As a water sign, the beach has always been my happy place. But with the post-pandemic era ushering in new norms regarding flexibility and expansiveness, aka space, I wonder about life beyond the beach or Brooklyn. And like many New Yorkers, Upstate New York is a great option for a very specific type of living.
What was once the Borscht Belt is now the new Brooklyn, as city folks went upstate to seek greener pastures to go with their kombucha. It starkly contrasts my beach affinity, brimming with lush forests, serene lakes, and charming (but chic) small towns. It’s the antithesis of my life by the sea: more green than blue, more rustling leaves than crashing waves. But with the influx of dearly departed city folks, could I become a mountain gal?
Let’s talk specifically about the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains regions, whose natural beauty and inspiration for centuries of artists is legendary. It has amazing restaurants, Pilates studios, farmers’ markets on steroids, and top-notch shopping. There is also reportedly a Soho House bastion coming to Rhinebeck, and I adore towns like Tivoli (the artist Brice Marden resides there) and Red Hook, which are close to Bard College.
You’ve got fabulous art at the DIA Beacon, the excellent outdoor sculpture garden at Storm King, and world-class farm-to-table food at Blue Hill Stone Barns. Cold Spring, Kingston, and Hudson towns have great shopping and cool vibes. Woodstock is adorable, and my favorite diner on Earth is close by in Phoenicia. It has the best breakfast on Earth. Oh, and the vintage throughout the area is a big thumbs up. Huge bonus for that.
Known for its scenic mountains and vibrant arts scene, it’s a haven for those seeking tranquility with an edge. The area boasts a mix of old-world charm and new-age conveniences. Think cozy cabins painted black with midcentury style house numbers and farm-to-table dining experiences juxtaposed with art galleries and high-end boutique shopping. All of that aside, you still see plenty of Trump stuff, so this liberal lifestyle destination also has a conservative edge that can feel a little odd amidst all of the clogged boots and hand-knit hats. Plus, I can attest to some decent hospitals. One was in Rhinebeck, and one was in Kingston, where we had to take my father-in-law on a recent trip when he contracted the flu and received excellent care within a ten-minute drive from where we were staying.
In terms of cost, upstate New York real estate is more affordable than the city or the Hamptons. According to Zillow, the median home value in the Catskills hovers around $300K — starkly contrasting Margate City’s $1.8M. The living costs are lower, and the pace of life is slower, offering a reprieve from the constant buzz of city life. My friends who have homes there live beautiful chic lives with their dogs and other halves.
The community aspect is intriguing, too. These areas are known for their tight-knit communities, where neighbors know each other and life revolves around local events. It’s a different social scene, less about the hustle and more about connection.
However, there’s a seasonal aspect to consider. Much like the Jersey Shore, many of these towns transform with the seasons. The winters can be long and harsh, contrasting to my beloved beach. But perhaps there’s a charm in the snowy landscape in learning to embrace the quiet of winter to learn something like mastering French cooking, much like I’ve fantasized.
While I’ve always been a creature of the coast, living amidst the tranquil hills and serene lakes of Upstate New York holds a certain appeal. It’s a chance to connect with a different element of nature and embrace a quieter, more introspective lifestyle.
So, could I trade my sought-after ocean waves for the rustic charm of the mountains and lakes? Not a chance. Upstate New York offers a canvas for a different kind of dream that’s quieter but equally fulfilling. But for me, the pitch black nights and extreme quiet feel more like Stephen King than serene, and I’m not one for bears or hawks who will (heaven forbid) treat my four-pound dog like a snack. The serene call of nature will not hold up for this city/beach gal. I guess that coq au vin is going to have to wait.
Plus, there are a lot of folks whose views don’t align with mine. Many Trump flags are flyin’ amidst all the Teslas and fermented foods. According to Wikipedia, “often attributed to the region’s semi-rural to rural character, there is more conservatism in culture and politics than found in the more urban downstate area. Plus, I’m not hearty in the mountain gal way. My idea of hearty is surviving a Proenza Schouler sample sale without a martini first, so there’s that.
But what do you think? Could you trade the city’s pulse for the calming embrace of Upstate New York? Talk to me in the comments. XO