You might know New Paltz for its college campus. Maybe you've driven down Main Street on your way to the Mohonk Mountain House or the trails of Minnewaska State Park and the Mohonk Preserve. New Paltz is a rural town with the frenetic energy of a small city; it's home to students and transients and artists and academics. During the day, the streets are chaotic. Traffic builds up from the New York State Thruway; students rush to and from class, professionals drive back and forth to work.
At dusk, this momentum comes to a lull, but don't be fooled: New Paltz isn't going to sleep. You catch your breath and watch the sun set, over the mountains, the sky peppered with streaks of gold and violet, before settling into the dark. It's nighttime. Restaurants and watering holes are open late, the town is still churning, but more relaxed. Main Street branches off into quaint side streets that turn into rail trails and footpaths. The town evokes a quiet, nocturnal magic. You can start off the evening eating vegan mac and cheese at Commissary and end up drinking beer at Snug Harbor, an anchor to a hard night out. SUNY New Paltz students gravitate towards bars with patio seating, huddled around a chiminea, drinking and chatting comfortably, like it's their own backyard. Nights in New Paltz offer a glimpse into its singular culture through adventures you'll relive with hazy nostalgia, convinced you were given the keys to a secret society or a private party. Through candid photographs of bar crawls and garden parties, this series is a portal to the town's afterhours ambience. Welcome to New Paltz at night.
Nightlife is integral to New Paltz's artistic identity. It beckons transplants from New York City and neighboring municipalities, creators looking to manifest their vision in a place that simultaneously inspires it. Communal hubs like B-Side Grill, Bacchus, and the multifaceted Water Street Market embody the town's spirit of innovation, offering a salon-like atmosphere for people to converge, turning any given into a rural, bohemian version of WeWork. Those who find their creative apex at night will find inspiration in wonky, drunken antics set to a backdrop of beatific stars.
Every generation has its own version of New Paltz nightlife. The few remaining bars from the 1970s attract erstwhile residents and new patrons alike. They fuse with their contemporary neighbors, places like Huckleberry (a Brooklyn-esque gastropub) and the retro burger joint B-Side Grill. The iconic building at the corner of Main and North Chestnut used to be home to Neko Sushi and before that, McGuinn's pub. Now it's home Lola's Café, an affable spot serving funky boutique wines.
Clubs may close, but the music goes on. Oasis and its subterranean lounge, Cabaloosa, were mainstays of youth culture in New Paltz for a decade, hosting Battle of the Bands competitions, comedy shows, and jazz. Both closed in 2018. Anywhere else, they'd leave a dearth of live entertainment. Instead, indie music devotees conjured new venues, inspired by memories of nights spent jamming at Oasis. There are open-mic nights in Peace Park. Crossroads, a community organization cofounded by two SUNY New Paltz seniors, now hosts house parties.
New Paltz is deceptively small: The plethora of bistros and bars may induce sensory overload for the unsuspecting visitor orbiting the town's worldly cuisine, where you can find everything from Thai, farm-to-table, sushi, Indian, authentic Italian and Mediterranean fare, grass-fed burgers, and burritos. There are sports bars, Irish pubs, hip wine bars, late night coffee shops, and dive bars. Dive in. Follow your instincts: You'll end up somewhere that suits your taste, and imbibe with strangers who, by the end of the night, become close friends.
The duality of New Paltz allows raucous partiers and subdued introverts to coexist. Music echoes from bars and clubs every night of the week, sirens luring you to dance and drink until last call. Step outside for a more low-key vibe, relax, look at the stars, and watch the world go by while you nurse a craft beer.
It's a walkable town, like a hip Manhattan neighborhood—imagine Greenwich Village or Hell's Kitchen, with more trees. SUNY students roam the streets at night with an unquenchable thirst for adventure, for the next party. Their youthful vigor propels New Paltz, their energy pulsating throughout the community. Restaurants and bars are open late to satisfy student whims, but everybody benefits from a town that never sleeps. These people and places alchemize the spirit of New Paltz. You will inevitably find what you didn't know you were looking for. One night in New Paltz is enough to make you feel like you've lived here forever. It welcomes you to add color to its mixed-media collage, a town constantly on the precipice of change, with a vast recollection of what came before.
Because of New Paltz's indisputable legacy, new establishments can emerge, and serve trends on a cocktail tray without a hint of inauthenticity. Jar'd Wine Pub and Fuchsia Tiki Bar indulge in the cultural zeitgeist of 2019, catering to those who crave novelty along with aperitive spirits. Jar'd opened in 2013, just before wine bars became a national obsession. Its cozy location in the Water Street Market means you can't bring 10 friends along to sip organic, sparkling rosé, making the experience even more appealing. It's exclusive in this sense yet eschews the highbrow sommelier attitude that may turn young people off from wine culture. Jar'd even serves kombucha, which is as New Paltz as it gets.
Fuchsia Tiki Bar takes a note from 1930s cocktail culture, another reemerging nightlife trend. It's a tropical paradise in the heart of New Paltz, giving patrons the sense that they've entered a portal to another dimension. Decorated with palmetto-print wallpaper and hot pink countertops, the bar gives patrons a genuine feel for the Polynesian bars of yesteryear. Fuchsia's owners worked for months to craft recipes using fresh ingredients, deviating from the overly saccharine flavors found in cocktails from chain restaurants like P.F. Changs. Is it a coincidence that tiki bars, first popular during the Great Depression, are back in vogue during the Trump administration? Who's to say, but you can visit Fuchsia Tiki Bar for a taste of escapism, which is always in style when the world feels haywire.