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Free and Low Cost Things to Do in the Catskills

Escape to the natural and vast beauty of the Catskills, where scenic trails and summits, idyllic mountain towns, thriving arts scenes, and unique spectacles offer endless low-cost adventures for everyone.

1. Hit the Trails

Pratt Rock

Some of the best things in life are free, and stepping into nature is no exception. The Catskills region is home to stunning summits and lush landscapes. Go chasing waterfalls at Diamond Notch Falls or Plattekill Falls. Glimpse into the Overlook Mountain House ruins as you summit and take in panoramic views from the firetower. Huckleberry Point promises a moderate hike with major reward in the form of some of the most sweeping Catskill mountain vistas. Take a trek to Pratt Rock (pictured) and find out why it is referred to as “New York’s Mount Rushmore.”

2. Take a Picturesque Drive

The Delaware River parallels the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway amid fall foliage

Hit the road, throw on your favorite playlist and cruise through classic Catskills curves. New York State Route 23A passes by several high peaks including Hunter Mountain and roaring waterfalls, making this 34-mile ride a destination in and of itself. The Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway connects the homey hamlets of Phoenicia and Pine Hill, the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville, and the towns of Olive, Shandaken, Middletown, and Andes. The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (pictured) has been called one of the most scenic in the East, with its winding roads showing off dramatic cliffs, sweeping vistas, and glimpses of wildlife.

3. Go Fish

hand holding a fish


The Catskills are known as the birthplace of American fly fishing. From April 1 through mid-October anglers can get their feet wet, cast a line, and have some reel fun. New York State provides anglers with six Free Fishing Days each year, or you can purchase a fishing license. In this region, varieties of trout and bass thrive in the clear, cold water amid the serene and pristine mountains . From reservoirs that compose the New York City Watershed, to lakes, rivers, streams and ponds, there is ample angling opportunity. Lure in your next big catch at the Ashokan Reservoir, North-South Lake, Esopus Creek, Beaverkill River, and Delaware River. Make sure to dip over to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum (admission $12/adult). And if you’re in town on June 8, don’t miss the region’s fun (and fin) filled Trout Parade in Livingston Manor!

4. Feast like a Foodie

Phonecia Diner

Credit: @phoeniciadiner on Instagram

Take your tastebuds on a tour of the area’s best bites! For a sweet treat, check out Fruition Chocolate in Shokan, a 73-award winning gourmet, fair-trade, eco-friendly shop that is recognized among the best chocolate makers in the world. Carbo-load at Bread Alone in Woodstock with their satiating sourdoughs and variety of homemade pastries including croissants, danish, muffins, scones, and cakes. Also in Woodstock is Moonrise Bagels, serving up a menu of New York bagels filled with your favorite comfort foods, including a chicken parm stuffed bagel and philly cheesesteak stuffed bagel. The Phoenicia Diner is a Catskills staple and offers all-day traditional diner favorites with a modern twist, all using seasonal, local ingredients. Gracie’s in Leeds is another must-try, which got its roots as a food truck and has since cemented itself as a brick-and-mortar luncheonette. Nearly everything on the menu is locally-sourced and made from scratch, including freshly baked bread, house-cured and smoked bacon, homemade condiments and fountain sodas, and their legendary donuts. Eat up and have your fill of fun at annual food festivals like Margaretville’s Cauliflower Festival and Taste of the Catskills in Delhi ($10 adults, $5 children ages 4-16.) 

5. Tour the Towns


Charming towns and alluring main streets decorate all corners and crevices of the Catskills region. Experience the lively arts, music, and theater scene in Woodstock, home to tantalizing Tinker Street and an annual Halloween parade. Cozy up to apres-ski-town vibes or get fired up with adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventures in Hunter. Spend a night in Roxbury, which boasts delectable dining and The Roxbury, “One of the top 100 hotels in North America”, self-described as if Alice in Wonderland married Willy Wonka and set up residence in Oz. And for some of the hottest craft beverage spots in the state and independently-owned shop-lined streets you’ll want to wander over to Catskill.

6. Catch a Show

Two couples sit at a picnic table looking out at a stage under a white tent

Enjoy Broadway on a budget at the Forestburgh Playhouse & Tavern, the oldest continuously operating summer theater in New York. The versatile venue hosts Dinner Cabarets ($30/person), serves up sumptuous food, premium cocktails, and high-quality entertainment, including the Under the Stars outdoor series showcasing the best of Broadway musicals. Head to the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, a venue credited as the birthplace of Americana that has served as a stage for Bob Dylan, The Band, and Janis Joplin. You can often catch a variety of performances at the theater for under $30.

Only in Mount Tremper can you find the world’s largest Kaleidoscope. Located inside an old silo at the Emerson Resort & Spa, prepare to be wow-ed at a mirage of brilliant images and sounds coming from the 60-foot marvel. Through tapered mirrors, the Kaleidoshow images are transformed into fractal figures, and you can view it all for only $5!

Year-round fun can be found at Hunter Mountain, for much less than the price of a lift ticket. If you’re looking for winter thrills and chills, you can book a 2-hour tubing ticket at their tube park for just $30. In the summer and fall, take a scenic skyride ($16-$24/person) on the chairlift to the mountain summit and explore the trails, climb the highest fire tower in the state, or simply sit down and soak in the stunning sights. The mountain also offers ideal conditions and trails for mountain biking. In October, Hunter Mountain hosts 4 free weekends of Oktoberfest, featuring beer, food, authentic German entertainment, free activities for kids and an aerial show.

9. Visit a Historic Site

Thomas Cole Historic Site

Tour the Thomas Cole National Historic Site (pictured) in Catskill, which comprises the home and two studios of Thomas Cole, the American artist and early environmentalist who founded the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Step up on the porch to see a sweeping view of the Catskill Mountains that inspired his famous paintings and explore the gardens and grounds (Tour $18/adults, $16/seniors, students, military, $10/teachers). In Coxsackie, check out the Bronck Museum (opens May 27), a National Historic Landmark that reflects over 350 years of architectural history. Pieter Bronck’s single room stone house, built 1663, is believed to be the oldest surviving house north of the metropolitan area (Tour $10/person).

10. Camp in the Wilderness

Catskill Camping

Credit: @katjalaan on Instagram

Pitch a tent, set up a hammock, roast s’mores over a bonfire, and sleep under the stars as you camp in the Catskills. North-South Lake Campground is one of the largest and most popular sites in the Catskills Forest Preserve with over 200 tent and trailer campsites available. Amenities include beaches, boat access, and kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals (Campsites $22/night). Devil’s Tombstone Campground is nestled in the mountain town of Hunter and offers primitive backcountry camping at 24 lakefront sites. Amenities include hiking trails, boating, fishing, and swimming (Campsites $16/night). Kenneth L. Wilson Campground presents 76 tent and trailer sites in a rustic secluded setting in Mount Tremper. Campers can enjoy many amenities including easy access to hiking, mountain biking, and casting a line or paddling about the scenic lake (Campsites $22/night).

11. Drink in the Moments

West Kill Brewing

Credit: @westkillbrewing on Instagram

Crack open a cold one as you make your way along the Catskills Beverage Trail. Beer enthusiasts will love Crossroads Brewing Co., West Kill Brewing, Hunter Mountain Brewery, Rip Van Winkle Brewing Co., and Upward Brewing Co. which boasts extensive hiking trails on its 120-acre property, fire pits, and it’s pup-friendly! There are no bad apples at Left Bank Ciders, Greene County’s first cidery. And The Vineyard at Windham sits on 4 acres, overlooking Windham Mountain and its surrounding beauty. 

12. Go Cruisin’ to the Cinema

Greenville Drive-In

How many places can say they’ve been featured in a Taylor Swift music video? The Greenville Drive-In is one of the rare few! This enchanting venue set the scene for Swift’s “This Is Me Trying” video, and the drive-in makes for an ideal summer night beneath the starry sky. For just $9 you can view feature films on the big screen, and enjoy local foods and brews on-site in the Beer Garden, all with the rolling Catskill hills as your backdrop.

You don’t have to read between the lines to see that the Hobart Book Village is a bucket list item for book lovers. The only book village east of the Mississippi resides in historical Hobart and is home to 7 independent bookshops as well as art galleries, vintage clothing and antique shops, and more. The Book Village also hosts the annual Festival of Women Writers (every June), art shows, author readings and signings.

14. Get Groovy at Bethel Woods

School bus painted in psychedelic colors at The Museum at Bethel Woods.

Let the music guide you to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. A visit to this entertainment oasis will wake your inner artist as you explore the grounds, which include an interactive museum devoted to the Woodstock festival and ’60s culture. Admission ranges from just $5 to $22 depending on age and how much you want to see. You can even take drop-in classes at the center such as Adult Rock Band Jam ($25) or Poetry Writing ($15).

15. Have Fun at the Farm

Buck Brook Alpacas

Make four-legged furever friends at Buck Brook Alpacas, where admission is only $10 to spend time with dozens of alpacas, llamas, chickens, pigs, and barn cats. For just $25 you can take an alpaca on a one-on-one walk around the farm. At Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary you can visit with all kinds of rescued animals including goats, chickens, pigs, and cows (Admission $20/adults, $15/ages 12 and under).

Share your New York State adventures with us on Instagram and Twitter with #iSpyNY and tag us on Facebook!

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