American painters discovered this mountainous region rising west of the Hudson Valley in the mid-19th century. They celebrated its hidden mossy gorges and waterfalls as examples of sublime wilderness rivaling the Alps in Europe. Though the height and profile of its rounded peaks might have been exaggerated and romanticized, traveling through the Catskills it's still possible to glimpse the landscapes that beguiled these artists and inspires others today.
Despite the introduction of fine cuisine and cute boutiques in charming small towns, for some this bucolic region is still synonymous with Borscht-belt family resorts and the wise-cracking Jewish comedians and dance instructors a la Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing who entertained generations. While that era is long past, the Catskills have become a popular choice for sophisticated city dwellers seeking second-home getaways.
Having a car is near essential in these parts. Adirondack Trailways operates daily buses from NYC to Kingston (one way $25.50, two hours), the Catskills' gateway town, as well as to Catskills and Woodstock (one way $28, 2½ hours). Shortline has regular trips between NYC and Monticello (one way $30, two hours), the gateway to the southern Catskills. Buses leave from NYC's Port Authority. The commuter rail line Metro-North makes stops through the Lower and Middle Hudson Valleys.