Things To Do
AN OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND
Because Delaware County's most obvious asset is its stunning natural beauty, some visitors may be ready to hit the trail as soon as they arrive here. But whether you feel like scaling a 3,100-foot peak or casting a line anywhere within 700 miles of trout streams, the area has so many possibilities that you may not quite know where to start! We list a few of the most popular outdoor destinations below—but also recommend you contact the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce at 866-775-4425 or at http://www.greatwesterncatskills.com.
A good chunk of the Catskill Forest Preserve, state property designated to remain "forever wild," sits in the southeastern side of the county. Recreational opportunities in the Preserve include hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling. A good half-dozen state parks and forests are scattered around Delaware County as well, and campers can also choose among twenty locations open on a seasonal basis.
Other hiking options include the Catskill Scenic Trail, which runs along the West Branch on a 19-mile converted stretch of a NY Central Railroad line; the Trail's exceptionally gentle grade makes it an easy trek for hikers of any experience level. The Nature Conservancy's West Branch Preserve, in Hamden, will let you choose between a moderate 0.7-mile "blue trail" and a more challenging 2-mile "orange trail."
Don't feel like putting on the hiking boots? The Stone Tavern Farm, in Roxbury, is dedicated to horseback riding, offering lessons, boarding, trail rides, and a summer horse camp for youngsters. Delaware County has miles of trails to explore on horseback, and it's also home to Bear Spring Mountain State Park, New York State's only park specifically designed for use by horseback riders.
If you're a New York City resident, and want to see where your drinking water comes from, or if you're just in the mood for a wonderfully scenic ride, drive along the Delaware's East Branch to where it becomes the Pepacton Reservoir, on Route 30, and then the Cannonsville Reservoir, which as of 2009 is open for non-motorized boating May through October. Because virtually all this area is protected watershed, development is strictly limited—so spare a moment to thank Delaware County's residents for being conscientious stewards of the environment!
Speaking of water—the western Catskills abound in streams, rivers, and reservoirs, so whether you want to canoe, kayak, or fish, there are dozens of locations for you to explore. A convenient one-stop shop for all these activities is Al's Sport Store, in Downsville: fishermen can pick up tackle, bait, and licenses, and you can also rent canoes and kayaks.
Don't forget that Delaware County offers no shortage of wintertime activities, either. Downhill skiers can hit the slopes at Plattekill and, just outside the county limits, Belleayre Mountain (the highest ski-able peak in the Catskills). You can cross-country ski and snowshoe at the Catskill Forest Preserve, among other spots, and there are dozens of miles of snowmobile trails around the country. So bundle up, suit up, and come on up!
A museum dedicated to American's industrial past, East Meredith's Hanford Mills Museum is still a working saw and grist mill. Founded in 1846, the mill grew to include a feed mill, woodworking shop, and hardware store, and in 1898 provided the surrounding town with its first electricity! A variety of events, exhibits, and workshops bring this history to life; a nature trail and picnic site overlook the mill pond, too, so don't be shy about bringing your lunch along!
îFess up—do you know the difference between a "laying hen" and a "frying hen?" If you don't, tours at the Stone and Thistle Farm (left) start at 1:00 pm every Sunday afternoon in the summer. Dedicated to the practice of sustainable farming, this is a real working farm, not a museum. The animals alone are reason enough to bring the kids÷at Stone and Thistle they can see chickens, goats, cows, pigs, sheep, and, at last count, approximately ten dogs! And if you're feeling hungry by the end of the tour (and who wouldn't be?), a goats' milk creamery is also part of the premises, and visitors can pick up anything from cheese to fudge to take home with them.
If you're curious to delve deeper into present-day farming life, the County Fair, held in Walton every August, features tractor pulls and other real-deal events. Classic Americana of another sort rolls through the area in the annual Ice Cream Run, a motorcycling fundraiser for local children with urgent medical needs. Held in the last weekend of July, and growing every year, the ride gets its motor running in Hamden and winds up and down local mountain roads before finishing up in Hancock with live music, fireworks, and a barbecue.
ART, MUSIC, AND BOOKS—LOTS OF BOOKS
For culture hounds, a number of attractions in the northeastern part of the county are all within easy driving distance of one another. In East Meredith, there's always something interesting going on at the West Kortright Centre. This former Scottish Presbyterian Church now houses a performing arts center where you can see intimate musical performances throughout the summer, in a range of genres: on any given night you might catch a visiting string quartet or a pop troubador like Colin Hay. The Centre's Shakespeare in the Valley theater workshop for kids culminates every summer in a fully-staged outdoor Shakespeare play that's a must-see for locals, weekenders, and visitors alike.
Music lovers should also know about Friends of Music in Stamford, which presents a wide-ranging series of classical concerts every May through December, as well as the Honest Brook Music Festival, which stages performances in its Delhi barn. Just outside Delaware County, to the east, the Belleayre Music Festival presents big-name concerts under the stars, on Belleayre Mountain, all summer long.
The "book village" that recently sprung up in the town of Hobart has made it a destination for book lovers from around the world. But whether you're a committed collector or just in the market for a good vacation read, this cluster of five used bookstores rewards a visit. Start with the mighty BiblioBarn (left), located a few miles west of town on Roses Brook Road, and then head east on Rte. 10 (parallel to the river) until you reach Hobart. There you'll find, in close proximity, Adams' Antiquarian Book Shop, Liberty Rocks, The Hobart Book Mart, and Blenheim Hill Book Shop. Hard-core browsers, you may never leave!
The village of Roxbury is worth a visit for the main drag alone, lined as it is with shade trees, stately old homes, and the historic 1893 Gould Church. But Main Street is also where you'll find Kirkside Park, a 14-acre gem adjoining the Delaware River. The splendid grounds and perennial gardens are an attraction in their own right, but in summer the Park is also home to the Roxbury Nine, a baseball club that plays the game the old-fashioned way. That's right÷baggy flannel uniforms, no gloves (ouch!), and even the occasional handlebar mustache! And just outside of town, the John Burroughs Homestead and Woodchuck Lodge is a historic site dedicated to preserving the great nature writer and conservationist's legacy. Learn more about Burroughs' life and work or just ramble around and get in touch with your own inner naturalist.
With all the artists relocating to Delaware or just visiting, it's no surprise that there's a thriving gallery scene here, too. In Hamden, many galleries now call Andes home: Chace-Randall features new exhibitions throughout the year, by artists working in a variety of media, while Blink showcases not only visual art but also jewelry and stained glass. Newly opened 61 Main and the Catskills branch of the Leo Koening gallery from Brooklyn round out an excellent offering. The Roxbury Arts Group in Roxbury exhibits painting and smaller-scale sculpture year-round along with performances of music and theatre in their second building. In Margaretville, the East Branch and the Longyear galleries present a mix of traditional-rural and contemporary painters and are joined by the Catskill Mountain Artisan's Guild. Stamford has the new 76!Main performance space the Gallery. Delhi showcases regional artists at Delhi Art and Antiques. August showcases the Art and Soul two-day weekend festival celebrating local artists, musicians, and food.
Last but not least, we have to add that the relative absence of chain stores in Delaware County makes shopping here a special treat. In Delhi, the county seat, Stewart's Clothing Store provides a unique old-timey retail experience-here you'll find mens' Stetson hats and "notions," for starters. Similar treasures await in Andes, where shops like Paisley's Country Gallery, Old Town, Andes Art and Antiques offer a unique mix of antique and contemporary items-these are the stores to hit for gifts you won't find anyplace else. Right down Andes' main road, meanwhile, the Delaware Trading Post has a fresh take on items for the home and hearth, while Tay Tea enjoys a growing reputation for its blended and single note teas and hostess gifts.