These Are Not Your Grandmother’s Catskills
Before airplane travel became the norm, New York families sought easily accessible refuge in the Catskill mountains. Then the grandkids stopped going. My own immigrant family settled in the Catskills in the 1960s, acquiring property that would help the slavic community vacation. Even though I live in New York City I consider upstate to be my personal refuge. Today’s upstate continues to reel in a new kind of visitor – younger generations from all over the world come to the mountainous region for relaxation and inspiration. Fortunately, some things remain the same. From blueberry picking and hiking, to nighttime campfires and vintage shopping, some aspects of upstate still remind me of childhood.
It is safe to say that the Catskills are in their heyday once again. New and restored hotels sprouting all over Upstate New York have plenty to offer to new and loyal visitors alike. Among the many new retreats, Kenoza Hall is in a class of its own. Not only is it awe-inspiring and well-preserved, it has everything you could ask for. The historical Catskill structure was once a boarding house, dating back to the 1800s. The impressive 55 acre property includes 22 guest rooms, a fine dining restaurant, full-service bar, Hemlock spa, walking paths, pool, and private access to a lake. My decision to stay here was driven by Hemlock Spa’s wellness philosophy. I was excited to find out that the spa offers Kneipp-inspired body treatments and hydrotherapy.
The five pillars of the Kneipp philosophy: water, plants, exercise, nutrition and balance, allow you to experience the full effects of nature. Known as the “water doctor”, Sebastian Kneipp was a priest who studied the healing benefits of water and medicinal plants, applying his knowledge to helping cholera patients. It is no wonder that naturopathy and hydrotherapy are at the core of Kenoza Hall. Whichever way you spa, eat, or relax here, you are sure to find bliss and rejuvenation. Upon entering the spa, I had to try the Kneipp Walking Path. Grounding, or Earthing, is among one of the most accessible but neglected ways we can connect with nature. You simply touch your bare feet to the earth, and in this case, different textures. Connecting to the earth’s electric charges is an excellent mood booster. After spending some time in the barrel sauna I enjoyed unwinding in the relaxation space. Listening to bird songs and sipping on warm tea near a roaring fire was the perfect antidote to city stress. Past and recent studies have shown that listening to birds lifts our spirits and allows us to feel safe. Coming here with goals of soothing sore muscles, it was not long before I was tempted by the outdoor hot tub. As soon as I walked out into the cool air and entered the hot water I felt euphoric. It was the highlight of my stay. The overnight storm provided a blanket of fresh snow, providing a magical backdrop.
The blissfulness of the spa is not the only perk at Kenoza Hall. Depending on the season you can either choose to have a tranquil retreat that calls for quiet evenings with a glass of wine and a board game by the fire, or an activity filled stay with lake sports and hiking escapades. In the Catskills there are whimsical details and activities everywhere. Both the indoors and the outdoors have a way of luring you in. Sinking into rich toned chairs by the fire and taking a brisk walk to the lake were equally welcomed.
Foodis will find that the in-house dining and drink menus, along with service are nothing to sneer at. Anyone fond of the Old World Continental Cuisine will find Chef de Cuisine Matt Ranalletta and his team offer delicious classics such as Oysters Rockefeller, Dover Sole a la Meunière, and Gnocchi Parisienne. We opted for a Red Wine Chilean Sea Bass and Gnocchi Parisienne. If you seek dinner and drinks outside of the hotel, we recommend visiting The Junction in Roscoe.
The Victorian style boarding house was lovingly restored by Foster Supply Hospitality’s husband-and-wife team Sims and Kirsten Foster. Foster Supply is behind other Catskill getaways: The DeBruce, The Arnold House and North Branch Inn. The two hour drive from NYC is worth it, but don’t take our word for it. Whether you choose to stay in your room soaking in the tub or explore the outdoors, this wellness retreat is a must-see in person.