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Cool Country, Pack you bags and head for the Catskills to relax in a beautiful mountain setting
OK Magazine
December 19, 2005

Just two hours north of New York City’s concrete corridors are unspoiled farmland, lush forests and some of the best skiing in New York State. Still better known for its Borscht-Belt past (Jerry Lewis cut his comedic teeth in the Catskills comedy clubs of yore), the Catskill Mountains region of New York is fast becoming known as a premiere destination for harried denizens of the New York metropolitan area seeking a quiet romantic weekend, great deals on antiques (and real estate) and outdoor activities for all seasons.

Why Should I Go?
In the center of the Catskills lies a three-town stretch comprised of Margaretville, Roxbury, and Andes, three of the most idyllic villages the region has to offer. Together, the towns offer art galleries, skiing, antique shops, fantastic restaurants, kayaking, one-of-a-kind lodging and, perhaps most important of all, countless opportunities to relax, sip a glass of wine and gaze at the beautiful, rolling hills.

Where Should I Stay?
In the past three years, Roxbury has gone from a sleepy town with a gas station, a restaurant and a video store to a burgeoning tourist destination. Two of the prime movers in this transformation have been Greg Henderson and Joe Massa, owners and proprietors of the The Roxbury Motel. With vibrant rooms outfitted with new, sleek furnishings, The Roxbury is atypical for a region dotted with more traditionally countrified bed and breakfasts, two of the best of which, by the way, are the Margaretville Mountain Inn in Margaretville and Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm in the hamlet of Halcottsville, midway between Margaretville and Roxbury.

Indeed, The Roxbury Motel is a great place for city folk to relax if they can’t quite let go civilized trappings like on-demand entertainment (the motel has a DVD collection of the top 100 movies of all time), high-speed Internet access and Egyptian cotton towels. Plus, just across the street is the region’s coolest night spot, Public Lounge (, which boasts a flat-screen TV streaming videos and video art, cool little pod stools, and a handcrafted bar that wouldn’t look out of place at New York City’s trendiest night club.

What Should I Do?
The Catskills Region is a state park, so outdoor activities rule. In the summer, the Catskills offer great golf, hiking, kayaking, tubing and even mountain-bike riding on Plattekill ski slope in Roxbury. In the winter, skiing is king, and what the slopes lack in height they more than make up for in variety and some of the least-crowded conditions you’ll find on the East Coast. Belleayre Mountain, located in Highmount, is state-run, with low lift ticket prices and a wide variety of runs, from scary to simple. Plattekill Mountain is a small, unassuming family-run resort with three lifts – a great place for beginners to spend a day without worrying about advanced skiers mowing them down!

There are plenty of options for those looking for less strenuous pursuits, too. A pleasant stroll through the village of Andes yields several fantastic antique shops, and one of the area’s most aptly named restaurants, the Slow Down Café. They offer a fantastic brunch with farm-fresh ingredients prepared by the owner. Margaretville offers its own collection of tchotchke sellers in an enclosed, rambling structure in the center of town, as well as a lovely little park on the banks of the Binnekill Stream. Roxbury boasts two of the area’s best art galleries, the Enderlin Gallery and the Roxbury Arts Group, both of which feature the work of local artists and have special openings and events. (Note: If you happen to be in town during Columbus Day weekend 2006, make sure you attend Fiddlers 13 on Sunday, when the best fiddlers from the region will descend for a real barn-burner). And not to be missed is the Delaware & Ulster Rail Ride, which bends through farms, fields and hamlets from neighboring Arkville to Roxbury. It’s truly like going back in time.

Where Should I Eat?
In Roxbury, try Taste Buds Country Store & Restaurant for a down-home breakfast or lunch (no dinner served). The blueberry and corn muffins are baked fresh every morning, so get ‘em while they’re hot! In Margaretville, the Café on Main serves excellent, eclectic cuisine for lunch and dinner in an artistic atmosphere (the chef is also a painter, and a very good one at that). A few miles down the highway from Margaretville in the town of Big Indian (yes, that’s really its name), The Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room serves amazing American fare from a local chef who got his start in New York City’s finest restaurants before returning to the region he loves.

How Do I Get There?
The Catskills are a two-to-three hour drive from New York City, depending on traffic. There are also Trailways buses that make several stops in the Catskills, including Margaretville.

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Star Travel
Whether visitors or residents, these stars have discovered the lure of the Catskills.
• Allan Cumming (photo) owns a house in the hills above Roxbury where he goes to get away from it all with his partner, and he couldn’t be happier with the shops and restaurants coming to his rural hamlet. “It’s all becoming really cool,” he tells OK!. “There’s the new bar Public. There’s going to be an organic shop and a late-night deli and a liquor store on the corner. It’s all becoming really swanky.”
• Kelsey Grammer (photo), wife Camille and their kids have a farmhouse in Margaretville. One of the favorite pastimes among local residents is recounting their Kelsey sightings. Stocking up on light bulbs at Brookside Hardware store, buying bagels at The Flour Patch, squeezing the tomatoes at the Halcottsville Round Barn farmer’s market – Kelsey’s everywhere! And all who have dealt with the Frasier star report him to be “just a regular guy.”
• David Bowie and model wife Iman (photo) were recently spotted perusing antiques in the village of Andes. Reportedly in the area to visit a friend who owns a big home recoding studio, the couple were quite chatty as they perused the offerings at Mercantile and American Street. Other celebrity spotting in the area include Brad Pitt (helping a couple put purchased furniture in their SUV), Ethan Hawke, Christian Slater, and Mark Ruffalo.

Photo Captions:

The Roxbury Motel is the perfect retreat for city folk in need of relaxation.

In the winter, enjoy some of the most pleasant skiing conditions in the northeast United States.

The Catskills are the perfect place to observe fall’s glorious foliage.

Public Lounge brings the sleekness of the city to the mountain town of Roxbury.