Ain’t that America: Phoenicia, NY, its little pink house, Festival of the Voice [classic article]

Sometimes, the best vacation is going someplace non-touristy yet charming, affordable, where you can be yourself. Phoenicia, NY is in the heart of the Catskills –in Catskills Park, actually — where the Borscht Belt comedians got their start and where “Dirty Dancing” was set. But how do people really live there today? A county insider describes it as being like “Denver in the 1970’s”. Well, I’ve never been to Denver, but I do remember the 1970’s. I would definitely say some of the same aura surrounds Phoenicia.

Phoenica is about 15 miles from Woodstock, NY — yes, that Woodstock. The earthy-crunchy laidback vibe definitely is in the water. You’ll find lots of outdoor activities, including camping, kayaking, tubing and railtrail walkways. The town feels like it’s in the bottom of a Catskills teacup, with a river running through it.

A great place to stay while you’re there — I was happy to be hosted to experience it — is a guest house owned by the General Director of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, Maria Todaro. The festival this year is August 1-4, 2013, featuring 4 days of the human voice showing everything from opera to gospel, world music to Broadway.You can contact her here: rmtodaro@hotmail.com.

The guest house looks like John Mellencamp’s “Little Pink Houses” on the outside, but is comfy like a real home inside. One couple (or single guest) rents it at a time, so it’s like being in your own private house. There’s a full kitchen, comfortable living room and secluded hot tub outside. It’s within walking distance of the main part of town.

Main Street has Mama’s Boy, a laid-back and funky coffee shop with outdoor seating, a firepit and free WiFi. They have all kinds of sweet and savory things available, but definitely go for the fresh baked goods. The coffee shop sells locally produced goods like granola for your dog, handmade soaps and even a crazy little jar of “end of season” pickled veggies.

Main Street has several shops, including an outdoor store, gift boutiques and vintage stores. At more than one, you’ll find goods outside, with a drop box to stick money in after hours.

Speaking of honor boxes, just two miles down the road is Hanover Farms’ roadside stand, open 24/7. It’s a gourmet emporium and farm market rolled in one. Most of the time it’s manned, but sometimes, the honor box is put into use.

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