Though it may appear to be a fairyland rainforest straight out of FernGully, this insanely beautiful waterfall is just steps from an off-the-beaten-path Catskills resort that’s become an unlikely upstate extension of the Brooklyn DJ scene. Moments after this photo was taken, a pair of young bearded men came down with beer cans to cool in the swimming hole’s crisp waters, and a pretty young woman dropped her bikini top to bask in the sun. As we climbed the slightly steep trail back toward the house, we crossed paths with the Juan MacLean, the DFA artist who’d come up to DJ at the resort’s tavern the night before. Seriously, where are we?
Glen Falls House, where an all-night DJ dance party is likely to turn into a DJ pool party the next day. Beyond its music and nightlife, the beauty of this upstate inn is that its trails, swimming holes, pool and locally grown food and drinks are available for anyone to enjoy, not just guests. Beyond the property, there’s enough happening in the surrounding towns (think giant German beers and tiny bowling alleys) to warrant a trip to this part of the Catskills. Here’s what to do when you visit:
Day 1: Commute and arrival
Your destination is Round Top, NY, home to Glen Falls House. The resort opened in the 1940s and was reborn with a modern sensibility when new owners took the reins in 2017. The 47-acre property, equipped with hiking trails, waterfalls, a true farm-to-table restaurant, great cocktails, and a DJ stationed beside its swimming pool, shares ownership with Good Room, a Greenpoint nightclub with a warehouse vibe, and The Surf Lodge in Montauk.
It’s a two and a half-hour drive from Brooklyn, and it’s also accessible from the Trailways bus stop in Cairo and the Amtrak stop in Hudson. (If you’re taking the bus or train, call Glen Falls House before your trip to help to arrange transportation to to the hotel. And if you’re traveling with a canine friend, you can also call ahead to reserve a dog-friendly room.) Rooms start at $165 a night and there are still open weekends left for a last-minute summer visit. If you plan to just enjoy the grounds, it’s best to call ahead to confirm there are no private events planned.
After your journey, you’ll want to take a quick walk down to the falls and then relax over cocktails and a farm-to-table feast at the on-site Trotwood restaurant. With its dark walls, soft lighting, rustic fare, and solid cocktails, this feels more like a Brooklyn bistro than a family-friendly Catskills resort restaurant. There isn’t a kids menu, and though my kids love their mac and cheese and the easygoing hikes around the grounds, Glen Falls House is more of a grown-up playground. Plus, you can fully enjoy the late-night entertainment (live music, karaoke, or dance parties) at the on-campus Tavern if you leave the the kids at home.
Day 2: Eat, Swim, Drink, Repeat
Whether you stay in the main house, built in 1881, the cottages, or the hilltop motel, you’ll wake up in a simple, white-on-white room, where refurbished knotty wood floors meet Etsy-rific woven wall-hangings. Heat back to Trotwood to soak up last night’s beverages with a hearty helping of chicken and waffles, a breakfast plate of golden-yolked eggs, sauteed greens, and crisp local bacon, or a yogurt and granola bowl topped with just-picked berries. Don’t be surprised if you overhear the folks at the next table describing the psychedelic antics of the night before.
Once you’ve hit the falls just beside the main house, check out the longer, low-impact hike that leads to another set of waterfalls deep in the woods. Or maybe just swing over to the crystal clear pool. On summer weekends, the pool party starts as early as noon, with burgers and drinks served out of a retro, aqua-striped camper and DJs stationed in a platform tent that peeks out from the woods. Just BYO towel if you’re not a hotel guest.
This gingerbread house is something of a time capsule, housing an indoor biergarten that’s been operating since 1948. This unassuming façade leads to a spectacular, frozen-in-time Bavarian brewhouse within.
Yes, there are fake grapes hanging from the ceiling, and yes, the waitresses are dressed up like St. Pauli Girls, and yes, if it’s a summer weekend, there’s probably an oom-pah band setting up on the stage. Grab a frosty 2-liter mug of Spaten Lager, order the wurst sampler, and travel back in time. If you’re lucky, one of the elder baritones at the bar will start belting out German drinking songs by nightfall.
Day 3: Choose your own adventure
For city folks unfamiliar with the area, Glen Falls House feels like it’s tucked into a remote corner of the Catskills, but there’s actually so much to do in and around Round Top that you may have to make some repeat trips to cover all the bases.
– Explore historic resorts: Round Top is a long-time enclave of resorts, many of which have remained unchanged for generations. Besides Crystal Brook, the Bavarian wunderland that we mentioned before, there’s another German-American resort with a biergarten (and also a driving range) called Riedlbauer’s, and the nearby Bavarian Manor has been in business for 150 years. Just down the road, the Winter Clove Inn has its own 4-lane bowling alley.
– Go golfing or skiing: You’ll find a beautiful 18-hole golf course at Round Top’s Blackhead Mountain Lodge. In the winter months, hit the slopes at Windham Mountain (just a 20-minute drive away) or Hunter Mountain (30 minutes away).
– See an even bigger waterfall: Take a 15-minute drive to the breathtaking Kaaterskill Falls.
– Visit a charming little town: Take a lazy Sunday drive and visit the mom-and-pop shops and restaurants in the nearby towns of Catskill, Coxsackie, or Oak Hill.
– Eat and play in Hudson: The 30-minute drive from Glen Falls House to the relative bustle of Hudson takes you over the picturesque Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
– Get the latest Round Top news: The best guide to this area is the comprehensive, regularly updated Instagram account, Round Top Recommends.