Monaco… The Hamptons… South Beach…Catskills? While this may read like an SAT question asking what word doesn’t belong in the group, many life-long upstate New Yorkers and recent imports see things differently. Once known for kitsch hotels and mambo contests, the new Catskills are being reinvented as we speak. From the redevelopment of the original site of the Woodstock Arts and Music Festival into a world class performing arts center—with a renowned museum dedicated to the 1960s and its impact on American Culture—to the Monticello Motor Club, where million dollar cars race through a 5 + mile road course set into the beautiful mountain landscapes. These aren’t your mom and dad’s catskills.
The area is in transition with creative and committed individuals leading the way. One only needs to stop at the Sullivan Hotel, a former motor lodge transformed into a boutique hotel and conference center. Upon check-in, guests are greeted with soothing lounge music and a haute lobby that would seem to fit more in downtown Manhattan than Rock Hill. A walk across the street finds “Brew,” where the motto “Coffee by day and Craft Beer by night” is prominently displayed. This coffee shop—complete with lattes, cappuccinos and light fare—also features 280 varieties of craft beer and gourmet groceries.
Within minutes, championship golf courses (such as the Monster and Big G at Grossingers) challenge even the finest golfers. Beautiful lakes and rivers offer waterskiing and fishing that fishermen travel from around the world to experience. Local farms produce meat, dairy, and vegetables that feed gourmet restaurants in New York City, but also can be sampled at fine dining restaurants, such as BHR in Rock Hill, an American Fish House that offers traditional and eclectic choices that rival top NYC eateries, prepared by Johnson and Wales graduate and Chef Randy Resnick.
Quaint villages like Wurtsboro, Narrowsburg, and Livingston Manor offer shops and arts with a Hamptons feel. Outside of Livingston Manor, atop Shandalee mountain, sits the Arnold House, where innkeeper and hospitality professional Sims Foster, who has opened a stylish and creative gastro inn by utilizing local products and creative recipes to create a one of a kind experience for guests.
Sullivan and Brew owner, Butch Resnick agrees. “With the Sullivan Hotel, Brew and BHR, we see an opportunity for the Catskills, long known for its summer seasonal hotels, to become a year round destination for young affluent travelers looking for beauty and value,” he explains. “We are working to rebuild and rebrand our home into a world class resort area.”
Butch and Sims aren’t the only ones to see it this way. Alan Gerry, a lifelong resident who built a billion dollar cable business from offices in Liberty, NY, saw the potential and committed millions of dollars to creating Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center. Hosting acts such as James Taylor, CSNY, the Dave Matthews Band, and the New York Philharmonic, Bethel Woods has become an international destination. This year, the facility hosted Mysteryland, a three day EDM festival that drew more than 20,000 daily international visitors. The event has agreed to return for three more years to the bucolic fields that once hosted 500,000 hippies at Woodstock.
Kansas City real estate investment trust, EPR Properties, has presented plans to transform the former Concord resort property into a multi-resort entertainment mecca. The plans feature a 300+ room casino resort, a family-themed water park and adventure resort, a world class spa resort, an entertainment and food village, and a redesigned “Monster” golf course by Rees Jones, the “Open Doctor.”
Local farmer and Manhattan business man, David Markovits, was a visitor throughout his childhood and now feels the same way. Foregoing the Hamptons, Shore or Fire Island, David invested in Glen Wild, New York and built a working farm. Hosting farm to table dinners for hundreds of patrons, he served on a 100+ year old retired truss bridge crossing the Neversink River. With previous Michelin Chefs, Daniel Seigel and Rick Laakonen hosting last year’s events, the next event is a lobster and shrimp boil that will feature fare from the New York Seafood Company in the same spectacular setting.