Less than two hours north of New York City is Sullivan County, one of the most verdant and unspoiled areas of woodlands in the United States. Recently spotlighted in NY Magazine as the “In” place for urbanites looking for a more rural way of life, with the Delaware River to the south the Beaverkill River (fly-fishing’s American birthplace) in the west, the rock climbing mecca of the Shawangunk Ridge in the east and the spectacular Catskill Mountains to the north, it’s easy to understand why. Within this spectacular natural region is a thriving community of towns, villages and cities.
Things to do abound, from rugged activities like mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, skiing and snowmobiling to fishing in both lakes and streams, and golf and pleasure boating. Bird watching is also a popular outdoor activity. Sullivan County attracts the most bald eagles of any area in the United States.
Sullivan County is also home to a wide variety of cultural activities, for all tastes. From the Delaware Valley Opera Center in Narrowsburg, the Forestburgh Playhouse, or the world renowned Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the area is a focus of cultural activities.
Sullivan County is popular among tourists, and for good reason. Many towns and villages offer tours of the county’s historic places and sites. It is especially well known for the quaint covered bridges that are still in use today. Visitors also enjoy its many diverse restaurants and bed and breakfasts, coming to the county for a weekend’s entertainment or a romantic get-away. Tourists take the county’s Antique Trail, full of little shops teeming with treasures, and stop at numerous pottery shops run by local potters.
Sullivan County is bursting with interesting things to see and do, in every season. Fans of historic covered bridges have a number to choose from in Sullivan County, including ones in Willowemoc (built in 1860, 2 miles west of town); Beaverkill (1865, in Beaverkill State Campground); and Livingston Manor (1860, just north of town). All are signed. A different type of bridge, but well worth seeking out, is the centerpiece of the Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park, Route 52 near Kenoza Lake. The three-arched stone bridge was built in 1880 by Swiss-German immigrants.
Down Route 17 from Livingston Manor, the town of Liberty is distinguished by an attractive historic district with classic Gothic Revival, Romanesque, and Greek Revival buildings. Revitalization efforts got an unlikely boost from the recent arrival of the historic (1948) Munson Diner — featured on Seinfeld and Law & Order, and once frequented by Andy Warhol — which was uprooted from Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and relocated to Liberty, purchased by a local group of investors. Nostalgic pilgrims have already made the trip to Liberty to relive memories of the diner, again a functioning diner. The Apple Pond Farm and Renewable Energy Education Center , Hahn Road, in Callicoon Center, is a traditional horse-powered organic farm that offers demonstrations of milking, work and sport horses, and border collies, as well as goat-cheese-making classes and horse-drawn wagon rides and an opportunity to learn about turbine and solar renewable energy. It’s a great spot for families.
Farther south, the surprising village of Narrowsburg, perched on the Upper Delaware River and nestled between the Catskills and Pennsylvania’s Poconos, is on the upswing, with a number of galleries and restaurants now populating its main street and a rich cultural life for such a small town, with an opera company in summer residence at the Tusten Theater, a film series, and chamber music concerts. Its biggest attraction, aside from its picturesque location at the edge of Big Eddy, the deepest part of the Delaware River at 110 feet, is the Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History, a fascinating living-history museum. Originally established as a museum in 1959, Fort Delaware was a stockaded settlement of the Connecticut Yankees in the Delaware Valley in the mid-18th century. Interpreters in 18th-century period dress reenact the work habits and traditions of the day, including candle making, spinning and weaving, woodworking, blacksmithing, and cooking over open fire pits. Interactive exhibits and children’s workshops are intelligently designed and really involve kids in history; children can even be a part of daylong apprentice programs, craft days, and 3-day camps in which they learn an 18th-century skill. The Delaware Arts Center, 37 Main St. (tel. 845/252-7576), is an active cultural center with art exhibits and concerts held in the historic Arlington Hotel.
Minisink Battleground Park , County Road 168 near Route 97 in Minisink Ford, is a 57-acre park on the site of a 1779 Revolutionary War battle, the only one that took place along the Upper Delaware. A tiny Colonial militia took on Tories and Native Americans who were aligned with the British. On-site are self-guided trails and an interpretive history center.
Culture abounds in Sullivan County. Perhaps its most famous arts center is the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the site of the 1969 Woodstock Rock Concert. Bethel Woods features a large outdoor amphitheater, which hosts a wide variety of world-class musical performers. From rock stars like Elton John and Janet Jackson to the Boston Pops and Neil Sedaka with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. The center also houses a museum about Woodstock, and the social and cultural of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Every year, Bethel Woods holds a spectacular Harvest Festival, which blends a traditional farmers’ market and a diverse craft village, museum, educational programming and a range of performing arts to celebrate the diverse talent and rich bounty of the region.
The Catskill Art Society is located in the hamlet of Livingston Manor, NY. It has recently expanded to a 4,500+ square foot multi-disciplinary facility including a designated fine arts gallery, a large multi-purpose space, a pottery studio, a painting studio, and two classrooms. The CAS Arts Center is wheel chair accessible.
The Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, founded in 1976, serves as Arts Council for Sullivan County. The Alliance presents programs in the visual, performing, literary, and media arts and service a county-and valley-wide constituency of artists, arts groups and the general public.
Founded in 1947, the Forestburgh Playhouse is the oldest continuously operating professional summer theater in New York State. Under an agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, the Playhouse employs professional actors, often with Broadway or other major credits, as well as a company of non-union professionals who earn credit toward their own eventual membership in the Actors’ Equity Association. The Forestburgh Playhouse operates during the summers only, from mid-June through Labor Day, and offers 3 different types of performance experiences: Broadway musicals and plays on the main stage, a youth theater performed at 11 AM on Thursdays and Saturdays, and musical cabaret shows presented in the adjoining Tavern after every evening performance.
The Delaware Valley Opera, a non-profit regional professional opera company, has served the Upper Delaware River Valley of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey for over 25 years, celebrating its Silver Anniversary in 2011. Located in scenic Narrowsburg, New York, the DVO draws audiences from New York City, Philadelphia, Scranton, Binghampton, and northwestern New Jersey, and plays a leading role in the cultural and economic life of the Sullivan County region.
Outdoor enthusiasts find that Sullivan County offers a myriad of activities for their interests. From climbing and fishing to golf and boating, the area bustles with sports and activities of all kinds.
For rock climbers the area is considered a mecca, on the Shawangunk Ridge to the east and the spectacular Catskill Mountains to the north. Climbers come from around the world to scale the area’s challenging peaks.
The county is also popular among hiking enthusiasts, with miles of trails streaming through forests, along rivers and up and down the many mountain foothills. The Slide Mountain Wilderness, encompassing over 47,500 acres, is the largest and most popular wilderness area in the Catskills. Extensive foot trails provide access to the remote interior, often climbing over lofty peaks with spectacular views. Aside from the trail system, the Slide Mountain Wilderness offers an expansive trail-less area providing visitors with the solitude, challenge and independence commonly associated with wilderness.
A visitor’s wilderness experience may include day hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting and trapping, fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, observing and photographing nature and enjoying solitude. No motorized equipment or vehicles (such as all-terrain vehicles or snowmobiles) are allowed. The Slide Mountain Wilderness is located in the northwestern corner of Ulster County. It encompasses Forest Preserve lands in the towns of Shandaken, Denning and Olive. Crescent shaped north to south, this area straddles the Esopus, Neversink and Rondout watersheds.
These are only a few of the many interesting and fun things to do in Sullivan County. For more information, check out the online New York Visitors Network pages for a complete and up to date selection of activities and events.
Sullivan County is reached via NY I-87 and Highway 17 by car in just under two hours from New York City. It has a NJ Transit/Metro North train service to Monticello which gets to the Port Authority Station in 60 to 70 minutes, and is served by air transportation at the Sullivan County International Airport near Monticello. The Short Line Bus also serves Sullivan County at numerous stops throughout the area.