By Jemma Howlett
When the hot city summers in become unbearable, New Paltz, NY, offers a welcome respite. This quirky, hospitable town sits 85 miles north of NYC in the peaceful Hudson Valley. The great outdoors, unusual shopping, local food, art galleries, and history all converge in New Paltz to make it the embodiment of upstate charm. Here is a detailed plan of what you could do on a day trip to New Paltz.
8:00 a.m.: Goodbye New York, Hello New Paltz
Unfortunately, because New Paltz is not situated directly along the train line, the easiest way to get there is via car. Having a car will also make getting around to various activities in and around New Paltz much simpler. Renting a car can be surprisingly inexpensive, especially if you split the bill with several people. Kayak is a good site to find the cheapest car rentals—they even advertise rentals as cheap as $15 a day. But if you don’t have access to a car and don’t want to rent one, round trip bus tickets will cost you $41.
9:45 a.m.: Arrive in New Paltz
New Paltz is home to SUNY New Paltz, giving the town an edgy, college aesthetic to go with its rural charm. As you drive into town, you’ll pass the campus of SUNY New Paltz on your left and continue downhill on Main Street into the heart of the town. Parking can be difficult in this tiny destination, as it is often inundated with leaf peepers from all over and adventurous city-dwellers like yourself. A good place to park is on the left as you drive downhill in the Town Court parking lot. If it’s Sunday, however, the New Paltz Farmers Market will have taken over this coveted parking opportunity, and you may be forced to look for a place on the street.
10:00 a.m.: First stop: coffee
The drive was probably gorgeous but grueling, especially if you’re used to getting to sleep on the subway for your morning commute, so you may need some coffee and breakfast to put some pep in your step. There are several great coffee shops in the area but the best is the Mudd Puddle. To get to the Mudd Puddle, walk down the impossibly quaint, pedestrian-only Water Street Market. The Mudd Puddle greets you at the end of the street. This adorable coffee roaster and café combo provides all the staples: scones, cookies, coffee, tea, various types of milk, as well as more substantial breakfast and lunch classics. Everything is brewed, fried, or cooked up right before your eyes in a tiny kitchen behind the bar that gets the job done. You’ll order at a reclaimed wood counter covered with glass jars that hold dozens of varieties of loose-leaf tea (and perhaps fresh-out-of-the-oven, still-on-the-baking-tray cookies teetering on top). Grab a drink and a bagel and pick a seat. You can either sit inside among hanging coffee bags, mismatched furniture, and signs warning against laptop use, or outside where you can watch the goings-on of the market.
11:00 a.m.: Get out into the wilderness
You could easily spend all day popping in and out of shops in downtown, but you’ve come all this way from the concrete jungle, why not try to explore some actual jungle? Two of the best parks in New York are within a 15-minute drive of New Paltz. Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Mohonk Preserve. Both of these parks have weeks’ worth of exploring to offer, but we picked our favorite short activity from each to help you narrow down your options.
The best short activity at Minnewaska is a trip up to Lake Minnewaska. It will cost you $10 per car to get a day park pass and then you are free to enjoy Minnewaska’s glory. Parking is easy and bathrooms, picnic tables, and grills are all available near the parking lot. A short walk downhill brings you to Lake Minnewaska nestled in between picturesque cliffs and blossoming trees. While at the lake you can embark on a couple-mile hike around the circumference and then jump in the crystal clear water to cool off and refresh.
If you want some more height in your outdoor excursion, head to Mohonk Preserve instead. There you’ll encounter even more options for glorious trails. Park up at the visitor’s center and head inside to get maps and pay the $12 per hiker fee. Then embark on the 5-mile undercliff overcliff hike, a stunning loop that offers views for miles and miles of Hudson Valley splendor. Alternatively, for a shorter walk, the 1.5-mile long Trapps Mountain Hamlet Path to the Van Leuven cabin is a great bet; there is even an audio tour you can listen to while you walk! Find it here.
2:30 p.m.: Dawgs and doughnuts
You’re probably hungry from your hike or swim, so head back into town to try and scrounge up some grub. You’re going to want to grab something quick because there’ is no time to waste; you’ve got a town to explore! Try the Kosiner Brother’s Hot Dog Cart that parks at the front of Water St Market. These brothers whip up organic hot dogs with homemade toppings. They even have vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options! After you have finished your dogs walk about 3 meters over to the Kosiner Brothers other food venture. This Dohnut window offers inventive, ever-changing flavors such as Green Tea, Sarsaparilla Sugar, Samoa, and Sriracha—don’t miss out!
If your legs are tired and you’re in the mood for a sit-down lunch after your hike, try the Main Street Bistro. This place is seriously good and seriously crowded as a result. Be aware that you might have to wait a little while for a table on the weekend. A fantastic lunch there will cost you $7-12.
3:30 p.m.: Shop till you drop
Finally it’s time to explore all that the local shops have to offer! They have everything from hippy-dippy to antique heaven to unique chic. On Water Street Market alone you’ll find art galleries, artisanal cheese shops, and a bulk candy store reminiscent of penny-candy days. Take special notice of the Eden Boutique, which offers inventive, made-in-store jewelry that is both one-of-a-kind and affordable. If you’re hunting for any rustic, vintage décor for your apartment, the Antique Barn is the place for you. Dozens of different vendors set up their best finds in this multi-story barn-turned-store.
Venture out of this pedestrian haven to the Groovy Blueberry for some ’60s memorabilia, like rainbow pants and peace sign earrings. Then walk up Main Street to see what you might find. Don’t miss Jack’s Rhythms, a record store offering both old and new vinyl.
6:00 p.m.: Historic Huguenot Street
If you still have energy, this historic street is worth an amble. Breath in some history as you stroll down the block that is home to 10 Dutch-style stone homes that have been preserved by the descendants of the original Huguenot families to settle in New Paltz from Belgium. The Huguenots were followers of Protestant John Calvin and arrived in 1678 after fleeing persecution in their homeland. They were the first western settlers in the area.
7:00 p.m.: Dinner & Beer
Once you have worked up an appetite again, get excited because you’re going to the Gilded Otter. The Gilded Otter is a fantastic brewery with a better-than-average dinner menu. For dinner you can enjoy classics like Pizza, Ribs, Steak or Salmon. But the drink is really the highlight, with eight fresh beers on tap at all times there is something for everyone. They also do growler fills if one glass with dinner isn’t enough for you.
8:30 p.m.: Jam at a coffee shop or drink up
Cafeteria is a massive coffee shop that offers a place for students to hunker down and work during the day but turns into a fun music hot spot at night. Their motto, “great coffee, great atmosphere,” holds true, with comfortable furniture, carpets, and friendly vibes you might feel right at home. Check their calendar for upcoming music events and open mic nights!
Looking for something a bit rowdier to end your day? Try the dive bar Snug Harbor or the classy Huckleberry. Snug Harbor offers friendly bartenders, classic drinks, and unpretentious charm. Huckleberry is a bit more fancy and hipster, with drinks containing rosemary infused gin and bartenders called “mixologists.” Both are a solid way to end the night.
10:00 p.m.: Head home… or stay?
It’s time to kiss this hip haven goodbye and dream up your next trip North. Have a safe trip home!
But if you just can’t get enough, there is always the option to stay the weekend. New Paltz offers accommodations for all price ranges.
$: The New Paltz Hostel offers dorm rooms for $30 as well as private rooms for $70. Its location could not be better in the heart of downtown.
$$: Of course, Airbnb offers amazing accommodations almost anywhere, and New Paltz is no exception. Surf the site to find somewhere to crash for any price range but here are two mid range places that look especially alluring to get you started: this farmstead cottage for $150 a night and this adorable A-frame also for $150.
$$$: The Mohonk Mountain House is a hotel unlike any other. In fact it is more of a high-end spa/ resort. The Mountain House offers golfing, hiking, biking, swimming, massages, carriage rides, fly fishing, rock climbing and more. The hotel itself occupies a Victorian Castle dating from 1869 and is surrounded by 40,000 acres of natural beauty. However, with rooms starting at $536, it is pricy by anyone’s standards. But remember that you don’t have to fork out half a grand to explore the acres of wilderness.
Jemma Howlett is a writer, runner, traveller, college student and carb-enthusiast. Check out her coffee blog:thecoffeetravels.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jemmahow.
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