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Best Day Trip New York 2011 - New Paltz

It's fall, it's crispy, and it's time to do some leaf-peeping. While it's true that we do have leaves ripe for peeping right here in the city, those darn buildings always seem to get in the way. Our favorite place to go when we just need to get the hell out of here and see some damned nature is New Paltz. Ninety minutes away and with enough civilization so as not to completely unnerve city-dwellers, this Hudson Valley town has all of the cutesy/hippie/foodie elements that are the epitome of Upstate charm. Experience total transformation just during the bus ride alone: barreling up the interstate, watch how the smokestack puffs and chain restaurants become trees and mountains. Once in New Paltz, explore Main Street first—it's one downhill road saddled with vintage trinkets (we snagged an old metal fruit scale-turned-plant pot), good coffee, and college dropouts with dreads. Down by Wallkill River are two good stops: the Water Street Market, which is an indoor-outdoor antiques emporium, and the Gilded Otter, a brewery with eight fresh beers on tap. Hang a right on Huguenot Street to do another sort of peeping, into some way old houses built by French-speaking refugees from Belgium in the late 1600s. Nearby, defunct train tracks, preserved as the Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail, serve as a reclaimed-nature hike for New Yorkers who, despite New Paltz's loveliness, still can't live without the train. Round-trip buses cost $41 (trailwaysny.com).

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