Celebrate Woodstock’s fifty-year anniversary – NYC weekend getaways


It is hard to believe, but it has been fifty years since the historic Woodstock festival in 1969.
Woodstock’s effect on music, art, and culture is indisputable.  However, many people don’t realize that the Woodstock festival did not take place in the New York town of the same name.  Instead, due to logistical reasons, the festival was moved several times until it finally settled in the town of Bethel, NY.  The historic Woodstock festival grounds are preserved to this day as the site of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.  Today, you can visit the grounds, tour the museum dedicated to Woodstock and participate in special events.  The summer is the ideal time to visit Woodstock’s Historic site and celebrate a special piece of history with a great weekend getaway from NYC.

Woodstock’s historic grounds

It is fascinating to explore the historic grounds at Bethel Woods.  As you come out of the museum, head over the paved pathway towards a hill and a vista. After you walk for a few minutes, you’ll notice a large peace sign in the grass – this is the site of the original festival.  It is hard to believe today, but over that historic weekend, more than 400,000 people fit on to this grassy hill.  The stage was located at lower grounds towards the road.  The original promoters of the festival picked this location because the elevation creates a natural amphitheater.

Here, festival attendees set up tents and laid out their blankets.  It is also here that when the festival famously ran out of food, the community gathered together. The attendees cooked food in metal garbage bins someone purchased from a home supply store. It was here that the crowds soaked as the rain fell, and here that the choppers circled overhead bringing much needed US army medical personnel.

And of course, it was here, at this very site, that Richie Havens struck the first chord of Woodstock.  As the night fell the festival attendees could no longer see the stage but they could still hear the music.  Jefferson Airplane played through the night, and with the morning sun, Jimi Hendrix took the stage for one of the most famous sets of his short life.

You can explore the historic grounds of the Woodstock festival at leisure but there are plenty of other things to keep you busy at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

The Museum at Bethel Woods

Inside the Museum at Bethel Woods, you will find many original artefacts of Woodstock.  In addition to recreating the spirit of Woodstock, the museum helps you to understand the historical context of the festival.   The main exhibit hall really helps put the history of the 1960s in perspective.  And of course, you will learn about how Woodstock still affects modern pop culture today.

The free docent-led tours are fascinating – several original Woodstock attendees work at Bethel Woods today.  Join a tour to learn about the history and the music of Woodstock.  In addition, you will likely pick up original anecdotes from these living witnesses to history. Woodstock was a personal experience, and every person who attended the Woodstock festival in 1969 can share a unique story or two.

Special Exhibits to celebrate Woodstock’s Fifty-Year Anniversary

Downstairs in the Museum at Bethel Woods, you will find two special exhibits to help celebrate the fifty-year anniversary.  The first exhibit, “We Are Golden,” offers many never before seen artifacts from Woodstock.  At “We are Golden” you can browse a collection of items left on the field and items donated by the families of the performers.  Additionally, a new photographic exhibit allows visitors to immerse themselves in the spirit of the festival through imagery.  An exhibit featuring both famous and completely unknown shooters of the day helps recreate the spirit of the festival.  This is the first time many of the photographs are viewable by the general public.

The second special exhibit opens towards the end of Spring 2019 and helps celebrate the other huge cultural milestone of 1969 – the first moon landing.

Concerts at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

It wouldn’t be the site of Woodstock without music.  To help celebrate the anniversary, Bethel Woods is hosting a series of concert in the summer of 2019.  Performers, as varied as Elle King, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, will grace the pavilion stage.  And on the anniversary weekend, on the night of August 17th, one of the original performers of Woodstock  – Santana – will perform for the crowds.

Art and music programs at Bethel Woods

In addition to learning about history at the Woodstock historical site, you can work on your own musical and artistic skills.  During the weekends, especially in the summer, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts offers drop-in art classes.  Here the younger visitors and their caretakers can participate in craft and art education programs. However, the center also offers ongoing workshops programs in digital photography, printmaking and music education for all ages.

Other things to do in Bethel, New York

Although Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is no doubt the largest attraction in town, it is not the only one.  Catskill Distilling Company is a great place to try out some great regional whiskey.  Antiquing is very popular in the area and you’ll find many places to shop for unusual souvenirs – and maybe even pick up your own 1960s memorabilia.  The town is also home to several high-end bed and breakfast facilities.  And for food, there are many mom and pop owned restaurants like the Bethel Café (located just outside Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.) The Dancing Cat Saloon is another local favorite and offers an eclectic menu in a true Americana setting.

It’s been 50 years, and many things have changed since the original Woodstock festival.  Some things, however, never can. Music is still a universal language; communities still pull together to do the right thing, and art can still bridge cultures and civilizations.  Celebrating Woodstock’s fifty-year anniversary in the pretty town of Bethel New York is an ideal weekend getaway in the summer of 2019 – and beyond.


Comments (7)

  1. Phil says:

    Being shown around Woodstock by somebody who was actually there would be quite an experience. Fifty years on there will have been a lot of myths and untruths that have grown-up. Just take the confusion location for instance. It would be great to hear the story from the horse’s mouth. It was such an iconic event with such a legacy that I’d like to get closer to understanding what really went on.

    • John Kurkowski says:

      This is true! 1969 was the year our family moved out of Milwaukee and out to a farm 150 miles away. Milwaukee has changed a lot since that time. Many of the old things that were there are now gone. It’s cleaned up and changed, yet some of the smaller landmarks are still there and I believe most of the larger ones, but they some do look different. The Schiltz brewery is gone, Pabst changed, Miller is still around and other things. John Kurkowski

  2. Brian says:

    Rarely do I wish that I’d been born earlier and that I am even older than I am now but there are times when I wish that I had been at Woodstock. I was too young at the time to even know what was going on over the other side of the pond. Over the following years I came to understand what a watershed it had been and how iconic it was. Finally, after half a century it would be great to finally get there and get a sense of what it was all about.

  3. Steven Ham says:

    Just imagine that you’d been there, perhaps as a student, fifty years ago. What would it like to back now to see the exhibitions, to hear the music? Fifty years on, so
    Much would have happened. Probably jobs, family, children, grandchildren? It’s going to be pretty poignant for those who go back.

  4. Brad says:

    My grandpa sometimes talks about Woodstock as he was there. He never says that much but I get the idea that the festival was sort of important. I’m a bit of a musician myself so it would help to get along there and find out what was going on.

  5. Adam says:

    I’m really curious to visit Woodstock – my dad has told me so many stories about it and I’d love to see it for myself! 1969 was such an iconic year in New York… We’re also celebrating 50 years since the Stonewall riots!

  6. Jessie Greer says:

    I wish I’d gotten the chance to experience this amazing music festival. If I’d been born 20 years earlier, I would go here in a jiffy even if I’m a thousand miles away. All I’ve ever got to do is scroll through hundreds of pictures in the internet and imagining how would I feel if I’m there listening to the bands and jamming with hundreds and thousands of people. I hear a lot of beautiful moments from acquaintances who were in the event itself and they always say that it was the best music festival they’ve ever gotten into.

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