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Catskills Spreads Fun Across Four New York Counties

If you're heading to New York's Catskills this summer, get out your leg warmers and expect to have the time of your life.

August marks the 30th anniversary of "Dirty Dancing," the 1987 movie set in a fictional Catskills lodge and starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The area is celebrating the fan favorite with film screenings, cabarets and special food-and-lodging packages, all designed to pay homage to the iconic movie.

"We've been associated with the movie ever since it came out," says Roberta Bryon-Lockwood, president of the Sullivan Catskills Association (sullivancatskills.com). "There are some fun events planned for the occasion."

Even if you're not a fan of the film, you'll still find plenty to do. The Catskills, with its arts and culture, history, breathtaking scenery, lakes and hiking trails, trendy distilleries, adventure parks and a museum devoted to the Woodstock music festival, offer plenty of activities for visitors.

The area is so large — the Catskills encompass all of Sullivan, Delaware, Green and Ulster counties as well as parts of others — and there's so much to do, it's hard to know where to start and what not to miss.

Joanne Michaels (joannemichaels.com), author of "The Hudson Valley & Catskill Mountains, An Explorer's Guide" and "Let's Take the Kids!Great Places to Go in New York's Hudson Valley Including the Catskills, the Capital Region, the Adirondacks, Lake George, the Berkshires, and Cooperstown," says it's easy for first-time visitors to get overwhelmed by the choices.

"I tell people to make a list of their must-sees, pick a central location to stay and plan day trips from there," Michaels says.

Where you stay can be determined by your interests: anglers will want to head to Livingston Manor, which bills itself as the birthplace of American fly fishing. Along with some of the best trout streams in the country, the town is the home of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (cffcm.com), with changing exhibits of antique equipment, a hall of fame and appearances by fly fishing celebrities.

Art lovers can follow the Hudson River School Art Trail and walk in the footsteps of the painters who created one of the first American art movements. Start your exploration at Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site (thomascole.org/trail-itineraries), then head out to see views that inspired some of the country's greatest landscape artists.

Janice LaMotta, former owner of the Paesaggio Gallery in West Hartford and now director of the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (woodstockart.org), says taking time to travel back roads is an important part of any Catskills visit.

"The landscape of the area is such a huge presence, it's easy to see what drew, and still draws, artists to the area," says LaMotta. "It's breathtaking."

For spectacular scenery, hike to Kaaterskill Falls in Hunter, one of the tallest falls in New York state and a popular subject for Hudson River School artists. For more outdoor fun, bring your kayak and check out the whitewater action in nearby Kaaterskill Creek.

Another favorite nature outing is a walk around the beautiful Ashokan Reservoir on the eastern end of Catskill Park in Ulster County. (Martin cautions visitors to pay attention to the "No Parking" and "No Stopping" signs. The watershed area provides drinking water for New York City and is closely monitored.) Serious hikers and rock climbers will want to explore the section of the Shawangunk Mountains between the Hudson River and the Catskills. The Gunks, as they're called, are one of the major rock-climbing areas in the country.

Those who love off-the-beaten path destinations should add Opus 40 (opus40.org) to their list. The six-and-a-half sculpture park in Saugerties features massive bluestone ramps, subterranean pathways and terraces constructed around pools, trees, fountains and a three-story monolith, all set against the backdrop of Overlook Mountain. (Opus 40 is open from Memorial Day weekend through October, Thursday to Sunday and holiday Mondays.)

For an unbeatable view of the Hudson River, experience the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park (walkway.org), a 19th century railroad bridge that's been transformed into one of the world's longest elevated pedestrian bridges. (The walkway spans the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie and Highland, N.Y.)

If you're old enough to remember 1969 and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, put some flowers in your hair and include a stop at the Museum at Bethel Woods (part of the larger Bethel Woods Center for the Arts bethelwoodscenter.org). The museum, at the site of the historic festival, is an archival time capsule from the decade of peace and love and features multimedia and interactive exhibits, (visitors pile onto a Merry Pranksters psychedelic bus to view a film), photographs, artifacts and displays displaying the sights and sounds of the '60s.

If you're bringing the kids, rent canoes or try the zip lines at Kittatinny Canoes in Barryville (kittatinny.com); do some tubing at Town Tinker Tube Rental in Phoenicia (towntinker.com); cool off at the Zoom Flume Water Park in East Durham (zoomflume.com); or pedal your way to fun at the Windham Mountain Bike Park in Windham (windhammountain.com).

"The area has also been discovered by millennials who come from New York City and beyond for farm-to-table restaurants, breweries and distilleries, concerts and summer theater," says Bryon-Lockwood.

The Prohibition Distillery (prohibitiondistillery.com), in Roscoe, makes Bootlegger 21 New York Spirits. Visitors stop by for guided tours, tastings and for cocktails and local bites at the al fresco Bootleegger's Alley Bar.

And serious gourmands always include a stop in nearby Hyde Park, where the famed Culinary Institute of America features six restaurants featuring cuisine prepared by tomorrow's top chefs (ciarestaurantgroup.com).

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the website for the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum and credit information for the Windham Mountain Bike Center.

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