Woodstock: Arts & Crafts Colony in the Heart of the Catskills

The small Catskills town is more than its music festival past

In a state that’s home to the Hamptons, Finger Lakes, Appalachian Trail, and Big Apple it’s no surprise that small communities like Woodstock, fall to the back of the mind. To assume that Woodstock is only notable for its namesake 1969 music festival (that didn’t occur there) would be a major blunder—the three-day festival was held on a dairy farm in nearby Bethel. In reality, Woodstock is a charming little Catskills oasis where fewer than 6,000 residents prop up an art, religion, music, and theater scene worthy of national attention.

Woodstock Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re visiting for a day, weekend, entire week, or longer, the drive to Woodstock will prove worth it. If you have some extra time to kill, the town can also be reached by transit—just head to Poughkeepsie via Metro-North or Amtrak then use the Ulster County bus service to get to Kingston Plaza and then Woodstock.

Still need convincing? Here are five reasons why the journey to Woodstock won’t disappoint.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. See how an artists’ colony rose to the 21st century

In the winter of 1902, construction of the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony began on Mount Guardian just outside of Woodstock. Seven farms, 1500 acres in all, were purchased for the enterprise by a wealthy Englishman named Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead. By the time it was completed in 1903, 30 buildings stood comprising what has been referred to as a textbook example of a utopian Arts and Crafts community.

The Arts and Crafts movement began in England in the last quarter of the 19th century as a reaction against rapid urbanization and industrialization. It’s most passionate and well-known English spokesmen were art critic, John Ruskin and artist, William Morris. They shared a rural, utopian ideal based on a brotherhood of artistic collaboration. They believed that life would have enhanced meaning if work reflected the nobility thought to have been lost when machines eliminated the need for the skills and art of hand craftsmanship.

Today, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild continues to attract artists hoping to retreat from city life and hone their craft. Visitors can tour the 250-acre mountainside campus grounds and see where magic was made then stop by one of Woodstock’s most enduring settings, the Woodstock Artists Cemetery.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Stop, shop, and eat on Tinker Street

Every small town has a main street and in Woodstock, it’s Tinker Street. If you’re looking for a pastime, the 1960s-era alt movie theater Tinker Street Cinema, educational Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM), and quaint Woodstock Public Library will satisfy.

Since its founding in 1919, WAAM has been committed to exhibiting, collecting, and supporting artists and art education and in sustaining the tradition of Woodstock as a Colony of the Arts. Located in the center of the village of Woodstock, WAAM functions as a cultural center as well as a repository for the work of American artists associated with the Art Colony.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to support small business, there is no shortage of gift shops, boutiques, and assorted retail stores. Get a book to read in nature at The Golden Notebook, a vacation keepsake at The Rare Bear, a vintage find at Three Turtle Doves, and a handmade candle at Candlestock  on Tinker’s sister street Mill Hill Road— or just roam the downtown and see which window boxes call your name.

And when you get hungry from all your Woodstock adventures, treat yourself to local grub: tacos from Tinker Taco Lab, brisket from Dixon Roadside, hot meatball dishes from Sharkie’s, salads and sandwiches from Sunfrost Farms, açaí and smoothie bowls from Little Apple Cafe, cocktails from Station Bar & Curio, locally sourced organic food from Oriole 9, and ice cream from Sweet Dreams Organic with baked goods from award-winning Peace, Love & Cupcakes to top it off.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Embrace the small town’s music and theater

While you’re in the area, you can (and should!) visit the iconic Woodstock Festival grounds in nearby Bethel, New York—just keep in mind that the area’s music and theater festivals far predate 1969. In the same way that the town’s culture was built on physical arts and crafts, the community has long valued performance art as a valuable form of expression and entertainment. At The Maverick, home to a barn-like concert hall that’s still in operation today, locals have been enjoying outdoor hippie music festivals since the dawn of the 20th century.

In the decades that followed, the music and theater scene exploded to include now-prominent spots like the Woodstock Playhouse, a rural extension of Broadway, and the Levon Helm Studios and Bearsville Theater which host a variety of shows.

From May to September, the city also hosts outdoor concerts at the Village Green for all to enjoy.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Roam through a renowned sculpture park

East of Woodstock sits the Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Museum—aptly named, since it’s arguably the region’s most impressive feat. Created over 37 years by pioneering artist and professor Harvey Fite, Opus 40 is a nonprofit sculpture park, museum, and artistic environment with 63 acres of meadows, historic quarrying trails, and bluestone quarries—centered on 6.5 acres of earthwork sculpture. 

Fite hand-sculpted Opus 40 entirely from bluestone harvested on site, fusing the local quarrying and ancient Mayan and Aztec stonework learned through his travels. He framed his stonework sculpture with the surrounding woods and mountains, ensuring the local ecosystem would always be central to this Natural Historic Register site. An artisanal studio/home overlooking the sculpture created by Fite in the late 1930s and a series of freestanding bluestone sculptures and fountains complete the large artistic environment at the center of our site.

Guests can experience the site for day-visits, guided tours, classes and workshops, or a live performance.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Take in the scenic Catskills landscape

You don’t need to go out of your way in Woodstock to appreciate the natural beauty of Catskill Park but if scenery is a priority you can immerse yourself in the environment through a number of hiking trails and lookout points.

The obvious nature destination is the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest—the 4.6-mile mountain trail begins beside the monastery and runs along ruins of a never-completed hotel, a historic fire tower, and stunning viewpoints of the Hudson Valley.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other nearby activities include hiking the 1.3-mile Sloan Gorge Loop which features vernal pools and unique rock formations and passing through Woodstock Waterfall Park in the heart of town, a small community area fit for people of all ages.

Don’t have time for it all? Looks like a second trip to Woodstock is in store!

Worth Pondering…

Don’t bother Max’s cows. Let them moo in peace.

—Sign in the town of Wallkill protesting the festival held on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, as reported in the New York Times, August 16, 1969

Santa Fe Never Goes Out of Style

Here are my favorite weird and wonderful reasons to RV to Santa Fe

Santa Fe is known as the City Different; within one visit, you will know why. Santa Fe embodies a rich history melding Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures whose influences are apparent in everything from the architecture, the food, and the art.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe never goes out of style but with an ever-growing adventure travel scene, a slew of special events, and restaurants and spas that nurture the body and soul it should be on your travel radar.

Authenticity continues to resonate as a hallmark of experiences in Santa Fe from walking trails once trod by the ancestral Pueblo people to the red chile peppers of Chimayo cooked up at James Beard Award-winning Rancho de Chimayó.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe has its Native American community to thank for its distinct look. The sun-dried earth and straw homes of the Tanoan peoples proved ingenious, enduring, and hugely influential to the city today. The low-slung architecture—characterized by flat roofs, rounded walls, corner fireplaces, and covered porches—is so integral to Santa Fe’s aesthetic that city law mandates any new construction in historic districts adhere to the style.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe is a cultural hub providing visitors the opportunity to learn about and explore Native American culture and New Mexican culture as well as art, entertainment, history, and cuisine. Those factors, combined with an incredible outdoor adventure opportunity have made Santa Fe a repeat destination for many RV travelers who come to visit and fall in love with the area’s rich culture, outdoor activities, and community.

Related article: Wake Up In New Mexico

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to the Santa Fe area can not only enjoy the world-class art for which Santa Fe is widely known (designated as a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art as well as a City of Design) but also an incredible immersion into culture with visits to explore ancient pathways to ruins of northern New Mexico’s ancestral Pueblo people—discovering national monuments, national historical parks, and famous landmarks, museums, and trading posts.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the heart of the city and the place where Santa Fe was founded, the Plaza is the city’s most historic area. Surrounded by museums, historic buildings, restaurants, hotels, galleries, and endless shopping, the Plaza is the place to start understanding Santa Fe.

Just off the plaza, Back at the Ranch is a go-to for hand-crafted cowboy boots in vibrant colors, funky patterns, and high-quality leather. Peruse hundreds of pairs in the shop including boots decorated with songbirds and Dia de Los Muertos imagery.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around the corner, satisfy your taste for turquoise at Wind River Trading Company, the largest Native American jewelry store in town. The shop biographically lists out the craftsmen who make the goods so you know who you’re supporting. They carry minerals, chunky bracelets, pendants, bolo ties, and money clips.

Related article: Uncover Your Different in The City Different

If your idea of shopping is more culinary, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market hosts more than 150 local farmers who sling wool, goat milk, preserves, produce, organic meat, and herbs. It’s held on Saturdays year-round in the Railyard and on Tuesdays from May through November.

La Fonda on the Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe is renowned for its farm-fresh restaurants, tequila-soaked watering holes, and bakeries wafting with aromas of blue corn and chile. Unless you straight-up move there, it’s hard to put a dent in your Santa Fe food bucket list but a few standouts include brisket breakfast burritos from Betterday Coffee, green chile cheeseburgers from Shake Foundation, cheesy enchiladas from old-school Tia Sophia’s, blue corn doughnuts from Whoo’s Donuts, and al pastor tacos from the casual Coyote Cantina rooftop.

La Plazuela © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the heart of La Fonda on the Plaza, La Plazuela offers an innovative approach to Santa Fe dining and New Mexican cuisine cooking up traditional recipes with enticing new twists.

For pastries, Dolina Cafe & Bakery offers New Mexican and Eastern European flavors from crumbly Mexican wedding cookies and apple-walnut strudel to makos Dios, a Hungarian cake made from ground poppy seeds, walnuts, and raspberries.

New Mexico Museum of Art © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home to four world-class museums, as well as the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens, Museum Hill, is a must-experience for any visit to The City Different. Here you can explore The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, The International Folk Art Museum, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. You’ll need a day or two to partake of the art, history, and culture of the Native American Southwest, the Spanish colonial past, and folk traditions from around the world that Museum Hill offers.

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is a premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. The museum serves a diverse, multicultural audience through changing exhibitions, public lectures, field trips, artist residencies, and other educational programs.

The Museum of International Folk Art offers the largest collection of handmade folk art on earth from glasswork to pandemic-inspired face mask creations. The museum holds the largest collection of international folk art in the world numbering more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1937, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is New Mexico’s oldest non-profit, independent museum. The Wheelwright offers unique exhibitions of contemporary and historic Native American art with a focus on little-known genres and solo shows by living Native American artists. It is the home of the Jim and Lauris Phillips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, the most comprehensive collection of Navajo and Pueblo jewelry in the world.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art exhibits works focused on the Spanish Colonial period of New Mexico’s history. Visitors will find scores of bultos, retablos, paintings, and fiber arts on display—all housed in the Spanish Colonial architecture for which Santa Fe is famous. In the  Curtin-Paloheimo Gallery, the display of artwork by Youth Artists in Spanish Market continues include santos, tinwork, straw appliqué, colcha embroidery, precious metals, and pottery by youth artists, ranging in age from seven to eighteen years old.

Related article: 4 Things to Know Before Visiting New Mexico

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill is a learning landscape of traditional and native plants, sustainable land- and water-use practices, educational activities for all ages, and an outdoor showcase for presenting music, sculpture, and theatrical performances.

The classic Georgia O’Keeffe Museum contains nine galleries and 700 drawings from the woman nicknamed the Mother of American Modernism. Her abstract nature paintings and sweeping desert landscapes are clear love letters to the region that came to define her career.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe has more than 250 galleries and has been rated the second largest art market in the country after New York City. Canyon Road is a historic pathway into the mountains and an old neighborhood that has become the city’s center for art with the highest concentration of galleries.

The largest example of non-adobe style architecture in the city, the Romanesque St. Francis Cathedral dominates the downtown cityscape.

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downtown Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors on the plaza is one of the most iconic sites in the city. The oldest continuously inhabited building in the United States, it’s perhaps best known for the Native American market beneath its portal. But inside is a historic gem as well—the New Mexico History Museum which covers centuries of life in Santa Fe and hosts exhibitions related to the tri-culture of the Native Americans, Spanish, and Anglo peoples and cultures of New Mexico.

Related article: Spotlight on New Mexico: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The visitor is drawn to Loretto Chapel to see the spiral staircase that leads to the choir loft. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase.

Worth Pondering…

I’m in love with Santa Fe;

Like it better every day;

But I wonder, every minute

How the folks who aren’t in it

Ever stand it, anyway.

Not to be in Santa Fe.

—Mae Peregine, 1915

Berea: Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky

Nestled up against the rugged Cumberland Plateau, Berea is a town with a deep soul and the artwork to prove it

The Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is ranked among the top art communities in the U. S. Nestled between the Bluegrass region and the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, Berea offers visitors over 40 arts and crafts shops featuring everything from handmade dulcimers and homemade chocolate to jewelry stores, art galleries, quilt-makers, and even glassblowing studios. Sculptures of mythical beasts, vibrantly painted open hands, and historic architecture are a few of the delights as one wanders the town and college.

Berea Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beating heart of the folk arts and crafts scene in Kentucky, Berea is also home to more than 8,400 acres of closed canopy forest and a well-maintained trail system. Designated as one of Kentucky’s Trail Towns which are billed as a “home base for outdoor expeditions,” Berea is full of festivals, trails, parks, and performances.

Kentucky Artisan Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town is known for Berea College with its commitment to interracial co-education and service to the Appalachian Region. Berea is the “Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky—Where Art’s Alive.” Berea is situated in southern Madison County near the edge of central Kentucky’s Blue Grass Region. The town is located 39 miles south of Lexington, 113 miles southeast of Louisville, and 132 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Boone Tavern Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Berea story began in 1853 when abolitionist John G. Fee with the help of local supporters and other missionaries established a church, a school, and a tiny village. The school’s constitution specified that it would be interracial and co-educational—radical concepts for the time. Fee called the settlement Berea after the Biblical town where the people “received the Word with all readiness of mind.”

Kentucky Artisan Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today the one-room school has evolved into a college that is world-renowned for its dedication to social justice, community service, and the preservation of Appalachian culture. The tiny village has grown into a town with a thriving population of weavers, instrument makers, furniture artisans, jewelry designers, glass workers, potters, painters, sculptors, and musicians.

More on Kentucky: Step Back Into Time at My Old Kentucky Home

Boone Tavern Hotel

Both the town and the college take pride in their contemporary Appalachian identity. Known as the “Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky,” Berea offers a public arts experience on multiple levels. You can enjoy the sculptures, architecture, galleries, and shops, or you can enter the studios of working artists and watch art being created. Best of all, you can join right in with events like Jammin’ on the Porch or the Festival of Learnshops.

Here are 15 of the best reasons to visit this historic Kentucky town.

Berea Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Berea Welcome Center in the historic L&N Train Depot

Set the scene for a perfect visit to Berea by starting in the charming welcome center located at 3 Artist Circle. Staffed by, arguably, the most well-informed people in the county, they can tell you everything you need to know from what events are happening to who has the best pizza in town. Make sure you give yourself time to look around the restored brick railroad station where the center is housed in.

Public art at Artisan Village © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Public art

Sculptures of mythical beasts, vibrantly painted hands, fountains, stained glass, and historic architecture are a few of the delights on the Berea Public Art Tour. Go to BereaPublicArt.com and hear the voices of artists and local historians telling the story behind the art. Plus you can experience live art by visiting one of several studio artists, who invite you to watch them at work, or by joining local musicians at a weekly jam festival.

Public art at Artisan Village © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look for mythical beasts, fountains, and historic architecture on the Berea Public Art Tour. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land while experiencing the artistic process firsthand. The Student Craft Program at Berea College keeps Appalachian craftsmanship alive. Stop by the College Visitor Center and Shoppe to arrange a tour.

Log House Craft Gallery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Indian Fort Mountain Trail System

Owned by Berea College, the Indian Fort Mountain Trail System is located within one of the oldest managed private forests in the country. There are many trail options for hikers ranging from a short 2-3 mile outing to a longer 6-7 mile trek with plenty of vantage points highlighting the famous pinnacles. Open all year and in all seasons, the trails are particularly lovely in the spring when everything is blooming and when the fall colors are at their peak.

More on Kentucky: Ambling Down Country Roads in Bluegrass Country

Artisan Village © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Shopping

Known as an artistic epicenter, shopping for unique handmade goods doesn’t get any better than in this artsy town. Start at the Kentucky Artisan Center and watch a weekly demonstration or performance before walking through the gallery featuring the work of numerous Kentucky artists, craftsmen, and authors. Next, browse the Appalachian crafts at the Log House Craft Gallery. Finally, check out the Artisan Village where there are enough interesting shops to keep an art lover busy all day.

Log House Craft Gallery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Family-friendly biking

There are several well-established cycling trails that the whole family can enjoy including bike paths in Berea City Park, the 3-mile Mayde Beebe White Trail, and the 1-mile John B. Stephenson Memorial Trail. In addition, Berea is a stop on the TransAmerica Trail spanning more than 4,225 miles from coast to coast, 600 miles of which roll across some of the most beautiful parts of the Bluegrass State.

Boone Tavern Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant

A visit to Berea is simply not complete without visiting the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant. It all began in the summer of 1908 when Nellie Frost, the wife of Berea College President William G. Frost, provided lodging and meals at her home for some 300 visitors to the College. As the final visitor departed, her husband was told in no uncertain terms that it was time to build a guest house.

Boone Tavern Hotel Restaurant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The award-winning restaurant serves up both traditional favorites and exciting reinterpretations of Southern Cuisine. Fresh, flavorful homemade dishes that are as locally sourced as possible and classically decorated rooms make for a romantic weekend or much-deserved getaway. The graceful white columns and airy verandas nestle among the vibrant galleries, cafes, shops, and studios.

Kentucky Artisan Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Madison County Waterways

Kentucky has more miles of navigable water than anywhere else in the Lower 48 and the areas surrounding Berea in Madison County have plenty of it. The local outfitters can help you find the right fit no matter what your experience in the water might be, and many offer paddling trips for all levels.

Artisan Village © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Festivals, festivals, and more festivals

It’s hard to plan a visit here without being in town for one of the many festivals this vibrant community plans each year. The festival offerings range from arts and music to a Spoonbread Festival (September 17-19, 2022) to the annual Geocaching Weekend (3rd weekend in October).

More on Kentucky: The Ultimate Guide to Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Kentucky Artisan Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Jammin’ on the Porch

It’s Thursday in Berea—time to get together and jam! It’s not just for music. Storytellers, poets, and everyone is invited to come and share. Father and daughter Donna and Lewis Lamb, musicians from nearby Paint Lick host the free festivities beginning at 7:00 pm. The jam happens all year round but the location does vary based on the weather. When the weather is fine Jammin’ on the Porch is held on the porch of the log cabin on the lawn in front of the L&N Depot/Welcome Center. When it is too cold to be outside they move indoors usually to one of the local churches. Call the Welcome Center at 800-598-5263 to find out where they will be during your visit. It’s an authentic evening of entertainment and fellowship. Anyone of any age or skill level is welcome and encouraged to participate.

Berea Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Berea Farmers Market

The Berea Farmers’ Market is a year-round market that offers fresh and local fruits, veggies, plants, honey, eggs, and more. With a growing community of small farmers aimed at providing fresh, local products it should come as no surprise that this “growers-only” market continues to, well, grow. Open on Saturdays year round expect to find prepared foods, canned goods, homemade jams, fresh-baked breads and cakes, and handmade artwork and crafts (not to mention seasonal fruits and veggies!).

Log Cabin Craft Gallery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Get Hands-on with Art

Artisans here love to share their skills and offer different ways to learn about their respective crafts. Through a program called Hands-on Workshops (or HOW), students can take a range of classes from culinary to arts and crafts workshops. If you’re looking for some great holiday gift ideas what better way to show someone love than with a handmade gift? In the months leading up to the Christmas season, take a class from the expert artisans and master craftspeople in the “Make It, Take It, Give It!” workshop series.

Kentucky Artisan Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. US 25 Yard Sale

As the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. The “US 25 Yard Sale” runs across more than 500 miles of US 25 and US 25W through Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. It’s usually held in the summer and this is one unique event worth checking out.

Boone Travel Hotel Restaurant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Eateries

From newly renovated historic buildings to one-of-a-kind dining there is a brand new crop of fine eating coming to town. A few include Happy Jacks, Noodle Nirvana, Brandi’s Bakery, Native Bagel Company, Becky’s Breads, and Apollo’s Pizza. 

Kentucky Artisan Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Live performances for all seasons

The community’s love of culture extends beyond the visual arts into the performing arts with two main venues for live theater: The Spotlight Playhouse and the Berea College Theater Laboratory. There is also the annual Celebration of Traditional Music (49th annual; October 13-16, 2022) hosted by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College.

More on Kentucky: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest: Connecting People with Nature

Oh! Kentucky Campground & RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Oh! Kentucky Campground & RV Park

Traveling by RV? Then make your home at Oh! Kentucky Campground & RV Park. The park is easy-on, easy-off I-75 at Exit 76. Our pull-through site was in the 75-foot range and level with utilities centrally located. The park offers 71 sites (all pull-through) with 50 and 30-amp electric service, water, and sewer.

Worth Pondering…

I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.

—Joan Miro

Most Famous Small Town in the World: Woodstock, New York

Where the 1969 music festival famously didn’t take place

Say “Woodstock” and the legendary Summer of Love concert immediately springs to mind. It’s an often-repeated joke that Woodstock is made up of people who don’t realize the concert is over but the truth is it’s filled with all kinds of people. It was a haven for artists long before the festival that wore its name.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From India to Germany, Japan to Canada, Australia to the South Seas, mention Woodstock, New York, and invariably someone will smile, flash a peace sign, and say Rock and Roll. The very name “Woodstock” congers images of tie-dye, hippies, music, mud, and lots and lots of young people with or without clothes dancing in the rain during the most famous three-day music concert ever produced on planet earth.

That was 1969, and it never happened in Woodstock! The infamous concert took place on Max Yasgers farm in Bethel, New York, about a two-hour drive from Woodstock.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So then, what is so special about Woodstock? Well, for one, it has been a haven for artists, writers, thinkers, and musicians since the early 1900s. The town was founded in 1787 as the population that followed the pristine streams moved up from the cities and populated the bucolic mountains and valleys of the beautiful Catskill Mountains.

A glass factory was built in Bristol (now Shady, a hamlet of Woodstock) in 1803. In the 1830s the demand for leather footwear sparked the explosion of the leather tanning business in the Catskills. The supply of plentiful water along its streams and a seemingly endless supply of hemlock trees used for tannic acid made this area perfect for tanning leather.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the war of 1812 cities along the east coast began paving their streets and laying stone sidewalks. Bluestone made the perfect stone for sidewalks as it was not slippery when wet. Quarries sprang up all over the southern Catskills including the California Quarry in Woodstock where newly immigrated Irish families came up the Hudson to live in Lewis Hollow and work.

As the populations in the cities increased, the need for escaping the hot summers also grew. Thus began the Mountain house era. One such famous Mountain House was Overlook Mountain House built-in 1875. Once a grand house it played host to the General Grant. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground in 1925 but the historical and intriguing remnants can still be seen today on one of the many fantastic hikes in and around Woodstock.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A transforming chapter in Woodstock’s history began in 1902 when a man by the name of Bolton Brown emerged from the thicket near the summit of Overlook Mountain and first viewed Woodstock and the expanse below him. Along with Hervey White, Brown was hired by Ralph Whitehead to search for a location that would match Whitehead’s vision for a utopian art colony.

Upon beholding the vista before him, Brown later wrote of that moment, “Exactly here the story of modern Woodstock really begins.”

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the founding of Whitehead’s Byrdcliffe colony in 1903, the arts had arrived in Woodstock. In addition to Byrdcliffe, Hervey White would go on to establish the Maverick art colony in 1905 while the Art Students League led by Birge Harrison would begin operation in Woodstock a year later.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the decades that followed other institutions would continue to add to Woodstock’s cultural landscape including, in 1920, the Woodstock Artists Association—now known as the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, the Historical Society of Woodstock (1929), The Woodstock Guild of Craftsmen (1939), now a part of the Byrdcliffe Guild, the Woodstock School of Art (1968) which currently occupies a complex of bluestone and timber studios built by the Federal Government as a crafts training center before World War II, and the Center for Photography at Woodstock (1977) housed in a building that Bob Dylan once called home.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thus began the artistic endeavors that can still be experienced in the most famous small town in the world.

Visit Woodstock and you’ll be able to enjoy not only remnants of the late-’60s hippie era, but also a thriving arts scene, a culinary revival, and access to outdoor activities from hiking and biking to kayaking. And browse the eclectic shops and galleries along Tinker Street and Mill Hill Road in the most famous small town in the world.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Don’t bother Max’s cows. Let them moo in peace.

—Sign in the town of Wallkill protesting the festival held on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, as reported in the New York Times, August 16, 1969