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It was billed as “Three days of peace and love and music,” but Woodstock was so much more. No one expected the massive crowd that arrived — and despite the many challenges, the event was largely peaceful. In 1969, from August 15 to 18, the rains came, the sun returned, the music played and history was made.
The festival was named for the actual town of Woodstock where it was originally sited, but it was moved to Max Yasgur’s farm in little Bethel, New York — and the area is still basking in the afterglow, especially this year, 50 years after Woodstock, with special concerts and lots of visitors arriving to pay homage.
Sullivan County Catskills is an area on the rebound where you can experience everything from counterculture memories and happening little hamlets to chic shops and a brand new casino hotel — all with a backdrop of picturesque farms, deep woods, rushing rivers and crystalline lakes. Here your guide to a perfect weekend escape:
Whether you went to Woodstock, wished you did or just want to learn about it, head for The Museum at Bethel Woods. It’s in a beautiful spot on the actual site of the festival, so you can stand at the top of the hill and imagine the iconic performances put on by everyone from Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Through fascinating videos and engaging sound and sight displays, you’ll find out all about how Woodstock happened and how it rocked the world — and the amazing, tumultuous decade that preceded it.
Become image conscious
When Woodstock happened in 1969, there was no social media. There also weren’t any cell phone cameras, video cameras or even digital cameras. Back then, the majority of the crowd was living the experience rather than photographing it. The Stray Cat Gallery just outside the festival grounds, is worth a stop to check out the collection of Woodstock photos by Elliott Landy and Jason Laure, two talented rock photographers who documented the unforgettable event. With many priced at $69, even the price is commemorative. (And be sure to make a photo stop at the colorful, cutout VW Bus right outside the gallery). The gallery is also sited near Dancing Cat Saloon and Catskill Distilling Company.
Follow the doves
The original Woodstock logo was a purple dove and a guitar. In celebration of the anniversary, 50 large, artful doves have landed in all kinds of notable places throughout the area, starting with The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, home to the Museum. Local artists were instructed to use a Peter Max-like sixties color palette and get creative. Each dove along the Sullivan Catskills Dove Trail focuses on a different aspect of the area: hippie history, farms, animals, rivers and more.
Monticello, once famous for classic Catskills resorts, now has something shiny and new: Resorts World Catskills. This recently opened property has two ways to stay. The 16-story tower offers spacious, super plush suites starting at $99/night. The even newer and hipper Alder has the feel of a boutique hotel with rates starting at $79/night. There’s a 100,000-square-foot casino floor plus 150 live table games and 1,600 slots. It’s all non-smoking and big windows look out on the landscape, even in the casinos. Ten restaurants include Cellaio, an Italian-inspired steakhouse by Scott Conant and Dos Gatos Cantina with tequila for days. Even if you don’t gamble, Resorts World has gorgeous rooms at great rates, plus a gym, indoor pools and a super luxe spa.
The creekside hamlet of North Branch is home to the welcoming North Branch Inn and Restaurant. Monday Mexipins is their weekly MexFest serving homemade trout tacos, brisket quesadillas, perfect churros and more — all at $12 or less. Why Mexipins? Because the building has a two-lane operational bowling alley from the early 1900s, free for the taking as long as you want to set the pins up yourself. The other nights, farm-to-table fare abounds along with crafty cocktails. There are also 14 luxurious antique chic rooms spread throughout three picture perfect buildings: the Main Inn House, The Library and The Post Office.
Go to town
Right along the Upper Delaware River (the other side isPennsylvania), the adorable town of Narrowsburg is a satisfying shopping stop. Main Street has one tasteful emporium after another. Sunny’s Pop, is owned by Sunrise Ruffalo (wife of actor Mark) who has a nearby farm. Her vision permeates everything from sleek table ware and finely-crafted jewelry to French night dresses and one-of-a-kind baby treasures. MayerWasner carries fashion-forward designers and fresh takes on fragrances such CB I Hate Perfume. And if you want to leave in better shape than you came, book a class at The Chi Hive, a unique yoga and exercise studio with a focus on healing arts.
For more information about the area, visit sullivancatskills.com