The Emerson Resort and Spa: A Relaxing Catskills Retreat with a Stellar New Restaurant

This boutique resort has a lot of surprises up its sleeve

The resort has undergone extensive renovations in recent years.

Located about 20 minutes from downtown Woodstock, the Emerson Resort and Spa is quickly becoming one of the premier vacation spots in the Catskills. We recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend there at the invitation of the hotel, and were consistently impressed not only by the accommodations, but also by the spa, restaurant, shops, and charming blend of upscale and rustic.

The Emerson has a long and interesting history; what started as a small handful of hippie-inspired shops with ski lodging has been completely overhauled within the past decade, transforming into an upscale retreat with a large and welcoming lobby, luxurious guest rooms, high-end amenities, and classy shops.

The resort is located alongside the Esopus Creek, which allows for ample hiking and outdoor activities just a short drive away (a walk along the wide creek, which runs directly behind the resort, is a great way to spend a couple hours). The full-service spa, which is already gorgeous but undergoing a full renovation, offers a wide variety of services but focuses on the use of stones, essential oils, and ancient ritual treatments. There’s a library and large reading room that also doubles as a ceremony room for the many weddings held on-site, and an assortment of shops in an attached 1850s-era barn sells everything from high-end kaleidoscopes to toys to upscale clothing and local jams and jellies. A holdover from the resort’s flower child days, the world’s largest kaleidoscope (an old grain silo that you can lay down inside and watch a variety of psychedelic displays) is slightly incongruous among the high-end shops but certainly not unwelcome; we visited several times.

Emerson Resort & Spa: Woodnotes Grille

Emerson Resort & Spa

The Woodnotes Grille is the resort’s restaurant, recently given a complete overhaul along with a new chef, Belgium-born Alain De Coster. The spacious restaurant offers a charming bar area, a dining room dominated by a cozy fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in ample sunlight (a patio provides outdoor seating in the warmer months). The big-open space gives each table plenty of room, and the new menu takes advantage of fresh and seasonal ingredients. Highlights from the breakfast menu include a cedar plank smoked salmon omelette, a frittata with broccoli rabe and pancetta, and pancakes with local jams and jellies and Catskills maple syrup. The dinner menu provides something for just about everyone, whether you’re looking for something casual (cured meats and cheeses, wings, moules frites, a burger) or upscale (salmon with ginger miso glaze, braised Swiss chard, and lemon fennel risotto; pan seared Gulf shrimp with penne, bacon, and creamy parmesan sauce). The New York strip we tried was well-cooked and flavorful, as was a grilled chicken breast with pommery mustard and flageolet beans.

As for accommodations, upscale rooms are located in the inn itself, and more rustic rooms are located in the Lodge, a short walk away. All have been recently updated with high-end modern fixtures and appliances. Our room had high ceilings, huge picture windows, a gas fireplace, a patio, a wet bar, a separate bedroom loft, a huge air-jetted tub, and two Swiss rain showers, and reminded us more of a private apartment than a hotel room.

The Emerson is a welcome retreat from the daily grind. Not only is it a comfortable and upscale base of operations for those looking to ski and take in the abundant natural charms of the surrounding Catskills, it’s also a place to pamper yourself at the spa, enjoy cocktails and a leisurely dinner at Woodnotes, shop for locally-made goods, have a psychedelic experience in the kaleidoscope, and take in the abundant scenery. And with renovations still unobtrusively underway, it’s only going to continue to improve.