I stayed at a tiny house resort in the Catskills for three days, and it was the perfect getaway for burned-out NYC millennials who need to recharge
I visited Think Big! A Tiny House Resort in upstate New York's Catskills region for three days in October. The tiny-house movement is growing among millennials, and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. My tiny house was cool, but what really stuck out to me is that the resort is a relaxing getaway for burned-out millennials who want to recharge. From its focus on hospitality as an experience to its wellness offerings, the resort is everything millennials love. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
When I think luxury, I don't usually think of 300-square foot dwellings in the woods, but one luxury tiny house resort proved me wrong. That would be Think Big! A Tiny House Resort, located in the Catskills in upstate New York, about a two-hour drive north of Manhattan. The name comes from the "Think Big!" retail store of oversized pop art that owner Bob Malkin used to run in Soho, New York City. When his granddaughter, Melissa Juszczak, age 29, asked him to finance a tiny house for her, he sold "Think Big!" and opened the tiny house resort in 2017. Today, Melissa and her mother, Marjorie (who goes by Margie) run the resort. They both live on site. The question this resort, and others like it, may raise is: How is this any different from a cabin? Admittedly, tiny houses and cabins alike are small, often rustic houses, but a cabin can be any size the owner desires and is built on a foundation. Tiny houses are usually built on wheels so they can be moved around and typically are a mere 100 to 400 square feet. During my time at the resort, Melissa and Margie told me that the tiny house resort attracts a lot of millennials who want to escape the bustle of New York City and turn off the stress. I left feeling like I had done just that. Here's why it was the perfect getaway for the city millennial looking to recharge.SEE ALSO: Here's what living in a tiny house is really like, according to people who traded their homes for minimalism DON'T MISS: An architect who built his dream tiny home in Colorado shares 30 photos that go behind the scenes of designing a tiny house Think Big! A Tiny House Resort is located in South Cairo, New York, about two hours north of Manhattan.
South Cairo is technically a hamlet in Hudson Valley. On my drive through it, I spotted a gas station and a tanning salon. Just north of South Cairo is Cairo. Like many towns in the Catskills, Cairo is small — but its Main Street was especially desolate compared to the other towns I visited.
Despite its quiet appearance, Margie told me that it's slowly seeing a revival. I spotted a gas station and a big grocery store. I also visited the towns of Catskill and Hudson, which are about 20 minutes from the resort. Like Cairo, each town had a Main Street. Notably, though, both had more life to them. But it didn't matter, because I really had no desire or need to leave the resort once I arrived. As you'll soon see, everything I needed was right at my fingertips.
The resort attracts all kinds of visitors. Margie told me that they'll typically get couples and 20- and 30-something friend groups visiting during fall, winter, and spring, while older generations and families like to visit during the summer It's also been discovered by some Instagram influencers. Margie told me that influencers helped expand their reach. About 60% of the resort's visitors come from New York City and Long Island and 20 to 30% of visitors are from New Jersey, according to Margie. I arrived on a perfect fall Sunday afternoon. After checking in at the front office, I was immediately whisked away via golf cart to my tiny house, The Little Bear.
It was about a 30-second golf cart ride, but I loved every second of it. I stayed Sunday through Monday. Rates range from $250 to $350 a night depending on the season and the time of week. If you want to sleep more than two guests per home, there is an extra charge of $25 to $45 per person. There's also an $85 cleaning fee — which is all to say, it's not exactly a cheap experience. My total, for a 2-night stay, came out to $685, or $300 a night. The Catskills are a place where it's best to get around by car, as the towns are all connected via highway. While the downtown — or Main Street — areas of the towns are walkable, getting there is more difficult. Rideshares do exist in the Catskills, but they may take as long as 20 minutes to show up, so you have to order one in advance. Most guests arrive at the resort via car and park in their tiny house driveway, Margie told me. I, however, live in Manhattan and do not have a car, so my trip consisted of a train ride from NYC's Grand Central Station to the Hudson station ($55 one-way), and an Uber from the station to the resort. It didn't take long for me to explore the 269 square feet of living space inside my tiny house.
Tiny houses are typically 100 to 400 square feet. When I booked, there were three tiny houses left for the dates of my visit, ranging from 175 square feet to 360 square feet. I chose The Little Bear since its square footage was in the middle of the range. Inside was a bathroom, full working kitchen, amazing panoramic windows, and three beds (I took this photo from one of the lofted beds) — it sleeps six, but I was a party of one. The Little Bear also has its own fire pit outside. Throughout the resort, there are a few outposts where you can buy wood and fire-starters for the fire pits.
The resort operates off of an honesty policy: Guests take whatever fire supplies they need and either Venmo the money or leave it in a cash bucket. I didn't use the fire pit because I've never started a fire before, and I was too scared to do it the first time by myself. There's no way around it: My survival skills are severely lacking. There are eight tiny houses on the property in total.
Margie and Melissa work with a designer and builder to design the tiny houses themselves. They originally opened the resort with four tiny houses and were only going to be open seasonally — but people who ski in the Catskills wanted them to be open during the winter. So, they had the infrastructure of the tiny houses fully winterized and they expanded to eight homes. Each unit has a minimum of two heat sources, and they're currently adding radiant heated flooring to the smaller units. Even though the place was nearly fully booked that Sunday, it seemed pretty empty as I walked around. I saw people here and there but felt like I was the only guest.
Margie told me that the resort is technically zoned to a campground. "Campgrounds are stacked, but this isn't," she said. They could technically have 50 tiny houses in the same spots where there are four, but they left open space to focus on the views and privacy — the point is to not see your neighbor, Melissa added. A series of pathways, gravel roads, and trails form a big loop around the property.
Hand-painted arrow signs were posted at every key area so guests can't get lost. The Little Bear looks out toward Catskill Creek, which runs along the back of the property. I was eager to get a lay of the land and set off to explore after checking out my tiny house.
The trail winds along Catskill Creek, and there are plenty of stopping points to enjoy the views. It's not a long trail, but it took me a while to explore — I kept pausing to take photos of the scenery and changing leaves. I'm from Florida and still new to the concept of seasons, so I navigated the trail like a tourist visiting NYC for the first time. I took a strong liking to the creekside hammock. To my left were views of the woods and to my right were views of the water.
My whole trail adventure was quiet. I only passed one pair of guests while exploring. I felt very zen with nature. But you can do more than enjoy waterfront views — you can also experience the creek itself. The resort provides free kayaks to take out on the water.
I stayed away from the water sports because it was pretty chilly, but if I had visited during the summer, I definitely would have taken advantage of them. If water sports aren't your speed, the resort has some luxury wellness offerings — like a cedar soaking tub and a wellness tent, where you can get a massage.
The most popular offering is a 60-minute massage, plus an hour-long private soak in the outdoor soaking tub. It'll run you $160 per person, which seemed a bit steep for my budget. The wellness area has the tranquil vibes of an indoor spa. It was set back in the woods and strung with bistro lighting for a soothing ambiance. If it weren't for the price tag, I would have been tempted to try it out. There's also a heated pool onsite. It's open from May through October and includes a gas fireplace. After less than 10 minutes of walking, I came across a luxury of another sort. The creek trail leads to a woodsy area and ends up at what I consider to be the resort's highlight: a waterfall.
The waterfall area reminded me of riverbeds I've explored in the Great Smoky Mountains. There's also a viewing area overlooking the waterfall, which the resort bills as a "romantic waterfall proposal site."
The resort seems to be a romantic attraction in itself. A lot of the visitors I saw there were couples, and Margie told me they get many couples celebrating anniversaries or getting engaged. A few weeks before I arrived, the resort hosted its first wedding. This brings me to my other favorite part of the resort: the farm animals.
I found the goats to be totally adorable — which is saying something, considering my last encounter with a goat involved one eating my brochure circa 2006. They're also a hit with guests, Margie and Melissa told me. They let the goats out of their pen daily to go on goat walks. They also offer goat yoga, which is exactly what it sounds like. Unfortunately, there were no goat yoga sessions during my stay. There are also ducks, bunnies, and free-ranging chickens. They all have designated residences.
The chickens had been laying, so the resort had fresh eggs available in the office. I took a couple and made scrambled eggs one morning. It gave a whole new meaning to complimentary breakfast. The Snack Shack is one of the resort's most memorable touches — the 24/7 store has just about everything you need, from dry and refrigerated food and drinks to games and movies.
It's stocked with drugstore necessities like toothpaste and pain relievers. That's not to mention locally made delights like jams and the staple ingredients for a perfect campfire — s'mores. Again, the honesty policy shows up here. The games and movies are free — you just have to return them. For food and supplies, you can either Venmo money or leave cash in a money bucket. When I asked Margie and Melissa about the policy, they said they had no doubt that guests abide by it. It's kind of perfect if you don't feel like heading into town to pick up a forgotten supply, or if you — like me — don't have a car.
The Snack Shack came in handy for me Sunday night. Some nearby restaurants in the area deliver food, but many were already closed by the time I was hungry. So instead, I headed to the Snack Shack and stocked up. I dropped a total of $8 on a very healthy meal that consisted of two Rice Krispie treats (my weakness), one water, one orange juice, and a frozen dinner. If you're a healthy eater, you might not find much to your taste here. It's mostly processed snacks and frozen meals. That said, I loved my $8 meal. Outside the shack, there are plenty of toys available, like Hula Hoops and balls. There are also bigger yard games nearby, like a ping pong table and corn hole.
I had no one to play with, so I just took a picture. In the front of the property, there's a fenced-in garden where guests can pick in-season vegetables and herbs.
It's a better option for healthy eaters or those who prefer to cook. The resort lets guests bring dogs. I don't have a dog of my own, but I was happy to see a few good boys prancing around with their owners.
Dogs must have tick protection and be leashed, since there are free-ranging animals on site. But there's a dedicated dog park where they can roam around and play with tennis balls and tug toys. Nearby, there's a jungle gym for kids and an Airstream that serves as an arts and crafts studio, where you can work with an instructor.
My tiny house had a (tiny) deck out front, which I mainly used for reading and animal watching in the evenings.
The resort is teeming with all kinds of wildlife, from turkeys and foxes to deer and bald eagles — but I only ever spotted squirrels and birds. By the end of my trip, I felt recharged. I came for the tiny house, but the best part was trading in the concrete of NYC for the countryside of the Catskills.
I didn't realize how much I missed the outdoors and how much I needed a weekend getaway until I got both in a single dose. The resort is clearly designed with a range of guests in mind, but more than anything, I'd recommend it to any burned-out millennial who needs to recharge. The resort combines two things — an experience and a focus on wellness — that millennials love. It's also highly Instagrammable, which doesn't hurt. But as much as I liked it, I was ready to get back to the city by the time I left. To me, that was a sign that my three-day visit was just what I needed. Pricewise, $300 a night seems like a lot for one person; that being said, if you split with friends — as most people seem to — it starts to feel a bit more reasonable. I would suggest that guests rent a car and drive up there instead of taking the train like I did. I would definitely come back — especially since the tiny houses might not be the only dwellings on the property for long.
Margie and Melissa told me they hope to build a tiny house community next door. But right now, they're working on expanding the property to include stick-built houses with glass and decks overlooking the creek. They also want to eventually build tiny treehouses. Now, those I'd like to try.