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What to Do in 1 Day in New Paltz, NY: Fall Foliage and Huguenot Street

Not all day trips from NYC are made equal and we are so fortunate to have a plethora of choices around the tri-state area of NY, NJ and CT, even if we only have a half a day to spend. We’ve been making our way down the list of historical points of interest, with our “peak of foliage season” visit falling on the historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, NY, followed by a ridiculously easy (by choice!) hike around Minnewaska State Park. Had we stayed for the weekend, we could have also taken on apple and pumpkin picking, which is available in overabundance in the area, gone on longer hikes at the Mohonk Reserve, as well as gotten pampered at the luxurious Mohonk House Resort. This last one is still on the bucket list because the pictures of this place look absolutely inspiring.

For the sake of our sanity and one Sunday a month off, we still prefer to go baby-free, however, had she actually survived the hour-something drive north in the car, she would have liked the Halloween spirit of the Huguenot Street, loved the pumpkin/apple picking, and wandering around the woods with us. Maybe soon!

Day Trip Itinerary:

  • Huguenot Street Tour
  • Lunch in New Paltz
  • Minnewaska State Park Tour
  • Dinner in Newburgh, NY or Beacon, NY
  • Total number of hours away from home: 8 hrs
  • Hours spent driving there/to from Jersey City, NJ: 3.5 hrs

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New Paltz, NY is a college town and you know it as soon as you get there. Home of the State University of New York, we immediately felt a student vibe, the young and life-embracing spirit that colored the atmosphere of sunny Main Street. I was suddenly taken back to my own college days on Easton Ave in New Brunswick, when the relaxed attitude of an early Sunday afternoon hasn’t changed guard with the Sunday evening hour of terror in its sudden recognition of deadlines speeding by.

Foot and car traffic on the main street, folks mingling on outdoor patios, drinking midday drafts. The weekend spirit was in abundance on this probably-next-to-last very sunny Sunday in October. Random rally subjects, attracting the masses – we visited on the Bike Awareness Day. Because you just don’t know when you … will bike?

IMG_3514The historic Huguenot Street village is a short walk from downtown. Crossing North Chestnut St, we then passed the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which follows a former rail line and is now used by joggers, hikers, dog walkers et al. I cannot say this was particularly pretty and was surprisingly still totally green when we visited. It does seem like a nice local place to take a stroll. We chose to pass it and head straight for the main attraction.

Huguenot Street spans just a few city blocks. Wide streets separate the original houses, built by the twelve patentees of New Paltz, Protestant 17th century immigrants who arrived to worship in their own way. They formed a community in Upstate New York to protect their legacy, which we can now witness.

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The cemetery is quaint, a strange place to linger, but we did. It felt calm and easy, despite the nearing of All Hallow’s Eve. The houses are delightfully well-preserved and some are open for a group tour. Fall seems like the perfect season for a history lesson… the aging spirit of turning foliage provides a proper setting for a village captured in the time past. IMG_3511.JPGThere are now two options, either for a day-time tour that starts from the visitor’s center or an evening Halloween-oriented excursion. The entire street is currently decorated in preparation for Halloween, with candles accenting the yards, steps, and walkways. My bet is that it is perfectly uneasy at night with wind blowing from the Wallkill River that flows beside the village and is probably a worthwhile place to take older kids for a “Halloween scare” to mark the season.

New Paltz surprised me with the abundance of international cuisine, a rarity when traveling north from NYC. Next to each other co-exist Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, German, Irish and a number of other kitchens. And so many of them full! So any kind of lunch or dinner is definitely an option here!

As we drove to Mohonk, a spectacular sight opened to the right of us… it turned out to be the Smiley Testimonial Gateway, also known as Mohonk Testimonial Gateway. It has served as a passage to the Mohonk resort for decades at the turn of the 20th century, but at first sight, you’d gather that it has an eerier history. With difficulty, you discern that it was built to commemorate a 50th wedding anniversary of Albert and Eliza Smiley (Albert & his brother had built the resort). We weren’t entirely wrong about that eerie feeling… the gateway’s claim to fame on TV dates back to an 80s horror flick The Stuff.

A short drive away is the Mohonk Reserve, apparently a rock-climbing haven, with almost 1000 climbs possible. Parking here is near impossible daytime. That’s how we ended up at Minnewaska State Park, a gem in its own right, and honestly, much more accessible.

Parking is better here, especially if you are with kids. Very small but very pretty waterfall is just ten minutes away from the parking lot, which made at least one of us very happy, while nursing a tendon injury. Gorgeous views! There are more trails to take there. Here are a few pictures I’ve found as I was planning this trip. But, since we are more of the booze and cruise nature, so we cut out early for dinner at Beacon, NY at the boozy tequila and tex-mex Baja328.  Loved the cute downtown in Beacon… hoping to come back to visit Dia:Beacon soon and report back!

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