Getting Cozy in the Catskills
|ELEVATED IDEAS: The expansive Catskill Mountains, as seen from near Boiceville (Kim Carson/Digital Vision/Getty)|
As a traveler, every now and again you stumble upon a town or small city that makes you forget you're a tourist, and Ulster County's easy charm and laid-back residents affect exactly that much-desired, elusive sensation. Never trying to define itself with gimmicky endpoints and visitor attractions, Ulster has a hearty soul rooted in local specialtieshistoric vineyards, county fairs, and mountain concerts.
In a county as unpretentious as Ulster, it's no wonder the folks are all about getting back to nature. And they do it on the winding backcountry roads, the mighty Hudson River, and the rocky cliffs of the Shawangunk Mountains.
*Some couples equate being out of town with being out of sorts. For creatures of habit, lodging at Menla Mountain Retreat (845.688.6897), perched at the foot of the Catskills, is an enhanced version of the everyday. Morning meditation is divine as sunlight splinters through the floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the expansive yoga studio. Work in your daily 30 at the fitness center, swimming pools, tennis courts, or hiking trails; then get a restful eight hours in a private room overlooking the forest and mountains.
* A cup of joe on the balcony of your cozy, classically styled room is a delightful way to begin the day at Hudson Valley Resort & Spa (845.626.8888). Fully restored guest rooms and on-site amenities, including an 18-hole championship golf course and full-service spa, flaunt the serene beauty of the Shawangunks. In a setting so romantic, you might even decide to get hitchedand yes, the resort does weddings.
*Shaded by a canopy of amber-topped trees that spill from the Shawangunk ridge, majestic Mohonk Mountain House (845.255.1000) is an absolutely royal sight. The 265-room castle treats its guests like noblesVictorian-style boudoirs are papered in romantic florals and furnished with white wicker. European-style gardens border the resort in a glorious maze of fuchsias, orchids, peonies, and begonias.
*The menu changes daily at Depuy Canal House (845.687.7778), a 200-year-old stone tavern perched on the edge of the Catskills. But if it's available, try the salmon fillet nestled in seafood risotto with pecorino cheese bruschetta, a luscious Italian dish that speaks for itself. The blazing fire and balcony overlooking the kitchen makes the ambiance equally memorable.
*For less than 12 bucks apiece, you and your sweetie can spice things up at Red Hook Curry House (845.758.2666). Available Tuesdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., the dinner buffet features appetizers, vegetarian and meat entrees, soup, salad, bread, dessert, coffee, and tea.
* The Locust Tree (845.255.7888) restaurant does a fierce European-inspired brunch featuring fresh, local ingredients prepared masterfully by French- and U.S.-trained chefs. Two rock-star concoctions: apple cake French toast with fruit and cream, and Normandy frittata with brie and Parisian ham.
Work it Off
*Soaring above Ulster's scenic valleys is an adrenaline rush unmatchedsee for yourself with River Aviation (845.336.8400), 30-year experts in flight instruction. Learn the basics of navigation and operation, and then take flight over the vast New York landscape. Or just opt for a photo tour of the surrounding landscape ($100 gets you both in the plane for half an hour of bird's-eye perspectives).
* For less than eight bucks, you can glide along the Olympic-size skating rink at Kiwanis Ice Arena (845.247.2590). Take a lesson, or circle the ice with your loved one; the 85- by 190-foot rink is open year-round.
* Nothing brings a couple closer than a steep cliff and a ropeespecially when they're working together to scale 2,000-foot Shawangunk Mountain. Whether you're a novice climber or an old pro, the courses at Alpine Endeavors (845.658.3094) will take you both to great heights.
* Views from the summit of Ellenville Mountain are breathtakingand from the air, they're downright mind-blowing. Come dusk, when the mountain peaks become exquisite silhouettes against the setting sun, the horizon is dotted with daring hang gliders. Join them in soaring these ethereal heights by hooking up with Mountain Wings (845.647.3377), which offers half- and full-day lessons.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication