Not sure where New Paltz is or why you should visit? Here are 6 reasons why you should go!
But first, a bit about the New Paltz area...
It’s 80 miles north of New York City in Ulster County, in the Hudson Valley. The village has less than 7,000 residents, making it great for a quick visit.
New Paltz was founded in 1678 by French Huguenots (French Protestants). According to the Huguenot Museum (in Kent, England), there’s some mystery surrounding the origin of the name Huguenot. Generally, the word Huguenot originated in 16th-century France and referred to members of the Reformed Church of France. More specifically, there are a couple of versions of how they became known as Huguenots. One version is that it took the name from King Hugo’s Gate in the French town of Tours. Another version goes that it combined the Flemish word ‘Huisgenooten’, or House fellows, with the German word ‘Eidgenosen’, or confederates bound together by oath. You can read more about it here.
French Protestants living eastern France, like in Alsace and the Moselle were known as German Lutherans, since that part of France was part of Germany from time to time.
Back to the Huguenots...
So, how’d the Huguenots get to upstate New York? It’s a bit of a journey, but here are the highlights. As I mentioned, the Huguenots were French Protestants. France was, and still is, a mostly Catholic country, but as Huguenots became more influential in France (during the late 16th century), tension grew between Catholics and Huguenots.
Fast forward to Louis XIV. In 1685, he issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, basically ending any recognition of Protestantism in France. The Huguenots, being Protestants, were forced either to convert to Catholicism or flee. Some took refuge in the town of Mannheim, in the southwestern region of Germany known as the Palatinate (Pfalz in German) since it was a major center of Protestantism. And, even though it’s spelled Pfalz, it was pronounced "Paltz." See where I’m headed?
Eventually, some of those Huguenot refugees made their way from Germany to the Dutch colony of New Netherland in New York’s Hudson Valley. A group of those settlers bought land from the Esopus Indians, eventually naming the settlement New Paltz after the German word Pfalz.
So what’s so great about the New Paltz area?
1. It’s cute...and funky
Just take a look!
2. There’s lots of history
Huguenot Street: in New Paltz, is part of the 10-acre National Historic Landmark District. Many of the houses from the original settlement are on this street.There’s even a replica of one of the wigwams from the original owners, the Esopus. There are even guided tours available for $12, but if you want to explore on your own, it’s free.
The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site: okay, so not in New Paltz, but it’s in nearby Hyde Park, about 35 minutes away. It’s part of the National Park Service (NPS) so you can use your Parks Pass! Otherwise, it’s a $20 admission . Note: even though it’s part of the NPS, it’s not managed by the NPS, so it’s not part of the Free National Parks Days.
3. There’s good coffee
4. ...And good food
In addition to the fun little cafes and eateries in New Paltz, the Culinary Institute of America is close by in Hyde Park. You can head there for lunch or dinner!
5. You can Take a Walk...
Walkway over the Hudson: 25 minutes from New Paltz in Poughkeepsie, the Walkway was originally known as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. When the bridge opened in 1889, it was the longest bridge in the world. In 1974, the bridge was severely damaged by a fire, but it wasn’t until 2009, when the bridge was rebuilt and re-opened in as the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. And it’s free, although you may have to pay for parking if it’s crowded.
6. Or Take a Hike
At the Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains, aka,” the Gunks”. You can hike, bike, run, climb, snowshoe, horseback ride, camp, etc. With 8,000 acres, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. There are different trail heads, including one in New Paltz, but the visitor center is in Gardiner about a 10 minute drive from New Paltz. Day fees are $15 for hikers, and $20 for bikers, climbers, and horseback riders.
Have you been to the New Paltz area What did you do? I'd love to hear about it on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope's comment section!