While many holiday travel plans have been canceled thanks to the pandemic, the holidays themselves can still be enjoyed in a safe and socially distant way.
If you can’t fly to visit family or vacation, why not drive somewhere festive that feels like a world away, even if it’s close? If you happen to live around the tri-state area like I do, the western Catskills are just one of many cozy escapes within driving distance. Flanked by the Pennsylvania border and the Delaware river, in this corner of New York state you’ll find a safe, isolated getaway with plenty of holiday spirit and no crowds. Check out our guide to winter in the western Catskills.
Where to Stay
This brand new, lakefront boutique hotel is about as spotlessly clean as can be, having only opened this summer. The vibe is elegant and yet, like most things in upstate New York, still unpretentious and welcoming. The halls are decked with white lights and a tree by the fireplace, which stays lit from sun up to sun down. There’s even a spa, sauna and hot-tub to warm your bones on the coldest days. Social distancing is easy at Kenoza Hall as it won’t be crowded in the winter, but HEPA filters throughout the property work to filter the air for an extra layer of protection.
A slightly more casual option than Kenoza, yet owned by the same hospitality group so you can expect the same level of attention to detail. At The Arnold House, a pot-bellied stove keeps the well-stocked game room cozy all day and night, and the morning country breakfast worth waking up for. The same safety measures as Kenoza apply here, so you’ll have no problem relaxing. Especially if you shuffle across the street to their spa, where you’ll want to sit and read by the fire long after your massages are done.
Where to Eat
Just a short drive from either Kenoza Hall or The Arnold House, The Raleigh is home to some of the best food I’ve tasted in all of upstate New York. They also serve an impressive edit of local beers on tap from the many breweries nearby. The ambiance is stylishly casual, with both bar seating and indoor or outdoor tables available.
For a dining experience worthy of New Yorker’s discerning palates, you’ve got to head to The DeBruce. They’ve recently welcomed a new chef to the team and their exceptional tasting menu is a must. Dine upstairs with snowy views or head downstairs to the fireplace for a more casual experience.
For arguably the most upscale restaurant in the area, Kenoza’s own dining room has you covered. Dine early for views of the lake, or grab a corner table and let candlelight carry you through the delicately plated menu and into the evening.
For a grab and go lunch on your way out of town, be sure to stop by the fire station for a list of delicious woodfired treats for only $6, and a few others worth splurging on.
This no-frills bar is housed in a roadside log cabin with a woodburning stove and is about as classically dive-y as it is hipster. Luckily, the food leans towards the latter and you’ll find some of the best burgers and wings in the area but also some surprisingly good falafel, all at prices that keep even the locals happy. Colored Christmas lights and a tree will remind you ‘tis the season for comfort food.
What to Do
A huge Christmas tree invites you to come in for the whisky, and stay for the lunch. This local distillery specializes in everything from rye and whisky to honey and gin, and is a great place to stock up on artisanal holiday gifts … even if they wind up being for yourself.
If weather and your chosen footwear allow, there are several great hiking trails in the area. Download the AllTrails app to figure out which one is best for you, then grab a breath of fresh air and work up an appetite.
If liquid long-johns are your idea of how to stay warm, Upward Brewing Company is another great spot to sample some locally made booze. Big windows, a firepit and lake views will make you want to stay a while, so be sure to grab some of their delicious food to soak up that craft beer.
There are almost a dozen holiday markets popping up in the area on different days and in various locations. Ask your hotel concierge for a complete list or specific suggestions depending on your timing, and grab some gifts from local vendors of all sorts.
Narrowsburg Boutique Shopping
As the name suggests, this town is slim… but it has a handful of surprisingly beautiful boutiques for browsing. One Grand Books’s selection of rare books is curated by celebrities from Lena Dunham to Christopher Guest, Nest will make you feel better about quarantine-life, Madam Fortuna serves up a killer collection of vintage clothing, accessories and homegoods and Sunny’s Pop will inspire you to live the life you aspire to on Instagram. Or if spectacular dried florals, wreaths, taxidermy and a rare breed of Christmas tree are still on your list – Maison Bergogne has you covered.
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