Our art-inspiring scenery, fascinating historical heritage, and amazing produce continue to attract visitors and new residents. But one thing you might not often associate with the Hudson Valley is its nightlife. Mostly rural, this area might seem like it’s bereft of much in the way of hopping clubs and live music venues. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, if you grew up around here, you know this and probably already have your favorite hotspots figured out. But, if you’re new to the area, or if you simply want to step outside your familiar stomping grounds into territories unexplored, this article will provide you with some modest guidance as you seek your own slice of nightlife nirvana.
If you’re looking for density when it comes to nightlife, the Village of New Paltz is one of the best one-stop locations in the entire Mid-Hudson Valley. And the fact that it’s a college town means that the place is pretty much always jumping, at least when school is in session. And for college-type fun, nightclubs like McGillicuddy, the legendary P&G’s, and Fitzpatrick’s offer everything you’ll need if you want to tackle a pitcher of beer and a big plate of chicken wings.
If you’re after music, however, two clubs stand out. Oasis Cafe’s Cabaloosa Live Room on Main Street brings in bands on most weekends (though you should call ahead to double check). The club on occasion also hosts poetry readings, has a fantastic saké bar, and delves into the depths of old-school insanity with its 70s & 80s Dance Night every Thursday. Oasis, though, has less of a clubby feel, and is instead a welcoming combination of nightclub and neighborhood bar. Definitely worth checking out.
Perhaps my favorite of the New Paltz night spots is another Main Street staple known as Snug Harbor. And the reason for this is that it tends not to attract as many college students who are out simply to have a good time. Newly renovated, and with a stage that provides weekend performance space to some of this area’s best up-and-coming musicians, Snug’s is the kind of corner tavern that our parents used to enjoy back in the day. While the weekends are usually devoted to live music, you’ll feel just as comfortable catching a ballgame on a weekday night while you enjoy a pint of Guinness.
Of course, given its density, Main Street in New Paltz is also a great spot for a pub crawl, having close to a dozen different bars from which to choose. Central to all of this, and a good waystation betwixt the madness of the rest of Main Street, is Bacchus, beer emporium extraordinaire. With approximately 200 different beer labels available at any given time, Bacchus is a great spot to refuel with a burger of some fried calamari while you, over a pint of your favorite beer, ponder your plan of attack.
New York State’s first capital is well known for its colonial architecture. But this also means that the older, more densely-built parts of town, specifically the Stockade District and the Rondout, are ideal places for a bar hop. And Kingston has much to offer the evening visitor when it comes to fine restaurants, taverns, cafés and bistros. Live music, of course, is also readily available.
The Lounge at BSP on Wall Street has an intimate feel and is another great spot if you want to get a feel for what’s happening in the local music scene. With an intimate and artist-inspired ambience, BSP has rapidly become one of the places to be seen — for hipster and musician, alike. BSP also has a number of different rooms that can be rented for different occasions. Be sure to check out their events calendar regularly, as you never know what might pop up. BSP is also a strong supporter of fine arts in our area, acting as a place where people of all artistic backgrounds can come together and have fun.
If you’re looking for something a little more “garage,” Snapper McGee’s on Front Street (just a couple of blocks from BSP, it’s worth noting) has been called Kingston’s CBGB. Indie, punk rock, and rockabilly are its staples. You’ll also be hanging out with the locals; so, if you’re new to Kingston, Snapper’s is a good place to get to know some of your neighbors. The club also has drink specials regularly, as well as a Happy Hour, so be sure to call ahead to what’s in store.
Last but certainly not least in the Kingston scene is Rondout Music Lounge on Broadway. With an eclectic mix of old-school classic rock, blues, and a sprinkling of punk, RML should have what you’re looking for. They also sport a large menu of bar food, including burgers and wings — don’t forget wing night every Tuesday. And the T McCann Band’s weekly gig every Monday will give you a chance to enjoy Irish folk music.
Rosendale & High Falls
The Rosendale Café has become a staple for live performance in the heart of Ulster County. The venue recently hosted the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, for example. But there’s more to the Rosendale Café than traditional folk music. The café has also been hosting salsa dance classes, Cajun accordionist Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew recently came through, as well as Iranian vocalist Mamak Khadem. And Rosendale Café is also a great place to sit down and grab a bite to eat, with a menu that goes out of its way to use locally grown, organic ingredients whenever possible.
A little further to the west on Route 213 is the High Falls Café. And this is the place to be if the blues are more your style. Every first and third Tuesday of the month the café hosts Big Joe Fitz & The Lo-Fi’s, featuring local musicians Mark Dziuba on guitar, Robert Bard on bass, and Brian Melick on percussion. The café also has an acoustic jam on Thursday evenings, and artists from throughout the Northeast stop in to perform. High Falls Café is also a restaurant that opens for breakfast at 9 a.m., so it’s a good spot if you’re looking for a Bloody Mary to go with your scrambled eggs.
Another café worth checking out is Jack & Luna’s in Stone Ridge, especially if jazz is your thing, as they attract top performers from throughout our area. Unlike the clubs in New York City, however, you’ll be able to get home at a reasonable hour, as J&L’s is really more of a restaurant that occasionally hosts music. Be sure to call ahead if you want to check out their Jazz Night, as it’s not held every weekend. In the mean time, stop in and enjoy their excellent menu, which includes quiches, salads, and some terrific panini.
Ellenville’s Aroma Thyme Bistro is another venue worth checking out if you like live music. And if you yourself like to get up on stage, be sure to check out their Open Mic Night on the first Friday of each month throughout the winter. Aroma Thyme also has live performers most Saturday nights. And be sure to enjoy a menu that includes a Kobe beef cheeseburger, and huge menu of beers from around the world.
Down in the southern part of Ulster County is one of the newer additions to the music scene. And this is the place to go if you are very serious about jazz. The Falcon is like a Village Vanguard right here in our very own Hudson Valley. A quick glance at their recent lineup sports names such as The Chris Bergson Band, Delta Moon, and the Erik Lawrence Trio. The Falcon is also notable for not having a set cover charge; there is instead a donation box that leaves it up to the individual, with the proceeds going entirely to the musicians up on stage. It’s a way you can directly support the arts here in your own community.
And if you’re okay with a bit of a drive, be sure to make a road trip over to Pawling over in Dutchess County. Pawling is the location of the legendary Towne Crier Café, one of the best-travelled venues outside of the nearby New York City market. The New York Times, in fact, published a profile of club owner Phil Ciganer, who said that, after 40 years of hosting live music, he “isn’t getting any younger.” Hopefully Phil will be able to pass the torch to another generation so that we can continue to enjoy performers like Edgar Winter and Al Stewart, both of whom recently performed. The club has a full lineup of live music, so you should definitely check out their website for more information.