DESTINATION: NEW PALTZ
One day road trips have always been a staple for families and friends.
Post-pandemic, the easy escape is the rage!
The destination should be far enough away from home that it feels like going someplace, but not so far that the day is spent in the car or that too early of a return home is required – a one to two hour drive is optimum. Enough time for some real conversation, but not a feat of endurance.
The destination should involve some natural, scenic and artistic beauty – whether that’s the thing to see and do, or the beauty surrounding an attraction. And it’s an added benefit when the drive to and from is also scenic or interesting from a historic, geographic or geologic viewpoint.
The destination should feature: a healthy activity or activities that everyone in the group can enjoy; some cultural experience or exposure, and; good food.
And, for a delightful day, plans should include a stop or two on the way, or the way back, to visit a museum or historic site or other point of interest.
NEW PALTZ has it all!
For Fairchester-ites, New Paltz is about a 90 minute drive. It’s in Ulster County, across the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park. It’s situated on the edge of the most prominent and majestic part of the Shawangunk Ridge, also known as the Shawangunk Mountains or the Gunks, which is a ridge of bedrock that runs as far south as Virginia and forms the southeastern rim of the Catskill Mountains. And it’s the home to the State University of New York at New Paltz, with about 7,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students.
The surroundings are astounding! At and around New Paltz, the Gunks include some of the Shawangunk’s most dramatic 2,300 foot peaks and sheer rock walls. They feature the nearby Shawawngunk Ridge Trail, the Shawangunk Nature Preserve and Mohonk Preserve, the Witch’s Hole State Forest, the Stony Kill Falls, the Minnewaska State Forest, and the 88-mile Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway. The scenery around New Paltz is world class…and for Fall Foliage, New Paltz is whatever is at the pinnacle of that.
And, most importantly, New Paltz offers renowned hiking and outdoor opportunities for people of all ages and levels, a thriving arts community, and lots of food choices – including several breweries and a wine trail.
The town exudes quaint charm, and has the feel of an Alpine village with the buzz – from the energy SUNY adds – that the Grateful Dead have visited. The downtown area, including the village-within-a-village pedestrian-only Water Street Market, is a vibrant collection of cafes, farm- to-table eateries, ethnic restaurants and hamburger joints, brewpubs, charming boutiques, and interesting art galleries. Plan for brunch, or lunch, or beers and dinner – or pick up sandwiches at one of the shops with tasty bites like ‘Graze’. …And plan time to ‘do the town’!
THE CRONIN GALLERY located in the Water Street Market is a ‘must’ stop.
The experience includes meeting Waccabuc- native and New Paltz-local, Ryan Cronin, whose original work is exhibited in the Gallery. Meeting Cronin might even include a down-home visit to the converted barn he uses for a studio on his property, and a look at works-in-progress.
Cronin is New Paltz. World class, yet hidden away. Green. Socially conscious. His pieces are bold in color and form, often incorporate text and figures, are emotional and audacious yet approachable, and have a mischievous edge. He explains,
“I feel compelled to create. To express my emotions and share joy with others. I paint to decipher what it means to be human and to interpret and make sense of the world around us. We sell a lot of art at the Cronin Gallery, and my paintings hang in top collections around the world, right next to Basquiat and Warhol. But we think of it more as a social impact brand doing good work locally and around the world.”
And Cronin’s very personal charitable activities include having been involved in the design of a HPV self-swab privacy booth for women to use in low-income communities, and his involvement in establishing a lacrosse camp for children in Senegal.
…With food and culture accounted for, it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors. The 22.2 Novice/ Intermediate Wallkill
Rail Trail, 3.6 mile novice/intermediate Bonticou Trail, 3.3 mile intermediate Lenape Trail, 2.5 mile intermediate Trapp Undercliff and Overcliff Trails, and the 3.5 mile expert Howell Trail and 2.5 mile expert Stillman Trail are all nearby. The New York New Jersey Trail Conference is one hiking organization that offers a list of suggested hikes, and there are several guidebooks dedicated to the Shawangunks. Hikes in the area will cross wooded and rocky terrain, with the reward of the soaring Catskill mountain views that inspired the Hudson River School of painters.
Or take a bike ride! Or rent a kayak to explore the idyllic Wallkill River! Or go fishing on the Wallkill at Sojourner State Park! Or rock climbing – preferably with a qualified outfit like the local HighXposure Adventures, Inc., Alpine Endeavors LLC, Rockcraft, or the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School! …Or just pick a scenic vista for a picnic and to enjoy the view!
And there are some great stops en route…
Though it may take a few extra minutes, take the Bear Mountain Bridge instead of crossing the Hudson on the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, and consider Route 32 instead of using the New York State Thruway, and even taking the more circuitous combination of Routes 6, 9W and 209 either going to or coming home from New Paltz. Route 209 between New Paltz and Ellenville is special.
One impressive stop, just north of the Bear Mountain Bridge, is the United States Military Academy at West Point. The West Point Visitors Center is open daily and offers guided tours to the public. West Point will host Army Football Home Games on 9/10, 9/17, 10/1, 10/15, 10/22, 11/5, 11/19 and 12/10 this Fall.
Another spectacular stop, in New Windsor off 9W, is the Storm King Arts Center, a 500-acre outdoor museum designed to experience large-scale sculpture and site-specific commissions under open sky. The bucolic landscape, complete with hills, rolling meadows, and forests, is home to one of the largest contemporary sculpture collections in the world, and makes the perfect backdrop for a picnic, a stroll, or a bike ride.
And, for the more determined, there’s the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets designer discount mall at the confluence of Routes 6 and 32 and the New York State Thruway in Woodbury, and the new Legoland New York Resort off Route 6 in Goshen.