Not the Adirondacks: 25 Fun Things to Do in the Catskills, NY’s Other Mountains

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Things to Do in Catskills - Sweeping view of Catskills Mountains in New York, a day trip from NYC with tons of fun things to do
On a clear day you can see forever from the summit of one of the Catskills fire towers. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

New York State has two majestic mountain regions. The Adirondacks is the largest park in the continental United States, covering more than 6 million acres and home to super popular Lake Placid. Often overlooked is the Catskills. It’s no slouch.

The Catskill Park, a mix of public and private lands, is more than 700,000 acres, and the Catskill Forest Preserve, maintained as a forever wild space, is nearly 300,000 acres. We love the Catskills.

Here are our favorite things to do in the Catskills, New York’s other mountains.

Read More: Best Resorts in the Catskills for a Marvelous Mountain Stay

Things to Do in Catskills - Map cabinet with brochures at the Catskills Visitor Center in Mount Tremper NY.
The interactive map cabinet in the Catskills Visitor Center stores all the information you need for your vacation. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

1. Stop By the Catskills Visitor Center (formerly the Catskill Interpretive Center)

Make the recently renamed Catskills Visitor Center your first stop if you’re arriving off the NYS Thruway. Besides very clean restrooms, you’ll find a space packed with all the info you need to begin your Catskills vacation.

Pull out one of the labeled drawers in the storage cabinets and the cabinet map lights up to display relevant locations. Totally cool.

Got a question about area wildlife, hiking terrain, best breakfast? Ask the friendly staff member on duty. There’s also a small but nicely stocked gift shop. Plus, it’s the location of one of the Catskills fire towers open for climbing. More on this hiking challenge in #2.

Read More: Where to find the best Catskills NY restaurants.

Things to Do in Catskills - One of the Catskills fire towers you can climb, a fun thing to do in the Catskills.
The view is worth the climb to the top of this Catskills fire tower. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

2. Climb a Fire Tower

Not gonna lie. My quads were screaming the day after I climbed the 80-foot fire tower at the Catskills Visitor Center. But it was worth it. The view of the forested mountains from the top was breathtaking.

Over a hundred fire towers were used back in the day to scan the mountains for wildfires. When they were decommissioned for public safety use, several were restored for recreational access. The staff at the Catskills Visitor Center can provide you with a map. The one at the Visitors Center is the tallest with the easiest access.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking for a luxury stay in the Catskills? Try The Emerson Resort and Spa. You can read our full review, and learn about the Guinness World Record big kaleidoscope.

3. Tour Opus 40

Opus 40 is a remarkable outdoor sculpture park located in the heart of the Catskill Mountains in Saugerties, New York. Created by artist Harvey Fite, it is an expansive environmental sculpture made from bluestone quarried from the surrounding land.

Fite dedicated nearly four decades of his life to crafting this masterpiece, meticulously arranging the stone to create terraces, ramps, and intricate structures that harmonize with the natural landscape, resulting in a mesmerizing fusion of art and nature.

This is one of the most popular attractions in the Catskills, so plan accordingly. Buy tickets and book a tour in advance online.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Children under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult and those under 6 must hold hands with their caregiver at all times. Opus 40 is an art park, not a playground.

4. Spend a Groovy Afternoon in Woodstock

The 1969 music festival was named for this Catskill town but the actual site was in nearby Bethel. The town is home to some of the best restaurants in the Catskills and is definitely worth a visit. Highlights include:

  • Overlook Mountain: Embark on a scenic hike up Overlook Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The trailhead is easily accessible from Woodstock and rewards hikers with scenic vistas and a chance to explore the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House, a once-grand hotel.
  • Woodstock Playhouse: Catch a live performance at the historic Woodstock Playhouse. This beloved theater hosts a variety of productions, including plays, musicals, and concerts, showcasing local talent and touring acts alike.
  • Woodstock Farm Sanctuary: Take a guided or self-guided tour of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and interact with rescued farm animals.
  • Tinker Street: Shop Woodstock’s main drag, lined with charming shops, art galleries, and eclectic boutiques.

5. Go to a Concert at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

A summer concert at Bethel Woods is one of the favorite things to do in the Catskills. The venue, with capacity for 16,000 at its main stage, is located on the site of the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival.

In addition to a full lineup of headliners, Bethel Woods has a museum dedicated to the ’60s and Woodstock. It’s a great way to get into a groovy Catskills state of mind. Visiting during the holidays? Drive the 1.7-mile Peace, Love, and Lights route.

6. Drive the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway

The Catskill Scenic Byway, also known as Route 28, stretches for approximately 52 miles through the heart of the Catskill Mountains in New York. Starting in the town of Olive near the city of Kingston, the byway winds its way through charming towns, rolling hills, and picturesque valleys before ending in the village of Margaretville.

The appeal of driving the Catskill Scenic Byway lies in its breathtaking vistas, scenic overlooks, and access to numerous outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking trails, fishing spots, and quaint shops and eateries along the route. Several audio guides are available.

SheBuysTravel Tip: You might want to take it slow to take in the sights. Other drivers will ride your tail because they’re in a hurry to get somewhere. Pull over and let them pass.

7. Get Wet at the Zoom Flume Water Park

Located in East Durham, New York, the Zoom Flume Water Park is a family-friendly destination in the Catskill Mountains. The outdoor water park offers a wide range of attractions, including exhilarating water slides, a lazy river, wave pools, and interactive play areas.

8. Explore Howe Caverns

A trip to Howe Caverns is a must when visiting the Catskill Mountains in NY for an outstanding underground adventure. Exploring the caverns provides a unique opportunity to witness the remarkable geological formations that have been millions of years in the making.

Guided tours take visitors through a fascinating underground world, showcasing stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and winding passageways. The tour includes a ¼ mile boat ride in the cavern.

Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills
Kaaterskill Falls, the highest falls in New York. Two separate falls total 260 feet. Photo credit: Julia Brophy for Wikimedia Commons

The hike to Kaaterskill Falls is the most popular destination in the Catskills. The trail takes hikers through the Kaaterskill Clove mountain ravine and lush forests, offering a pleasant and scenic journey. The highlight of the hike is reaching the magnificent Kaaterskill Falls, a two-tiered waterfall cascading down a dramatic rock face, providing a stunning backdrop for photos and a refreshing mist for those who venture closer.

The combination of the scenic hike, the allure of the waterfall, and the opportunity to connect with nature make the journey to Kaaterskill Falls a fun and memorable experience for visitors. It’s important, as with all outdoor adventures, to be prepared. The Catskills Visitor Center has tons of information about this great upstate NY hike.

10. Hunter Mountain Adventure Park

Located in the heart of the Catskill Mountains in Hunter, NY, the Hunter Mountain Adventure Park offers an array of thrilling activities for visitors of all ages. The park features a range of exciting attractions, including ziplining, the Skyride, a climbing tower, a ropes course, and a thrilling mountain coaster.

With its stunning mountain setting, Adventure Park provides a perfect combination of adrenaline-pumping adventures and breathtaking views, making it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families seeking excitement in the Catskills.

Ski Hunter in Winter

In winter Hunter Mountain is one of New York’s most popular ski destinations in the Catskill Mountains. Its appeal lies in its diverse terrain and top-notch facilities, making it suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. The mountain offers a variety of trails, including challenging slopes for experienced riders and gentle slopes for beginners, while its modern lifts and amenities ensure a comfortable and convenient skiing experience.

The picturesque surroundings, along with the resort’s vibrant atmosphere and lively après-ski scene, add to the overall charm and make Hunter Mountain an attractive winter getaway for snow enthusiasts.

Things to Do in Catskills - Field of sunflowers ready for picking, one of the fun things to do in the Catskills in summer.
Visit Kelder’s Farm in the Catskills in mid-August when the sunflowers are in full bloom, ready to be picked! Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

11. U-Pick at a Catskills Farm

In the summer and fall, many of the Catskills farms open their fields to the public for u-pick ‘em fun. Berries, sweet corn, tomatoes, sunflowers, and pumpkins are some of the seasonal delights you’ll find, based on the timing of your visit.

Some of our favorite Catskills farms are:

  • Kelder’s Farm: Located in Kerhonkson, Ulster County, Kelder’s Farm offers a delightful u-pick experience. This family-friendly farm features a variety of crops, ready to be picked. Visitors can also enjoy other attractions such as a petting farm, corn maze, and farm market offering fresh produce, baked goods, and local products.
  • Dubois Farms: Situated in Highland, Ulster County, Dubois Farms is a popular U-pick destination. Fruits and veggies are pickable in summer. In the fall, the orchards have a wide selection of apple varieties.
  • Maynard Farms: Located in Ulster Park, Ulster County, Maynard Farms is a family-owned orchard that offers a variety of apple-picking options with a beautiful backdrop for enjoying the autumn foliage.

12. Cool Off in the Peekamoose Blue Hole

This natural swimming hole was once a hidden gem in upstate New York. However, thanks to social media, the Blue Hole has been overrun by visitors. Day permits are now required and are limited to 50 vehicles per day with up to six occupants admitted per permit.

Permits are available through Reserve America seven days in advance and sell out quickly. The day permit fee is $10 (non-NYS residents will be charged an additional $5).

If you’re lucky enough to snag a pass, be a responsible visitor. Respect the carry-in, carry-out litter policy, use the available portable toilet, and leave the site cleaner than when you arrived.

Things to Do in Catskills - Large peace sign in front of railroad tracks with Rail Explorers pedal carts in the Catskills.
Make an advance reservation for a Rail Explorers pedal cart tour. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

13. Ride the Rails

Phoenicia hosts one of five national locations of Rail Explorers. These pedal-powered steel vehicles coast along railroad tracks. In the Catskills, you’ll ride the decommissioned tracks formerly used by the Ulster and Delaware River Railroad.

The eight-mile round-trip trek takes about 2.5 hours. You’ll pedal, assisted by Rail Explorers’ unique Rex Propulsion system. The ride’s hands-free, so cameras and Go-Pros are not only welcomed but encouraged.

Things to Do in Catskills - Exterior of the Catskills Clothing Co. in downtown Phoenicia
You’ll find mid-century memorabilia and new t-shirts in Phoenicia’s Catskills Clothing Co. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

14. Go Window Shopping in Downtown Phoenicia

Like to rummage around a quality curio shop? Phoenicia, a sleepy hamlet minutes from the Catskill Forest Preserve, is the place for you. Have brunch first at the renowned Phoenicia Diner, then browse the unique shops and galleries on Main Street. Personal favorite? Multi-merchant Phoenicia Arts and Antiques.

For a touch of culture, catch a live performance at the beloved Phoenicia Playhouse.

15. See the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope

I’m a sucker for odd roadside attractions and will routinely exasperate my husband by screaming “Pull over!” when I see an intriguing billboard.

The world’s largest kaleidoscope is housed in a silo on the grounds of The Emerson Resort and Spa, one of the best resorts in the Catskills. Pay your admission in the kaleidoscope gift shop and wait to be admitted to the 60-foot silo.

You’re given the option to remain standing, braced against an angled board or you can lie down on the carpeted floor for the 10-minute themed “kaleidoshow.” It’s fun and funky and definitely one of the best things to do in the Catskills. After the show, check out the other well-curated boutiques at The Emerson.

Read More: Check Out Jerome – Arizona’s Famous Ghost Town and Home of the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope Store!

Things to Do in Catskills - Mohonk Mountain House sign in a field of summer wildflowers marks the entrance to the golf course, a fun thing to do in the Catskills
Play nine holes of golf while visiting the Catskills at one of the area courses. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

16. Tee Off: Where to Golf in the Catskills

If a vacation isn’t a vacation until you’ve played a round, the Catskills has many public golf courses where you can tee off. You can’t beat the views but be warned that the mountain terrain may be challenging. You’ll definitely work for your beer at the 19th hole!

Top Catskill golf courses include:

  • The Monster at Resorts World Catskills: The original Monster was one of America’s top 100 golf courses back in the day. It’s been closed for decades and its reopening after a total redesign by Rees Jones is the golf event of 2023.
  • Mohonk Golf Course: Located in New Paltz, NY, Mohonk Golf Course offers a unique golfing experience amidst the natural beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge. This 9-hole course combines picturesque surroundings with well-maintained fairways and greens. Golfers can enjoy panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains as they navigate through the course, making it a delightful destination for a round of golf.
  • Thunderhart Golf Course: Found in Freehold, NY, Thunderhart Golf Course is a scenic 18-hole course nestled in the Northern Catskills. Surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills, this course provides a challenging layout with beautiful vistas at every turn. With its well-manicured fairways and friendly atmosphere, Thunderhart offers an enjoyable golfing experience for players of all skill levels.

17. Go Rock Climbing in the “Gunks”

New Paltz, NY, is a popular destination for rock climbing enthusiasts, offering a range of exciting opportunities for climbers of all skill levels. The Shawangunk Mountains, also known as the “Gunks,” provide a renowned rock climbing experience with its world-class cliffs and stunning views.

Rock and Snow, an outfitter located in New Paltz, offers an extensive range of climbing gear for sale and rental. Alpine Endeavors is a reputable outfitter in the area that provides rock climbing instruction and guided climbs for both beginners and experienced climbers.

Climbing a bit too much for you? Read on to learn about how to access Sam’s Point, the highest point in the Gunks without breaking a sweat.

Things to Do in Catskills - Awosting Falls in Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a short hike from the parking lot and one of the fun things to do in the Catskills
A short hike yields a big payoff – Awosting Falls is a must-see in the Catskills. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

18. Explore the Minnewaska State Park Preserve

A stop at the Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a fun outdoor experience in the Catskills. Located in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York, just outside of New Paltz, the preserve offers over 24,000 acres of breathtaking scenery, including waterfalls, dense forests, serene lakes, and dramatic cliffs.

Visitors can enjoy a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, picnicking, swimming in designated areas, and cross-country skiing during the winter months, making Minnewaska State Park Preserve a year-round destination in the Catskills.

The Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park is a breathtaking natural area located at the highest point of the Shawangunk Mountains. This 5,400-acre preserve is known for its stunning landscapes, unique ecosystems, and awe-inspiring views. Visitors can explore the area’s numerous hiking trails, which lead to picturesque viewpoints, fascinating ice caves, and the iconic Sam’s Point itself—a dramatic rocky outcrop with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Parking reservations are required for the area from mid-April through mid-November. Make one at ReserveAmerica.

19. Raft the Delaware River

The 330-mile-long Delaware River begins as a two-branched waterway in the Catskills and is one of the region’s dynamic natural wonders with abundant recreational activities. Several expedition companies offer Delaware river tubing, whitewater rafting, canoe and kayak adventures. Here are three notable options:

  • Kittatinny Canoes: Kittatinny Canoes is a well-established adventure company with a base in Barryville, NY, providing whitewater rafting trips on the Delaware River. They offer various rafting experiences suitable for different skill levels, ranging from calm scenic floats to thrilling Class II and Class III rapids.
  • Landers River Trips: Landers River Trips, based in Narrowsburg, NY, is another reputable outfitter offering whitewater rafting adventures on the Delaware River. With a range of trip options, including family-friendly floats and exhilarating rapids, they cater to diverse preferences and skill levels.
  • Indian Head Canoes & Rafts: Indian Head Canoes & Rafts, located in Barryville, NY, is a family-owned company that has been operating on the Delaware River for over 50 years. They offer guided whitewater rafting trips that allow participants to navigate exciting rapids while enjoying the scenic beauty of the river and surrounding wilderness.

20. Walk or Bike the Ashokan Rail Trail

The Ashokan Rail Trail is a scenic recreational trail located in Ulster County, New York. Following the path of a former railroad, this trail spans approximately 11.5 miles and offers a scenic journey through the Catskill Mountains.

Visitors can walk, run, bike, or skate along the trail, enjoying stunning year-round views of the Ashokan Reservoir and surrounding natural beauty.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Access the trail at one of three parking lots located along Route 28. The parking lots are plowed in winter; the trail is not.

21. Hook the Big One: World-Class Fly Fishing 

You’ll find excellent flyfishing opportunities in the Catskill’s pristine rivers and streams. If you’ve never cast a line, here are three notable flyfishing outfitters in the region to get you into waders and the water:

  • The Beaverkill Angler: Roscoe’s nickname is “Trout Town USA.” The Beaverkill Angler is a renowned local flyfishing outfitter specializing in guided trips and gear. They offer a range of services, including beginner-friendly instruction and full-day or half-day guided trips tailored to individual preferences.
  • West Branch Angler Resort: Situated on the West Branch of the Delaware River in Hancock, NY, West Branch Angler Resort is a premier flyfishing destination in the Catskills. They provide guided flyfishing trips for anglers of all levels, offering opportunities to catch trout in one of the region’s finest fisheries. The resort also offers accommodations, dining, and fly shop services, making it a convenient and comprehensive option for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Esopus Creel: Based in Phoenicia, NY, Esopus Creel is a flyfishing outfitter specializing in guided trips on the Esopus Creek and other nearby waters. With experienced guides, they cater to anglers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced flyfishers. Whether it’s wading in the renowned Esopus Creek or exploring other nearby rivers and streams, Esopus Creel provides an excellent flyfishing experience in the Catskills.

22. Whee! Windham Mountain Bike Park

The Windham Mountain Bike Park in Greene County is an exhilarating destination for mountain biking enthusiasts in the Catskill Mountains of New York. With a variety of downhill trails, the park offers thrilling experiences for riders of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders.

The well-maintained trails, breathtaking scenery, and professional staff make Windham Mountain Bike Park a premier mountain biking destination in the region.

Like Hunter Mountain, Windham is a premier New York ski destination in winter with a full range of outdoor activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.

23. Get Inspired by the Art of the Hudson River School 

New York’s Hudson River and the surrounding Catskill mountains inspired a group of landscape painters in the 19th century, known historically as the Hudson River School. The homes of two of the artists – Frederic Church and Thomas Cole – are open to the public and make great destinations when visiting the Catskills.

  • The Olana State Historic Site, located in Hudson, is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Hudson Valley. It was once the home and studio of eminent Frederic Edwin Church. Visitors can explore the stunning Persian-inspired mansion, wander through the meticulously designed gardens, and soak in panoramic views, gaining insight into the Church’s life and artistic legacy.
  • The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is a perfect add-on to a trip to the Olana State Historic Site for those interested in the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Located in Catskill, New York, the site is the former residence and studio of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School.

By visiting both sites, visitors can gain a comprehensive understanding of the art movement and witness the evolution of landscape painting through the works and homes of two prominent artists of the era.

24. All Aboard! Ride the Catskill Mountain Railroad

Kids will love the Catskill Mountain Railroad for its fun and immersive train rides. The vintage trains offer a nostalgic experience, allowing children to feel like they’ve stepped back in time. They can enjoy the excitement of boarding a locomotive, marvel at the landscapes passing by their windows, and create lasting memories of a classic train journey in the beautiful Catskills.

Themed rides are offered throughout the year including super popular fall foliage trips, Ice Cream Sundays, and the Polar Express.

25. Stay Under the Stars at North-South Lake State Campground

North-South Lake Campground is the biggest and most popular campground in the Catskill Preserve. The campground boasts a network of hiking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints, such as the popular hike to Kaaterskill Falls.

Campers can enjoy the serene beauty of the lakeside setting, pitch tents in designated campsites and take advantage of the campground’s amenities, including picnic areas, swimming, and fishing. While glamping options may not be available at North-South Lake Campground specifically, there are nearby luxury camping experiences available in the Catskills for those seeking a more upscale camping experience.

Why the Catskills is Worth Visiting

First, it’s very accessible from New York City and the tri-state area by car. Depending on NYC traffic, you can get from Times Square to Woodstock, one of the small towns in the heart of the Catskills, in about two hours.

Second, the region has all the outdoor activities outdoorsy folks enjoy – hiking, camping, rafting, ziplining, and birding. The Catskills is home to the Gunks, one of the premier rock climbing destinations in the world, and Roscoe, NY, made Field and Stream’s list of the five best trout fishing towns in America.

And, finally, it’s uniquely the Catskills. Back in the ’50s, the region was home to grand summer resorts. Irish, Italian, and Jewish families would escape to the region to beat the city heat; some stayed for the whole season. Dirty Dancing and the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel capture the spirit of the era. The Catskills’ Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 ushered in a new social and political climate in America. The hippies may have left the Catskills region but the vibe here is still totally laidback and chill.

Considering a trip? Pack your tie-dye and break out your daddy’s Grateful Dead bootlegs.

Cathy Bennett Kopf serves as the Daily Editor of SheBuysTravel, reporting to Editor-in-Chief Cindy Richards. She began travel writing after serving as the unofficial (and unpaid) vacation coordinator for hundreds of family and friend trips. She launched her blog, The Open Suitcase, in 2012 and joined the SBT (formerly TravelingMom) team in 2016. A lifelong resident of New York, Cathy currently resides in the scenic Hudson River Valley. She’s a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the International Travel Writers Alliance and TravMedia.
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One response

  1. Hello! We are a location in the Catskill mountains that is trying to gain more exposure to visitors and travelers. We have three Buddhist temples on site that we would love to get more travelers to visit. These are open to the public and free to visitors! We even hosts activates on site that they are able to sign up for. I would love to connect.

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