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New Paltz 

Landlocked Beach Town

click to enlarge John Lefsky, owner of Jack’s Rhythms. - THOMAS SMITH
  • Thomas Smith
  • John Lefsky, owner of Jack’s Rhythms.
New Paltz is a place that visitors and residents cling to—sometimes literally. The unofficial climbing capital of the East Coast, New Paltz is a multifaceted community that has a laidback beach-town feel, but with more diversity. Home to SUNY New Paltz, the village features all the things you'd expect from a college town: cool bars, restaurants with vegetarian specialties, and artisan bakeries and coffee shops with wheat-free menu items. There's also a strong sense of history in New Paltz; the town's downtown is home to several antiques shops, and the town's celebrated historic district allows visitors a glimpse into the past. Then there is the outdoors. New Paltz is home to a variety of farms and orchards that stretch from the center of town to the base of the Shawangunk Ridge.

Finally, it is the call of the wild that lures many travelers to New Paltz. The chalk-white cliff face of the Shawangunk Ridge provides a stunning backdrop to much of the community. Known locally as the "Gunks," and located just outside the village of New Paltz, the range is home to several parks and preserves that provide outdoorsmen and-women with thousands of acres to hike, bike, and climb on. The area attracts more than 50,000 climbers each year. Only Joshua Tree National Park in California attracts more climbers annually in the US.

New Life, Old Things
Walter Marquez, who owns two antiques shops in town, The Antiques Barn and Antiques on Main, says New Paltz is energized by all the different types of people it attracts. "For a small town there's a lot going on," he says. "It's a great town to be in. Weekends are always busy with people from the city, and Jersey, and Albany, and Kingston. There's a lot of diversity here; we have the climbers and the Mohonk people [lodging at the historic hotel atop the ridge], and we have the college here, and Historic Huguenot Street."

Both of Marquez's stores feature an eclectic array of antiques. "We offer a pretty wide range. We don't have one specialty—we like to appeal to everybody," he says. The antiques carried at both stores include small collectibles, like pieces of kitchenware and goblets, as well as large items like furniture. These pieces come from a variety of time periods. "We have items from the 1800s up to the 1960s—we like to cover it all," Marquez says.

click to enlarge Bartender Adrian Capulli at Shea O’Brien’s. - THOMAS SMITH
  • Thomas Smith
  • Bartender Adrian Capulli at Shea O’Brien’s.
Walking the streets, it's easy to see what Marquez means by diversity. Here, differences are celebrated, not hidden. There are students hanging out on the corner, climbers on their way to or from the mountain, and rainbow flags hanging from many windows. Gay pride is a staple of the community. In 2004, New Paltz Mayor Jason West challenged state law by marrying 24 same-sex couples in a day, and the town hosts a gay pride parade every June.

Visitors to New Paltz won't want to miss a trip to Water Street Market, a quaint European-inspired outdoor shopping village that is home to more than 20 restaurants and shops, which offer a variety of wares. Shops located within the Water Street Market include The Mudd Puddle Café;, a coffee house that futures delicious coffee hand roasted and blended by owner Michelle Walsh. Elsewhere at the Water Street Market, visitors can stop by the Bridge Creek Café;, which serves a mix of comfort foods with Mediterranean, Latin, and Asian influences. Stop in at Jar'd, a micro wine pub, for a restorative glass and some small plates.

Downtown is full of wonderful and diverse dining options. Moxie Cupcake is a hip and vibrantly decorated cupcake boutique. To flavor its cupcakes, Moxie uses pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans as well as local dairy and eggs, and never adds trans fats, preservatives, or stabilizers. The shop also offers organic fair-trade cocoa, coffee, and tea.

Speaking of...

  • Walking the streets of the historic and laidback cliff-climbing community.

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