Ulster County is known for its historic towns and funky villages full of unique shops, exceptional bars and restaurants, vibrant arts, and beautiful views. Among these communities, New Paltz is a consistent draw for visitors seeking to experience the rich culture of the mid-Hudson Valley. Home to SUNY New Paltz, this college town is bursting at the seams with fun, food and adventure, and it’s the perfect home base for a weekend spent upstate. Here’s a primer for what to do and where to go.

Stroll the shops of Main Street.

New Paltz is scenic and largely walkable, and downtown is filled with quirky boutiques beckoning for your attention. A plethora of hip lifestyle stores and artisan gift shops dot Main Street, from skate and bike shops (Likwid and Bicycle Depot), record stores (Jack’s Rhythms) and art supply centers (Rhinebeck Artist’s Shop and Manny’s), to collectibles and artisan gift stores (Dragon Realm and Himalayan Arts) and metaphysical wellness centers (Awareness Shop). Rediscover old gems at antiquaries like Medusa Antiques and Jenkinstown Antiques, vintage clothing stores like Judy Go Vintage, and used bookstores like Barner Books and Inquiring Minds.

You can easily spend a whole afternoon just at the Water Street Market just off the Wallkill River, a “quaint, European-inspired shopping village” full of independently owned shops—like the two-story Antiques Barn, apparel stores Maglyn’s Dream, Salix Intimates, and The Men’s Shop at Eden, new-and-used vinyl mecca Rhino Records, and physical wellness centers Bodymind Massage Therapy, Mosaic Bodyworks and Therese Sibon Acupuncture. There’s even a boutique pet store, Paws of Distinction, where you can find dog and cat clothing, accessories and toys.

Taste and sip the local flavors.

Whether you’re a foodie, beer geek, wine connoisseur, or all-around bon vivant, there’s something delicious waiting for you in New Paltz. Back at the Water Street Market, a handful of restaurants, cafes and bars offer a reprieve from your shopping afternoon: grab a snack or quick bite from Mudd Puddle Café, Kosiner Brother’s Fry Shack, or The Cheese Plate, enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner at The Parish Restaurant, or unwind with a pint or glass of vino at the lively Jar’d Wine Pub.

Elsewhere, you can indulge and celebrate at upscale restaurants like Garvan’s, A Tavola Trattoria, and Main Course. Experience the best of area libations at brewpubs and bars like Bacchus, and Mountain Brauhaus and wineries like Robibero Family Vineyards, Kettelborough Cider House, and Adair Vineyards. Or eat and drink with the locals at perennial favorites like Main Street Bistro, Lola’s Café, and P & G’s. Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of friendly menus—spots like the Medi-Eastern jewel Moon Light Café, popular Thai restaurant Lemongrass, the Latin-influenced Mexican Kitchen, and the vegan-focused Karma Road are just a few of the many restaurants that cater to clean-eaters and herbivores.

Explore the arts.

New Paltz loves its art, and galleries abound. The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz showcases a mixture of well-known Hudson Valley artists and global collections—like “In Celebration,” a photography collection from leading 19th- and 20th-century artists, courtesy of the legendary NYC gallery dealer Marcuse Pfeifer. The Water Street Market gallery CronArtUSA features the work of New Paltz-based artist Ryan Cronin in a relaxed atmosphere, sometimes with live music. Roost Studios and Gallery has a calendar full of classes and events, from artist talks and salon gatherings to children’s workshops and pre-teen yoga classes, along with the appropriately named “Model Mondays,” a weekly life-drawing class. The stylish Rogal Art Gallery features work from contemporary artists from around the world while Unframed Artists Gallery provides a space for emerging artists. DM Weil Gallery aims to put the fun back in art and boasts 3,000 square feet of space, one of the largest—if not the largest—modern art galleries in the Hudson Valley.

Besides an array of visual arts galleries, New Paltz recently became home to the first black box theatre in the Hudson Valley. Coming off a successful inaugural season in 2018, non-profit DENIZEN Theatre is focused on challenging, provocative productions from new and emerging playwrights, with the goal of exploring “what it means to be human in all its duality and complexity.”

Relive history.

Ulster County is rich with landmarks of early American history. Historic Huguenot Street was founded in 1894 by Huguenot descendants in an effort to preserve their unique French and Dutch heritage.

Today, it’s recognized as a National Historic Landmark District and encompasses 30 buildings across 10 acres, including seven stone structures that date back to the early 1700s. Visitors can travel back in time through recurring historical reenactments or explore the museum, which houses artifacts and manuscripts and showcases the stories of Huguenot Street families.

Just up the road from New Paltz, the Mohonk Mountain House is perhaps one of the most recognized historic landmarks in Ulster County. This mountain spa and resort is a Victorian castle just off Lake Mohonk and houses a popular award-winning restaurant in addition to numerous luxury amenities. Founded in 1869, Mohonk Mountain House celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, with events and tours to mark the occasion all year long.

Have you started packing? Learn more about New Paltz and plan your weekend trip.