Despite the region's newfound popularity, Jerry Jacobson, the general manager of the Emerson Inn & Spa, feels the best is yet to come. "The Catskills are an invaluable destination and the area is far underutilized," says Jacobson. But while the businesspeople and residents are adamant about thoughtful, conscientious growth, if you want to sample the best of its new, sybaritic pleasures and still get a sense of the old-fashioned, sleepy Catskills that lulled Rip Van Winkle into a 20-year nap, now's the time.

where to stay
the eurpean-style copperwood inn and spa (845-688-2460; from $285, includes all meals and a spa treatment) is a bit on the quirky side, but the sps is tremendous. recently named one of the top 15 wine resorts bywine spectator,the emerson inn & spa (845-688-7900; from $500, includes breakfast, tea, and dinner) is the ne plus ultra of fine catskills accommodations. the mohonk mountain house (800-772-6646; $335, includes activities, three meals, and afternoon tea) is a classic wooden mountain house where jackets are required in the dining room, and afternoon are spent reading on the porch rocker. onteora the mountain house (845-657-6233; from $165), the former vacation estate of mayo mogul richard hellman, is now an intimate b&b. nestled at the base of the foothills, the minnewaska lodge (845-255-1110; from $145, includes breakfast) serves as a luxurious base camp for rock climbers. the nevele grande (800-647-6000; from $85), near ellenville, boasts both robert trent jones- and tom fazio-designed golf courses. formerly the stevensville hotel, the overhauled swan lake resort hotel (845-292-0783; from $115) features 206 newly appointed guest rooms and 20 suites, with more on the way. - l.v.

where to eat