Weekend Escapes from New York City
It’s 103 degrees. You can almost hear the sizzle as warm water from air conditioners hits the sidewalk. Looking uptown, you see a crush of taxicabs and smog shimmering in the heat. Even the park is no bargain: there are no spots in the shade and sticky gunk from a thousand melted ice cream cones makes walking barefoot a dicey proposition.
Or perhaps it’s wintertime. The street corners are obstacle courses of ice-covered sludge. The subways are stifling and crammed with people coughing and sneezing.
The antidote for all of this city misery? A weekend getaway, of course!
During the 60s and 70s, the Catskill Mountains were the destination of choice for hippies in the Northeast looking for a quick escape into nature. This culminated in the famous Woodstock concert (actually held in nearby Bethel). Bob Dylan and The Band recorded their groundbreaking album Music from Big Pink in (of course) a big pink house in West Saugerties.
Today, the Catskill Mountains are still a haven for crystal therapy, Taoist monasteries and pottery studios. The quaint town of Woodstock, the center of the Catskills’ New Age universe, is jammed with dream catchers and vegetarian restaurants.
Outside of town, there are plenty of skinny-dipping and tree-hugging opportunities. Not to mention skiing, tubing (riding an inner tube down a river – more fun than it sounds) and hiking. Some of my favorite activities are:
A Hike to Kaaterskill Falls
What’s more satisfying than an easy hike to a spectacular cataract? Get directions and more specific information online.
Tubing the Esopus
During the summer months, Town Tinker Tube Rental buses bathing suit clad vacationers up the Esopus River, sets them off in inner tubes, then collects them a few miles later. The ride down the Esopus is at times exhilarating, with bumps and white water. At other points, relax as your tube rides a more gentle current.
Skiing at Hunter Mountain
The sleepy town of Hunter, NY becomes a snowy boomtown in December due to its proximity to Hunter Mountain Ski Slope. While the snow is less cottony than in Vermont and other points north, skiers appreciate the close proximity of the Catskills to New York.
Where to Stay
There are no shortage of bed and breakfasts, rental cottages and motels in the Catskills. Check this page for listings. If you’d rather pitch a tent, this site has a thorough list of area campgrounds.
How to Get There
By car, take the New York Thruway North, about 50 miles.
If you’re not traveling by car, Trailways Bus Lines offers service to several points in the Catskills. Get details at Trailways.
If you’re feeling less granola and more champagne-and-caviar, try the Hamptons. Goodbye Buddhist ascetism and folksy tubing trips, hello sun-soaked conspicuous consumption! Just the name Hamptons conjures of images of million dollar beachfront homes and snooty matrons. But there is also a lively and inexpensive party scene. Young vacationers rent houses for the summer and spend the days tanning and the evenings out dancing.
During the summer, camping on the beach can be another way to take a break from city life. The Hamptons is home to several parks which permit camping.
In the wintertime, lodging prices go down and the vacationers head home, but why not consider a winter trip to an isolated beach? Windswept sand can be the perfect romantic escape from grey, slushy New York City.
Where to Stay
There is no end of high-end lodging options in the Hamptons. Go to Hampton Web for the short list. If you’re looking for something a bit more modest, one popular option is to rent a room in house for the summer or just for the weekend. Check Summer Share House and Craigslist for listings. If you don’t mind a little sand in your tent, camping is another pleasant and inexpensive option. A list of campsites is available here.
How to Get There
By car, take the Long Island Expressway East (495 East).
By train, take the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) from Penn Station. LIRR has schedules and fare information.
The Hamptons Jitney bus also makes regular trips to and from Manhattan.
The Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts welcome New Yorkers who can’t bear to leave the city entirely behind. People on line in a small general store might discover that they go to the same Upper West Side gym and roadside diners are sure to carry lattes and the New York Times.
But Berkshire County is more than just Manhattan in the Mountains. First of all, the landscape is edenic. On a summer day bees buzz lazily over wild flowers and fluffy bushes punctuate fields that stretch out toward the mountains. Nathaniel Hawthorne moved here for inspiration, but found the area so beautiful that he couldn’t concentrate!
Hiking trails (also called “cobbles”) abound and the area is dotted with ponds and lakes. Visit this site for specific hikes. In the winter, skiers head to Butternut near the relative metropolis of Great Barrington.
For classical and jazz performances, visitors to the Berkshires go to Tanglewood, a breathtaking outdoor music venue. Tanglewood’s program includes popular jazz and classical performances as well as the Boston Symphony Orchestra on several stages. Go to BSO for performance schedules and directions. Don’t forget to bring a picnic!
Dance aficionados will want to check out the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, a 10-week dance festival held in a National Historic Landmark.
The winding country roads of Berkshire County also hold some world-class restaurants. One popular place is John Andrews, an eclectic restaurant in a spacious old house. While not a bargain, comparable cuisine cannot be had for in New York for their prices.
How to Get There
The most scenic car route from New York City to The Berkshires is the Taconic State Parkway, to NY 23 East.
Bonanza Bus Lines also offers service from New York’s Port Authority. Go to Bonanza Bus for details.