For the most part gay life here has been quiet and understated; but the historic 2004 New Paltz weddings changed everything, creating a cultural seismic shift that brought the LGBT community out of the shadows and into the light throughout the region.

The gay weddings, which commanded international attention, set off a chain reaction of events: the next year saw the founding of the Hudson Valley Pride March and Festival. This first celebration took place in New Paltz to honor the site of the weddings and drew 2,500 people. The message was clear: the Mid-Hudson Valley LGBT community was poised for mainstream visibility and acceptance.

Two years later, another milestone: the opening of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston. New Paltz, Rosendale and High Falls may not be Homo Ground Zero (they don’t offer gay bars or clubs). But this is not about ghettoization; these three towns boast a healthy percentage of the region’s gay and lesbian population. Whether they come for the hip college town vibe of New Paltz or the small-town joys of High Falls and Rosendale, a great number of lesbian and gay folk are finding their way to this part of Ulster County for a weekend away or even “Home, Sweet Home”.

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Ulster County is home to many artisans and craftspeople, from woodworkers to bead necklace makers, from home bakers to t-shirt tie-dyers. If you prefer one-of-a-kind items rather than Big Box goods, you’ve come to the right place! If you like supporting gay merchants with your gay money, come to High Falls, where many stores in this 600-person hamlet are owned by GLBT couples!

Cocoon at Home
[New Paltz]
Funky and fashionable housewares and snazzy gift items for the house-proud homosexual. Be sure to visit their sister store, Verde, located right around the corner.

Fox and Hound Wines & Spirits [New Paltz]
Located just outside of the downtown core, this wines and spirits shopped is the area’s only gay-owned and operated liquor store. Looking for something special? Give Tom, or his husband, Nick a call, and they’ll help you find it.

Water Street Market [New Paltz]
Whether you have a yen for Mid-Century antiques, designer dog food or a perfectly brewed cappuccino, you can find all of these items and more in the stores located here. The bonus is the marvelous mountain view.

Green Cottage [High Falls]
Longtime partners Dennis and David have created a style queen’s paradise in their elegantly homey store. Whether you are enchanted by David’s handcrafted jewelry or Dennis’s masterful floral creations, there is beauty everywhere you look.

Spruce Design + Décor [High Falls]
Partners John and Jamie offer a variety of vintage and modern objets d’art, crafts and delightfully stylish and bizarre one-of-a-kind items to decorate your Manhattan home or country getaway.

High Falls Mercantile [High Falls]
Small wonder why high-powered Manhattan interior decorators find their way to High Falls Mercantile; life partners Jeff and Larry have an exquisite eye for housewares and gift items.


Maybe it’s the Ulster County mountain air that works up an appetite for both food and excitement.  Or maybe it’s just all that delicious locally grown food. Either way, If your palate is finicky or adventurous, there are numerous eateries for every type of diner and for every budget.


Bacchus New Paltz [New Paltz]
Passable pub food, more than 400 beers from around the world and a clientele composed of those skinny, sexy, Frisbee-playing, tie-dyed, crunchy boys & girls from SUNY New Paltz. Hoist a pint and consider the possibilities.

Karma Road [New Paltz]
This hole-in-the-wall paradise for conscientious eaters offers tasty organic vegetarian foods that prove that eating healthy need not be a punishment. Extensive juice bar, prepared foods and tasty desserts.

H.D. Dick’s Hot Dogs [New Paltz]
Offering a delicious assortment of hot dogs and burgers, this newly opened restaurant is a great find for a cheap, inexpensive eat in town.

The Rosendale Café [Rosendale]
The venerable vegetarian eatery offers robust sandwiches, stews, salads and indulgent desserts in a laid-back setting.

Twisted Foods [Rosendale]

Best known for their pretzel rolls, this café’s perfect for a light breakfast or brunch whether you’re on-the-go or you decide to sit and stay at the bakery/bistro’s historic building.

The Alternative Baker [Rosendale]
Essell Hoenshell-Watson works magic with teacakes, muffins, scones, sticky buns, breads, rolls and his signature lemon cakes. So ecstatically good. Bonus: Hoenshell-Watson’s menu includes dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and organic items for those with allergens or dietary restrictions.

The Egg’s Nest [High Falls]
Comfort food with an eccentric twist, from soups to salads to chicken fingers, from calamari to quesadillas to sinful desserts. The landmark restaurant’s décor is an evolving art installation, created by bon vivant owner Richard Murphy, who has operated the restaurant for almost four decades.


Lodging options in and around this region range from elaborate hotels and resorts, to intimate bed and breakfasts, or even youth hostels for those traveling on a budget. House rentals are also great options, as there are many short and long term rentals available in either these quaint towns or in the more secluded woods and mountains that surround these communities.


The Mohonk Mountain House [New Paltz]

Recently named the #2 Resort Spa in the United States by Travel + Leisure Magazine, the Mohonk Mountain House is one of the region’s most legendary lodging destinations. It’s not an inexpensive option, but if you’re looking to splurge, this all-inclusive resort is a great option.

Captain Schoonmaker’s Bed and Breakfast [High Falls]
Named for a famous local family who settled here before the Revolutionary War, Captain Schoonmaker’s occupies a 1760 house adjacent to extensive woodland and streams.

A Little Guest House [High Falls]
Situated in an 1850 farmhouse, this b&b offers emotional and physical escape with a delightful eye for detail. Spouses Rob and Gillian offer homemade breakfasts in addition to creature comforts; he is a chef and she a graphic artist and their combined talents make this a memorable stay.

The Arbor Bed & Breakfast [High Falls]

This is another gem in the often-crowded over-cutesy b&b scene, situated in newly renovated 1890 farmhouse and managed by a thoughtful artist named Nancy.


For history buffs, this part of Ulster County is steeped in fascinating lore. New Paltz was the home of French Huguenot
settlers and then Dutch immigrants whose influence can still be seen in extant buildings and museum collections. Rosendale made the map due to its cement mines, which supplied the raw materials for manmade marvels such as the Brooklyn Bridge and The Washington Monument. High Falls thrived in the 19th century due to the creation of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, which hauled coal from the mines of Pennsylvania through Ulster County to the Atlantic.


Historic Huguenot Street [New Paltz]

The everyday lives and contributions of the 17th century French settlers to New Paltz are celebrated in exhibits mounted in the remaining stone houses that line this street. Re-enactments and special educational events occur throughout the year.

Century House Historical Society [Rosendale]

Situated in the historic Snyder Estate, the Society mounts periodic exhibitions that explore the cement industry that brought Rosendale international renown for generations and turned this town into a main street of bars and bordellos to cater to the stonecutters that came here from Europe to find work.

The D&H Canal Historical Society and Museum [High Falls]

The colorful past of High Falls and the heyday of the canal are explored in exhibits. The Society also holds a not-to-be-missed Sunday flea market from May through October.


This article originally appeared in Big Gay Hudson Valley Magazine, Issue 1.