Picture a groovy small town with mountainous landscapes and a caring community. Right in New York’s Hudson Valley, about a 20-minute drive from the Poughkeepsie Train Station, is the picturesque town of New Paltz. Home to the State University of New York at New Paltz and a gateway to the Shawangunk Mountains, the town is an attraction in and of itself. New Paltz is a welcoming community that offers plenty to do, from shops and restaurants to outdoor activities for the casual and determined exercise enthusiast. You can also catch your breath as you make a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Wildly popular for its glorious landscapes, the Shawangunk Ridge offers a sweeping backdrop punctuated by a historic landmark that remains iconic — Sky Top Tower at the Mohonk Mountain House.
As a current New Paltz resident and graduate student from SUNY New Paltz, I can speak first hand for this beautiful town. Originating from Long Island, I have always been blown away by the mountainous landscape and overall ambience of the village.
Visiting New Paltz and residing here is like having your own little piece of nirvana. After four years of living here, I still find myself in awe of the scenery and community. Even if I’m just grabbing a coffee, I find the ridge following me everywhere I go.
Getting to New Paltz
Readily accessible by Amtrak —New Paltz is a mere 12 miles from the Poughkeepsie Train Station — an easy cab ride will take you to town. Public bus transportation is also available and takes approximately 45 mintues. However, if you’re interested in fully immersing yourself in the Hudson’s Valley’s scenic grandeur, New Paltz can be reached by way of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Empire State Trail. From the Amtrak Station, head to Walkway Over the Hudson, which spans the Hudson River and brings you to the Town of Lloyd. The trail will lead you from Highland, in the Town of Lloyd, to New Paltz.
If you’re in New Paltz for nature, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is the perfect place to start. The entrance to the trail can be found right outside of New Paltz’s Water Street Market. Both the Wallkill Valley and Hudson Valley Rail Trails take on special meaning as critical components of New York’s Empire State Trail. The 750-mile trail links New York City, the Hudson Valley, Champlain Valley Adirondack Mountains, Erie Canal and Buffalo.
While on the Walkill Valley or Hudson Valley Rail Trail, you can enjoy countless activities, such as hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, bicycling and even horseback riding. The Walkill Valley Rail Trail follows the Wallkill River, where kayaking is allowed. I often take the rail trail when I’m looking to get swept up in New Paltz’ natural environment without having to drive to the greater hiking locations.
Water Street Market
Located on lower Main Street, Water Street Market features shops, restaurants and public art. A local eatery like the Grazery is the perfect place to catch a fantastic bite to eat. Once known as the Cheese Plate, the Grazery has been transformed into a restaurant and plant shop where you can order sandwiches, salads and charcuterie boards, while browsing countless plants for sale.
My personal favorite activity on Water Street is enjoying a little bit of everything from the restaurants. You can never go wrong with a charcuterie board from Grazery and a glass of wine from Jar’d Wine Pub, while taking in stunning views of the Shawangunk Mountains from the back porch. You might want to commemorate your trip with some New Paltz merch, which is available at Mixture.
Due north of Water Street Market, you’ll find Historic Huguenot Street. This piece of history is an educational experience. Huguenot Street is a National Historic Landmark, encompassing over 300 years of Hudson Valley history.
Anytime I’ve walked this street, I feel like I’m rewinding time while taking in the houses, church, cemetery and community that laid the foundation for modern-day New Paltz. The Huguenot Street community dates to the late 1600s and early 1700s. The street’s history mainly focuses on the early 16th century with the original settlers of New Paltz.
The museum is closed for the season, but the historic district is open from dawn to dusk and offers the perfect spot for a stroll. Enhance your visit to Historic Huguenot Street by downloading the free walking tour app.
In between Water Street Market and Historic Huguenot Street, downtown New Paltz offers an unforgettable experience with numerous restaurants, bars and boutiques. New Paltz prioritizes local, small businesses and you’ll be sure to find your new favorite eatery or shop here with so many great options.
Whenever I’m treating myself to some of New Paltz’ delicious food, I always head to Main Street. On Main Street, you can find a variety of cuisine, such as German, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Middle Eastern and much more. For breakfast, Main Street Bistro is a spot with growing popularity that specializes in breakfast foods with a unique spin. Signature Bistro dishes include Chicken & Waffle; My Friend, Asparagus; the Zoo Canoe; and the enduring Tofu Scramble.
If I ever end up having to wait in line for Main Street Bistro, I spend my time exploring the nearby side streets and murals.
Restaurants and Shops
A popular lunch option is Lola’s Cafe, which serves sandwiches, salads and wraps. Be sure to check out their delicious milkshake specials and beer as well. I try to change it up whenever I visit Lola’s, but the BLAT with a side of fries will always be my favorite. For dinner, visit Mexicali Blue for takeout, a Mexican restaurant with award-winning menu items. Their short rib burrito was named best burrito in the country by the Food Network at their Wappingers Falls location, so you’ll really be in for a treat.
Looking to sit down and eat? McGillicuddy’s doubles as a bar and restaurant, serving some of the best appetizers in town. Whenever I’m looking to shop, I always visit the newly opened Dancing Hands Jewelry, or the classic Groovy Blueberry.
BC Climbing Gym
Heading towards the east end of Main Street, you will find many other local eateries, grocery stores and shops. But the hidden jewel of Main Street is BC Climbing Gym. Opened in 2018, the rock climbing gym is situated in the Walgreens parking lot. Inside, you’ll find a fun rock climbing adventure suited for adults.
To experience BC Climbing Gym, you’ll have to make an appointment through their website. An appointment affords visitors up to two hours of climbing for only $15. While visiting this gym, you might be tempted to experience a more exhilarating rock climbing experience. Luckily you won’t have to look too much further.
Beyond the Carmine Liberta Bridge
Head back down Main Street and the Carmine Liberta Bridge will take you across the Wallkill River. Beyond the western shore of this waterway, a gorgeous pastoral landscape home to small businesses, farmland and of course, the flora and fauna of New Paltz await your arrival.
Driving over the bridge is always a feeling I can’t shake. I’m astonished each time by how lucky this small town of ours is to have such easy access to some of the greatest views I’ve ever witnessed.
No matter the season, this mountainous environment is a treat to residents and visitors alike. Whether you’re in the heat of summer greenery, or the colorful strip of sunflower fields and Autumn leaves, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of New Paltz. Now in the winter season, you’ll find a picturesque winter wonderland.
Bear right just past the bridge and you will head to the luxurious Mohonk Mountain House. The famous resort, which dates back to 1869, offers lodging and dining. In such a majestic setting, the hotel also offers hiking, ice skating and a spa. Day packages are also available.
The two most popular hikes at the hotel are the Labyrinth/Lemon Squeeze and the path to Sky Top Tower. Both trails lead to the tower, but speaking from personal experience, the Labyrinth/Lemon Squeeze is much more vigorous.
Hiking the Labyrinth took me through an exciting rock scramble and to the Lemon Squeeze. The Lemon Squeeze is a mountain crevice, which I climbed up through various ladders. While this experience was a bit nerve wracking, the view of New Paltz makes it all worth it. I’ve found the Sky Top Tower trail to be a much easier uphill hike, and the bird’s-eye-view from the top of the tower is something you simply can’t pass up.
If you’re not staying at the hotel, and only looking to hike, you can still enjoy Mohonk’s nature.
Mohonk Mountain House sits adjacent to the Mohonk Preserve. Each year welcomes 300,000 visitors to its more than 8,000 acres of mountain ridges, forests, fields, streams and ponds. Cross-country skiing, hiking, walking, rock climbing and biking are some of the activities to that make the Mohonk Preserve an international destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Close to Mohonk Preserve is Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Lake Minnewaska offers a mostly flat hike along cliffs that oversee the lake. The Awosting Falls trail takes you beyond the cascading water to the lush forestry of the park.
Minnewaska is the first stop I made when first arriving in New Paltz. I still can’t get enough of it, even after returning several times. The park is something everyone should experience at least once in their life.
For those who’d rather sit back and relax, you can find Robibero Family Vineyards on Albany Post Road. The vineyard is on your way back to downtown New Paltz, but before you cross back over the bridge. Here, you can enjoy handcrafted wines, wine tastings and various foods. If you’re visiting during the weekend, try their delectable wood fired pizza while enjoying the vineyard.
As always in New Paltz, you can enjoy a view with your handcrafted wine. Feel free to bring your leashed pets as well.
No matter where you are in the town of New Paltz, you’ll have an unforgettable experience. Consider returning during the fall, spring and summer, as each season gives New Paltz a singular identity.
Take Amtrak to New Paltz, NY
Transportation from Poughkeepsie to New Paltz
Get picked up from the Poughkeepsie Station and taken to your reserved NYTRAIN Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Click here to reserve your car or call the Poughkeepsie office today at 845-485-2222.
UCAT (Ulster County Area Transit) provides public transportation service from the Poughkeepsie Train Station to the SUNY New Paltz campus which is near downtown New Paltz. The services takes approximately 45 minutes. Click here for the UCAT bus schedule.
Where to Stay in the Hudson Valley
Looking for a getaway opportunity? Spend the night and experience all the Hudson Valley has to offer. Take a look at these great hotel options—some offering exclusive New York By Rail discounts!