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I think that we can all agree that 2020 didn’t go quite as planned. With all of my international trips cancelled, I took the time to explore more of my own backyard, with local trips in New York State. New York State is so diverse, and I am always surprised by all of the beauty that I can discover just outside of NYC. New Paltz made the list for one of my summer of 2020 weekend family vacations. This guide will cover the 8 best things to do in New Paltz.
8 Best Things to do in New Paltz
New Paltz is a small town in Ulster county located approximately 2 hours (80 miles) north of New York City. It is the perfect weekend getaway for New Yorkers who are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get a bit of fresh air. New York State is so diverse, and I am always surprised by all of the beauty that I can discover just outside of the busy city.
The town of New Paltz is a college town at heart, as it is home to the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz. However New Paltz has so much more to offer visitors!
#1 Go for a hike in the mountains
Many New Yorkers are looking for fresh air and the outdoors when they escape the city for the weekend. New Paltz has tons to offer in terms of great hikes, as hiking is one the best things to do in New Paltz. I would recommend packing a pair of sturdy hiking boots, as the many of the trails are quite steep. I just got a pair from Columbia that I absolutely love! I wore them for the first time on a 10 mile hike with no issues at all.
Minnewaska State Park
Located on the famous Shawangunk Ridge, hiking in Minnewaska State Park is one of the best things to do in New Paltz. Although technically located in the neighboring town of Kerhonkson, Minnewaska State Park is only a short drive from the center of New Paltz. You can reach the park by car from New Paltz in approximately 15-20 minutes. The park offers over 50 different trails, ranging in length and difficulty. Many people don’t realize how many incredible hikes there are so close to the city. I’ve compiled a list of the 10 best hikes in upstate NY here.
While it is free to hike the trails, there is a parking fee of $10 USD per car. The park is open from 9am to 7pm daily. They are currently limiting the amount of people who can enter the park each day, so I recommend arriving before 9am in order to make sure you make it in. When we arrived at 8:40am there was already a long line of cars waiting to get in.
For travelers looking for a quick, easy stroll, I recommend just doing the quick loop around the lake. This is easily accessible from the Upper parking lot, and shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes to an hour to complete. There is even a public swimming area if you’re visiting on a hot day!
However, for those travelers looking for a moderately difficult hike, I definitely recommend Gertrude’s Nose. This 8 mile loop offers some of the most incredible views over the Hudson Valley. Plus it is super Instagramable! The hike can be completed in 4-5 hours, with a fair amount of elevation gain along the way. Make sure to pack the appropriate amount of water (I recommend 2 liters), and wear proper shoes. If you’re looking for something a bit easier, you can check out the Minnewaska State Park website for a list of all of their trails and the trail map.
Here are a few of my favorite hiking outfit pieces:
- Patagonia Nano Puff
- Patagonia Better Sweater
- Short Sleeve Workout Top
- Long Sleeve Workout Top
- Sleeveless Workout Top
If you enjoy hiking, you can also check out my guide to one of my favorite hiking areas in the Adirondacks, the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.
Leave No Trace Guidelines
Please remember to always respect the trails by staying on the designated paths and not leaving behind any garbage. This includes food scraps, masks, and any and everything that you bring with you! With the current pandemic in the world, there has been in an increase in traffic on many of New York’s trails. It is more important than ever to follow the rules of Leave No Trace. I have linked some more information here for you, but always feel free to reach out with any questions.
The Mohonk Mountain House is known to be one of the most beautiful hotel properties in the Northeast. I have to say, it definitely didn’t disappoint. While I wouldn’t necessarily pay the steep rates for spending the night at their hotel, there are plenty of trails that you can explore on their day pass. We booked lunch here, which gave us access to the many trails surrounding the property, as well as the boats! The Mohonk Preserve is New York State’s largest visitor and member-supported nature preserve
You can also rent a boat, even if you haven’t made a reservation for lunch! They have paddle boards, kayaks, and wooden boats.
#2 Go Cider Tasting (one of the best things to do in New Paltz)
I love love love cider. And I don’t mean the gross, overly sweet cider, but the crisp, tart homemade ciders. New Paltz is home to some of the best cider breweries, and cider tasting is one of the best things to do in New Paltz. There are also two wineries right in the town, the Robibero Family Vineyards and the Adair Vineyards, if that’s more your vibe.
Brooklyn Cider House at Twin Star Orchards
I had actually visited the Brooklyn location of the Brooklyn Cider House for my birthday in 2019, which is what inspired my interest in New Paltz. Unfortunately the Brooklyn location closed in 2020, so it was even more of a reason to visit. The cider house offers free tastings, so you can get a sense of what you like when you arrive. I personally love their Raw option, which has a bit of a kombucha vibe to it.
Once you’ve selected your favorite, you can order a bottle (or two) and grab some food to go with it. Their pizzas are truly delicious! The prices are super reasonable, with each bottle averaging $12-14. At 7% ABV, this is a great deal!
Kettleborough Cider House
Kettleborough Cider House is another great option to add to your “must do things in New Paltz list”. Although the space is a bit smaller than the Brooklyn Cider House, the views are absolutely incredible. I recommend visiting at sunset for the best views over the valley. While they don’t offer any full dining options, you can purchase small snacks to accompany your cider.
#3 Take a Stroll down Main Street
The Main Street is a great place to spend the afternoon. You’ll find plenty of funky boutique shops, as well as cafes and bars. The town is super charming, with plenty of great places to eat.
#4 Stay at the Dome House
The Dome House might just be the one of the coolest AirBnBs that I’ve ever stayed at. And the best part, it is located just 2 hours outside of NYC. (If you’re looking for an AirBnB in NYC, check out The Funky Loft). The entire house, which is located 5 minutes outside of the center of town, is shaped like a dome. The decor is absolutely incredible, with bright whites, tons of wood, and amazing natural lighting.
All photos in this post are edited with the World Explorer Preset Pack
Unfortunately the owners are selling the house, so I can’t promise that it will be on AirBnb for long. But that’s an even better reason to book your stay here ASAP. Here is the link for those of you interested in booking.
#5 Visit the Historic Huguenot Street
A visit to the Historic Huguenot Street is a great way to soak up the town’s history. The French Protestant Huguenot families arrived in New Paltz approximately 350 years ago to escape religious persecution. This 10-acre historic district features a reconstructed 1717 French Church and the Huguenot community’s original burying ground. If you’re into learning a bit of history, this is a site that you won’t want to miss.
Tours a typically offered of the land, but for now you can do a self-guided tour. You can download an audio tour as well. For more information on visiting you can check out the Historic Huguenot Street website.
#6 Go Rock Climbing
The Shawangunk Ridge that shadows over the town of New Paltz is considered to be one of the best rock-climbing sites in all of North America. If rock climbing isn’t your thing but you’re interested in a little scramble, you can check out Mohonk’s Lemon Squeeze trail.
#7 Hike the Rail Trail
The trail actually connects several small towns, New Paltz being one of them. You can bike the trail as well if that is preferred.
#8 Visit a Local Farm
Dressel Farms is probably the most popular farm in New Paltz. In the warmer months you’ll find berries and peaches, whereas in the Fall you can pick your own apples.
Visiting New York? Here are some other guides that you should check out:
- 10 Best Hikes in Upstate NY
- Siamese Ponds Wilderness: Camping in the Adirondacks
- A Local’s Guide to NYC
- Best Cheap Eats in NYC
- The Best Instagram Spots in NYC
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