Taking a Ride with the Catskills Rail Explorers

Imagine you and your family are gliding through the forest along railroad tracks. As you advance, you can see and hear the Esopus Creek rushing by. You may spot birds and wildlife among the trees that border the track. Well, you don’t have to imagine this, you can actually enjoy this experience up in the Catskills!

The Catskills Rail Explorers is located in Phoenicia, NY, in Ulster County. It shares its parking lot with the Empire State Railway Museum, which was unfortunately closed the day of our visit.

When you book a ride with Rail Explorers you can choose a tandem explorer, for two people or a quad, which seats up to four riders. They make this a family friendly experience and children of all ages are able to enjoy riding. However, everyone needs a seat. The seats are adjustable and are able to be moved closer to the pedals.

When you arrive you must first check in. Waivers must be signed and here you can purchase water, clothing and souvenirs. The explorers are preassigned and labeled with name cards, so there’s no need to rush to get a certain explorer.

The Catskill ride is 8 miles round trip and travels along the Esopus Creek and through the woods of the Catskill Mountains. The explorers come with electric motor assistance, so you are not pedaling entirely on your own! This is especially helpful for families with young children!

Each explorer rides independently and travels at their own pace. It’s really beautiful to see the mountain views and ride along the Esopus Creek.

The only time that all explorers are connected is when crossing Route 28. It is super safe, as railroad crossing barriers come down across all lanes. Plus, a Rail Explorer guide stands in the street with flags until everyone has crossed. Tandem and quad explorers can be connected for the entire ride if you have a large party and want to ride together.

Safety, as I mentioned, is taken seriously by Rail Explorers. Besides the main Route 28 crossing, there are a couple of side streets that the railway crosses. A guide stands in the intersection and will direct traffic for the explorers to safely cross. These crossings may also involve high fives with your guide as you pass!

At the end of the 4.1 mile trail, there is an approximately 15-20 minute break while the guides turn the explorers around for the trip back. It’s fun to watch them do this while you stretch your legs. There is also seating available where you can relax and take a snack break.

Be sure to take the Rail Explorer guide up on the offer for a family pic before heading out for your ride!


The first leg of the trip was much easier for us than the return. After the explorers were turned around and we were headed back it started to rain. Fortunately, there are umbrellas in each explorer. However, during the ride our pedal assistance motor stopped working. We had to pedal the entire trip back on our own….which was slow and a lot of work! But we did it and got a great workout!

A visit to the Catskills isn’t complete without a ride on the Rail Explorers! It’s such a unique and fun experience that is great for all ages. Check out our short video:

(Thank you Catskills Rail Explorers for hosting us. As always, all opinions are our own.)

The Details:
Catskills Rail Explorers
70 Lower High Street
Phoenicia, NY 12464
1(877) 833-8588

Hours of Operation: Thursday – Sunday, now through November 3

Parking: Plenty of free parking is available in their lot.

Price: $85 for a tandem explorer (2 riders, $42.50/person), $150 for a quad explorer (up to 4 riders, $37.50/person)

*They ask that you arrive 15-30 minutes before your scheduled tour. A waiver needs to be signed and they want to ensure that all parties have arrived.

*Dress accordingly! We visited at the end of September and it was very chilly! Be sure to bring sweatshirts and jackets, depending on when you visit.

*The rail explorers go out rain or shine. They have two large umbrellas on the quad if needed. However, you may want to wear or pack rain gear if there is rain in the forecast.

*There are storage baskets in the back of the explorers where you can keep loose items and belongings.

*Bring drinks and snacks. There is a 15-20 minute break where they turn the rail explorers around. This is a great time to hydrate and refuel.

*Check out the website for special tours! They are currently running a stargazing evening tour with hot cider and donuts (Saturday at 7 PM) and a Beer and Pretzels tour (Fridays at 4:30 PM).

*Rail Explorers currently operate in two other locations: Las Vegas and Rhode Island.

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Catskills Getaway to the Emerson Resort & Spa

Catskills Getaway to the Emerson Resort & Spa

The kids are back in school and busy schedules are the new norm. So when the kids had a couple of days off from school, we decided to enjoy some fall family fun at the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mount Tremper, NY. The Emerson is an easy drive from northern Westchester County, less than two hours away.

The Emerson is conveniently situated for visiting the nearby towns of Phoenicia and Woodstock to the East or Belleayre and Hunter Mountain to the West. However, if you’re looking to simply enjoy some rest and relaxation, it’s perfect for that as well!

The History of the Emerson Resort and Spa

The Emerson Resort is located in Ulster County, in the Eastern part of the Catskills, and borders the Esopus Creek. Once you arrive at the resort, you will quickly discover who it was named after. Every room has books of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poems, and quotes from these poems decorate the walls of the Resort.

The Resort sits on what was originally an 1840 dairy farm owned by the Riseley family. Part of the original building was transported onto the current property. Over a century later, it was developed into tourist destination Clinton Corners, which included a variety of shops, a restaurant and the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope. After a move and various renovations, it is now the Emerson Resort & Spa as we know it.

The Rooms

There are two different lodging options when visiting the Emerson Resort. You can stay in the Lodge buildings, which are more rustic, Adirondack-style rooms.

The second lodging option is the Inn, which features more contemporary, Catskill chic type accommodations. We stayed in room 502 of the Inn which was perfect for our family of four. This Royal Suite room has two queen beds.

I enjoyed a soak in the large whirlpool tub and we all enjoyed the waterfall shower with adjustable side sprays. Although we did question the window looking into the bedroom! Luckily, the blinds close for privacy.

During the afternoon, our balcony was a perfect place to enjoy some reading time, while listening to the tranquil sounds of the Esopus Creek. And in the morning, my husband and I enjoyed our coffee with a beautiful view!

Fall evenings in the Catskills can get chilly. We enjoyed sitting nearby our room’s gas fireplace in the evening. On the second night, we enjoyed a family game night in front of the fireplace as well. The kids really enjoyed the complimentary snacks (peanut trail mix and granola bars) and water available in the room. The water came in handy on our outings. It’s important to know that there is no cell phone service in the area. Thank goodness the Emerson has complementary wi-fi!

Amenities

The Emerson Resort is very family-friendly . Although it is a resort and spa, we noticed many families with children visiting. For dog owners, the Resort is also pet-friendly! It was fun seeing guests walking the property with their dogs.

The spa at The Emerson Resort is spread over 6,000 square feet and is only for adults. Reservations are recommended prior to arrival if you wish to enjoy a massage, facial or one of the other treatments they offer. All overnight adult guests can enjoy the fitness room, sauna, steam room and outdoor salt water hot tub. The entrance to the spa is one of the few decorative pieces that remains after a major renovation in 2016. The hand-carved imported doorway was too fantastic to change .

The day of our arrival we enjoyed participating in a kaleidoscope making class. While you can purchase the same kits in the gift shop, it was nice to be guided through the process. After making our kaleidoscopes, our instructor, Jonas had us walk around the property to look for objects in nature that we could add to the kaleidoscope. It was fun to see how the different items looked while viewed through our kaleidoscopes. If you aren’t interested in making a kaleidoscope, the Resort also offers watercolor postcard painting or design your own t-shirt classes ($20 per shirt). Check the schedule to see which days the classes are offered.

The Catskills are truly beautiful. The Emerson really wants guests to explore and take in all the beauty of their surroundings. The grounds of the Emerson include 1.2 miles of trails and a small pond. There are several cruiser bicycles available (adults sized only, they do not have children’s bikes) and you can get helmets from the front desk. If you are interested in doing some bird watching around the property, you can also borrow binoculars at the front desk.

Twice a day, guided nature walks depart from the lobby. We enjoyed participating in one of these walks that takes you down to the Esopus Creek and along the property. The creek’s water comes from the mountain and leads to the Ashokan Reservoir. Weather permitting, swimming is allowed in the creek. The Emerson has partnered with the Ashokan Watershed and offers fresh water snorkeling on select dates during the summer! The resort even had its moment of fame as the recent movie The Dead Don’t Die, starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver, was partly filmed on the property!

In the warmer months guests can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. There are outdoor games including volleyball, horseshoes and corn hole. There’s a playground for younger kids and even a dog park for all of the four-legged visitors. And, of course, there’s a pool open during the summer.

All guests are invited to enjoy the Family Room in the Black Bear building at the lodge. We walked over one evening and enjoyed several games of intense and competitive family ping pong. There are also several fire pits throughout the property and s’mores kits are available for purchase at the front desk for guests to enjoy.

The World’s Largest Kaleidoscope

The Emerson Resort is probably most well known for housing the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope. The Kaleidoscope sits in the former silo of the Riseley Farm. It has a 50-foot virtual sphere that can reflect 254 images, which creates an illusion of over 3,000 images! Overnight guests are able to view a complimentary showing of Star Dust, a 10 minute experience that will dazzle your senses. Seating is available, but we all enjoyed laying down on the floor to view the show.

There are a variety of shops in the Emerson, including a toy shop, housewares and souvenir and clothing shops. However, you must take a visit through the Kaleidostore. There are a couple of fun, interactive exhibits to see. But the showstopper is the large collection of kaleidoscopes for sale at the Kaleidobar. Children are asked not to touch these and even I was afraid to touch some (most?) of them. There’s a kaleidoscope that costs $1,850! They are truly works of art!

The Food

The Emerson Resort has two restaurants onsite. Ralph’s Cafe is open from 9 AM to 5 PM (except Sundays when it’s open until 6 PM). Here you can pick up pastries, soup, sandwiches, salads and more. There is seating both inside and out where you can enjoy your food, or you can take it to go.

Woodnotes Grille is the sit down restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. Locally sourced ingredients are used to create delicious meals in what they like to call “Catskill Creative Cooking.”

We enjoyed dinner there one evening and some of the highlight dishes included this Black Angus Beef Brisket with Parmesan Twice Baked Potatoes and Wilted Swiss Chard…

…as well as the Pan Seared Beaverkill Trout with Lyonnaise potatoes and French beans. Most entrees are priced between $22-$26.

We enjoyed breakfast one morning at Woodnotes as well. The restaurant serves everything from Eggs Benedict and House Made Corned Beef Hash to Quinoa Granola and Avocado Toast.

Our second morning, we stopped at Ralph’s Cafe. Overnight guests can enjoy a free cup of coffee or tea each day of their stay. We purchased a variety of breakfast goodies to share before we headed out that morning. Everything is reasonably priced, including breakfast sandwiches.

We had a great stay at the Emerson Resort & Spa. Our weekend had a mix of relaxation, fun and exploration. With an eleven and thirteen year-old, there was enough to see and do during our stay to make it an enjoyable visit for the entire family. If you are looking for a quick weekend getaway to the Catskills, we highly recommend a visit to the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mount Tremper!

The Details:
Emerson Resort & Spa
5340 Route 28
Mount Tremper, NY 12457
(845) 688-2828

Room Prices: Rates start at $224/night, depending on date and room type

*Be sure to check out the Emerson website for specials and packages.

*This is a dog friendly resort! You can bring your pet with you!

*There is a full service spa onsite as well as fitness classes (for a fee).

(Thank you to the Emerson Resort & Spa for hosting NY Foodie Family. As always, all opinions are our own.)

The Roxbury Motel {A Hidden Catskills Gem}

The Catskills are a region in the Hudson Valley, approximately 100 miles northwest of New York City. It is made up of four counties and is home to the Catskill Mountains and the 600,000 acre Catskill Park. The town of Roxbury is located at the eastern end of Delaware County and has a population of less than 3,000. As you travel on state Route 30 and drive into the town, it looks and feels like you are stepping back in time. The entire Hamlet of Roxbury is on the National and State Register of Historic Places. And right off state Route 30 on Bridge Street is the Roxbury Motel.

I first discovered the Roxbury Motel while searching for lodging in the Catskills. When my husband and I decided to go away for a couple of days to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, I thought the Roxbury Motel would be a great place to stay. It’s an easy trip and not too far from home, a little over two hours away.

When you hear “motel” please do not envision rundown or cheap. The Roxbury Motel is anything but! Owners Greg Henderson and Joseph Massa first opened the motel in 2004. After several expansions, it now consists of two main buildings, North and South. Altogether, there are two studios, five themed studios, five big king rooms, seven kitchenette rooms and eight suites, plus the Digs. As you will quickly discover during your visit, lime green is their signature color!

What really drew us to the Roxbury was the themed rooms. Inspired mostly by television shows and movies from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, each room has a different theme and a unique name like Fred’s Lair (Flinstones), Samantha’s Cloud (Bewitched) and The Wizard’s Emeralds (Wizard of Oz).

I told my husband to pick the themed room that he wanted to stay in and he chose Maryann’s Coconut Cream Pie (room #27). For fans of Gilligan’s Island, this room is a reference to an episode (episodes?) in which she bakes a coconut cream pie. Greg and Joe really put attention into ALL the details of the room. From the round bed with the whipped cream pillows, the three framed and signed Maryann photos, to the SOS spelled out in shells. Every room detail is on theme. However, the real piece de resistance is the pie crust and meringue ceiling, which makes you feel like you’re in a pie.

Even the bathrooms carry out the room theme. The toilet is in its own room. There are double sinks and a deep tub with double showerheads. The Roxbury provides a selection of bath toiletries from the LATHER aromatherapy collection. This line of products are 100% vegan and contain no animal by-products or parabens. If you really enjoy them, full-size products are available for purchase in the main office. Staying in the Maryanne’s Coconut Cream Pie room, we also received a tub of coconut body cream to take home with us

The kitchenette rooms come with a mini fridge and a microwave. This is great if you want to store leftovers, pop some popcorn to have while you watch a movie, or chill your hard cider (or wine) that can be purchased from Roxbury Wine and Spirits down the street, which is what we did! The refrigerator is also stocked with wine and champagne for purchase.

The Roxbury serves a Continental breakfast, which during our stay included cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, cold cuts and cheese, croissants with a variety of spreads, fruit and several different pastries. There’s several different seating areas to enjoy breakfast. There are chairs and tables inside the office and in the enclosed porch area. When the weather’s nice, you can dine outside on the deck. There’s also a small dining room in the Roxbury North.

Coffee, tea and hot cocoa are available throughout the day in both the main office and the dining room in the Roxbury North. They also put out cookies and other snacks in both places that you can nibble on throughout the day.

The Roxbury’s Shimmer Spa consists of a spa in the North building and a spa in the South building. We pre-booked a couple’s massage before our we arrived, so we enjoyed complimentary access to both spas. Otherwise, it’s a $10 fee per person, per stay (not per day!) to enjoy both facilities.

When we entered our motel room on arrival, two fluffy bathrobes and slippers were waiting for us along with the spa key. Since we don’t frequent spas very often, we have very little to compare it to. The website notes that the Shimmer Spa isn’t a huge full-service spa. The South spa has a jacuzzi and sauna. While the North spa has a steam room, a reading library and is where the massages take place. The Shimmer Spa is appropriately named, with lots of shimmer and sparkle! The painstaking attention to detail that went into the room designs, was not forgotten at the spa.

The spas are both pretty small. We had the jacuzzi and sauna to ourselves. We spent part of the day in the North spa reading books and enjoying the sunshine (and snacks) before our massage. There was another couple using the space as well. We visited during the week in March, but I can see the spas getting crowded during peak times.

Although there isn’t a restaurant on-site, Cassie’s (during the day) and Chappie’s (at night), is a short walk right up the street. We visited for lunch one day and dinner another and can say that the food is good. Otherwise, the Roxbury provides a list of restaurants in the area in the info binder in your room. They include driving distance and type of food served.

A stay at the Roxbury is just plain fun! There tend to be a lot of repeat guests, which I know we will soon be. A couple of miles down the street from the Roxbury Motel, Greg and Joe are currently building the Roxbury at Stratton Falls. This property will consist mostly of themed cottages and a larger spa with a pool. You can bet that we are planning to visit this property when it opens!

The Details:
The Roxbury Motel
2258 County Highway 41
Roxbury, NY 12474
(607) 326-7200
Check the website for more information!

Rates: $90-$698 depending on room choice and date.

Tips:
*For suburbanites like us, the Roxbury Motel felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. Be prepared to drive to any area attractions.
*Cell service is basically non-existent. My husband had to take a work call on the room phone. The wi-fi worked well though.
*Every room has a DVD player. The office contains a DVD collection of over 400+ movies that you can borrow. Or, like us, knowing there was a DVD player in the room, we brought our own movies that we wanted to watch (BlacKkKlansman and Outlander Season 1!).
*The office also has a game closet if you are looking for something to do.
*For more photos of of the Roxbury and of our trip, check out our “The Roxbury” instastories!