Second homes: Woodstock, N.Y., is a retreat for music and art lovers

Forty years ago, the New York town of Woodstock became synonymous with the counterculture when nearly 500,000 revelers descended upon Max Yasgur's farm for what would become history's most famous music festival (although the actual concert took place in Bethel, more than 40 miles away).

Though Woodstock still has establishments such as the Not Fade Away Graphics lining Main Street, it has also become a popular getaway for New York City residents. With upscale restaurants, boutiques and gourmet shops, it has become a competitor to the Hamptons, and longtime residents such as musician Levon Helm of The Band share the town with newcomers such as New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter and actress Uma Thurman. David Bowie and his supermodel wife, Iman, rent a large home here, and the Clintons are supposedly looking for a Woodstock home.

"It's very easy to get here from the city, even for the New Yorkers who don't own cars," with bus service from Manhattan and easy commuter rail service, says Brenda Graf of Westwood Metes & Bounds Realty. "Parking is free at the station, and many part-timers just leave their cars there all week."

Graf estimates that as many of as half of the properties belong to second-home owners. "Our membership has increasingly become second-home owners over the last few years, because golf is one more thing they cannot do in the city," says Kieran Bell, an official at the private Woodstock Golf Club. "Like the homes here, membership prices are a fraction of what they cost around the city."

Sitting within Catskill Park, Woodstock has hiking, fishing and biking in summer, and alpine and cross-country skiing in winter. Because of its strict zoning, the area retains a rural feel and has very little planned development and few condos. Most residences are single-family homes on large lots, often several acres. "Privacy is a big thing here, and most houses cannot see their neighbors," Graf says.

Nonetheless, the dollar goes a long way compared with other areas so close to New York City. Second homes start in the mid-$200,000s in Woodstock and even less in surrounding towns.

A look at three Woodstock neighborhoods

• Woodstock Village: Though the town of Woodstock includes hamlets such as Bearsville, Shady and Zena, most of the retail and dining options are in the village. This is the choice for second-home owners who want to be within walking distance of things, especially those without cars. There are many options in the $250,000-$500,000 range, but the lots and houses are smaller than those outside the village.

• Woodstock: The majority of second-home buyers crave land, rural views and privacy, says real estate agent Brenda Graf, and these are readily available outside the main village. Almost all houses are on at least 1 to 2 acres, and houses close to $1 million come on 5- to 20-acre lots. Few homes cost more than $1 million.

• Phoenicia/Hurley/Saugerties: Some second-home buyers choose these three towns surrounding Woodstock for even lower prices. To the west, Phoenicia has become a popular second-home community in the past few years, Graf says. Saugerties lies to the east, on the Hudson River, and is popular for its train access to New York City. Hurley directly abuts Woodstock Village, and many houses here are close to the village. The priciest Hurley home Graf has is under $750,000 and sits on 7 acres.