10 Top Towns

Settled by the Dutch, Quakers, or Huguenots, nestled in the Catskills or on the river’s banks — these 10 Valley communities all have one thing in common: They’re great places to call home



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new paltzThe Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country

Photograph by Teresa Horgan

Ulster County

New Paltz

Beyond the banks of the Wallkill River, beneath the rough-hewn Shawangunk Ridge, is the town and village that last year National Geographic Traveler dubbed one of the “Best Adventure Towns” in the country.

New Paltz was founded by French Huguenots, a notably dour bunch, who built (or rather, whose slaves built) a series of old stone houses along the street that bears their name. Today, this decidedly un-dour college town with a liberal bent certainly has much to recommend it. There’s its proximity to beautiful Lake Minnewaska, the ’Gunks, and the famed Mohonk Mountain House; an enviable public school system; a bevy of sumptuous restaurants — Beso, 36 Main, Neko, the Gilded Otter among them — that make this a foodie Nirvana; and the best Halloween festivities in the Valley. “Nowhere else in the world can I experience in one day what I’m able to here in New Paltz,” says Erica Chase-Salerno, owner of Wyld Acres Healing Arts & Prenatal Communication. “From Agnes’ breakfast scones at the Village Tea Room to the gorgeous hikes in the Shawangunks to a glass of wine at 36 Main; from the music of the Trapps to historic Huguenot Street to our incredible farms and orchards, our town epitomizes some of the best that life has to offer.”

Stephen King included a mention of New Paltz’s Mohonk Mountain House in his horror novel, Thinner

Many find New Paltz is an ideal community in which to raise kids. “The educational opportunities in our town alone are exceptional,” says Chase-Salerno, who is also co-owner of the popular HudsonValleyParents.com online forum. “In addition to Waldorf, Montessori, home-schooling, and excellent public schools, we’ve got SUNY New Paltz and Empire State College.” Chase-Salerno points out that adults can also take advantage of a wide range of classes and therapeutic modalities right in town, including healing energy work, prenatal communication, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and more.

New Paltz made national headlines in 2004, when then-mayor Jason West performed 25 gay marriage ceremonies at Village Hall. The annual Gay Pride festival remains a popular event at Hasbrouck Park. In 2007, SUNY New Paltz was named the “hottest” small state school in the country by Newsweek. Renowned for its fine arts programs — the Dorsky Museum of Art is located on campus — the college imbues the town with its youthful, artsy energy.

“The eclectic mix of people extends into the community in so many ways,” Chase-Salerno says, “and I think it keeps our town interesting, fresh, forward-thinking, and ‘new,’ just like our name.”

Town Facts:

Location: Central Ulster County
Population: 13,750 (T), 6,500 (V)
Median Household Income: $41,000
Nomenclature: The Pfalz, located in Germany, was the last European home of the French Huguenots, who settled here in 1678.
Notable residents: Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and activist; Floyd Patterson, boxer and heavyweight champion; Jason West, Green Party mayor and gay marriage activist

» Next stop: Hudson, Columbia County

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