I wrote about the Hunter Kosher Bed and Breakfast previously when I visited a few years ago for a weekend – I finally returned to really check out the Jewish community which was hiding in plain view. The secular world knows the town of Hunter for the Hunter mountain ski slope, but it turns that for more than a century it has been home to a large Jewish community. In fact, Hunter mountain was owned by a Torah observant Jew and it’s still in his family today.
Hunter, NY is a actually a city in New York made of two villages – Hunter and Tannersville. The respective village centers of Tannersville and Hunter are about five miles apart along the same one-lane highway. The population of the 91 sq mile town today (2016) is about equal to what it was in 1840. While founded in 1790 with a tannery, since the arrival of railroad in the late 1800s (demolished in WWII because the metal was needed) there has been a large and continuous Jewish presence. It is “the other Jewish catskills.” While there a ridiculously large summer Jewish community in the Woodridge-Monticello area (about a two hour drive away; ask me how I know that), there is a smaller, but still quite large summer Jewish presence in the Tannersville area.
Tannersville has about four fully functioning synagogues, with one having daily year round minyanim. You can find Tannersville, NY minyan times here. Basically, Shachris is at 8:00am – you won’t find earlier or much later; Shabbos is always a late Shabbos. Tannersville is the summer retreat of the Washington Heights / Breuer’s community. Anshei Sharon (pictured to the right) is a 100+ year old synagogue which was and is still the place of famous Rabbeim from Washington Heights. Right behind it, one can find a new synagogue, Bnai Hayeshivos which, as one would expect, is yeshivish. The building is very modern, large, and could be straight out of Lakewood. I didn’t get to the chassidic shuls, but there are those too.
In nearby Hunter, there is one shul – the Hunter Synagogue, situated very close to the entrance to Hunter mountain. There you’ll find Shachris at 8am as well as a daily Minchah and Maariv, though we had to get some people together for a zman Maariv minyan rather than wait for the late one. Every one of these shuls was very well attended.
Kosher food is limited to Tannersville where the much larger Jewish community exists. There are now not one, but two kosher supermarkets. You can find an interesting assortment in these supermarkets, both just off the main street. There’s cholov yisroel milk, kosher meat, and a variety of other products including non-food items such as yarmulkes and tzitzis. Country K has tables with service where you can order pizza, ice cream, and some other foods. In the same area they have pool table and ping pong table. All this, including the “supermarket” and “restaurant” are on carpet for . . . a country experience.
Down the road a bit towards the edge of Tannersville and towards Hunter is the Tops supermarket. This is more of a standard supermarket with everything you’d expect from a supermarket minus a specific kosher section.
A house with a pool is all my kids really need for happiness, but it turned out to be too cold on or trip most days … this was in August! It’s in the mountains. In other places we’ve rented houses, they were immaculate. Here, we’re dealing with a rural area full of ‘for sale’ signs making it a clear buyer’s market and an area of relatively low industry and income so the houses seem to be more … rustic and full of character. Still, that has it’s charm too.
Kaaterskill Falls was, by far, the highlight of our family activities and we think it will be yours too. Detailed information is available over here. You can enter on the upper side [GPS coordinates] or lower side [GPS coordinates]. From the upper side you can take a back and forth gravel path (stroller accessible) to a viewing platform, looking down the top part of the waterfall. It’s nice and enjoyable . . . but from the lower side, that’s where the fun is. You have to park in a too small parking lot about 500 feet up the one lane road (I dropped the family off at the entrance first – recommended). Then you see some of the waterfall, but a 1/2 mile trail up and down steep hills, trees, rocks, and stairs brings you to a pond being fed by a high waterfall above you.
It’s really a trail for, say, six years and up but let’s just say with some help and carrying at parts, even four, two, and one year olds love it. (Ask me how I know that.) Further between the top and bottom sides of the falls are a very steep set of staircases and other paths with large “danger” signs where people really have died, including quite recently. We didn’t do that part for some reason.
Hunter Mountain in the winter of course has skiing. They also have year round zip lining. We did the dinky zip lines (100 to 600 feet or so) so the kids as young as eight (60 lbs) could join. They’re short and there’s a lot of waiting. For adults there are 3000+ foot zip lines with 65 MPH travel which are probably amazing, but I couldn’t tell you because I decided to spoil my kids instead.
Hunter mountain also has hiking. There are two ways you can do this – well, three. You can walk up the mountain (ouch). You can take the chair lift to the top of the mountain and hike down. Double black diamonds, it turns out, are easier to ski down than walk down . . . unless you’re a seven year old girl, in which case you’re way out in front of your parents the entirety of the hike. (Ask me how I know that.) So yes, I can say I’ve actually walked down the entirety of Hunter mountain . . . and that my seven year old can do it faster and would have gone back up and done it again had we let her. There are also higher points to start from along the road, such as this five mile hike which was second on my list.
Howe Caverns is about an hour fifteen minutes away. It’s a big cave with walking tour (stroller’s not allowed) and boat ride. It’s worth seeing once and really fun if you’ve never been there. It’s in the middle of no where even by our tour guide’s assessment. Once, I went from there to an Eerie Canal boat ride where they take you in a loch and lower your boat down, and then do it in reverse. The kids loved it, but that’s an extra hour to the northwest. (If you’re on your way between New York and Ontario, however, both are good choices to breakup the car ride.)
Balliwick Ranch is about half hour from Tannersville.
Here they have horseback riding ($65/hr; a bit steep but no reservation required), a farm, and paintball. While the older kids and some adults go horseback riding, the younger kids can see the camels, lions, turtles, goats (lots of goats), and play in a very nice playground with a trampoline and huge sandbox. Be warned – they only take cash and the staff, both times I was there, had something of middos issues but the number of animals and proximity to each other is great, as was the horseback riding.
North-South Lake, right next to Tannersville, is a state park with great camping, swimming in the lake, and boat rentals.
The playground in Tannersville is also known to be quite nice with a lot of fun toys for kids.
One thing we want to do but haven’t had a chance to yet is inner tube riding which can be found in nearby Phoencia, NY, about a half hour away. Problem: minimum age is 12.
There is also a train ride on weekends on a stream train right next to the world’s largest kaleidoscope. I drove past, but sure…it’s… something.
That should be enough to keep you and your family busy! It’s a trip we would certainly do again.