I’m slowly realizing that I am a mountain girl. Well, ok, not really. But I want to be. My husband laughs at me because I tell him I often daydream of living in a house, near a creek, with a garden (so what that I don’t have a green thumb) and tire swing on a tree and big ol’ red pick up truck outside (so what that we have three kids who wouldn’t fit in it).
But right now, I’m just a suburbs girl, who used to be a city girl, who used to be an island girl. But I can dream. And at the very least, when I need a quick fix, I can go there. I just get in my SUV and drive two hours upstate to the Catskills in Hudson Valley.
That’s exactly what my family and I did a couple of weekends ago when we were invited to stay at the Emerson Resort and Spa.
Where we stayed
I know you think ‘resort and spa’ and don’t really imagine ‘kid-friendly’, but it is. Actually, the privately owned Emerson appeals to a wide variety of travelers, with lodging for couples-only to pet owners to those with kids.
The Inn is the most upscale lodging option and is for adults only. Located in the main, building the rooms here are pretty majestic with names like Regal, Royal, and Imperial. I toured a couple of suites and each one was better than the other and different in some way. I think my favorite was the Imperial (which also happens to be their top of the line suite, of course), a duplex bigger than any NYC apartment I ever lived in and far more luxurious. Pretty romantic, indeed.
In the main building guests will also find the full service spa, the entrance to which is marked by the awe-inspiring Indian doors, which formerly served as doors of a Rajasthani palace. Details such as these are found throughout, alongside paintings by local artists available for purchase. I was able to indulge in one of the best pedicures I’ve had in a really, really long time and locals get to enjoy the facilities through a membership program offered – not a bad fitness option if you ask me.
The Phoenix and The Catamount Restaurants are the two main dining areas on site, both great if you want to stay in the hotel. We enjoyed the Phoenix for breakfast and the Catamount for dinner. Both have a wonderful outdoor seating area as well so you can take in nature as you wine and dine, or simply enjoy your morning coffee. The Phoenix has a more modern feel, as it is in the Inn thus following the decor and style of the same. The Catamount has more of a rustic, log house feel and is a great way to wind down the afternoon.
Our family stayed in one of the Family Suites at The Lodge which is a bit more casual than the rooms at The Inn, but I loved them more due to the proximity to the stream. As a matter of fact, we opened the windows and fell asleep to the cool breeze coming in and the sounds of water. It was truly as relaxing as it sounds and probably one of the best ways to wake up on a Sunday morning (cue the fierce desire to move to the mountains!).
Our two-level suite was perfect for our family of five, everyone had space, privacy, and comfort. Because the event space is located right next door to the lodge, however, you might want to ask if there are any events scheduled during the time you want to stay. We could hear the music clearly from our room, which wasn’t a huge problem for us and ended at 10:30PM, but if you have a baby or little ones that might be using the sofa bed in the living room, it might be a nuisance. Requesting a room away from the event space might be an option. We weren’t terribly inconvenienced by it, but I did wonder how those with smaller children might be handling it. Other than that, the bed was like butter, the balcony off our bedroom was a relaxing retreat, and getting around town from the resort was really easy to do (by car).
And you can’t leave without checking out the Country Store and the world’s largest kaleidoscope, also at the resort. Totally worth stopping in for.
Where we ate
A short drive from the resort is the town of Phoenicia, NY. It’s a cute little town with a Main St. like many cute little towns have, several mom and pop gift shops and eateries. It’s warm and friendly and pretty to walk in.
We stopped into Mama’s Boy Market on Church and Main on BBQ day (THIS EATERY IS NOW CLOSED) , or as I like to call it “perfect timing”. It’s in its third summer and was nice and busy when we first walked in. Owner Michael is from NYC but found the area, fell in love, left the rat race, and opened up this now popular eatery. If the smile on his face was any indication, I doubt he will be going back to the city anytime soon. If you are fortunate enough to stop in on BBQ day make sure you get the pulled pork sandwich. It is perfectly done.
Another great stop is the Phoenicia Diner, though it seems every New Yorker has already discovered it and like most NYC eateries that are fabulous, there was a wait for brunch. Worth it? Absolutely. Their skillet dishes are crazy delicious and fresh and I love the retro diner feel to the place. Plus, waiting wasn’t so bad as servers come outside and take drink orders so that at least you are getting your coffee on while you wait for your name to be called. On my list as a favorite, also by another NYC native gone country. (I’m telling you, it’s the dream!)
What we did
When you go to the Catskills you have to allow time to chill, which we did a lot of. The surrounding nature is the main attraction and simply slowing down and taking it in is the point of it all. However, if you want to add some adventure into the mix, call Dean Guiliano of PeekaMoose Adventures. He’s funny and knowledgeable and has the perfect demeanor for family hiking tours. After getting a sense of our adventurous spirits he took us on a bushwhacking expedition through the woods in search of a watering hole by Biscuit Brook. When the kids started getting tired he brought them back to life with treats and sweets – all stashed away in his backpack for such a purpose — I mean, the man was ready!
I’ve been on a lot of family hikes and Dean’s was one of our favorites, not only because he was such an expert about the area and was able to answer a lot of our questions, but also because he made it fun and exciting. Our hike wasn’t the hardest (though if interested he can take you there), but as far as family hiking experiences go, this one was up there and we loved it! Dean, along with his father, have a lot of insight on trails and different adventure experiences to take advantage of in local areas and as far as the Adirondacks. I would definitely keep them in mind if ever interested in an exploration visit.
They also have tubing in the area, which we had planned but had to cancel due to age limitations (youngest must be 10 years of age), but we felt like we got to enjoy a lot of nature time during our over 3 hour hike with Dean.Photo courtesy of Dean from PeekaMoose Adventures.
On our way back home we had to stop into Woodstock for a bit, which is like going back in time and hanging out somewhere in the 60s. It’s pretty touristy and colorful, but everyone is also really nice and the shops and open markets are a nice treat.
As far as nearby mountain escapes go, the Catskills is one of our go to spots. We’ve enjoyed it in the past when camping, or as they are calling it these days “glamping” (who knew?) and are looking forward to skiing this coming winter – ok, well, maybe my husband and boys will ski and I will be at the spa.
I want to thank everyone who made our visit to the area such a joy. We needed the getaway and loved all the new discoveries, still nothing compared to all that there is to do. Who knows? Maybe one day I will get my house, pick up truck, and garden, but at least for now, I am happy that I have the next best thing only a short drive away. For more information on what to do in the area visit the local tourism site for Ulster County and The Catskills. All opinions expressed here are my own.