19 Uniquely Fun Things to Do in New Paltz, NY + Hidden Gems

New Paltz is a small town in the Catskills surrounded by wilderness and world-renowned for its outdoor opportunities. Backed by the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains, travelers to the town of New Paltz have access to countless hiking and biking trails, national parks, lakes, and stunning views of the valley below. New Paltz’ downtown is also fun to walk around with its boutique shops, cafes, arts, restaurants, and historic gems dotting the main streets. I love how it’s also an intellectual and artistic hub, thanks to SUNY New Paltz. And whether you choose to spend a day or longer in this bohemian oasis, it won’t take you long to realize why New Paltz is considered one of the coolest small towns in Upstate New York!

How to Get to New Paltz

  • BUS: Taking the bus between New Paltz and NYC the most popular ways to travel to the Catskills, if you don’t have a car. The ride takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes and costs between $20-$40 depending on the time of day. Buses leave from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue in Manhattan and pull into the New Paltz Trailways station right in town. You can combine this with Ubers to nearby gems, but the Ubers might take a little bit to reach you. So plan them accordingly.
  • CAR RENTAL: Renting a car to drive from NYC to New Paltz allows you the freedom to explore the nearby Shawangunk Mountain Ridge and parks. There aren’t many places to rent a car in New Paltz, but you can rent one in Newburgh (Hertz), Poughkeepsie (Hertz), Northern White Plains (Budget) and you can get there by train from NYC, avoid the city traffic, and get cheaper rates.
  • TRAIN: Unfortunately, there are no trains that pull directly into New Paltz. If you want to take the train most of the way, you could take the Hudson Line on Metro North to the Poughkeepsie Station (about 2 hours) and then order an Uber.

Uniquely Fun Things to Do in New Paltz

1. Shop at the Water Street Market 

Shopping on Water Street Market feels like stepping into a small village full of local goods and gifts. Each boutique shop on the street is independently owned and unique, offering curated collections of clothing, art, plants, pottery, and collectibles.

There are two antique shops worth the visit: Antiques on Main and the Antiques Barn, with loads of vintage finds. And there are also tables in front of the barn to gather with friends and family to enjoy a bite to eat and a coffee from the Mudd Puddle Cafe or Johnny’s Food Shack.

Here, you can also dine in at The Parish Restaurant or sample local wines at Jar’d Wine Pub.

Dogs are welcome in the market and most places!

2. Minnewaska State Park Preserve ★

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a must-visit attraction in New Paltz, spanning over 22,275 acres of the Shawangunk Mountains. The views here are like no other, overlooking thick forests and three crystalline Sky Lakes that are clear and free of wildlife due to a high acidity level. With 50 miles of hiking trails, 30 miles of carriage trails, waterfalls, and so many ways to explore them, Minnewaska is easily one of the most amazing parks in New York State. It’s just a 12-minute drive from New Paltz to spend the day here biking, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, boating, bouldering, and even scuba diving!

  • Lake Awosting: A super pretty blue lake and remote swimming destination in Minnewaska with a flat rock slab beach, accessible by a series of carriageways from the park entrance (The Upper Awosting Trail is the most direct route). Swimming is only available between 11:00 am to 5:30 pm when staff is available in the summer.  
  • Lake Minnewaska: The second Sky Lake in the park with a hiking trail that goes around the entire lake. Swimming is available by the boat launch in a small section. Bring your own paddle boat or rent a kayak or canoe onsite. 
  • Gertrudes Nose: One of the best spots for scenic views in Minnewaska and easily one of the most beautiful hikes in Upstate New York. It’s a long hike best done if you’re spending the weekend away in the fall so you can experience all the foliage. 
  • Awosting Falls: These are the favorite waterfalls to visit in the park, accessible by parking in the northern lot and walking 0.25 miles on the sidewalk leading to the top. Awosting Falls scale 60 feet high and is surrounded by stunning wilderness that consistently makes it one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in New York State. Note: No swimming allowed here. 
  • Rainbow Falls: This is not to be confused with the Rainbow Falls in the Adirondacks! Rainbow Falls in Minnewaska can be accessed by the Mossy Glen Trail, with several scenic views along the way. There are a few short climbs, but the falls are worth it, falling from 150 feet high over a gorge adjacent to Triple Cascade. NOTE: Parts of the trail are very buggy; bring spray!
  • Verkeerdkill Falls + Sam’s Point Hike: This part of Minnewaska has a little bit of everything! You can hike the full 8.6-mile loop to experience Sam’s Point Overlook, Verkeerdkill Falls, and extras like ice caves and Rare Dwarf Pine Barren. If you’re just looking for a spectacular view, you can hike 1.2-mile round trip to Sam’s Point Overlook to get some spectacular views of Shawangunk terrain. There is a separate fee to enter this park of the park, and you need to reserve a parking spot on the weekends from April to November. 

3. Mohonk Preserve ★ 

The Mohonk Preserve is one of the most popular attractions in New Paltz. It’s also home to one of the best resorts in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House. The Mohonk Preserve is the largest private nature preserve in New York State, with over 8,000 acres of the Shawangunk Mountains to explore and topping our list of best places to visit in Upstate New York for its natural beauty.

Visitors can access more than 70 miles of old carriage roads and trails for hiking and biking and a host of world-famous Shawangunk cliffs for rock climbers. In the winter, trails are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to make for a lovely outdoor winter day trip from NYC. Camping on the preserve is available at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground if you reserve a spot online. 

Here are some of the many trails at Mohonk Preserve:

  • Coxing: Hiking, climbing, and wading in Coxing Kill Stream at Split Rock.
  • Spring Farm: Hiking, rock scrambling, horseback riding, biking. Known for the “Million Dollar View” of the Catskill Mountains. For horseback riding, you must bring your own horse, or you can contact the Mohonk Mountain House Resort to see if rentals are available as a part of their day visitor program. 
  • Testimonial Gateway: This is the first new trailhead created on the preserve in 26 years! It’s open for hiking, running, and cycling and passes the Testimonial Gateway Tower, originally the entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House. This is a great trailhead to take if you’re cycling to and from the village of New Paltz. 
  • Labyrinth + Lemon Squeeze: The trail begins leisurely but transforms into an adventure involving climbing, cave exploration, and tight passages. The trail’s climax, Lemon Squeeze, is a narrow rock passage with ladders, leading to stunning panoramic views at the top.
  • West Trapps: Hiking, biking, bouldering, climbing. Neighbors the lands of Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Mountain House. 

While you don’t have to be a guest at the Mountain House to access the preserve and activities, you do need to buy a day pass or a preserve membership ahead of time. Another hack to enjoying the preserve is to buy a dining experience at Mohonk Mountain House, which includes access to more grounds, a luxury meal, and better parking. If you plan to go here for a winter day trip from New York City, don’t forget to book a winter sports pass for your outdoor activities.

Since Mohonk Preserve is one of the most popular attractions in New Paltz, and it is private property, book ahead of time and avoid weekends!

4. Mohonk Mountain House Resort ★

Mohonk Preserve is also home to one of the most luxurious resorts in Upstate New York: Mohonk Mountain House. The endless trails, luxurious amenities, farm-to-table cuisine, and stunning views of the lakes and surrounding mountains make the Mohonk Mountain House Resort one of the best weekend getaways, only 2 hours from New York City.

The original hotel was founded in 1869 and designed to look like a Victorian castle and offers guests a number of all-inclusive packages, including dining, recreation, and relaxation.

The Mountain House also offers a variety of resort day passes for guests who want to enjoy the grounds and activities without the stay. Guests can opt-in for meals, spa passes, hiking passes, summer/winter sports passes, golf, and access to the resort’s outdoor activities. 

5. Lagusta’s Luscious Chocolates & Cafe 

If you find yourself over on Front Street by the Empire State Hiking Trail, stop for a sweet artisanal chocolate treat at Lagusta’s Luscious Chocolates & Cafe. This delicious spot has deep roots in the community, with a commitment to social justice, veganism, and environmentalism, and specializes in small-batch creations as a result. Some of the favorite flavor combinations are the cranberry orange and mango chili lime caramels, rock scramble tins to play off the mountain surroundings and pride bark. The creations are simply beautiful, and the shop also offers handmade drinks and pastries! 

6. Explore the Historic Huguenot Street

Historic Huguenot Street is set in the 10-acre National Historic Landmark District in New Paltz and charted by the University of the State of New York. It offers visitors the opportunity to explore over 300 years of history, with seven stone house museums, a burial ground, and hundreds of artifacts from the original Huguenot settlers and enslaved indigenous and African people who worked the grounds. Guided tours of the area are offered Wednesday through Sunday; you must register online and purchase tickets to enter the site. You can also find some fun and free events hosted by the district throughout the year to learn more about the unique history of New Paltz.

7. Robibero Family Winery 

Robibero Family Winery spans over 42 stunning acres of land in and around the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge. This boutique winery produces small-lot artisan wines unique to the crops grown in New York State. Because the wines are limited, most Robibero wines are only available to try or purchase onsite or on their website. Wine tastings are $20 per person, and visitors are encouraged to bring their own food to a picnic with the option to purchase wood-fired pizza and pretzels on the weekend.

Other wineries in the region to check out:

8. Go Sky Diving

If you’re adventurous enough, consider flying up on a small plane and skydiving over the beautiful Catskills! My palms are sweaty just thinking about it. Skydive The Ranch offers all sorts of experiences starting at $239 per person. Plus, you can opt for pictures/videos for $99!

9. Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary 

Founders of the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary designed the 56 acres of wilderness as a forever escape for residents and visitors to explore New Paltz’s natural wonders. The sanctuary is rich with plants, animals, tall grasses, and herbaceous plants. Hikers will find an “oxbow” on the property, wetlands, and a host of peaceful ponds. This is a great place to stop when visiting Historic Huguenot Street down the road. There are no garbage cans or picnic areas, so be sure to bring out what you bring in. 

10. Visit the Local Farms 

The base of the Shawangunk Mountains is full of rich and sprawling fields, providing New Paltz visitors with some excellent choices farm grown goods! 

  • Twin Star Orchards: Home of Brooklyn Cider House ciders, this is one of our favorite fun farms to visit in Upstate New York, offering a full menu of craft cider, burgers, barbeque, and wood-fired pizzas. They have outdoor seating perfect for experiencing the beautiful country views and a mountain backdrop, and it’s only 6 minutes from town. 
  • Huguenot Street Farm: This farm is located on historic Huguenot Street and grows over 125 varieties of vegetables, flowers, and fruits across 77 acres. The farm is a beacon of organic agriculture in the region and allows you to choose from a variety of produce freshly picked from the fields. (I don’t think this is a visiting farm)  
  • Jenkins-Luekin Orchards: Known for growing some of the best apples in the Hudson Valley, visitors can pick apples and pumpkins starting in September and a variety of berries starting in June. They also have a farm stand open all year round, and it’s only a 7-minute drive from the center of New Paltz. 
  • Dressel Farms: This farm offers apple and strawberry picking with a farm stand full of seasonal homegrown vegetables and fruits. A perfect summer spot to stop for homemade ice cream, local honey, and maple syrup, less than 5 minutes south of Main Street. 

11. Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art 

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art features six galleries for guests to explore, with a permanent collection of over 6,000 pieces spanning over 4,000 years of history! The galleries place a heavy emphasis on American art specific to the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley region. Displays include photographs, prints, and contemporary metals. The museum is located on the SUNY New Paltz campus near the entrance past the glass pyramid Student Union Building. Admission is a suggested $5 donation, and regular visiting hours go from 11 am to 5 pm, Wednesday through Sunday, except August, when the museum is only open on the weekends. 

12. Bike the Wallkill Valley Trail 

The Wallkill Valley Trail is a section of the Empire State Trail that begins in New Paltz, with several options for trail access throughout the town. The most popular route is to  ride 13 miles north to the end of the trail, only 2 miles from the town of Kingston. Most of the trail is comprised of stone dust and winds through woods, historical landmarks, and over an old railroad trestle in Rosendale. Watch out for horses that frequent this section, and be aware that there are only public services available at the beginning and end of the trail.  

13. Go Glamping

New Paltz provides so many opportunities for camping, surrounded by natural wonders. But, if you’re looking for a little bit more luxury with your camping experience, glamping is the way to go. Glamping offers accommodations that are a little less mobile but jam-packed with amenities so you are comfortably enjoying Upstate New York.

Here are a few options for booking a killer glamping spot in the New Paltz area:

14. John R. Kirk Planetarium + Smolen Observatory 

Set on the SUNY New Paltz campus, the John R. Kirk Planetarium is an educational experience open to the public, providing a host of events throughout the year. Astronomy Nights are held at the planetarium on the first and third Thursday of every month during the school session (tickets required). These events are perfect for visitors of all ages, beginning with a planetarium show and then moving over to the Smolen Observatory for a telescope viewing when the skies are clear (no tickets required). You can participate in the telescope viewing, planetarium show, or both!

15. New Paltz Art Galleries 

New Paltz is brimming with culture, art, and creative minds, resulting in some pretty awesome art galleries scattered around the village.  

  • DM Weil Gallery: A beautiful open gallery on Brunswick Street (right of Main Street) featuring contemporary art pieces created by abstract local artist DM Weil. Call for gallery hours
  • Roost Studios and Art Gallery: Contemporary art gallery on Main Street presenting works from local emerging artists and renowned creators. Open to the public and for community events such as poetry readings and workshops. 
  • Mark Gruber Gallery: This gallery has been featuring fine art from local creators around the Hudson Valley since 1976, with gallery hours from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday by appointment. 

16. Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa 

If you’re planning a weekend getaway from NYC in New Paltz, Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa offers fun spa amenities for every season. Only 20 minutes from the town, the facility is spread out across a 75-acre estate overlooking the Hudson River with onsite lodging, an orchard, a farm-to-table restaurant, an animal sanctuary, and hiking trails in addition to the spa.

You can book a variety of spa services during daytime or evening hours, or splurge on a weekend or week retreat to experience everything the spa has to offer. Note that some parts of the Buttermilk Falls grounds are under construction for renovations, so be sure to ask about any experiences you are interested in to minimize disruptions during your visit. 

17. Slide Mountain Wilderness 

Slide Mountain Wilderness is off the beaten path, an hour away from New Paltz, but worth the trip if you are looking for outdoor hiking trails. The trails at Slide Mountain are considered more difficult, perfect for experienced climbers. For beginners or hikers looking for easy trails, there are still a few options to enjoy the jaw-dropping mountain views. 

18. New Paltz Open Air Market

The New Paltz Open Air Market features fantastic produce from local farmers surrounding the town, but it’s more than just a farmer’s market. You can find a ton of handmade goods, natural products, art, baked goods, meats, cheeses, and so much more, all produced within 40 miles of New Paltz. Live music from local musicians perform while you shop, and visitors are right in the center of shopping and restaurants. Market hours are from 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays from June to October.

19. Indoor Climbing Classes 

The Shawgunk Mountain Ridge is bursting with boulders and ledges to climb if you have the right equipment and technique to do it safely. Try taking an indoor climbing class at BC’s Climbing Gym, located right off Main Street in the Walgreens Plaza. This facility provides a variety of rock walls and obstacles to teach boulder climbing skills that can translate from indoor to outdoor settings. You can opt for a day pass to climb on your own (rental equipment available if needed) or sign up for a private lesson.

20. Watch a Show at the Denizen Theatre

Also located on Water Street, the Denizen Theatre is a wonderful place to catch a one-of-a-kind performance before or after you shop and dine in the market. This black box venue provides guests with an intimate experience in a 70-seat space. Seasonal shows highlight actor-driven contemporary plays featuring emerging playwrights and new talent. You can catch a mix of theatre, film, play readings, and workshops and pursue a Gallery space with visual art displays. There is no place on the website to purchase tickets, but you can follow the Denizen Theatre Facebook page for details on upcoming events, ticket sales, and show times. 

Best Restaurants in New Paltz + Surrounding Area 

New Paltz is full of different restaurants and breweries to explore, relax with friends and enjoy the many cultures and creative minds that have settled in the Village. 

  • Mountain Brauhaus: This authentic German restaurant, just 8 minutes up the Shawangunk Ridge, is one of the best places to eat in New Paltz, with classic favorites like schnitzel & spaetzle and a variety of German beers. (Reservations encouraged) 
  • Rough Cut Brewing: About 20 minutes from New Paltz in Kerhonkson, Rough Cut is a fun brewery that offers a full menu of comfort foods, perfect for fueling up after hiking in the nearby preserve or parks. 
  • Huckleberry:This place has a warm atmosphere and a great patio to sit outdoors, offering uniquely named cocktails, small plates, sandwiches, tacos, and donuts!
  • Main Street Bistro: A casual bistro located right in the heart of the Village with breakfast and lunch menus that both feature a variety of classic dishes–some with a twist!
  • A Tavola Trattoria: Voted one of the best restaurants in the Hudson Valley in years past for their homemade pasta, family atmosphere, and authentic Italian countryside cuisine. 

Best Hotels in New Paltz Area 

The world-renowned scenery and outdoor excursions in New Paltz make it one of the most popular weekend getaways in the mountains, well worth the overnight stay. There’s many places to stay in New Paltz and the surrounding region, from Catskills resorts to cabin rentals to bed and breakfasts and more. 

  • Mohonk Mountain House: One of the most luxurious resorts in Upstate New York on the Mohonk Preserve. Totally worth the stay if you are planning to spend a good amount of time doing outdoor activities, with several accommodation options, including the Mountain House, Grove Lodge, or a choice of elegant suites. 
  • Wildflower Farms (Auberge Resorts): Stunning scenic stay on 140 acres in Gardiner, where you have clear views of the Shawangunk Mountains. This is a rustic, nature resort featuring fields of wildflowers, forest pasts, cliffs, a working farm, and many wellness services like reiki and sound baths to enrich the body, mind, and soul.  
  • Watergrasshill Bed & Breakfast: This is an updated bed and breakfast perfect for hikers looking to be close to the Mohonk Preserve, only 7 miles from hiking trails. There are four rooms for rent with en-suite bathrooms, some with mountain views, and all with complimentary amenities including day passes to the preserve, cooking classes, and a host of workshops to keep guests busy. 
  • Mountain View Escape Rental: This rental home is perfect for a romantic weekend away or stay with friends (sleeps 3), with a private deck, outdoor area, and views of the Shawangunk Ridge. It’s only 8 minutes from the town center and close to nearby wineries. 

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About the Author: Michelle Peterson

Michelle Peterson lives in the Hudson Valley, NY, with her three sons. She loves exploring the New York outdoors in all seasons. In addition to travel, she enjoys writing poetry and children’s stories.

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