Things to Do in the Catskills: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Jen
Best Things to Do in the Catskills
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Are you thinking about visiting the Catskills this year? Here are some of the most fun, scenic, and unique things to do in the Catskills. These captivating sights, invigorating activities, and fascinating attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Nestled in the heart of New York, the Catskills beckon travelers with a siren song of lush forests, rolling mountains, and enchanting waterfalls. It’s a tapestry of nature’s finest work, woven with tales of yesteryears and the promise of adventures yet to come. For those with a penchant for the outdoors, there are endless possibilities as far as the best things to do in the Catskills go. This includes everything from hiking trails that challenge even the most seasoned trekkers to serene spots perfect for introspective moments.

But it’s not just the landscapes that captivate; the region is steeped in history, arts, and a vibrant culture that’s as refreshing as the mountain air. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, the Catskills promise a unique blend of nature, nostalgia, and novelty. So, pack your bags, set your spirit free, and let’s uncover the most fun things to do in the Catskills.

The top places to visit in the Catskills right now
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Best Places to Visit in the Catskills

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Catskills? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this majestic vacation destination. So keep reading to discover all these unique Catskills places to visit.

Are you into exploring historical and cultural sites? Or would you prefer a tranquil getaway in nature at some off-the-beaten path location? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Catskills can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Catskills that you should know about.

1. Kaaterskill Falls

The majestic Kaaterskill Falls, a must-see in the Catskills, beckons travelers with its awe-inspiring beauty. This two-tiered waterfall, one of the tallest in New York, cascades gracefully over ancient rocks, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that has inspired poets and artists for centuries. As you approach, the gentle murmur of flowing water grows louder, setting the tone for the breathtaking sight that awaits.

The journey to the falls is as enchanting as the destination itself. Winding trails, flanked by dense forests, lead adventurers through a landscape that seems untouched by time. Every step brings with it a new perspective of the falls, each more captivating than the last. For those keen on capturing the moment, the viewing platform offers an unparalleled vantage point, ensuring that the memories of this Catskills attraction remain etched forever.

But the allure of Kaaterskill doesn’t end at the falls. The surrounding region is dotted with charming eateries, where one can savor local delicacies after a day of exploration. Unique things to do in the Catskills? A visit to Kaaterskill Falls tops the list, offering both thrill and tranquility in equal measure.

Encounter Catskills' majestic Kaaterskill Falls—a captivating two-tiered waterfall, among New York's tallest, inspiring awe for centuries.
Encounter Catskills’ majestic Kaaterskill Falls—a captivating two-tiered waterfall, among New York’s tallest, inspiring awe for centuries.

2. Hunter Mountain Skyride

Elevate your Catskills adventure with a trip to Hunter Mountain Skyride. As the chairlift ascends, you’re treated to panoramic vistas that encapsulate the very essence of the region. Rolling hills, dense woodlands, and distant peaks paint a picture of nature’s grandeur, making it one of the best places in the Catskills for a bird’s-eye view.

Reaching the summit, a cool breeze greets you, carrying whispers of the wilderness. The observation deck here is a haven for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. Every angle offers a new perspective, from the shimmering lakes below to the horizon stretching beyond. It’s not just a ride; it’s an experience that encapsulates the Catskills attractions in all their glory.

For those with a penchant for adventure, the descent offers opportunities for mountain biking. Zigzagging through trails, with the wind in your hair and adrenaline pumping, is a thrill like no other. And if you’re wondering where to visit in the Catskills for a blend of relaxation and excitement, this is it.

After the ride, the local eateries beckon with promises of hearty meals, rounding off a day that’s bound to be etched in memory. .

Hunter Mountain Skyride
Rise above in the Catskills at Hunter Mountain Skyride for stunning panoramic views of rolling hills, woodlands, and distant peaks—a nature lover’s dream.

3. Windham Mountain Adventure Park

Nestled in the heart of the Catskills, Windham Mountain Adventure Park beckons travelers with promises of thrilling escapades and serene moments. If you’re pondering what to do in the Catskills that combines both adventure and relaxation, this is your answer. The park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities that cater to all ages.

For the adrenaline junkies, the zipline tour is a must-try. Soaring above the treetops, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Catskills landscape. The mountain coaster, on the other hand, offers a ground-level rush as you twist and turn through scenic terrains.

Families with kids will adore the bungee trampoline and climbing wall, ensuring the little ones have their share of fun. And for those who prefer a more laid-back experience, the scenic chairlift ride is a treat.

As the day winds down, grab a bite at the local cafe, reminiscing about the day’s adventures. Truly, Windham Mountain Adventure Park embodies the essence of Catskills attractions, making it a must-visit on your itinerary.

4. Slide Mountain Wilderness

Slide Mountain Wilderness is the epitome of Catskills attractions, boasting the tallest peak in the region and offering a myriad of outdoor activities. For those wondering where to visit in the Catskills for an authentic wilderness experience, this is your destination.

Hiking enthusiasts will be thrilled with the numerous trails winding through dense forests, leading to panoramic vistas. As you ascend, the breathtaking views of the Catskills unfold, making every step worth the effort.

For the avid birdwatchers, the area is a paradise, teeming with various bird species. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars! And if you’re into camping, setting up a tent under the starlit sky is an experience you shouldn’t miss.

Winter transforms the wilderness into a snowy wonderland, perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. No matter the season, Slide Mountain Wilderness promises adventures that linger in memories. So, if you’re looking for the most unique things to do in the Catskills, don’t miss this gem.

Experience Catskills at Slide Mountain Wilderness—highest peak, diverse outdoor activities, a must-visit for authentic wilderness.
Experience Catskills at Slide Mountain Wilderness—highest peak, diverse outdoor activities, a must-visit for authentic wilderness.

5. North-South Lake Campground

For an experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in the Catskills, which offers a delightful mix of recreation and relaxation. Nestled at its very  heart, North-South Lake Campground is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a serene escape.

The campground is surrounded by pristine lakes, making it a top choice for water activities. Kayaking, canoeing, or simply lounging by the shore – the choice is yours. It’s one of those places in the Catskills where you can truly unwind and soak in nature’s splendor.

For the adventurers, numerous hiking trails lead to awe-inspiring viewpoints. As you trek, you’ll be greeted with panoramic views that showcase the best places in the Catskills in all their glory. And if you’re a history buff, the remnants of the once-famous Catskill Mountain House are nearby, offering a glimpse into the past.

Camping under the stars, surrounded by the gentle sounds of nature, is an experience that stays with you. North-South Lake Campground is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to do in the Catskills, providing a perfect blend of adventure and tranquility.

North-South Lake Campground is a perfect blend of recreation and relaxation in nature's heart.
North-South Lake Campground is a perfect blend of recreation and relaxation in nature’s heart.

6. Plattekill Mountain

Looking to visit one of the best places in the Catskills? Add this to your bucket list! Ah, Plattekill Mountain! A name that resonates with adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Winter or summer, Plattekill offers a plethora of activities that cater to all ages and interests.

In the colder months, it’s a snow-covered paradise. Skiing and snowboarding down its slopes are fun activities to do here. The mountain’s diverse terrain ensures that both beginners and pros find their perfect trail. And for those who prefer a slower pace, snowshoeing offers a serene way to explore the snowy landscape.

Come summer, the mountain transforms. The snow makes way for lush greenery, and the ski trails become paths for mountain biking.

Hiking here is a treat, with trails leading to vantage points that offer breathtaking views. Every visit feels different, thanks to its ever-changing beauty. So, what to do in the Catskills? Well, a day at Plattekill Mountain is always a good answer!

Plattekill Mountain—a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. Winter or summer, it offers activities for all ages.
Plattekill Mountain—a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. Winter or summer, it offers activities for all ages.

7. Belleayre Mountain

Nestled in the heart of the Catskills, Belleayre Mountain stands as a testament to nature’s grandeur and the region’s rich history. It’s one of those unique places in the Catskills that offers a blend of natural beauty and thrilling activities.

During winter, the mountain becomes a snowy wonderland, beckoning skiers and snowboarders with its pristine slopes. It’s one of the best places in the Catskills for winter sports enthusiasts, boasting a range of trails for all skill levels. And if skiing isn’t your thing, the scenic gondola rides offer epic views.

Summer paints a different picture. The snow retreats, revealing hiking and mountain biking trails that wind through dense forests and open meadows.

For those who love the water, Belleayre Beach is a hidden gem. Swim, paddle, or simply relax by the water, soaking in the mountain views. Truly, Belleayre Mountain is a place where memories are made, making it one of the must-see in Catskills destinations.

Discover Belleayre Mountain
Discover Belleayre Mountain—a Catskills gem blending natural beauty and excitement, echoing the region’s rich history.

8. Catskill Scenic Trail

The Catskill Scenic Trail embodies nature’s timeless beauty and the region’s commitment to preserving it. Stretching over 26 miles, this trail is one of those Catskills places to visit that offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle.

Originally a railroad track, the trail has been transformed into a haven for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. As you traverse its length, you’ll be treated to picturesque views of rolling farmlands, dense woodlands, and sparkling streams. This allows you to connect with nature at your own pace.

During the colder months, the trail becomes a snowy paradise, a place ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And for those who simply want to soak in the views, there are plenty of spots to sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.

In essence, the Catskill Scenic Trail is an experience, a journey, and undoubtedly one of the best places to go in the Catskills.

Embrace nature on the Catskill Scenic Trail—a 26-mile testament to preservation, offering a serene escape.
Embrace nature on the Catskill Scenic Trail—a 26-mile testament to preservation, offering a serene escape.

9. Thomas Cole National Historic Site

If you’re pondering about the best things to do in the Catskills that combine art, history, and nature, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site is a top pick. It is a tribute to the founder of the Hudson River School of painting. The site is the former home and studio of the renowned artist Thomas Cole, and it’s brimming with inspiration.

Visitors can explore Cole’s beautifully preserved home, where the artist’s spirit seems to linger in every corner. The vibrant gardens outside offer a tranquil space to reflect and relax.

Guided tours provide insights into Cole’s life, his groundbreaking artworks, and his profound impact on American art. And for those who want to delve deeper, there are art workshops and lectures throughout the year. It’s  where art and nature converge.

In a nutshell, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site is a celebration of creativity. This makes it a must-see in the Catskills for art lovers and curious souls alike.

Explore Catskills' blend of art, history, and nature at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site—honoring Hudson River School's founder.
Explore Catskills’ blend of art, history, and nature at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site—honoring Hudson River School’s founder.

10. The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum

Ah, the gentle art of fly fishing! If you’re wondering where to visit in the Catskills for a serene and educational experience, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum is a delightful choice. Nestled in the picturesque town of Livingston Manor, this place is a haven for both seasoned anglers and curious newcomers.

Dedicated to preserving the history and promoting the future of fly fishing, the museum showcases a rich collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits. It offers a deep dive into the world of fly fishing, its evolution, and its significance in the region.

The center is surrounded by the Willowemoc Creek, a prime spot for fly fishing. Expert guides are on hand to offer tips and tricks, ensuring you get the most out of your fishing adventure.

In essence, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum is a blend of history, nature, and sport, making it one of the coolest places in the Catskills for families and solo travelers alike.

11. Frost Valley YMCA

Nestled deep in the heart of the Catskills, Frost Valley YMCA is an experience. If you’re looking for the best places in the Catskills for an immersive nature retreat, this is your spot. Spanning over 5,500 acres, it’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

From horseback riding and archery to hiking and canoeing, there’s a plethora of things to do here. For those looking to delve into the region’s natural beauty, the guided nature hikes are a must. You’ll traverse scenic trails, discover local flora and fauna, and maybe even spot some wildlife!

But what truly sets Frost Valley apart are its values-based programs. It’s one of those unique places in the Catskills that focuses on building character, fostering community, and promoting respect for the environment. Whether you’re a family seeking a summer getaway or an individual craving a break from the urban hustle, Frost Valley offers programs tailored to all ages and interests.

Frost Valley YMCA is a journey of discovery, bonding, and reverence for the great outdoors. It’s undoubtedly one of the coolest places in the Catskills to reconnect with nature and oneself.

Frost Valley YMCA in Catskills is one of the best things to do in the Catskills.
Frost Valley YMCA in Catskills—an outdoor haven spanning 5,500 acres for immersive retreats and enthusiasts.

12. Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Ah, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts! It’s a testament to the iconic Woodstock Festival of 1969. If you’re wondering what to do in the Catskills that combines history, music, and culture, this is your answer. Located on the very grounds where the legendary festival took place, this center is a harmonious blend of past and present.

The main pavilion hosts a plethora of concerts throughout the year, drawing both local and international artists. But, it’s not all about the new; the Museum at Bethel Woods takes you on a nostalgic trip back to the ’60s. Through interactive exhibits, personal stories, and rare artifacts, you’ll relive the magic of Woodstock and the era that defined a generation.

For those who love to wander, the beautifully landscaped grounds are perfect for a leisurely stroll. Every corner whispers tales of peace, love, and music. It’s one of those Catskills attractions that resonates with both the young and the young at heart.

In essence, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is a melody of memories, a place where history sings. It’s undeniably one of the coolest things to do in the Catskills.

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts: Catskills' tribute to Woodstock Festival on legendary grounds, fusing history, music, and culture.
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts: Catskills’ tribute to Woodstock Festival on legendary grounds, fusing history, music, and culture.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Catskills

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Catskills? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Catskills:

When is the best time to visit the Catskills?

The Catskills are a year-round destination! Summer offers lush greenery and outdoor activities, while winter transforms the region into a snowy wonderland, perfect for skiing and snowboarding. Fall, with its vibrant foliage, is a favorite for many.

Which is better Catskills or Adirondacks?

Both the Catskills and the Adirondacks in New York State offer stunning natural beauty and a variety of recreational opportunities, so deciding between the two might depend on what you’re looking for in a vacation destination. Here’s a comparison to help you make the best choice:

Catskills

1. Proximity: Closer to New York City, making it more accessible for a quick weekend getaway. 2. Landscape: Known for rolling mountains, deep valleys, and forested landscapes. 3. Activities: Offers hiking, fishing, skiing, and more. 4. Culture and Arts: Known for an artsy vibe with galleries, boutique shopping, and music festivals. 5. Accommodations: Wide range of accommodations, including luxury resorts and cozy cabins. 6. Ideal For: Those looking for a combination of outdoor activities, arts, and relaxation.

Adirondacks

1. Size: Larger than the Catskills with six million acres, including vast wilderness areas. 2. Landscape: Known for high peaks, deep forests, and over 10,000 lakes and ponds. 3. Activities: Offers more rugged hiking, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and winter sports. 4. Wildlife: More opportunities for wildlife watching, including moose and bald eagles. 5. Accommodations: Diverse lodging from high-end resorts to rustic campgrounds. 6. Ideal For: Those seeking more adventurous and challenging outdoor experiences.

Conclusion

  • Choose Catskills if: You prefer a shorter drive (from NYC), a blend of nature and culture, or gentler landscapes.
  • Choose Adirondacks if: You’re looking for more rugged and challenging outdoor activities, extensive water bodies, or more remote wilderness experiences.

Both regions are beautiful and offer unique experiences, so your choice should align with your interests, desired activities, and travel preferences.

Are the Catskills family-friendly?

Absolutely! With a range of activities from hiking trails to museums, there’s something for every age. Places like the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts offer both historical insights and contemporary entertainment.

Cozy campsite nestled in Catskills forest, surrounded by trees and nature's tranquility.
Cozy campsite nestled in Catskills forest, surrounded by trees and nature’s tranquility.

How many days should I spend in the Catskills?

The ideal number of days to spend in the Catskills depends on your interests, the activities you want to engage in, and how much you want to explore the region. A well-rounded visit could range from a weekend getaway to a week-long vacation.

For a quick introduction to the area’s beauty and outdoor activities, a weekend (2-3 days) can be a good starting point. You could enjoy some hiking, explore a local town, and get a taste of the culinary scene.

Is it expensive to vacation in the Catskills?

The Catskills offer a range of options for every budget. Whether you’re looking for luxury resorts or cozy cabins, there’s something for everyone. Plus, many of the natural attractions are free!

Are there good dining options in the Catskills?

Absolutely, the Catskills offer a delectable culinary scene that caters to a wide range of tastes. Whether you’re a gourmet enthusiast, a fan of farm-to-table fare, or someone seeking comfort food, you’ll find an array of dining options to satisfy your cravings.Local restaurants and eateries often take pride in sourcing ingredients from nearby farms, ensuring that your meals are not only delicious but also fresh and sustainable.

What’s so special about the Catskills?

The Catskills seamlessly blend natural beauty with rich history, offering a captivating mix of scenic mountain ranges, quaint villages, and artistic havens. It’s a place where every turn reveals a new adventure, making it a timeless retreat for both relaxation and exploration.

Are the Catskills worth visiting?

Absolutely! The Catskills are a treasure trove of outdoor activities, cultural gems, and scenic beauty, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking both adventure and tranquility.

Thrill-seekers can revel in an array of outdoor pursuits, from hiking picturesque trails to engaging in water sports. Meanwhile, culture enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the region’s historical narratives and vibrant arts scene. The Catskills’ scenic beauty serves as a natural canvas, inspiring awe and contemplation.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Catskills

The Catskills, adorned with captivating landscapes and steeped in a history as rich as its natural beauty, presents an intricate tapestry of experiences yearning to be unveiled.

Whether your spirit craves adventure, you’re a connoisseur of culture, or you simply seek solace in serene surroundings, this region is a treasure trove of moments waiting to be etched into your memory. Immerse yourself in the diverse array of activities it offers, indulge in the distinctive local flavors, and let the Catskills’ inimitable allure cocoon you in its embrace.

Beyond being a mere destination, the Catskills embodies a sentiment, an indelible encounter, a narrative poised to be shared. Thus, gather your essentials, for an indescribable odyssey awaits you in the very heart of New York’s spellbinding Catskills. It’s truly a journey destined to be etched in the chronicles of your life.

The top things to do in the Catskills for all types of travelers
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