How To Get To Catskills From NYC — 3 Tips To Know

grilling in catskills

New Yorkers love the Catskills, which is about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Brooklyn. I’ve been heading there for weekends for many, many years, and for good reason. The Catskills is completely unspoiled and sprawling with nature, and the food is remarkable. It’s strange that I keep meeting people in NYC who still haven’t been — yet more and more people I know have been planning a weekend trip and want to know how to get to Catskills from NYC. They also have millions of questions for me, so I thought I’d answer the top 3 questions asked right here, including the easiest way to get to Catskills, and offer my top 3 tips you should know.

Catskills from NYC is easy, and it’s worth it, so if you’re planning a Catskills weekend getaway, here are my top 3 travel tips to Catskills you need to know.

Catskills cabin

If you are planning to visit Catskills for the weekend, read on!

How To Get To Catskills From NYC For A Weekend Getaway

  1. First: How do I get a cheap vacation rental? 

A lot of New Yorkers I know have a vacation home in Catskills, so that’s always a good reason to continue to visit. However, if you’re like me and are just a visitor, you simply want to book a vacation rental, cabin or hotel when heading to Catskills.

Hunter Mountain dog friendly

Catskills has a ton of independently owned, smaller boutique hotels, from Eastwind to Shandaken Inn, all centered around or easy driving distance to the hipster-centric Hunter Mountain, a magnet to millennials all season, or Phoenicia. Hotels can get expensive in the summer season, and you can expect to pay around $200 a night or more during the week, and at least $300 on weekends.

Shandaken Inn Catskills Hotel
Shandaken Inn Catskills Hotel

The good news is that more and more vacation rentals are opening up in the Catskills area. This is because rich New Yorkers are buying properties, flipping them, then offering them up on VRBO and Airbnb for Catskills weekend getaway adventures.

cook at vacation rental catskills

I recently used VRBO to stay at this new vacation rental with a pool. It is one of very few vacation rentals in Catskills with a private pool (but it is nearly $700 a night! So you definitely want to get as much people as you can to chip in).

pool catskills cabin

The good news is that there is a way to get super cheap deals on vacation rentals, whether VRBO or Airbnb, which I outline here. The short of the story? Always search for a new listing.

When you are one of the first 3 people to book a new listing, you automatically get 20% off the rate, whether it’s VRBO or Airbnb. This is a cool tip not a lot of people know about, and like I mentioned earlier, there are *many* new vacation rentals opening every month in the Catskills.

Secondly, there are tons of independent property owners who are part of eviivo Collective, the worlds only collection of unique, notable and luxury independent properties. These are the best of the best, such as Twin Gables.

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2. Should I drive or take public transportation?

Not a lot of New Yorkers have cars, so it would make sense for them to take public transportation to the Catskills. Fortunately, there are buses that go up the Hudson Valley, stopping in popular destinations like Hunter and Phoenicia. You will still need a car, however, if you’re spending an entire weekend there.

Road Trip During Covid

We do NOT recommend you take a train. While there is train service to Catskills via Amtrak and Metro North, you’ll still have to rent a car at some point to actually get to the town you’re staying in. Because there is very little Uber/Lyft activity in Catskills, you will need a car to get from your vacation rental to restaurants, attractions, hikes and more. So no matter what publication you read that says trains are a great way to get to Catskills, don’t trust it. You really need to rent a car.

If you live in NYC, you can rent a car, which is pretty expensive, but if you pick up the car at an airport location, like LGA or JFK, it is known to be cheaper since they have a larger stock of cars.

planning road trip

There is also Zipcar. Zipcar is also expensive, and I had a very bad experience the first time I rented one. In fact, I did a Zipcar review here in NYC.

The thing about Zipcar is that it is suuuuper convenient, and a LOT cheaper than a rental car. For a weekend, you can expect to pay about $350-400, which, yes, is expensive, but again, it’s cheaper than the going rate for a car rental right now due to the shortage. If you can get 2-3 people on your weekend trip, you’ll be fine.

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3. Are there any good restaurants?

If you’re a true foodie, you know the best restaurants in NYC get all their ingredients and produce from upstate New York/Hudson Valley region. It’s chockfull of farms. Know when your waiter says ‘we use locally sourced, farm-fresh produce, meats and ingredients?’ It’s all pretty much coming from the Catskills region and beyond.

Best Catskills restaurant Phoenicia Diner
Meatloaf at Phoenicia Diner in Catskills.

The food in the Catskills is extraordinary. From diners to ma-and-pa run streetfront cafes, you’ll find that the food in Catskills rivals that of NYC — only that everything is MUCH cheaper. The food alone is why you should do a Catskills weekend getaway.

I wrote up a guide to the best restaurants in the Catskills. Use it as a reference as you’re planning your trip.

Albergo Allegria Breakfast
Albergo Allegria Breakfast in Catskills.

Are you a New Yorker who’s been up to the Catskills? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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