Weekend Getaway: The Catskill Mountains
At The Nomad’s Direction, we’re always looking for destinations that can be used for many different events- weddings, honeymoons, elopements, weekend getaways and more. As New Yorkers with a large base of clients from here as well, we also strive to find destinations that are accessible, affordable and worth a few hour drive or train ride from the city. With Valentine’s Day approaching, my husband Tim and I set out to find fun, romantic and accessible locations for a weekend getaway or closer to home destination wedding location.
As you may know, I’m a beach person through and through, but my husband Tim is what I lovingly call a “deep mountain man.” He begrudgingly moved to Rockaway Beach for me a few years back, for which I am eternally grateful. So for Valentine’s Day this year, I decided to gift him a romantic weekend in the Catskills, surrounded by trees, mountains, and snow! He knew we were going to Full Moon Resort and The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, but that was about it. As a travel planner, you would think I had everything planned out but we like to travel with no plans, so that's about all I knew too. I had a cabin in the area growing up so I knew of some things to do if we decided we wanted to make plans and knew we’d get an outdoor or takeout meal from Phoenicia Diner at some point (we do every time we’re in the Catskills) but other than that, we were free agents. We were looking forward to exploring all that the Catskills had to offer.
We departed early Sunday morning to beat the impending snowstorm and took a leisurely drive upstate. It was definitely snowing way more than we had expected, but it weirdly made the drive seem faster. After breakfast on the road, we continued on way north to our Catskills staple, The Phoenicia Diner. I love that The Phoenicia Diner has become such a hot spot in the Catskills over the past few years. Growing up vacationing in the area, it was a little run down, side of the road diner that didn’t offer much. It’s now become a destination in it’s own right! One of my favorite parts of the new and improved version of Phoenicia Diner is the decor, but they’ve created a welcoming (and COVID safe) atmosphere on their heated patio as well. You order from your phone and do a contactless pickup, making it easy to follow CDC guidelines for dining out while also supporting a small business. I don’t think I’ve ever had something bad from here, but the Rueben I ordered with a side salad was to die for, and big enough to take home leftovers for dinner, which was our plan in order to limit our contact with others. They even had quarts of cocktails! If you're in the Catskills, The Phoenicia Diner is a must-stop location for all meals of the day.
After a delicious lunch, we headed to our next stop: my childhood cabin in Lexington, NY. My husband and I have been daydreaming about buying it back for years and are finally in the process of doing so, so we stopped by to make sure the various snow storms of the past month hadn’t damaged anything. It was nice to get out and hike through the snow a bit, even if it was up to our butts.
Whenever we go upstate, we always try to stop in the town of Phoenicia. In the summer it’s a great destination for those looking to go tubing, but the winter has lots to offer too! Our favorite store, Mystery Spot, was temporarily closed due to COVID but Phoenicia is small enough that we walked for 2 blocks and found another new favorite. We spent time perusing antiques in Phoenicia Arts and Antiques, a cheerful, expansive market and community space, with two rental areas in back, an art gallery, and an abundance of unusual and esthetically intriguing items for sale. In addition to antiques, there were local ware such as soap and honey for sale as well. We could’ve spent all day exploring the various rooms full of furniture, art, trinkets and more. The Catskills seem to offer antique stores in almost every town and you could make a trip of just bouncing between them (and we’d love to plan that for you).
Whenever we go to the Catskills, we find that by driving around with no real plan, we end up finding the coolest places. We spent then afternoon driving aimlessly and admiring the architecture of towns like Shandanken, Chichester, Fleischmanns and more. Before we knew it it was time to check into our hotel.
Our first accommodation was somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for a long time: The Roxbury at Stratton Falls. The Roxbury Experience is exactly that, an immersive experience from the moment you step foot on the property to the time you regretfully need to leave. Offering not one but two locations, they have detailed themed rooms, suites, cottages and mini mansions in all price ranges. It’s hard to explain what exactly The Roxbury experience is like, so I’ll leave it to them:
“Ultimately if you do not at least smile (and hopefully sometimes gasp) when you open the door to your room, then we have not done our job. We want you to feel that immediacy of emotion that seeing a great film or play can produce. Only instead of just watching the production, we want to provide you with the ability to be IN the production. To live the fantasy.”
There are Alice in Wonderland themed rooms, Superhero themed cottages, historically themed mansion rooms, and more. There’s a beautiful and hike-able trail system around the property and leading to the base of a 50’ waterfall. It’s easy to get lost in the fantasy The Roxbury provides, which makes it understandable why it’s been called “one of the coolest hotels in America” by HGTV. As soon as you pull on to the property, you can tell you’re in for a treat. A white mansion with accents of black and lime green sits stately on a hill with the tower cottages following the same theme, but with different architecture to showcase the theme of the rooms inside. The Crooked Cabana sits off to the side where the pool and spa services live. The Mansion itself has a rich history in the area, which you can read about here. The town was centered around the waterfall, which is still the case. Purchased by the owners of The Roxbury Experience in 2014, it underwent renovations to ensure structural safety and has been a part of the Roxbury Experience ever since!
We were lucky enough to stay in a Tower Cottage called "Galileo's Gate" which featured a multi-dimensional design experience where you go from the Renaissance and the time of Galileo on the first level and up a towering spiral staircase through what can only be describe as a portal into an alien galaxy on the second level. You can then go back up the spiral staircase into an octagonal stargazing glass observation deck (complete with telescope). The alien galaxy bedroom featured a bluetooth syncing light show and blacklights, so we chose to sleep there even though the more Renaissance style bedroom downstairs looked welcoming too.
- Two king bedrooms, each with their own privately-accessed bathroom. One bathroom with a tub and shower and one bathroom with a large walk-in shower (with a glow-in-the-dark alien in it…).
- Glass octagonal rooftop stargazing observation conservatory
- Common living area with comfy sleeper sofa increasing possible total occupancy to six. This area also has its own door into the downstairs bathroom enabling guests in the downstairs bedroom and living area to have separate private entrances to the downstairs bathroom.
- Screened-in back-porch off downstairs bedroom with outdoor dining tables
- Sun balcony off upstairs bedroom with chaise lounges
- Meadow, forest, and mountain views
- Refreshment station with full-size refrigerator, microwave and wet bar sink
Before we even arrived, we received a long email detailing everything The Roxbury had done to keep guests and staff safe from COVID. Throughout our time there, we were thoroughly impressed at the level of cleaning and sanitation that the staff of The Roxbury was upholding. When we got into Galileo's Gate, everything had been sanitized and there was even more info on how The Roxbury was keeping us safe. After the initial shock and giddiness that a place like this existed wore off, we changed into our bathing suits to get ready for the spa.
The spas at The Roxbury at Stratton Falls were closed, but the hot tub was still open! Guests pay $20 per person per stay (not per day) for a “pool and spa pass” and your card key is programmed to allow for access during the hours of operation. The pool and spa pass also gives you access to the spa facilities at the motel location, so you can do lots of “spa hopping” during your stay during non-COVID times! The Roxbury at Stratton Falls pool and spa area is two miles directly down the road from The Roxbury Motel. Due to COVID measures, The Roxbury Spas were closed but I did reserve a 45 minute time slot for the hot tub and dry sauna. The Roxbury uses these scheduling tools to ensure that the staff can complete a 15-minute sanitation period between each guest or groups' usage.
The spa area in the Crooked Cabana was as cool as our cottage and there was a dedicated staff member that checked in on us and cleaned before and after our time slot. The dry sauna got HOT, as did the hot tub and it was nice to relax after a long day of driving.
After our relaxing spa time, we headed back to our Tower Cottage, took a shower in the space themed bathroom with all of Roxbury’s luxe toiletries, and settled into our plush bathrobes and slippers with some Champagne and a cheese board to watch the Super Bowl. It was for sure the most luxurious Super Bowl experience either one of us had ever had!
The next morning, we woke up early to walk around the grounds and see the famous Stratton Falls. The Roxbury has created a beautiful trail system that goes all around the falls and grounds. Because it was so cold, part of the trail was closed off due to ice but we still got a great view of the falls! There were so many scenic options for photos or even an engagement or elopement location! After our hike, we picked up our contactless breakfast (which we had ordered in advance) and soaked in the last bits of luxury before heading out on the next leg of our journey.
Though we only stayed one night, I can tell that our stay at the Roxbury at Stratton Falls will definitely not be our last. If you're looking for a fun and quirky escape just a few hours from the city, The Roxbury Experience is not to be missed! You can find more booking info here.
Similar to the day before, we had no real plans and decided to drive around the area and check out the scenery. We spent some time up in the mountains by Belleayre Resort and headed back to the town of Roxbury for lunch at Chappies. With an eclectic and locally sourced menu, a distressed and vintage bar, and good vibes, it’s no surprise they say Chappies is a Brooklyn style eatery in the Catskills. We had the burger, the soup of the day and a chicken sandwich with some local beers and were not disappointed!
We spent the afternoon driving through Hunter, Windham, Tannersville and Phoenicia again before heading back towards our next night’s accommodations: Full Moon Resort in Big Indian.
Full Moon Resort is also located in the Catskills, just a 2.5 hour drive from Manhattan or 3 hours by bus or train. The resort is known as one of the preeminent Catskill wedding venues, offering a “rustic, yet sophisticated backdrop for enchantingly unique destination Catskills weddings.” Idyllic and farm-like, with a “touch of Woodstock-inspired charm", the resort features over one hundred acres of meadows, forests and streams, a large wedding pavilion and barn, a variety of lodging options, and exquisite catering, all in a picturesque location. They even offer discounted services for weddings on Sundays year round or any day during the winter. As a bonus, for Friday/Saturday weddings during the winter months (December through March) and for early spring (March & April) Sunday wedding clients, Full Moon offers a complimentary seven night stay at its sister cottage on St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands: New Moon Cottage - St. John. A wedding and honeymoon package all in one?! You can’t get a better deal than that!
The Moonlight Pavilion is the piece de resistance on the property. A newly redone historic barn that fits up to 800, there’s warm wood all over the expansive space, airy globe lanterns, and plenty of windows to take advantage of the views of the beautiful grounds. If you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate gathering space, the Spruce Barn offers rustic charm, tons of natural light and a true barn feel with barn doors that many couples choose to leave open in the warmer months. There’s even an “after hours” barn that serves as a fully stocked bar, venue, or ceremony site, depending on the vibe you’re going for!
If you’re already married or simply looking for a weekend getaway instead of a full blown event, Full Moon Resort offers an eclectic array of accommodations for a wide spectrum of budgets - from glamping to charming country-inn style guest rooms to four star, luxury Catskills cottages with panoramic views. Located just 15 minutes from Belleayre Mountain and 35 minutes from Hunter Mountain for skiers and snowboarders, about 40 minutes from Woodstock for history buffs and hippies, and very near to popular hiking trails, Full Moon Resort offers something for everyone!
Check in was at 3pm and was completely contactless. We parked in main lot, walked over to Valley View House front porch for our check-in envelope which included our key, directions to our AirBnb and a map of the grounds. We were also able to connect to the complimentary WiFi, even though I promised Tim wouldn’t work too much while we were away. We stayed in a Mountain Sky Cottage that featured a bay window looking out on to the Catskill Mountains, one of my favorite views of the whole trip. The cottage was designed in a clean and welcoming style, with a focus on the surrounding natural beauty through lots of windows and natural light. Local artists’ work was featured in our cottage and in the main Valley View Inn, which we always love to see. Design touches such as radiant heat flooring and double shower heads made it seem even more luxurious, even though the price point is very accessible for a weekend getaway.
After dropping off our bags and exploring our little cottage, we headed back to Tannersville to meet up with some friends who had been snowboarding at Hunter during the day. One of my favorite parts of the Catskills proximity to NYC is that there’s usually at least one other person you know vacationing there at the same time as you. Even if you and your friends have different interests, there’s always an activity for everyone to enjoy. We decided on dinner and drinks at Last Chance Tavern, as it’s my favorite restaurant in the Catskills and I wanted to show my friends and husband why! Last Chance is not only a tavern with delicious food and a crazy craft beer selection, it’s also an antiques store, gourmet cheese shop, and has an attached venue for live music and private events. I’ve been coming here since I was born and still find a cool new nook or cranny with interesting antiques every time I’m there. If you haven’t been to the town of Tannersville, head there a little earlier and explore the shops, galleries and more on Main Street before dinner!
After dinner we headed back to our cottage at Full Moon and sat on the deck stargazing before it got too cold. We settled in for the night with some wine, Valentine’s Day cookies from Raquel Confections, the Britney Spears documentary and that calming quiet that only happens in the snow in the Catskills. Before we went to sleep, I made sure to open the blinds so the first thing we saw when we woke up was the mountains!
The next morning, we awoke to another fresh dusting of snow, enjoyed some tea and coffee and the warmth of the cottage coupled with the views of Full Moon Resort and the surrounding area. If it was this beautiful in the winter I can’t imagine what it’s like in the spring and summer, but luckily, there are plenty of examples on the Full Moon Resort Instagram.
Whether you’re looking for a quirky getaway, a romantic weekend, a destination wedding or anything in between, the Catskills are the perfect location for a COVID safe trip at any time of the year. If you’d like more info on planning a Catskills trip, fill out our questionnaire and contact us today!