For 2022, one of my resolutions has been to spend less time before screens and to practice better self-care. As Spa Director Christina Burns at the Emerson Resort & Spa in the Catskill Mountains points out, creating time for self care is one of the best ways to start a new year. Following her advice, I drove up to the Catskills at the beginning of January to find solace in the midst of nature. Located two-and-a-half hours north of Manhattan, the Catskills are the perfect destination for unwinding and cleansing your mental landscape, with lush scenery, enchanting forest glades, magical light, rivers, brooks, and quaint towns. It has so much to offer to refresh you and impart a sense of a new beginning.
The Emerson Resort and Spa in Mount Tremper is in Ulster County, fifteen minutes north of Woodstock, and near Phoenicia and Shandaken. The area is divine this time of year.
The Emerson features 53 rooms and suites, a signature restaurant Woodnotes Grille, which serves locally sourced produce from the Hudson Valley, dog-friendly amenities, the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope, and a Spa. You can go skiing in nearby Phoenicia and Hunter, or simply wander on nature paths or discover the charming towns nearby. The resort stretches over a few acres, like a small village, and provides everything you’ll need for a few days of total relaxation.
The Royal Suite is very large and features oversized windows and a porch that brings nature right to your room. With two queen size beds, a sofa, and plenty of open areas and lightning sources, it comes with a luxury bathroom big enough for a family of six to use at the same time — including a shower, oversized bathtub, supersized sink, and separate toilet. There is plenty of room and space everywhere throughout the resort, which is a balm for most New Yorkers.
In the evening, have dinner at the Woodnotes Grill. A polished country ambiance reigns inside, with a fireplace and the furnishings of a log cabin. I recommend the Woodnotes Salad with candied walnuts and cranberries and the Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with potatoes and crisp green beans. But any other dish is succulent, including the Pan Seared Salmon. The A la Carte Breakfast is served from 7 am and is fresh and delicious. Savor lox with salmon or oatmeal and eggs, or more. The coffee is absolutely the best — so smooth. It won’t scatter your nerves, even after four cups!
Sign up at the desk for the resort’s free Nature Tours along the Emerson Riparian Woods and Trail, along the Esopus Creek, where you can glean so much about the history of the region and the resort. Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief in the benefits of nature for human well-being and the importance of preserving nature in its purity, the Emerson resort and spa’s mission is to return visitors to this place of balance and emotional stasis so often lacking in city life. Look for bald eagles perched atop rugged branches, and take your dog along for the walk, too.
This stroll along the river in the back of the resort on a frosty, sunny, winter day was a deeply restorative experience — a special moment in which the holiness of the natural realm grabs your soul and purifies it of all its negativity, stress, and emotional wreckage. Think of it as the best therapy for an overworked brain.
Explore the super cute shops at Emerson that offer whimsical, delightful objects for the home or comfortable designer clothing for your weekend activities. Don’t miss the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope, housed in a 56-foot tall silo, which combines brilliant moving images and theater quality sound, then discover the Kaleidostore that displays a collection of spectacular kaleidoscopes.
One of the highlights of our stay was bathing in the hot tub on the outside deck of the Spa. In spite of the 20- degree temperature, the hot tub was such a fun experience on a sunny day, while contemplating the Riparian woods and Mount Tremper in the distance. We had a wonderful deep muscle massage in the Spa, followed by a pause in the Spa’s rest area — a beautiful lounge with a fireplace, where you can nap or read that novel in your purse before heading to the steam room. If you prefer, have a facial while you’re there to cleanse and purify your visage of the city’s toxins, and take time to have a manicure or get a haircut. All of the Spa’s attendants are experts at what they do, so you may want to take advantage of your stay to take care of your beauty needs too.
Grab a quick lunch afterwards at the Spa Bites room, which is open from 10am-4pm.
You can conveniently order any meal to your room if you prefer. But we had fun running outside in the Siberian temperatures through the resort to its warm, rustic and elegant restaurant, where we enjoyed chicken and swordfish dinners with deep and hearty Cabernet Sauvignon. The restaurant is so enjoyable that we had no desire to leave. Stay for a cocktail at the bar after dinner, or sit by the fireplace for a cozy time.
Other distinctive traits of the Emerson Resort and Spa are its superb architecture and its art collection, which includes vivid landscapes everywhere. Several panels along the hallway of the main lobby The Watershed, The Flow of Time Through Space trace the history of the area from the Big Bang and the creation of the Earth to today. Your eyes are in for quite a feast at the resort, both inside and outside!
The Emerson Resort & Spa has implemented their ongoing Stay Safe Pledge, a detailed system of protocols designed to keep guests, staff, and the local community safe while providing the hospitality they are known for.
I encourage anyone to visit the beautiful Emerson Resort & Spa to reinvigorate mind and body with their extraordinary menu of possibilities for relaxation and enjoyment, including free art classes, hiking, scavenger hunts, and many more local activities.
Here are 10 Tips from Emerson Spa director Christina Burns for a more balanced life. Even if you cannot stay at the Emerson year-round, you can still incorporate these principles for inner balance into your daily routine:
1. Meditate daily for five minutes. Whether at the start or end of your day, take five minutes to meditate, reflect, and breathe. There are many great apps that guide you through a simple meditation practice which can help get into a daily routine.
2. Sit less and move more. Especially useful for office workers and those who work from home, it’s important to avoid being sedentary for the entire day. Take regular water breaks, stand at the computer, and if you have one, listen to your smart watch when it gives those friendly reminders to get moving.
3. Practice mindful eating. Often when we’re stressed, it’s easy to consume whatever snack or leftovers are available at home or the office. Instead, be mindful of what you’re putting into your body, incorporating healthy and wholesome ingredients, taking time to slow down while eating and paying attention to when you are full. At Emerson Spa, we offer our Spa Bites menu and often feature Açaí bowls with Acai berries, since they are very high in antioxidants, strengthen the immune system, and can also help to reduce lipoprotein (also known as “bad” cholesterol.)
4. Find 30 minutes a day for a brisk walk. The recommended 30-minute exercise per day doesn’t necessarily have to be a speedy 5K sprint or the latest trend in a specialized gym class. Instead, a brisk 30-minute walk can also suffice before or after work, or during a lunch break. Otherwise, implement a realistic goal of regular exercise 3+ times a week that you’ll actually do.
5. Pick up a new audio book or podcast. During this regular 30-minute brisk daily walk, keep your mind stimulated and pick up a new audio book or subscribe to a podcast. Taking a break from work and tuning into a completely different topic can stimulate creativity, while keeping you informed.
6. Engage in your community. If you’re looking for new ways to engage in your local community, find an organization that aligns with your beliefs and goals for volunteering opportunities. This can be focused on restaurants/food community, environmental, supporting small businesses, and much more. Even participating once a month can be extremely rewarding and allow opportunities to make new connections with others.
7. Take time for self-care. At Emerson Spa, we make health and wellness a top priority and focus on spa therapies inspired by the Earth’s elements and the tranquility of the Catskills. At home, take 15 minutes for a simple meditation moment and add some calming tranquility oil as part of the process.
8. Daily five-minute stretch and strengthening exercises. When you’re unwinding from the day (and about to turn on streaming services of the latest hit show), you can also do easy 5–10 minute stretch and strengthening exercises on the couch and floor, whether it’s via a foam roller, getting into child’s pose, or a grounding yoga stretch to heal your body.
9. Have daily dedicated NO-screen time. We are usually always plugged in. However, it’s important to unplug for our own mental health and avoid that blue light. Even if it’s for 30 minutes or an hour before bedtime, make a point to put away the screen. It’ll be there for you in the morning.
10. Reconnect with nature. While being in the Catskill Mountains and having some of nature’s most gorgeous resources available in our background is a privilege, we can all get outside and reconnect with nature – even those living in urban destinations, through local parks or communal green spaces. Take advantage of the sunlight during the daytime, especially during the winter, and get some vitamin D.
I have printed these out and nailed them to my wall. Needless to say, I drove back to the city feeling fresh, re-energized, and full of life. For a delightful renewal experience, stay at the Emerson Resort & Spa in 2022. Take advantage of special packages as well as midweek rates on Sunday and Monday nights. The Inn is closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays for thorough cleaning during this era of Covid. Whether you come to ski, hike, or simply relax, there is plenty to do on the premises or around it. The Catskills is one of the most exciting destinations north of New York City and offers plenty to do in the winter. Consider it as a destination for Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day.
Find more information about the Emerson at https://emersonresort.com