Is it just us, or are the Catskills having a moment right now?
Yes, yes, we know the Catskills have always been the place to be. In the heyday of the Borscht Belt hotels, the upstate area attracted families in need of an escape surrounded by nature and filled with fun. While the area felts its ebbs and flows in the decades following the closure of big-name resorts like Grossinger’s and the Nevele, it hardly lost its allure. Now, with the return of Insta-chic retreats like the Starlite Motel and Eastwind Hotel & Bar, to name only a few, the Catskills are one of the sweetest spots for vacations in the Hudson Valley area.
And Callicoon Hills is making it even sweeter.
Open since the beginning of June 2021, Callicoon Hills is an updated take on the resort culture that once defined the region. Located in Callicoon Center in Sullivan County, just a short drive away from both Greene and Ulster Counties, the Catskills resort embraces summer camp culture with an upscale vibe while honoring its history as a go-to retreat in the Hudson Valley during the 1960s to the 1980s. Today, the 120-year-old property welcomes locals and vacationers alike for an informal escape that’s welcoming for all.
The restoration of the Catskills hotel is all thanks to the Implied Hotels group, led by managing partners Justin Watzka and Kathleen Bunnage. The duo, both of whom have extensive experience in the hospitality industry, first saw the potential for Callicoon Hills based upon its similarities to South Lake Tahoe’s Coachman Hotel, one of their other properties.
“The [Catskills] area mirrors, in many ways, that of South Lake Tahoe being an outdoorsy, drive destination from a large city and somewhere that is also up and coming,” they explain.
After acquiring the property in 2020, they embarked on a journey to renovate it to modern standards while still tying back to the history of the space.
“The running theme throughout the renovation is trying to tie in the history and sense of place as much as possible to the renovation choices in order to bring authenticity to the experience,” they note. “We’ve spent a lot of time with Ela, whose family owned the property since 1973, to collect historic materials and stories. In fact, we are even reusing some of the china that she had in storage (which was last used in the ‘80s).”
In ode to the resort’s history, Bunnage and Watzka are also working with local fabricators and sourcing vintage furniture to decorate the space. Those historic details pair perfectly with modern amenities like new air conditioning and heating units, an updated kitchen for the restaurant area, and a renovated pool area to accommodate more seating and bar service.
As for the rooms, they’re divided across multiple edifices to add to the experiential nature of Callicoon Hills. In the Boarding House, rooms reside on the second, third, and fourth floors of the historic boarding house building, which dates back to the early 1900s. The first floor is the lobby entrance and the home to Rise & Shine Coffee and the Conover Club, both onsite dining venues for guests and visitors alike. Behind the Boarding House, the Pool House, formerly known as Terrance Hall, dates back to the mid-1900s and is a great option for guests who want to be close to the king-sized pool and/or have pets. Finally, the Ridge Rooms are a quick walk up the hill form the Boarding House and consist of three buildings with views across the property and into the tree line beyond.
While the experience at the Catskills hotel is an allure in itself, so too is the dining program onsite. Centrally located in the Boarding House, the Conover Club is the property’s restaurant and bar. Its menu is all about locally sourced ingredients incorporated into elevated, yet accessible dishes that lean into American comfort flavors while echoing back to the history of the Catskills. Both locals and visitors to Callicoon Hills are welcome for dining.
When it comes to breakfast, meanwhile, the Rise & Shine Coffee Shop is the place to go for all-day coffee, grab-and-go meals, and snacks. It’s also a hub for the hotel’s onsite catering program, which works with events of all sizes. The program and the restaurant are led by Executive Chef Jean Paul Medina, previously the chef at The DeBruce.
With the hotel and dining program up and running, Bunnage and Watzka are excited to continue to add to the experience at Callicoon Hills. Next up, they look forward to debuting a 4000-sq-ft barn for guests planning larger gatherings.
“We’re looking to continue to dedicate the property to be both a vibrant part of the local community (especially with the Conover Club!) as well as a respite for city travelers looking for a few days away,” they explain. “We’re also excited about hosting memorable events as gatherings continue to come back. The combination of local drop-bys, weekend travelers, and special events will continue to fill the potential of this magical property.”
1 Hills Resort Rd, Callicoon Center