Just two hours north of New York City, the Monticello area offers families an incredible weekend escape, thanks to the Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark, Resorts World Catskills, and local downtown restaurants.
This post is sponsored by the Sullivan Catskills Visitors’ Association.
Seventy-five miles north of New York City, the Monticello of New York (pronounced “Mon-teh-seh-low,” in case you’re wondering) has long been best known for its Raceway, but l’d wager a bet that won’t be the case for long. Five miles to the east, on the other side of picturesque Kiamesha Lake, is a new resort for families that provides the perfect weekend getaway: The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark.
Opened in 2019—for less than a year before it shuttered for a year-plus during the pandemic—and reopened in July 2021, the Kartrite Resort is now making up for lost time, offering families a roster of fun activities and dining options in addition to the main draw, the New York’s biggest indoor water park.
Just down the road is Resorts World Catskills, with even more dining and entertainment opportunities for families, and then there’s the village of Monticello itself, where decades-old Italian bakeries, Greek cafes, and more await. Here’s your guide to getting the most out of a weekend in Monticello, centered around a visit to the Kartrite Resort, at the heart of the Sullivan Catskills.
The Kartrite Resort: Vegas for Families?
It’s true that there’s a popular adult casino (and slew of restaurants) right down the road at Resorts World Catskills. But the Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark is like a casino for kids, supercharged with fun and complete with the flashing lights and carpeted floor of the arcade. More accurately, once parents get situated with a cocktail in hand at a private cabana inside the 84-degree, music-filled water park, the Kartrite feels like Vegas for families, in the best possible way.
When you step inside the water park, you’re hit with a wave of summery warmth and upbeat music that sends you straight into vacation mode. It’s unabashedly fun for all ages. Our 6-year-old loved relaxing in the heated indoor-outdoor pool, and then taking the Empire Bay lazy river at full speed, running along with the current with or without his tube, dodging the various waterfalls. Our 9-year-old was very into the 11 waterslides and other adventures, from the stomach-dropping Nor’Easter to the Endless Summer Flowrider, which challenges participants to see how long they can handle the constant surf.
As for the parents? I loved it all—it brought me right back to the water parks of my Jersey Shore youth, except the Kartrite, being so modern, clean, and pretty, just felt much … better. It’s nostalgic, but majorly upgraded. And naturally I appreciated Bar Mez, on the upper level near our private cabana, where you are bathed in sunlight from the Texlon transparent roof overhead and can overlook the lazy river’s lush landscape while you sip on a delicious cocktail.
In between the hours of the water park (11am-7pm daily), the Kartrite has tons to occupy the kids. There’s the arcade, a fun ropes course (brilliantly constructed in the empty space above the gift shop and arcade), a rock climbing wall, laser tag, VR experiences, and the various daily activities around the resort: guided arts and crafts projects, paint-and-sips, trivia nights, game nights. Our family loved movie night, when a giant screen comes down in front of the various couches and bean bags of the lobby.
Outdoors, five hiking trails (totaling almost six miles) bring you up close and personal with the great nature of the Catskills—though we actually saw an eagle soaring overhead without going outside, through the water park’s transparent roof! And every night at 5pm the fire pits turn on, inviting outdoor hangouts with roasted marshmallows and s’mores.
The 324 all-suite guest rooms are extra family-friendly, with lots of options for separate spaces, mini-fridges, and microwaves. We are a family who generally avoids hotel rooms in favor of house rentals, as everyone sleeps better in their own spaces. Our two-bedroom, two-bath suite rivaled our own apartment for comfort.
And then there’s the food …
Eating at the Kartrite Resort
There are several dining options on-site at the Kartrite, ranging from fine-dining (Bixby’s Derby, which was closed during our visit) to quick eats (Surfside Grille, The Highline) and breakfast buffet (Eat. Eat. Eat.). Thanks to executive chef Kevin McAfee, we ate very well at Harvey’s Wallbanger, a casual bar and eatery situated adjacent to the arcade—the perfect location for letting parents linger over cocktails while their kids explore the games.
The menu is full of fun eats like loaded nachos and truffle fries, burgers and steak frites. We loved the fried shrimp appetizer, coated in sweet chili sauce, as well as the creamy Cajun pasta with chicken and the perfectly roasted salmon, which was served with asparagus over a rich parsnip puree as smooth as butter. We took leftovers back to our room knowing they’d get eaten—we had a microwave!
At the Highline, we grabbed our breakfast sandwiches, fruit cups, and coffee for the day. At Pop’s Sweet Shoppe, we found incredible gelato (loved the pistachio and chocolate) and adorable s’mores kits with roasting sticks to bring outside. At Bixby’s Derby’s handsome bar, we sipped on local beers from Catskills Brewing Co. (and brought them to movie night in the lobby). And Bar Mez in the water park is a must, if not for its quick eats then definitely for its transporting tropical cocktails.
Eating at Resorts World Catskills
If you feel like exploring off the Kartrite Resort, there’s another dining mecca right down the road inside Resorts World Catskills. We had a delicious meal at Dos Gatos Cantina in the Alder, the boutique hotel property adjacent to the casino. Our feast, under the direction of chef Rey Olivencia, began with delicious nachos, fresh veggies, and guacamole, alongside a perfect classic margarita—a must here, as the bar boasts more than 120 types of tequila and margaritas on tap.
The tacos, served on flour tortillas, are terrific—the sautéed shrimp and carne asada were favorites—and the chicken quesadilla is both huge and tasty. The fluffy cilantro rice and black beans are essential on the side. But I especially loved the new-to-the-menu burrito, which has a unique spin: It’s deep-fried, giving the tortilla wrap an intoxicatingly crisp, flaky texture I couldn’t get enough of. Who deep-fries a full-size burrito, anyway?! Chef Rey does, and, in a nod to his own Puerto Rican heritage, he also fills this burrito with a savory mix of beef and potato (similar to picadillo).
The huge bonus of eating at Dos Gatos Cantina with your family is you can reserve a Topgolf Swing Suite, two private bays in front of the bar area where you can play with a high-tech golf and entertainment simulator ($20 per person per hour; suitable for all ages and skill levels). Our family enjoyed trying the Full Swing Golf simulators—according to Topgolf they are the same as those used by PGA Tour professionals—but we had fun with the interactive virtual non-golf games too, like Soccer and Zombie Dodgeball. We had to drag the kids away after an hour! (If you’re not booking Topgolf and it’s nice outside, you must eat at Las Luces, the pretty outdoor dining area for Dos Gatos, complete with fire pits, cornhole, bocce ball, and more.)
Elsewhere at Resorts World Catskills, you can dine at Cellaio (by chef Scott Conant, of Scarpetto fame), an Italian-inspired steakhouse; Good Friends, a casual spot evoking street food across Asia (think curry laksa noodles, Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup, Korean BBQ pork and kimchi); Lotus for Chinese fine dining (Sichuan pepper steak, XO conch, lamb cumin); or 24/7 Bistro for all manner of delicious comfort foods, 24 hours a day.
Where to Eat + Drink in Monticello
Once you leave Resorts World Drive, you are very near downtown Monticello, where more good local eats await. Come morning, don’t miss DeFilippis Italian Bakery (506 Broadway, map) for its beloved homemade doughnuts, apple crumb cake, impressive bread selection, and rows upon tempting rows of Italian cookies and pastries, including fat rainbow cookies and the popular butter cookies. We loved the marbled rye we brought home, but the sourdough loaves and crusty Italian breads looked very tempting too.
Yanni’s Gyro Express (28 Pleasant St., map) makes for a fantastic lunch stop in town, with a cheerful blue and white interior and plenty of outdoor seating. We enjoyed the avgolemono soup and Greek salad with falafel and lamb souvlaki, but the Greek-inspired menu is vast, spanning wraps, salads, crepes, pitas, burgers, kabobs, panini, platters, desserts, and more.
Another longtime popular casual option for breakfast or lunch is decades-old Miss Monticello Diner (405 Broadway, map), a classic local diner with the oversize menu (and specials board) to prove it. Rock up to the counter or grab a booth for the family—there’s something for everyone here.
Before leaving the Monticello area, beer lovers will want to swing by Beer World (77 Pleasant St., map), the local outpost of New York’s largest independent beer retailer. Inside this megastore, you’ll find several great Sullivan Catskills breweries—including those we’ve featured elsewhere on this site, from Upward Brewing Company to Catskills Brewery—and other local beers in the sizable New York section just to the left of the front door when you walk in. It’s the easiest way to bring a taste of this region home with you.
Special thanks to the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association, the Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark, and Dos Gatos Cantina at Resorts World Catskills for hosting us in April 2022.