Note: Originally published in 2017
Around the time the Dia Art Foundation turned a former factory in Beacon, NY into a contemporary art museum in 2003, the Hudson Valley town started to emerge–at least in my mind–as a haven for creative, adventurous New Yorkers. This was based solely on the fact that a photo editor friend decided to relocate there from Red Hook, which seemed like a pretty lateral move back then. In exchange for a little rehabbing and a long commute, you got a place that was quirky, affordable and delightfully removed from the city.
Today, Beacon still feels like a real escape, with 19th-century brick buildings and American flags dotting a Main Street that looks straight out of Mayberry. But this quaint city, perched above the Hudson River in the shadow of Mount Beacon, has increasingly become a common stop for New Yorkers. Between 2007 and 2015, MetroNorth ridership on the hour and a half trip from Grand Central grew by 25% on weekdays (off-peak), and over 50% on weekends.
Many are making the trip for Dia:Beacon, whose 116,600 annual visitors this fiscal year was the highest level recorded since its opening-year peak. But there are other signs that Beacon is having a moment. Two new hotels opened up this year on Main Street. It felt like there were even more bars, restaurants and shops than the last time I visited in 2014, a hunch that Charlotte Guernsey, broker and owner of Gate House Realty unequivocally confirms, citing stretches like the middle of Main Street that was empty up until places like The Towne Crier, a music venue and pub, opened a few years ago.
To get a read on the best things in Beacon right now, I asked recent Brooklyn transplants for their favorite places to explore, eat and drink. Their recommendations will help you make the most of any day trip to this artsy, upstate town.
Where to shop
Beacon’s Main Street—which recently appeared in a list of 15 most beautiful Main Streets in America—is part of the reason jewelry designer Lauren Decker moved to Beacon from Williamsburg with her husband three years ago.
“I remember the first time I turned onto it,” she said, “seeing the long stretch of street, the beautiful trees and mountains in the distance, American flags blowing in the wind and the brick buildings full of charm. I eyed the building I am in now…even wondered if someday I could run a store there.”
Decker shares her shop, King + Curated, with her wedding photographer business partner, Alicia King, in a new development called 1 East Main. There she sells her Duende fine jewelry line and cute cuffs under the name The Curated Gift Shop. When she’s in the market for clothes, she goes to Style Storehouse. The owner, Michele, “has fabulous taste and she’s amazing at helping you pull the right styles for your body type together.” Also on her list: Reservoir, for clothes, home goods and apothecary; her neighbor Sallye Ander for soaps, and Denning’s Point Distillery for its ‘Beacon Bourbon’ and other spirits. “I would suggest getting a tour of the place if you can!”
Along with simply walking the mile-long stretch of Main Street, Katie Helmuth Martin, the founder of A Little Beacon Blog, says “I love walking to the Beacon Flea on Sunday mornings, and the Beacon Farmers Market, now that it’s moved from the river to the center of town.”
Kelly Kingman, who moved from Prospect Lefferts Gardens to Beacon in 2008, likes Colorant for its “natural-dyed clothing and beautiful, artful gifts,” and Dia:Beacon for its “fantastic gift shop/book store.”
Where to get your culture fix
Conceptual and minimal art mecca Dia:Beacon is the main reason art-seekers make the pilgrimage to Beacon. The gorgeous outdoor sculpture park, Storm King Art Center, is also a 15-minute drive away. But Terry Nelson, the director of the annual Beacon Independent Film Festival, which returns in September, also highly recommends the Howland Cultural Center for performances and visual art. And “if you love music and good food, Quinn’s is the spot.”
Where to get your caffeine fix
When Katie Helmuth Martin moved to Beacon from Manhattan in 2010 with her husband, she had a list of requirements, but his was simple: “To live within walking distance of a coffee shop.” Now, she says, “We live within walking distance to like five coffee shops!” Among her go-tos for a pick me up–Bank Square, Homespun, Beacon Pantry and Ella’s Bellas.
Where to enjoy the outdoors
Being able to gain “some distance from the city and have more natural beauty nearby” while also maintaining a connection to her work and friends is what drew Kelly Kingman, of Kingman Ink, to Beacon. “Watching the sunset from Long Dock Park and walking around Denning’s Point or Madam Brett Park at any time of year are touchstones for me.” She highly recommends Mountain Tops’ guided kayak tour to Denning’s Point during the summer. Other summer highlights for her include swimming at Little Stony Point beach in Cold Spring or the Beacon Pool.
Terry Nelson’s favorite place is the University Settlement Camp. “It’s the site of the Beacon Independent Film Festival and many other events as well as the Beacon Pool. It sits at the foot of Mt. Beacon and the scenery is gorgeous.”
Hiking Mt. Beacon is a favorite for many, including Lauren Decker. “It’s a straight incline and a total work out. Once you get to the top and see the whole town of Beacon, you get a great sense of accomplishment!”
“Stony Kill Farm is another special place that has land, cows, sheep and other animals, gardens, and an education center,” says Katie Helmuth Martin.
Where to eat
Lisa Hall moved from Red Hook three years ago with her husband Chris Pascarella. Together the couple—whose engagement announcement, very coincidentally, appeared in Brooklyn Based in 2011—opened the successful Marbled Meat Shop in Cold Spring, then followed up with a gourmet takeaway and cafe in one called Stock Up, in 2016 (which is “great for yummy sandwiches,” says Decker).
When Hall and Pascarella can actually break away for a date night, they always go to Kitchen Sink—which also tops the list of restaurants that Lauren Decker, Katie Helmuth Martin and Kelly Kingman recommend. “They have really thoughtful dishes, great vegetarian options and seafood,” says Hall. Its chef and owner, Brian Arnoff, also just opened Meyer’s Olde Dutch, a burger joint with outdoor seating across the street. Hall recommends the cheeseburger and loaded fries.
For Terry Nelson, “the ramen at The Roundhouse is a must-have.”
“Beacon Bread Company is our go to for breakfast and their lunch menu is great, too,” says Kelly Kingman. Katie Helmuth Martin likes “Mr. Vs Deli in the middle of town for a double egg, double cheese on an English muffin if I need a breakfast sandwich on the go. Homespun for quiche and salad during the week, and the deep dish french toast on the weekend.”
Where to drink
“I love going to Dogwood,” says Terry Nelson. “It just has that neighborhood bar feel to it. It reminds me of the original Moe’s in Ft. Greene.”
On weekends, Decker likes Hudson Valley Brewery, which is open Thursdays through Sundays and serves sandwiches from Stock Up. “Earlier in the week,” she says, “I love to get a beer from 2 Way Brewing Co., plus trivia night is fun and they let you draw on the bar top.” For cocktails and a little zen moment, she likes to sit by the waterfall on Fishkill Creek on the patio of The Roundhouse. For margarita lovers, she says, “Baja 328 is the mothership of tequila.”
Katie Helmuth Martin is also a fan of the creative craft beer menu at Draught Industries, “where I used to have editorial meetings before I had an office.”
How to get there + Where to stay
MetroNorth trains run between Grand Central and Beacon on the weekends from the early mornings to around 11pm. The ride is about 100 minutes and costs $33.50 (off-peak), though you can purchase a Getaway package at Grand Central that includes admission to Dia:Beacon for $39.50. The station is walkable to Dia and Main Street. Uber and Lyft both operate in the area as well.