- David Cunningham
- Tibetan prayer flags at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery
At the turn of the 20th century, Woodstock was a sleepy mountain town where life was quiet and farm families tried hard to make a living. When Ralph Whitehead and his partners, Bolton Brown and Hervey White, came along in 1902, discovering Overlook Mountain like it was a new world, they brought with them an arts and crafts movement that would change the course of art and local history. Painters, poets, crafters, writers, dancers, musicians, and artists of every ilk flowed in, lifting the town higher and higher with creative energy. Flash forward to 1969. The famous festival had the wrong place name but a spot-on moniker for the spirit that brings people from all over the world to Woodstock to feel it for themselves.
Start with the Art
The first thing you see when you enter town from Route 375 is the venerable and newly renovated Woodstock Playhouse. “A Chorus Line” opens this month, the Playhouse’s first official summer stock season in 25 years, followed by “Anything Goes” and “Hair” in July and August.
The Byrdcliffe Guild and its 250-acre Byrdcliffe Art Colony campus, which grew up out of Ralph Whitehead’s original vision of Woodstock, have spawned an arts and performance center with an artist-in-residence program, the Byrdcliffe Theater, and the Kleinert/James Art Center, hosting local and national performing, visual, and literary artists. “The Hudson Valley Furniture Makers Summer Exhibit” at the Kleinert/James, runs June 3-12. “Quick, Down, and Dirty” (July 16-November 6) is an installation of outdoor pieces by furniture makers, craftspeople, and artists “in response to our current times” exhibited throughout the Byrdcliffe Colony campus. The Woodstock Players present Carey Harrison’s “Midget in a Catsuit Reciting Spinoza” at the Byrdcliffe Theater, Upper Byrdcliffe Road, on June 17-26 ... and it goes on like that all summer.
- David Cunningham
The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM) is another cultural icon supporting the tradition of Woodstock as the “Colony of the Arts,” exhibiting and collecting work in all media by area artists in its spacious galleries, with monthly group exhibitions as well as solo shows. June 11 through July 17 is a show of works by active members of the association.
For photography, the Center for Photography at Woodstock in town features contemporary creative photography, exhibitions, lecture series, auctions, and print collections. Photosensualis on Rock City Road is a modern photography studio and gallery space with a eye to the sensual, featuring contemporary and vintage photography celebrating the nude and nature.
- David Cunningham
- The lab at Center for Photography at Woodstock.
The Woodstock Film Festival has quickly jumped to the front of the line for emerging and established filmmakers with a program that includes film panels, workshops, and concerts. The 12th annual fest is coming up September 21-25, with a summer benefit gala, the “1st Annual Spirit of Woodstock Celebration on the Hudson,” on July 9, honoring Woodstock Festival organizer Michael Lang. All year round, you can see first-rate-first-run international films at Upstate Films on Tinker Street. The Woodstock Writers Festival in the spring brings a collection of writers and their readers together for a glorious weekend of workshops, panels, readings, parties, and more.
The Colony Café on Rock City Road has music, poetry readings, and its own cultural cocktail served up in an informal setting, and you can drop in any night for something interesting. Harmony Café at Wok ‘n Roll on Mill Hill Road is home to the Bluegrass Clubhouse and other local talent.
Since 1916, people have been coming to the hand-hewn music chapel (now a multistarred attraction on the National Register of Historic Places) Hervey White built on his farm in Woodstock to hear chamber music. In June, Maverick Concerts—America’s oldest continuous summer chamber music festival—opens its 96th season with the Tokyo String Quartet on June 26, with a program of works by Mozart and Szymanowski.
- David Cunningham
- Maverick Concerts.
And, in the barn and studio he built on Plochmann Lane, Levon Helm, the legendary drummer of The Band, jams with some of the biggest names in music—and you’re invited. “The Midnight Ramble” is the hottest ticket in Woodstock, whether you’ve been a fan forever or just love good music.
Finding a place to eat in Woodstock is easy. In spring and summer, there’s plenty of outdoor dining spots. Maria’s Bazaar, tucked right behind the main street of town, and Bread Alone on Tinker Street, are good places to start your day. For lunch, Landau Grill, across the street from Bread Alone, has a great bar and the bar food to go along with it. Garden Café serves a vegan lunch and dinner in a private garden just a few feet away from all the bustle of Tinker Street. Yum Yum Noodle Bar has a sidewalk café and one of the best seats for people watching. Sunfrost, a fruit and vegetable store just outside of town, has a counter where you can get smoothies, sandwiches, and breakfast food all day until closing at 6 pm, with an outdoor eating spot under the trellis of hanging flower baskets for sale.
Oriole 9, with its Mediterranean flavor and open kitchen, is a popular meeting place in the heart of the village. A few doors down, you’ll find Joshua’s Café, a middle eastern restaurant that’s been attracting repeat and new customers for over 30 years. Chef Daniel Rabiner, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and his mother, Gladys, a graduate of the French Culinary Insitute, are the secret ingredients in the kitchen of Violette Restaurant and Wine Bar. Cucina, in a restored and rambling farmhouse at the entrance to town, has Italian cuisine served out on a wraparound porch in summer. Just outside of town, the legendary Bear Café—”Where the powerful and famous nosh,” according to a New York Times review—offers new American cuisine streamside in a compound that includes the Little Bear Chinese Restaurant and the Bearsville Theater, a showplace for musical, theatrical, and special events.
In Good Spirits
Leave it to the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Arts to have a separate category heading for Mind/Body/Spirit and Religon/Spirituality—with dozens of entries.
Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery and retreat center in a breathtaking setting atop Meads Mountain above Woodstock. The North American monastic seat of the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, KTD has hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama and offers Dharma studies, classes, services, and an open invitation to visit their magnificent temple and grounds. St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church has a hidden garden with a labyrinth that is open to the public for quiet contemplation.
Woodstock is a mecca for alternative healing and integrative modalities. Workshops, lectures, events, and retreats to uplift the body, mind, and spirit are available from a host of practitioners and presenters. Sound healing, Kundalini meditation, high frequency channeling, and craniosacral therapy are just a few of the offerings at Philippe Garnier and Lea Moore’s Sage Center for the Healing Art that houses Bliss Yoga as well. Mirabai Books on Tinker Street has long been the epicenter for books, music, and talismans for inner peace, transformation, and healing, as well as having its own extensive schedule of workshops and classes for conscious living.
Tischler Dental has been in Woodstock since 1971, with a philosophy that ties the dental experience into nature. Buzzy Tischler was a professor at NYU School of Dentistry when he came to Woodstock to offer his brand of pain-free dentistry. Now his son Michael has joined the practice. His other son, Eric, is a licensed acupuncturist, personal trainer, and biofeedback therapist practicing at Woodstock Integrative Health Center, where acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Reiki, reflexology, and homeopathy are among the complementary and alternative healing arts on a roster of services. Mountain View Studio is a creative space for events and classes designed to promote healing and provide joy, including dance, music, martial arts, community acupuncture, and yoga.
- David Cunningham
Mowers Saturday Flea Market—one block from the Village Green on two grassy acres—is a Woodstock tradition that’s a step in the right shopping direction. You can browse the tables, pick over the produce, listen to the music, bask in the sunshine, or find a treasure, every Saturday and Sunday through November, and every Wednesday through September.
Then head for the center of town, where you’ll find the owner-operated shops and boutiques that have made Woodstock a shopping destination. Here’s just a sampling…
H Houst & Son is the kind of place that gives good, old-fashioned hardware stores a great name, filled with a mind-boggling inventory of great stuff. Woodstock Design has been a women’s clothing and shoe store since 1981. Simple, comfortable clothing that is both stylish and timeless brings back customers over the years. Next door, Woodstock Trading Post offers the latest jeans, dresses, tops, and T-shirts, as well as jewelry and all other fashion accessories. Just down the street, Changes, the men’s store, has a hip selection of clothing. Chez Grandmère is a francophile’s dream, with an eclectic mix of clothing, furniture, antiques, gift items, stationery, chocolates, and je ne sais quoi. Jean Turmo is just the spot for makeup and scents. Pegasus Footwear is comfort footwear at its best, with shoes, boots, sandals, and clogs by Merrell, Ecco, Clark’s, Mephisto, and Dansko. Loominus Handwovens features Marsha Fleisher’s fashion-forward wearable art—her signature handwoven chenille scarves and jackets for men and women. At Catskill Art & Office Supply, you can spend happy hours getting supplies for whatever project you’re working on. Timbuktu on Tannery Brook Road is for home furnishings and accessories with an artist’s touch. Candlestock has been making and selling a unique collection of beeswax and other candles in Woodstock for more than 30 years. And, of course, there’s Woodstock’s much-loved independent bookstore, the Golden Notebook, with its famously fine selection of titles, a delightful children’s section, and a big place in its heart for local authors.