Slowing Down in the Catskills'We have this beautiful nature and quaint towns and antiques and farm-to-table food and history right outside our doorstep.'
After scuttling daily through canyons of skyscrapers, it's refreshing, even necessary, to experience life on a smaller scale and at an entirely different pace.
New Yorkers are fortunate to have such a haven in the Catskill region, where they can make a quick getaway to enjoy woodsy landscapes, charming villages and that scarcest of all commodities: fresh air.
"We have this beautiful nature and quaint towns and antiques and farm-to-table food and history right outside our doorstep," says Ashley Albert, proprietor of the soon-to-open Royal Palms Shuffleboard Parlor in Brooklyn. "All of this metropolitan, cosmopolitan life, it affects our health."
Neck deep in preparations for the opening, she and business partner Jonathan Schnapp realized that the stress of starting a business from scratch had taken a toll on their nerves and friendship. So the duo decided to road-trip to the hamlet of Phoenicia, New York, to slow down, recharge and reconnect.
A little more than 100 miles north of Manhattan and about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New York City, Phoenicia, part of the town of Shandaken, is ideally situated for a weekend retreat. It is centered amid the spectacular 700,000-acre Catskill Park, offering opportunities for outdoor pursuits across the seasons, including hiking, camping, skiing, fly-fishing and leaf-peeping.
Slide Mountain, adjacent to Phoenicia, is a popular destination. The highest peak in the Catskills at over 4,000 feet, it provides spectacular trailside vistas. In the warmer months, locals and visitors alike take to nearby Esopus Creek with fly-fishing rods and inner tubes. River rentals can be found in town at F & S Adventures and Town Tinker Tube Rental.
Sometimes even the most intrepid urbanite doesn't feel bold enough for outdoor adventure, but fortunately there's still plenty to do, like exploring the history tucked in and around the area's mountains. The Empire State Railway Museum, open Memorial Day through October, is located in the former Ulster & Delaware station in Phoenicia and houses a collection of photographs and artifacts. A scenic historic railway tour normally boards at the retired station, but it has temporarily moved to Mount Tremper, New York, due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.
No matter how you decide to kick back in and around Phoenicia, a visit to the town center is essential. There you'll find Sweet Sue's, a breakfast joint known for its pancake sundaes. You'll also want to swing by the Mystery Spot, which bills itself as an antiques emporium and "odditorium." Among the other small shops and independent businesses are The Arts Upstairs and Cabane Studios, where works by local and regional artists are featured. If you feel like diving deeper into the scene, local artists and artisans book personal studio tours by appointment through shandakenart.com.
For Albert and Schnapp, spending time enjoying the greenery, exploring quirky shops and putting the brakes on their hectic lives was exactly what they needed. "It's just nice to be reminded of why we're friends and why we're in business in the first place," Albert says.