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From Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, the town of Beacon, New York, is just over an hour away on the Metro-North Railroad. It’s something of the gateway to New York state’s Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains which, after decades in the shadows of other destinations, have made a strong resurgence.
Too often, it may seem that we need to fly halfway across the world to have meaningful experiences. But an easy train ride can quickly carry city dwellers out of downtown and into one of the greatest destinations for sustainable cuisine, outdoorsy adventure and artisanship in the nation. Here, in the small towns framing both sides of the Hudson River, a new generation of New Yorkers are rediscovering their connection to the land — and to each other — while bringing energy and creativity back to the region.
That’s why TPG himself, Brian Kelly, and chef Jane Coxwell found themselves here this fall, while filming a new Purpose Project travel series created by Capital One and Tastemade. During an afternoon at a farm east of the Hudson, the pair learned about the sustainable culinary movement that’s swept the region. Kelly described it as the “epicenter of farm-to-table.”
See the full episode on Tastemade Watch
“It’s amazing that you can have such meaningful moments so close to home,” Kelly said after an afternoon spent harvesting carrots with Coxwell and the farm’s director, Jack Algiere. “This is in my backyard, and I haven’t been here in over 10 years,” he added.
And a lot has changed about the region in that time. In 2016, Scribner’s Catskill Lodge reopened after a complete gut renovation. Originally built in the mid-1960s, the restoration of this Hunter Mountain property signaled a massive renaissance in this quiet stretch of New York. Like many properties, restaurants and attractions, these New York towns flourished in the ‘60s, but later slid into disrepair.
The change is heralded at least in part by an exodus of creatives from Brooklyn and elsewhere in the city. Scribner’s, for example, was the passion project of Marc Chodock, who now splits his time between the city and the Catskills. This summer, interior designer Megan Pflug, a former Brooklyn resident, debuted a completely revived 10-room motor lodge in Greenville, west of Hudson.
The rejuvenation of the region may have started years ago, but what’s most notable is that the development isn’t slowing down.
In nearby Windham, there’s the new Eastwind Hotel & Bar, which has a mix of traditional rooms and glamping cabins, and last month, the Red Rose Motel & Tavern began accepting reservations for its seven rustic, fish-and-game-inspired rooms. There’s even a new Design Hotel (Troutbeck) and Tribute Portfolio property, The Wick, which occupies a former 19th-century soap-and-candlemaking factory. In 2019, an 11-room microhotel called The Maker will revivify a trio of homes on Warren Street. Like most things in this area, the story is one of purposeful, thoughtful reinvention.
The increased inventory signals a marked shift in the destinations beyond the New York metro area. New Yorkers, it seems, are finally paying attention to the stunning vacation destinations just north of the Big Apple’s skyline. According to the tourism board, traveler spending in the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions have been rising steadily since 2015. In the Catskills, especially, spending is up more than 7% from 2016 to 2107.
Because people often follow their appetites, this likely was set in motion by the area’s knockout food scene: locally sourced breakfast served all day at the quintessential Phoenicia Diner; fresh-picked apples at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction.
In fact, 30% of visitor spend went directly to the food and beverage sectors. That doesn’t surprise Hudson Valley Tourism, Inc. president Natasha Caputo. In a statement, she applauded the “authentic relationship” between the Hudson Valley’s farms and producers and the region’s restaurateurs.
Mike Cioffi, founder of Phoenicia Diner (who also hails from Brooklyn) pointed out that many people find themselves in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley trying to build something new, or to have more profound, personal experiences.
“Up here, we’re miles apart. But we all feel connected, even more so than we do back in the city,” he said.
Coxwell, too, described her interest in moving outside the city to put down roots and “contribute to the revitalization of this beautiful place.”
Of course, the lure of the Catskills and Hudson Valley hasn’t gone totally unnoticed by weary New Yorkers in search of an easy — but still fulfilling — weekend getaway. And many of the attractions survived the region’s slump unaltered, such as the 500-acre sculpture park Storm King, which has consistently attracted New Yorkers to Cornwall. And Beacon — one of the most accessible towns in Duchess County — has long offered easy access to a network of hiking trails, a charming downtown and the striking ruins of Bannerman’s Castle.
People who are so often spurred by food and adventure to travel will find it increasingly true that meaningful experiences can be found after just a quick train or bus ride: no international long-haul flights required.
Feature image courtesy of Jeffrey Blum via Unsplash.
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