Day Trip to New Paltz, NY

New Paltz, New York makes a fantastic day trip or weekend getaway from Manhattan. For my first visit, a friend and I decided on a day trip. It’s roughly an hour and a half drive (depending on traffic) from Manhattan. Once we made it past the local urban sprawl it was a lovely scenic drive.

Because we only had one day — we planned to hike a section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (22-mile-long), wander around the town, and see where that left us with time.

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Many cities in the US have created trails for public use on abandoned rail corridors, for instance Charlotte, NC has one, Indiana has a few, and of course NYC has the Highline — a 1.45-mile-long elevated walkway built on a disused New York Central Railroad line on the West Side. These trails are a fantastic way to reuse existing routes with scenic views, or a way to create walking and bike paths through concrete jungles full of automobiles and noise.

As we drove down Main Street, it was apparent that New Paltz was an eclectic community full of arts, entertainment, shopping, and a variety of cafés and restaurants. The GPS took us to a middle point of the rail trail, and luckily there was a spot left in the parking area. We grabbed our packed lunches, and after a short discussion, chose a direction and set off.

The trail passes through the towns of Rosendale, Gardiner, the Historic Huguenot District in New Paltz, and ends in Kingston. The section of the trail we walked was its own oasis in the middle of town. It’s a hidden path surrounded by greenery with small creeks and wooded areas. In some spots it seemed secluded while other sections of the trail had businesses and homes beyond the trees, with pathways leading to some of the private properties. We spotted horses, ducks, and other small creatures scurrying around. After a while, we found a bench and had lunch out on the trail.

My one piece of advice – pay attention because the path is wide enough for two people to walk but many people bike the trail, so be prepared to move over and let people pass. I wish we had had time to walk more of the trail so that we could experience the sections with bridges, views of the Wallkill River, and the Shawangunk Ridge. Next trip.

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After walking the trail, we headed to Main Street to check out the local scene. The drive through town with the Shawangunk Ridge as a majestic backdrop was gorgeous. On the way, we came across fruit and vegetable stands, including Dressel Farms, which has ice cream, apple picking, and signs indicating that strawberry season is days away. My vegan self passed on the ice cream, but my friend ordered what she claimed was a very tasty shake.

A few popular food spots to check out if headed that way — Mexicali Blue, Huckleberry, New Paltz Indian restaurant, China House, and Bangkok Café. We found two chocolatiers, Lagusta’s Luscious and Krause’s.

For the book lovers –Barner Books and Inquiring Minds are across the street from each other, just off Main Street. I liked Barner Books, probably because they had vintage typewriters for sale. I’ll let you in on a secret…I have this romanticized notion about writing a novel on typewriter.

Our final stop of the day was the Village Tea Room. Yes, it’s a traditional teahouse with cakes and sandwiches but they also have a full menu including vegan options, if tea isn’t your thing. I recommend the Monk tee. They also have a signature vanilla cake (not vegan) that looks like a bee hive with apricot preserves, honey butter cream and petite chocolate bees on top. The apricot jam looks like honey oozing out of the layers. My friend ordered a slice to go. I heard it was yummy but not too sweet.

For my next visit, I want to see the Minnewaska State Park, which is situated in the Shawangunk Mountains. It’s a hikers paradise replete with waterfalls, lakes, and dense forests. There is also the Mohonk Preserve with streams, fields and mountains that spans 8,000 acres of land, or the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary with 56 acres of grasses and plants. And after all that hiking, maybe a visit to one of the local wineries or breweries is in order. With all of the outdoor adventures this could turn into a regular weekend getaway.