Vintage Baseball, Ice Harvesting And Egyptian Lairs: Traveler’s Guide To Quirky Catskills

Peter Bynum at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM)

Peter Bynum at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM)

Not only do the Catskills make for a scenic and adventurous country escape from Manhattan, the destination is also home to some offbeat experiences. From vintage baseball to one-of-a-kind buckwheat spirits to literally getting to spending “a night at the Roxbury,” New York‘s Catskills offer the opportunity to get off the beaten path in a beautiful place. To help you plan a quirky Catskills itinerary, here are some suggestions:

Explore The Artistic Town Of Woodstock

Famous for a concert that didn’t take place there — Woodstock 69′ actually happened in Bethel, New York — Woodstock is home to America’s first arts colony. Today this creative spirit can still be felt when walking through the town as you browse myriad galleries and art museums as well as take in artistic performances, workshops, programs and events. Along with art spaces, Woodstock features eclectic bookshops, artisanal boutiques, head shops, antiques venues and hippie-inspired stores, all of which can be explored to a background soundtrack of classic rock blasting from the Old Forge head and hippie shop.

Go Eagle Spotting

The Catskills are home to myriad bald eagles, especially in Sullivan County. Your best bet for spotting these amazing birds is at Mongaup Falls Reservoir, where it is not uncommon to see as many as 20 eagles at one time.

One of the many themed rooms at the Roxbury Motel

One of the many themed rooms at the Roxbury Motel

Spend A Nigtht At The Roxbury

Located in the town of Roxbury you’ll find one of the world’s funkiest motels: The Roxbury. While on the outside the accommodation seems simple, open the door of one of the individually-themed rooms and you can find anything from an eccentric rockstar suite equipped with sequined walls, hippie beaded doorways and trippy patterned furniture, or an Egyptian lair featuring traditional masks with roaming eyes, hidden caves and a cryptic tomb that can put a curse on you if you don’t obey the prophecy’s commands. No matter what room you stay in, you’re in for an unusual treat.

Geocaching And Frisbee Gold At Plattekill

Although usually known for skiing, during the summer Plattekill Mountain turns into a hub for unusual activities, some of which include geocaching and frisbee golf. Geocaching is a real life outdoor scavenger hunt where players use GPS to find treasures hidden by others. Additionally, frisbee golf puts a unique spin on two popular games by adding conical bins to a course that you must land your frisbee in.

pratt rock

Pratt Rock. Image via Paul Lowry.

See Stone Carvings In The Woods From The Mid-1800s

Not many people know about Pratt Rock, located in New York’s first a planned town, Prattsville. You can access the rock from Route 23 where you can park and read some background information before trekking uphill to the unusual attraction. The limestone quarry features small caves and interesting formations as well as sculptures created by a begging stonecutter whom Zadock Pratt — an entrepreneur and statesman who quadrupled Prattsville’s population by building the world’s largest tannery at the time — employed. Because Pratt believed in workfare and not welfare, he put the needy man to work instead of simply handing him money. In the end, he was so impressed with the craftmanship he had the begger continue building from 1843 until Pratt passed away in 1871.

Visitors to the rock can see busks, horses, a brawny arm holding a sledgehammer and other images depicting the life of Zadock Pratt. It’s not everyday you find such a site just sitting in the woods, and it’s certainly worth the trek. You’ll also pass Pratt’s grave, where he was buried along with his dogs.

Zipline And Paintball On A Farm

While neither of these activities are particularly strange, they are when offered on a bed & breakfast farm. After enjoying a continental morning meal of juice, coffee and bagels, suit up at Stone Tavern Farm to either fly through the air like a bird on their 1,200-foot-long zip-line or shoot your friends with speed balls of paint.

vintage baseball

An example of Vintage Base Ball. Image via MichiganMoves.

Vintage Base Ball In Roxbury

For those who don’t know about vintage baseball, it takes the sport back to its earlier days in the mid- to late-1800s. Picture players wearing no equipment, no gloves, period uniforms and early terminology. While rules differ depending on exactly which year you are playing based on, some general guidelines include pitching being done underhand and balls being played off one bounce. Additionally, some interesting terminology includes baller (player), ace or tally (crossing home base), basetender (an infielder), artist (proficient player), bench (coach), ginger (enthusiastic play) and Huzzah! (hooray!). Note: Base Ball is not a typo, but the original spelling of the sport.

If you’d like to watch a game of vintage baseball in the Catskills head to the town of Roxbury in Delaware County. Their team is the Roxbury Nine, played based on the rules used in 1898. To follow their schedule you can click here.

Have A Drink At An Ice Bar

In the tiny and quiet town of Margaretville, you wouldn’t expect to find much nightlife; however, after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene the Village Pub on Main Street gave itself a makeover and reformed into the Village Pub Ice Bar. Although on the outside it still looks like a dive, the inside gives way to a rustic ice heaven, with a floating glacier bar, glass rock lighting, lighted ice cubes and “icy” signs. They also regularly host events like dance parties, karaoke and holiday celebrations.

hunter mountain zipline

Hunter Mountain Zipline. You can’t even see the end of the line!

Fly Through The Trees On North America’s Longest & Highest Zipline

It’s not everyday you get to ride North America’s highest and longest zipline and the second biggest zipline in the world. At over four miles long, 600 feet high and up to 50 miles per hour, you’re in for an unusual treat, especially with the aerial views of forest, ski slopes, mountains and frozen lakes. Brad, the owner, experienced ziplines all over the globe before choosing his favorite aspects of each one to put into this high-flying Catskills creation.

See A Concert At The Original Woodstock Site

What many people don’t know is Woodstock 1969 didn’t actually happen in Woodstock, but in Bethel, New York. While it was originally supposed to take place in Woodstock, the townspeople changed their minds once they realized thousands of hippies would be coming to their town and the festival was moved to a dairy farmer’s property in Bethel, now the location of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. During warmer months, you can enjoy concerts on the same lawn Woodstock was held. Afterward, head across the street for some tranquil and tasty Peace Vodka at the Dancing Cat Saloon & Catskill Distilling Company and to the nearby Hector’s Inn at 8 Dr Duggan Road, the original Woodstock 1969 watering hole that still attracts an eclectic crowd.

hanford mills

Harvesting Ice at Hanford Mills Museum

Harvest Ice

While you can only participate in this once a year, it’s well worth the trip to take part in the fun. Every year around early February, Hanford Mills Museum hosts Ice Harvest, a one-day festival of winter fun with a hot soup buffet, horse-drawn sleigh rides, children’s games and activities, outdoor fire pits, films showing ice harvesting in the 1930s and, of course, the chance to harvest ice for yourself. Attendees get the chance to put on ice cleats, grab a hand saw and chisel and cut blocks of ice out to be harvested. This ice is used for a variety of things, one of which is making ice cream for their annual 4th of July party.

Try The United States Only Buckwheat Spirit

Monte Sachs, owner of Dancing Cat Saloon and Catskill Distilling Company, is only one of two people in the world (that Monte knows of) and the only in the United States making a buckwheat spirit. The libation is similar to a whiskey in appearance and taste; however, buckwheat isn’t a grain so it can’t technically be called whiskey. Instead, Monte refers to it as “The One And Only,” since the only other person he knows of making spirits with buckwheat lives in Normandy. This is because buckwheat is difficult to work with and gets stuck to the hammer mill. It’s a shame, because Monte’s unique spirit is flavorful in a very one-of-kind way, with flavors of sweet fruit and spice. For an interesting lunch, their onsite restaurant blends the spirits into dishes like baby back ribs infused with Monte’s “Most Righteous Bourbon” and meatloaf topped with a gravy incorporating their “White Wicked Whiskey.”

3 Comments

  1. Another great spot to see in the Catskills is Natural Gardens. The Natural Gardens encompass 107 acres in the Western Catskills of Upstate New York and boasts beautiful mountain scenery, barns, miles of stone walls, woodland gardens, landscaped ponds with large koi, babbling brooks and waterfalls. The gardens will share hundreds of varieties of perennials, including native orchids, trilliums and ferns. Open from May thru October. http://www.thenaturalgardens.com

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