Bethel New York

While driving across the State of New York, I found a town that has absolutely captured my heart — Bethel New York.

Bethel New York
Beautiful scenery of Bethel, New York

If the name Bethel sounds familiar, it is probably due to the fact that the small town was the host of Woodstock in the summer of 1969. Today, the site of Woodstock is home to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts which hosts live music and festivals. It is also home to one of the most incredible museums I have ever been in featuring the history of Woodstock through videos, documentaries and artifacts.

Bethel New York
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

The museum covers many topics including the 1960s in general, the history of Woodstock and the planning of the festival and ticketing, as well as everything that occurred at the festival itself whether or not music related told through video interviews, audio recordings and video footage of the festival. The kids were not exactly as interested as I was in the museum but it is lively and offers enough digital experiences and booths where they could touch maps and hear stories that they stayed much longer than I expected. Truthfully,  I could have spent an entire day immersed in what is truly an incredible love letter to what most people would call the greatest festival that ever was.

Bethel New York
The kids loved the peace signs at Bethel Woods
Bethel New York
Charlie driving the bus whose front windshield is a documentary about the difficulties of getting to Woodstock.
Bethel New York
Orange County Chopper Bike made for Bethel Woods

My favourite part of the museum was a small enclosed case that held some of the notes and letters festival goers taped to the information booth during that fateful weekend in order to attempt to find their lost friends and travel companions. I’ve included a picture here of a note left on a paper plate as it struck me as what might have been one of the very first incarnations of the now well-known Craigslist’s missed connection post. I for one would love to know if these two ever met again.

Bethel New York
Original Craigslist post

The museum and main building sit on the main site of Woodstock and once you have seen the inside, you should take the time to also tour the grounds outside. Although I have always been interested in Woodstock, I wouldn’t in any call myself a fanatic but standing on the top of the hill looking over where this historic festival occurred, I must admit I had chills. Oddly, its as if you can still feel the excitement and energy in the air. There is a plaque at the base of the hill located near where the stage sat and it is fun to go see the site and this land marker.

Bethel New York
Me, Charlie and Will checking out the original site of Woodstock

On a final note, do not skip the gift shop. The t-shirts are epic and there are many neat souvenirs that are worth picking up. Admission to the museum is $15 for adults, $6 for children and children under 3 are free.

Bethel New York
Couldn’t resist a Woodstock t-shirt

Once your tour of Bethel Woods is done, you will be hungry. Luckily a short drive from the museum we found one of Bethel’s best treasures– Big Kev’s BBQ. I am not quite sure if the location of the BBQ changes (or if its even technically in Bethel) so check the above link before going or follow them on their Facebook page to be sure. They also travel to BBQ competitions and you may be able to catch them closer to home one day.

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Big Kev’s BBQ

Big Kev’s BBQ is literally a shack-on-wheels on a country road with a few port-a-potties and picnic tables. I have travelled extensively in the US and have eaten a whole lot of BBQ and this is some of the best I have had. The kids dug into the ribs and pulled pork and absolutely loved the atmosphere as bikers, construction men, and locals all poured into the parking lot to order lunch. The two men working in the shack were kind and funny and this is a definite not-to-miss lunch spot for anyone interested in some melt-in-your mouth deliciousness. Order the kids a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and they will make it on the spot for you.

Bethel New York
Charlie loving the ribs

Seeing the Woodstock museum was a little more for me than Will and Charlie, I was really excited to find something I knew they would love- Upper Room Farms. Located near Bethel at 186 Airport Road in Mongaup Valley, the farm features a petting zoo, pony rides, bounce house, and horse riding in the most serene environment imaginable. They are open all summer and on weekends in the winter.

bethel new york
The picturesque Upper Room Farms

We arrived at Upper Room Farms on a Friday not knowing the hours had changed and luckily the owner very kindly let us in. She gave us a few buckets of feed and we were on our way to the petting zoo.

bethel new york
The Petting Zoo at Upper Room Farms

The petting zoo here is like most others but it struck me as different due to the fact that the animals are incredibly friendly and seem to be really happy. They came up to the kids whether or not the kids had food and were more than comfortable being pet. My favourite was a pig named Penelope who behaved exactly how you would expect a cartoon pig to the behave but not an actual pig. She was very dog-like in her demeanour and seemed to be waving her tail in excitement and jumping up and down a little. We loved all the animals and were glad we found the farm.

bethel new york
Not sure who was more excited–Will or Penelope

On the day we visited, most of the other activities were not set up as the farm was not open but we did get to freely walk the grounds and visit with the horses and ponies. Again what struck me the most was how incredibly happy they all seemed. I’ve never been completely comfortable with horses but the animals at this farm made me feel at ease immediately. As we were leaving the animals hilariously grabbed our attention by mooing and bleating what seemed like a sweet goodbye teamed with a hilarious donkey noise to top it all off. On a day where the farm is open, I am positive you could spend a few hours of pure bliss there. Admission to the farm is $4 for adults and $3 for children. Pony rides are $6 and feed for the petting zoo is $2.

bethel new york
The animals saying a sweet goodbye.

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