The Great Northern Catskills of Greene County | New York by Rail (2024)

Mastering the perfect weekend in New York’s majestic Catskill Mountains.

By JOHN BARRY

The Historic Hudson Train Station: Gateway to the Great Northern Catskills

Having opened in 1874, the train station serving Amtrak in Hudson, NY is the oldest station structure on Amtrak’s Empire Service Line, according to the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. The station is also the oldest continuously-operated station in New York State.

Fans of the band The Lumineers will be interested to know that promotional photos for the group’s 2022 album, BRIGHTSIDE, were shot at the Hudson station. This landmark on Columbia County’s Hudson River shore plays a pivotal role in your excursion to the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, located on the other side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge from where you disembark from rail service.

Heading north or south to Hudson on Amtrak will involuntarily spark your curiosity in all things Hudson Valley. Sweeping views of the Hudson River, wildlife and vegetation usher you along to the City of Hudson, where you can rent a car and embrace the magic of the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County.

Embracing the Bounty of the Great Northern Catskills: From Pierogies to Mountain Vistas

The Great Northern Catskills of Greene County has more than a lot to offer, but during and following a recent 24-hour weekend visit, I had difficulty wrapping my head around it all, summing it up, and quantifying the many spokes on this wheel. If I had to whittle it down to one word, I’d flag the “bounty” of the area I traipsed through. And let me say, I can’t wait to get back.

Regional history that includes the legacies of Washington Irving and his short story of Rip Van Winkle as well as the Hudson River School painters, such as Thomas Cole, illustrate its endurance. The majestic Catskill Mountains provide a lush, stunning and humbling backdrop. The warm welcomes I received from smiling faces, and the relentless pulse of this community, left me inspired.

But believe it or not, when I think of the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County going forward, I do believe it’ll be the pierogies that stand out above everything else. Yes, the pierogies. More on that in a little bit.

Our first stop after the train and the bridge and the river was Leeds.

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Leeds: A Culinary Stop with a View

You’ve been traveling on the train and in the car. You’re hungry. What you need is a sandwich and a side of mashed potatoes at Gracie’s Luncheonette in Leeds. Why not get what I got? The Rachel has turkey, coleslaw, Swiss cheese and the house specialty truck sauce on rye bread. Paired with the side of mashed, I was in fine form for sustenance and plotting out my day. And Gracie’s sleek interior offers a compelling setting for noshing and recalibrating.

But first, take a stroll around the dining room and, without bothering the folks at the tables near the windows, take in a rip-roaring view of the Catskill Creek babbling along a ravine behind Gracie’s. The sunlight reflected off the water left me reinvigorated. My sandwich and taters left me fulfilled. So, I offered an adieu to this modern diner with the old-school feel and headed for Coxsackie.

Coxsackie: Discovering the Charm of the Hudson Valley

A less-than-20-minute drive north from the town of Catskill will bring you to Coxsackie, perhaps the most off-the-beaten path, under-the-radar and charming community I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

A walkable, accessible, not-too-big, not-too-small downtown with historic storefronts straddling a rich past and contemporary edge, Coxsackie had me oohing-and-aahing. There was a strong sense of, um, harmony there.

The centerpiece of this village is Coxsackie Riverside Park, which boasts a wide swath of lawn on the Hudson River shore and affords sweeping views, a warm breeze and a strong sense of Hudson Valley identity. On the clear, comfortable day on which I visited there were numerous people fishing and folks just reclining on chairs, soaking in the park’s atmosphere. This park is much more than a destination—it’s a scene, man.

Adding to the allure of Coxsackie is UnQuiet, a shop and then some that occupies an old firehouse and boasts of its “antiques,” “interiors,” and “insubordination.” There are antiques and a range of goods crafted by owner Sarah Gray Miller, as well as live music and a backroom bar—in the old town jail—that evokes the old speakeasies from the bygone Prohibition days.

I was drawn to UnQuiet by the “insubordination,” which I freely admit isn’t something I engage in much these days. I didn’t find that much insubordination inside UnQuiet, but the 20 minutes I spent with Sarah and her dog, Mr. Chips, lifted my spirits and I left feeling like I had found my own little off-the-radar spot, in this hip, off-the-radar town.

Asked about what drives the spirit of Coxsackie, Sarah, who came to the Hudson Valley from Mississippi to attend Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, said, “It’s an incredibly neighborly town.”

The wide expanse of the Great Northern Catskills invokes kind of a “This Land Is Your Land” and “Don’t Fence Me In” kinda vibe, with the lush greenery and touchstones from earlier times. This was illustrated by the lovely drive I had from Coxsackie to Windham. The 45-minute excursion felt about half that long, and at one point I could see the Catskills to the west and the Hudson River to the east. Just for a few moments, I let out a big exhale and turned myself over to the Great Northern Catskills. I was glad I did.

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Village of Catskill: Where Food Transforms into an Experience

And now for the pierogies.We’re not just talking delicious or tasty here. We’re talking divine. Spiritual. Celestial. Dinner, reimagined. Taste buds, rewired.These are the words I’d use to describe the pierogies I enjoyed at New York Restaurant, which sits in the heart of Catskill on Main Street.

I’m a big fan of pierogies, so I was very glad to see they were offered as an appetizer and a component of the “Tour of Poland” entrée, which featured kielbasa, golabki and potato and cheese pierogies. New York Restaurant’s appetizer of my dreams was the Truffle-Parmesan Pierogi, with bacon onion chutney and sour cream. Yes, this meal changed my life. Thank you, New York Restaurant. You outdid yourself and just about every other restaurant I have ever eaten in—ever.

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Equally compelling, in a decadent-dessert-kinda-way, was Catskill Chocolate Co. Greene County’s Catskill pulse beats loudly at this confectionery, which is as enticing for the eyes as it is for the sweet tooth.

I arrived in the late afternoon on a Friday, and I found the shop filled with more than a handful of kids who seemed, well, like they had just eaten a bunch of chocolate. I wasn’t bothered by any of this. In fact, I found it, what’s that word again, oh yes, charming. The kids were having fun and they really set the tone for the place—spirited. I mean it is a chocolate shop after all, and those were kids.

But there was also a guy working on his laptop, unbothered by any of it. The kids and the laptop dude really illustrated a chocolate shop whose gears are all greased and whose timing belt never fails.

Lauren Robbiani, a Catskill native who lives in Elizaville, is one of four partners who operate Catskill Chocolate Co. I asked her a straightforward question: What do we love about chocolate?

“It has a mood-boosting element to it,” Lauren said. “Aside from that, it’s luxurious and enjoyable. It smells great when it’s being made. It tastes delicious. And it makes you feel better.”

And how about the community that the Catskill Chocolate Co. calls home?

“I love Catskill. It’s so wild,” Lauren said. “There’s still a lot of adventurous people. It’s still a little off-beat. It’s still artistic. It has a bit of an edge.”

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Exploring the Scenic Beauty: From Coxsackie to Windham

Windham

Oh Windham, where do I start?Well, every good road trip relies on comfortable lodging to establish a firm foundation of success, a home base from which to operate.

In the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, that’s Wylder Windham, which evokes the heyday of the Catskills as a resort destination but delivers the goods with plenty of flash and sizzle, yet no bells or whistles. This place is genuine. The staff are super friendly but neither overbearing nor in-your-face. The view from my room’s balcony—of the glistening pool and surrounding mountains—recalibrated my north and south poles.

With a bar, restaurant and bakery-coffee shop, guests are left wanting for very little. There’s even a cozy yet spacious parlor that beckons with books and paintings chronicling Hudson Valley history.

I don’t know that I’ve ever stayed in a hotel or motel with comparable service, from the attentive, pleasant staff who answered my barrage of questions with smiles, to the hip décor and upbeat energy.

Wylder Windham also offers activities—lots of activities, and amenities, including:

  • saunas
  • fire pits
  • dog run
  • pickleball

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Concluding the Perfect Weekend: A Reflection on Greene County’s Splendor

Christman’s Windham House Inn & Golf Resort 

Let me be as transparent as I possibly can—I don’t golf.I do, however, love the outdoors. I love mountains and lush green landscapes and the feeling of solitude that only grove after grove of trees can provide. Throw in a golf cart that lets me zip around while navigating sharp inclines and descents and you have one happy camper—me.

So I was grateful to be perhaps the only non-golfer welcomed to Christman’s Golf Resort on a recent Saturday, where I gained appreciation for the allure of the course, the camaraderie and the easing of the work-week’s rapid pace. As I maneuvered my cart up a steep incline, I gained a new perspective on the surrounding mountains, which seemed to climb right along with me.

If you’ve ever wondered why golf courses are seen as pivotal to preserving green, open space, then head over to Christman’s for a morning round. Golfers and non-golfers alike will learn plenty.

Catskill Mountain Country Store & Restaurant

I don’t know of any other retail destination where the items for sale include Bacon-Flavored Jalapeño Queso Dip, Buffalo Bleu Cheese Dip and Brown Sugar Apple Bread. Catskill Mountain Country Store is just that—something of a rustic general store with a little bit of everything, from children’s toys to hand-crafted mugs and maple syrup.

There’s also a restaurant that on a recent Saturday morning was doing robust business for hungry customers.

Captivated by the aromas coming from the kitchen and the content looks on the faces of diners, this hungry customer (me!) opted for what looked like the heartiest of breakfasts on a menu that was full of them. There was no competition for me in choosing Phil’s Turkey Omelet: Three eggs, smoked turkey, sharp cheddar, fresh mushrooms and red ripe tomatoes, with a side of home fries and a side hash browns, topped off a with an Apple Cider Donut with Cinnamon Sugar.

The Tipp Tavern

As someone whose four grandparents immigrated to the US from Ireland roughly a century ago, I hold a very special place in my heart—and my stomach—for a good old-fashioned Irish pub. And that’s just what I found in The Tipp Tavern, in downtown Windham. Noon had just passed when I walked into The Tipp, and it was hot out. But The Tipp had very soft lighting, a calm atmosphere and it offered stark relief from the bright sunlight—I’m not a fan—and the heat. These things alone would have checked all the boxes in my book.

And then I had the Shepherd’s Pie for lunch. I say this in the most complimentary way possible, this was stick-to-your-ribs cuisine at its finest. I’m a meat-and-potatoes kinda guy, and The Tipp’s lunch offering that day was, for me, the cat’s pajamas.

The Windham Path

I’m not going to lie. I had a very bad case of the “I-don’t-wanna-leave” syndrome when the time drew near for my departure. But I was able to take a bit of the sting out of my exit with one final escapade—a romp on The Windham Path, a 1.5-mile loop just outside of town with a parking area-trailhead on Route 23. There’s also a half-mile loop connecting the business area of South Street and Route 296.

The Windham Path provides the only public access to the Batavia Kill Stream in Windham. The walking path winds through meadows and woodlands, and across bridges. Forget about Montana’s “Big Sky Country.” Just head to The Windham Path for Greene County’s twist on mountain majesty. Alas, it was the perfect ending to my perfect 24 hours in a region I’ll surely be returning to soon, and not just for the pierogies.

Take Amtrak to the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County

Experience all of the Great Northern Catskills via Amtrak to theHudson Station, only 2 hours from Manhattan; Don’t forget to use theSee New York and Save 15% discount.

The Great Northern Catskills is in close proximity to the Hudson Station. Pick up your reserved#NYTRAINEnterprise Rent-a-Car right at the Hudson Station. Youcanreturnthecarat designated spaces attheHudson Station or inthemunicipal lot acrossthestreet.Click here to reserve your caror call the Hudson office today at:518-828-5492.

The Great Northern Catskills of Greene County | New York by Rail (2024)

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