Travel Diaries: Upstate in the Catskills with Becca Siegel

Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Becca, co-founder of the lifestyle website and digital content brand Half Half Travel, which I started with my husband, Dan. We originally began publishing travel photos on Instagram, and then started writing travel guides and travel advice on our website. Our biggest journey yet has been having our first baby, last winter!

Having an infant has been time-consuming, to say the least. Because it was winter, we were homebound with her for pretty much two months and kind of feared that we’d never get out again. Luckily, we got pushed to take our first trip with her to New Hampshire when she was only 13 weeks old, and we were with family, so it was a good introduction to road trips with her.

We’ve since gone up to The Catskills, an area we would go to for road trips when we were just a couple pre-baby, and we’re pretty sure our young daughter likes it up there! I grew up in NYC and then moved to metro NJ as a kid, so the Catskills was never far away, but it’s only a place I went to for summer camp as a kid.

Where are you currently living and raising your family?

We now live back in Essex County, NJ. We moved from Brooklyn last summer and the upside has been that we have a lot more space here. The only real shock was that we now have a car! 

What we like about our town is that it has a walkable downtown, so I can still walk to things like a small supermarket, the post office, the library, some parks, and my yoga studio. For everything else, we drive, so that’s helped us get out more and explore by car, which is something we did not have when living in the city.

Favorite place to travel to nearby?

When our daughter was five months old, we chose to go up to the western Catskills for a few days. She graced us with really good moods, some pretty solid sleep, and some decent naps in the car. Overall, it was a great family trip we’ll always remember.

Catskills NY

The Catskills are a mountain region of upstate New York that ranges between an hour and a half to two hours of driving from metro NJ or NYC. It’s historically been an escape to the outdoors for city folks because you can get there in a single morning, and you’re never a far-away drive back.

Any fun facts?

For me, some fun facts are that my grandfather grew up in Hunter, NY, after doctors told his family to move up there from Brooklyn to get fresh air for his ailing mother. My grandfather grew up there in Hunter before it was famous for skiing, and then he moved back to NYC after WWII.

Both my grandparents took their honeymoons in resorts in the Catskills, because that is what everyone did! And funnily enough, Dan and I took our honeymoon (we called it a “mini-moon” at the time because we thought we’d take a bigger trip, but alas, COVID…) to places in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, where we really enjoyed things like the Saugerties Lighthouse, eating at little cafes in the towns like Hudson and watching sunsets on the river.

Best things to do in the Catskills for families and young children

The two times we’ve gone to the Catskills now with our daughter at five months and then at six months, she has enjoyed looking at all the nature and behaves really well every time we go out to eat. 

We’ve capitalized on easy nature walks where we can take her in a baby carrier, places like farms where she can see animals, and small walkable towns.

What to do in the Catskills

We liked going to Beaver Lake Farm outside Livingston Manor, NY, which is a small private Catskills farm where we got a private tour to see all the animals. I think we had more fun looking at the baby sheep than she did! We had her facing front-out in the baby carrier so that she could see everything. Don’t forget a sun hat for your child when going somewhere like a farm that doesn’t have a lot of shade!

We also got introduced to the walking paths in Mt. Tremper, NY, outside the Catskills Visitors Center. This is a small attraction off the side of the main road that takes you from the Hudson Valley into the Catskills, and the immediate area has quite a few very short (and I mean “very short” — just a few minutes) walking paths, a fire tower lookout, and pretty views. We were even told that a bunch of the walks are stroller-friendly.

Catskills restaurants

A few favorite restaurants of ours are the Phoenicia Diner in Phoenicia, NY, where our baby slept on me for the entire meal and then we fed her again before we left. It was a weekday and not so busy, and the staff didn’t mind if we slowwwwly got our move-on because we had to feed her. Also, there’s a bathroom with a big changing table spot. Bring your Kibou diaper bag and that fold-out changing pad for convenience!

We also liked The Walk-In in Livingston Manor. It was too warm and sunny to sit outside, unfortunately, but inside, the staff was cool with us pulling up our giant UppaBaby Vista right next to the table. Our daughter loved looking at the neon lights on the walls and was so happy the whole time. Also, this is one of the best salads I’ve had all year.

Catskills hotels

A great place for families to stay up in this area is Antrim Streamside at Livingston Manor. We wrote this review  for anyone interested! We stayed in a hotel room that was more like a studio apartment, with a full kitchen, king-sized bed, desk, and screened-in porch. We had the Pack’n’play right in the room with us, but used a blackout cover to give our baby her own “space.” We all slept pretty well, all things considered. 

Antrim Streamside has super friendly staff who loved the fact that we brought our baby, and recommended all sorts of stuff for us to do. The property has its own hiking paths, which were really nice for us to do as a family, with her in the baby carrier. She had such a great time that she took a little nap halfway into the hike. 

Catskills towns

Our favorite towns to really walk around in are on the edge of the Catskills, closer to the Hudson Valley region. We like Kingston and the town of Catskill. I’d say both of them are more “Hudson Valley” spots rather than Catskill spots. They have great personalities and lots to see and do, like Kingston’s waterfront market and Catskill’s main drag, and local nature paths.

A cool place to go for the day is Woodstock, the town that snagged the name of the 1969 music festival. The festival itself was in Bethel Woods, not Woodstock, and it’s kind of far away! Woodstock has a cute main street with cafes, shopping boutiques, and restaurants, which is all kid-friendly for sure.

We also have gone up to Kingston for the day. There’s an awesome bookstore with outdoor seating and a cafe called Rough Draft Bar & Books, right near a section of town with colonial homes and nice architecture. I find that babies and kids like bookstores because there’s so much to see and look at.

Kingston also has nice restaurants — there’s an entire street of pastel-colored buildings with shops and cafes, and lots of street-side seating.

Where’s next on your list?

For the rest of this year, we’re heading to the Litchfield Hills region of northwestern Connecticut and staying in an “entire house” Airbnb. We’re excited for that because the drive is only two and a half hours away, and it’s somewhere we’ve never been to explore.

We’re also considering a trip to the Poconos as somewhere else right outside our backyard in NJ, but somewhere we’ve never been as a couple or a family.

If we have time and a way to plan it, I’d love to road trip back up to Vermont and see more of New England, with stops in places like Rhode Island, Boston, and New Hampshire to visit family and friends, with our baby! I think the more we travel with a baby, the more we’ll feel comfortable with being away from home, and so will she. 

If you enjoyed this Travel Diaries story, be sure to read about venturing through Chicago with Jess Keys

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