Of all the college towns in the Hudson Valley — and there are quite a few — New Paltz is one of the coolest. That’s probably because it is largely defined by the presence of SUNY students within it. Thanks to that ever-expanding flock of young academics, the region is now a Mecca for artists’ showcases, quality cheap eats, and bargain-priced shopping.
Although New Paltz is most certainly a destination for Hudson Valley visitors and locals alike, it is perhaps best experienced from the student perspective. We rounded up all the “must-visit” attractions and to-dos that are integral to any true SUNY experience. Whether you’re an aspiring Hawk, a soon-to-be graduate, or a visitor to the area, use our guide to explore town just like the college kids do.
Run the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
If and when the freshman 15 kick into effect (they will), get moving on the rail trail that runs through town. The manicured path is perfect for biking, walking, or running in the morning before class or just before dinner when you want to skip the crowded gym.
Escape campus at the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary
When you need a break over a long weekend of reading and essay writing, take a reprieve at this serene New Paltz sanctuary. It boasts 56 acres of grasslands that touch the Wallkill River and serve as a home for a colorful assortment of birds. Bring your journal to jot down a few thoughts or simply park a seat along the scenic grounds. By the time you return to your dorm room, you’ll feel like a whole new person.
Get pierced at Art in Soul
What would college be without a commemorative piercing or tattoo? Get the job done at Art in Soul, which is located a hop, skip, and jump from campus. Established in 1999, the longstanding store is the perfect place to get inked for the first time or finally commit to that second ear piercing. Nervous? Bring a friend to tag along for the trip.
58 Main St Courtyard, New Paltz, 845.255.8288
Investigate the past along Historic Huguenot Street
It’s great to learn on campus and all, but sometimes it’s nice to explore local history too. In New Paltz, there’s no better place to educate yourself than on Huguenot Street, the former home of Indian, French, Dutch, African, and English settlers in the region. Wander through the stone houses, reconstructed 1717 Huguenot church, and replica Munsee wigwam before venturing to the burial ground, which dates back to the first settlers of the area.
81 Huguenot St, New Paltz, 845.255.1660
Watch a flick at New Paltz Cinemas
When you want to watch a movie without falling into the black hole that is Netflix, head to New Paltz Cinemas for a classic theater experience. Students on a budget can take advantage of the matinee discount tickets, which are significantly cheaper than mall theater alternatives. As for snacks, go for the popcorn, which is made with real butter. If you order a large, you can walk away with a free refill too.
2 New Paltz Plz, New Paltz, 845.255.0420
As any good college student can attest, Salvation Army is the place to find everything from last-minute costumes for Halloween to kitchen essentials for your first off-campus apartment. At the end of the school year, Salvation Army is a saving grace. Drop off your tired t-shirts and dorm room knickknacks to the shop before you hit the road for summer. If you have any larger pieces of furniture, call ahead to see if the store can pick them up for you, free of charge.
61 N Chestnut St, New Paltz, 845.256.9475
When you need a good wander away from campus, venture over to Water Street Market on Main Street for window-shopping galore. Expect a little bit of everything, from antiques and cheese to art exhibits, clothing, and music. If you happen to get hungry as you stroll, pick up a bite from one of the Kosiner Brothers’ shops. The doughnuts and hot dogs alone are worth the trip.
Main St, New Paltz
Life in college involves a lot of pizza. Thankfully, Village Pizza serves (and delivers) slices that are both cheap and delicious. For about $2 a slice or $11 a pie, you can score a perfect combo of sauce and cheese, fresh from the oven. The community hub is open until 11 p.m. on weeknights, until midnight on Friday and Saturday, and until 10 p.m. on Sunday, making it ideal for afternoon club meetings and evening study sessions. Don’t forget to grab a classic vanilla cone, covered in sprinkles, before you leave. It’s almost a shame if you don’t Instagram it.
81 N Chestnut St, New Paltz, 845.255.3100
When everyone else goes to Mexicali Blue to kick things off on Friday night, you can skip the crowd and head to Mexican Kitchen instead. The pint-sized eatery delivers generous portions at prices so cheap you almost won’t believe your eyes. Everything on the menu will satisfy your craving for Mexican food, although the bargain-priced breakfast specials, which are served all day, and the under $3 tacos and tamales can’t be beat.
15 ½ N Front St, New Paltz, 845.256.5070
When you’re in the mood for food, drinks, and entertainment, Bacchus is a one-stop shop. With outdoor dining, musical guest performances, and indoor billiards tables, the combined eatery and brewery is a must for casual nights out with friends. To make it even better, the spot also offers both brunch and late night menus on top of the standard lunch and dinner fare. Get your nacho fix until 1 a.m. on the weekends or swing by in the earlier hours for a hearty brunch of chorizo tacos or huevos rancheros.
4 S Chestnut St, New Paltz, 845.255.8636
Good luck getting a table at Main Street Bistro on the weekends. The community icon serves cozy diner fare; think omelets and pancakes in the morning and sandwiches and burgers for lunch. The real reason to go, however, is for what is perhaps the best breakfast deal in the entire Valley. For a whopping $1.95, diners can score two eggs any style, home fries, and whole wheat toast. We dare you to find a better bargain.