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Get In on Sullivan County

Now’s the time to head to the far-west Catskills.

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Skinner’s Falls, Narrowsburg   

Decades after the Borscht Belt’s heyday and an extended economic slump, the western edge of the Catskills is reawakening. Following the rush of New Yorkers who bought up property in the ’80s, a new crew of city dwellers are heading here for the utter, rural remoteness (thanks, in part, to the fact that it’s unreachable by train; on a good day, it’s about a two-hour drive) and to join the growing, tight-knit community of expat “hicksters.” Though quite a few homeware shops and locavore restaurants are beginning to follow the artists and creative directors, the region hasn’t reached Hudson Valley levels of quaintness just yet. Mostly, it’s rolling meadows, pine forests, and pristine lakes and rivers. “Everything east of the Hudson was too overdeveloped—the Hamptons North,” says screenwriter and Narrowsburg resident Ben Younger. “It’s like a detox from reality here,” says Rob Cristofaro, founder of the streetwear line Alife, who has a house in Barryville. “I’ve seen bears, wild turkeys. I sit on my front porch and watch 20 deer come by.”


Narrowsburg

Though obviously tongue-in-cheek, the “Narrowsburg Not Williamsburg” T-shirts sold here aren’t that far off. This woodsy hamlet along the banks of the Delaware River has been an artist mecca for years—old-timers and newcomers regularly mingle at the town’s main gallery, run by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance—but there’s been a flurry of new businesses recently. City transplants abound, like ex–Vogue design director Anna Bern, who stocks bespoke furniture, vintage finds, and global wares at Nest on Main Street. Across the street, Brooklyn chefs Marla Puccetti and Paul Nanni opened the farm-to-table Heron two years ago. “Lately, people have been clamoring to open businesses on Main Street,” says writer-filmmaker Tina Spangler, who left the city to live in Narrowsburg permanently. “When a storefront opens for occupancy, it doesn’t stay open for long.” At the annual Pig Mountain Pig Roast and Veggie Fest, which debuted in 2011, New York chefs have their way with a dozen pigs. Last year saw thousands, many from the city, lured to this tiny village for the event.

The housing stock:
Houses in walking distance of Main Street are on smaller parcels, but they’re in demand because many Narrowsburgers like being near the action, says broker Nancy Fredericks. Farther afield, you’ll find slightly more acreage.

The time to be there:
The Tusten Theater’s spring concert series kicked off with folk-rock band Aztec Two-Step May 3. (May 30 is Remembering Phil Ochs song night.) End the summer with the third-annual Big Eddy Film Festival, which starts on September 19.



The Callicoon farmers’ market.   

Callicoon

Callicoon looks like a movie-set frontier town. The old railroad station stands between two main strips: On one side are low-slung, wood-sided bistros like locavore-friendly ­Matthew’s on Main and Café Devine (where laptop-toters congregate for sandwiches and smoothies), and on the other is the Callicoon Theater, the only cinema in the county. There’s also the sunflower-yellow-and-white Western Hotel (it’s for sale, if you’re up for a new project; brokers say city buyers are already circling it). The town has been in the news lately thanks to Mark Ruffalo, who has a farm here and is a vocal anti-fracking activist.

The housing stock:
Farmhouses—wraparound porches included—on lots of acreage with open vistas can be had here, say local brokers Tom and Joe Freda. It might cost you a little more than properties in other hamlets, but that’s because Callicoon has slightly steadier demand than the rest of the western Catskills.

The time to be there:
The annual tractor parade, on June 8, is pure Americana, and the Callicoon Street Fair, on July 26, draws seemingly the entire county for a day of music, shopping, and neighborly catch-ups.



Livingston Manor  

Livingston Manor

It’s just about three square miles, but Livingston Manor feels colossal: the massive overhang of sky, the Little Beaver Kill stream bisecting Main Street, and the Catskill Mountains that loom large in the near distance. Flooding and the recession have hampered development over the years, but it’s on an upswing now, with beautification projects in the offing and new businesses popping up. There’s the Brandenburg Pastry Bakery (try the Linzer tortes), which opened recently; a new florist, Sugar Blossom (which also has a shop in Roscoe); plus the Catskill Brewery (“Honest, hardworking beer”), set to open soon. And beloved bakery Flour Power just morphed into a French restaurant called Hello Bistro. “It’s really a low-key vibe up here,” says Amy Brightfield, a magazine editor with a second home in Livingston Manor. “The restaurants here are great, but not too high pressure—you can always get a table.”

The housing stock:
You’ll find cabins in the woods and houses on acres of land, says broker Randy Florke. Lew Beach, a high-end hamlet on the outskirts of town, has luxurious log mansions with access to prime trout-fishing waters and attracts well-to-do types who like to keep a low profile, like Dan Rather.

The time to be there:
The Trout Parade on June 14 launches the town’s biggest art fair. This year’s theme: steampunk. The Shandelee Music Festival, August 7 to 19, brings chamber music to the slopes of nearby Shandelee Mountain.


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