Phoenicia is a beautiful and sleepy little town in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. Between its scenery and proximity to NYC, it can get touristy–especially in the summer. But with only a handful of hotels with small capacities, Phoenicia holds its own with awesome, friendly locals and weirdo townies. There are a couple of big events in the summer worth checking out, the largest being The Festival of the Voice in August and the Shandaken Artist Studio Tour in June. There’s lots of outdoorsy stuff to do; many difficult hikes, easy strolls, and even tubing down the Esopus Creek. The main strip in town is pretty small but serves the community with the basics: restaurants, galleries, a couple shops, groceries and one solid dive bar. It’s about a two and a half hour drive, and you’ll have to rent a car or take the Trailways Bus.
Where to Stay: The Coolest Boutique Hotels, Cozy Airbnb Homes, or Camp on the Esopus Creek
As far as hotels go, our go-to is The Graham & Co. The structure is an old-school motel that’s been totally renovated by a team of designers based in NYC. Rooms are designed to be simple, but beautiful; think “Donald Judd meets outdoorsy.” When booking, you can either stay in their main building which has standard single and double rooms, or opt for the newly opened bunkhouse (yes, as in “bunks”) with smaller rooms and multiple shared bathrooms. Upon check-in, expect stellar treatment from the impossibly cool staff–including a can of beer with your room key.
Another great addition to town is Glass Mountain Inn, which is a cozier and more private option. Both the property and attitude here is laid back and downright awesome. It was opened last summer by awesome husband-and-wife team Jeff and Brooke, whom were once pioneers in the music industry and cultural fabric of Williamsburg. Rent their 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom apartments, their Fairy Tale Cottage, or “bring the whole crew” and rent out the whole damn property for $475 a night.
Where to Eat and Drink in Phoenicia
There aren’t many options in Phoenicia, but fortunately the few options are all good options. The Phoenicia Diner is famous enough by now to forego an introduction–but here we go anyway. Owner Michael Cioffi has turned a Diner that changed hands 10+ times into one of the most incredible successes in the Catskills. This throwback breakfast and lunch joint is serving some of the very best food in the region, using fresh ingredients from local farms, and the coolest atmosphere to boost. His newest venture/experiment with the Diner is evening cocktails and small plates at the retro bar. For dinner, check out Tavern 214, right next to The Graham & Co. It’s not only convenient, but the food is great, and the perfect spot to head for a drink and dinner after check-in. A bit further away and totally worth the trek is Peekamoose, the restaurant that’s earned the reputation of the “Gramercy of the Catskills.” You can eat in their dining room, or their tap room and enjoy the firepit directly outside it. Both of these places are fairly pricey, so our inexpensive favorite is Brio’s which is right on Main St. Make sure to try their their “gourmet” pies, with sesame seed crust. It’s pizza nirvana.
What to Do Around Phoenicia: Hike a Mountain or Waterfall, Tube Down the Esopus, Explore the Region
If you’re into hiking, or just want to give it a shot, here’s some hiking daytrips that we regularly do in the area. First, the hike at Giant Ledge in Big Indian is well worth the trek. It’s just a little over an hour to the top, where surreal views from multiple giant ledges await. Afterward, head to Peekamoose to refuel. Kaaterskill Falls is another good one; a short hike takes you to the highest two-tiered waterfall in New York State. In the summer, you can swim in it’s chilly mountain water. Doing this hike will take you through Tannersville, the “painted village in the sky.” Check out the Deer Mountain Inn, a luxury Twin-Peaks-ish lodge with a full bar and restaurant, while you’re in the area. Last, Overlook Mountain is one of the most spectacular hikes in all the Catskills because of its many facets. The trail takes you through the ruins of an turn of the century grand hotel, a fantastic overlook at the summit, and a firetower with incredible 360º views. It’s just ten minutes past Woodstock, so if you do this hike stop into Shindig for a post-hike meal and pop into the shops around town. If you don’t have a car, there’s a great trail in town called Tanbark Trail, whose top viewpoints overlook the town of Phoenicia and the surrounding mountains. The trail is located just behind the post office; look for the big field with the playground equipment. The trailhead is right in back of that.
If you’re visiting in the summer, Phoenicia is known as the “tubing capital of the world,” and you’d be crazy not to want to try it. The adventure begins with a school-bus ride up Route 28, where you’re dropped off into the Esopus Creek’s icy cold water. Don’t expect a lazy river ride–the creek is full of rapids, which are just enough to scare the shit out of you without ruining the experience. During winter months, you can ski, snowboard or snow-tube nearby at Bellearye mountain.