Grand resort hotels like Grossinger’s, The Concord and Neville rolled out star-studded entertainment and operated kosher kitchens to attract a large Jewish clientele leading to the moniker, "The Borscht Belt." Route 17 running though the heart of the region was often bumper-to-bumper as vacationers streamed back and forth from the city. In the winter, they brought their skies; in the summer their golf clubs and fishing gear.
More than 50 golf courses were built in these scenic worn old mountains and valleys, strong tracks like the Concord's "Monster" and Grossinger's "Big G" and Rip Van Winkle Country Club, a sweet nine-hole Donald Ross gem in Palenville.
Most of the big hotels are now gone but today’s Catskills are charged up with a new energy. So much that was good in the early days -- the deep gorges, mountain peaks, river valleys, scenic beauty and fresh air -- remains thanks to the creation of a Forest Preserve of 250,000 acres deemed to be forever wild land in 2004.
There are plans afoot to build boutique lodging on the sites of the old hotels while golf resort properties like Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon, Kutshers Country Club and Hotel in Monticello, Hanah Inn & Golf Club in Margaretville, home to the 7,175-yard "Terminator" course and Tennanah Lake Golf & Tennis Resort in Roscoe, are still welcoming guests.
An amazing array of off-course activities in the Catskills include county fairs, tractor parades, and a growing farm-to-table movement featuring food prepared from local ingredients. Concerts are staged at the historic Callicoon Center bandstand and the Windham Chamber Music Festival while big name artists like Sting and Taylor Swift perform at The Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts located on the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
First-rate entertainment is offered at Forestburgh Playhouse, the oldest (1947) continuously operating playhouse in the state and a strong attraction at the upscale Emerson Resort & Spa in Mount Tremper is the world's largest kaleidoscope and the Kaleidostore. Feeling lucky? The Monticello Casino & Raceway beckons to those looking for action in slots and electronic games.
Hancock, in the foothills of the Catskills, seems hardly a blink in the road just off Route 17, yet the new French Woods Golf Course is attracting people from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They come for a good golf experience at a great price along with comfortable lodging and outdoor pursuits such as fishing and hiking. With green fees and a cart less than $40, French Woods, along with Bass Cabins accommodations, add up to a golfer's find.
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