The six counties surrounding the town of Catskill, New York, are known collectively as "The Catskills." It is a mountainous region with attractions that include the largest waterfall in New York State and the largest kaleidoscope in the world. The Catskills contain the Borsch Belt where comedians like Mel Brooks, George Burns and Jerry Lewis got their start. The region is also famous as the setting for such diverse events as the story of Rip Van Winkle and the 1969 Woodstock Festival. It is a very special place to be at Christmas time – especially if you have kids.
The Hudson Opera House Winter Walk
Many Catskill residents and visitors kick off their holiday with the Hudson Opera House Winter Walk. The city of Hudson is about 10 minutes from the town of Catskill. The Walk traditionally begins at 5 p.m. on the first Saturday of December. It starts with the sound of the carillon from the First Presbyterian Church, followed by the blaring of trumpets and then the Santa parade down Warren Street. Mr. and Mrs. Clause give children gifts at City Hall. On Warren Street, sparkling with holiday lights ad brightly decorated shops, young and old are treated to the sights and sounds of live reindeer, horse-drawn wagons -- take a spin around Seventh Street Park -- a Victorian gentleman on stilts, Christmas carolers, drummers and a colorful assortment of characters. Face-painting, jesters and clowns, a saxophone-playing Santa entertain the children. Music fills the air -- from banjo playing to classical. Indoors listen to the Coxsackie-Athens Community Band and a flute ensemble perform Christmas music at the First Presbyterian Church. The Winter Walk culminates with fireworks.
The Ulster Ballet's "A Christmas Carol"
The Ulster Ballet's performance of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has been a perennial, Christmas-time favorite in the Catskills since 1995. The ballet interpretation of the classic takes place in early December at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, New York. The ballet is suitable for children - it is presented for local school children, as well - and its cast of 65 includes talented dancers of all ages.
New York has 44 ski areas, more than any other state in the country -- and many of them are in the Catskills. The "New York Times" says that while these ski resorts are overlooked in favor of more popular ones in the nation, there's much to be said for skiing and snowboarding in the Catskills, not to mention additional winter fun, from dog sledding to ice-skating. Some of the runs are highly challenging, but beginning children can have fun on the slopes too.
Christmas Tree Farms
If a decorated tree in your home is part of your holiday traditions, don't leave the Catskills without a visit to one of its family-friendly Christmas tree farms. The Hurd's Christmas Tree Farm in Ulster County offers a large assortment of trees and a memorable tree-choosing experience, including a bonfire, hot cocoa and s'mores. Kids can travel around the farm on a cow train and visit with Santa. At the Pine Farm in Sullivan County, your family can have the old-fashioned Christmas experience of cutting down your own tree. Pine Farm provides you with a map of the Christmas tree fields, a saw and and a tractor with a wagon to haul the tree back from the fields. They prepare your tree for the trip home, while you warm up with hot cocoa.
Frosty Fest takes place in Ulster Park every holiday season from the last week in November until Christmas. Sip hot cocoa and stroll through Candy Cane Lane while enjoying Christmas lights and music. Take a hayride or drive through Frosty's Enchanted Forest where animated displays of a candy cane factory, a snow village, the 12 Days of Christmas and Santa's Workshop delight little ones. Other attractions include live stage shows with elves, visits with Santa, a train and holiday characters including Mr. and Mrs. Frosty, Snowbear, the Gingerbread Man, various candy cane characters and Rudolph.