When someone asks us where to go for a daytrip, we almost always tell them Beacon. And when someone else asks us where to spend a weekend off the MetroNorth, we almost always tell them Beacon. It’s solidified itself as the “hippest” city in the Hudson Valley, but besides its hipness, we tell everyone about Beacon because there’s so much to do there. Shopping, dining, bar-hopping, hiking, and a contemporary art museum–this place has it all. Aside from all the great stuff to do, it’s a beautiful and picturesque place too; Main Street is set at the foot of Mt. Beacon, the highest summit in the Hudson Valley. Another bonus is that Beacon has a very active arts community, anchored by one of the greatest contemporary museums out there–the Dia:Beacon. To get here, it’s six stops and about an hour and a half ride on the MetroNorth. Though it’s all very walkable–even to hiking spots–the cabs and the shuttle will get you anywhere you need to go.
What to Do in Beacon: Shop Main Street, Visit a Modern Art Museum, and Hike to Casino Ruins
For art lovers, the Dia:Beacon is a no-brainer and a big part of the reason Beacon is so popular, especially for first-time daytrippers. If you’re starting your day off here, it’s about a 15 minute walk from the MetroNorth station. For reduced admission, the MetroNorth has a getaway package ($36.50) that includes roundtrip tickets to Beacon and admission to the museum. As for why so many people come here, part of what makes Dia:Beacon so unique is that each gallery is designed specifically for the artists’ work–no small feat, considering Donald Judd’s and Richard Serra’s sculptures are massive. It’s also housed in an old printing factory almost completely lit by skylights, creating dramatic lighting for the sculptures and paintings within. Besides the Dia:Beacon, there are many art galleries and events in town–check out BeaconArts for listings.
There’s great in shopping in Beacon too–lots of home and apparel boutiques, and antique shops, line its Main Street. One shop we always stop into is Reservoir & Wood, a lifestyle boutique that carries goods for women, men, kids, and home. The shop is stocked with Pendleton and Faribault blankets, and also carries beautiful knitwear by our friends at Kordal, and our other friends, Good Candle candles. Another great one is the Hudson Valley Maker and Artisan Collective, which is set right on Main Street on the west end (beginning) of town. Inside, several artists and makers of different mediums have set up shop showcasing totally unique home goods and decor, like banjos turned hanging light fixtures, or a slab of old organ keys that have been turned into wall hanging. To visit, you’ll have to enter through Clay Wood & Cotton, a really cute yarn and gift shop where everything’s handmade. Just across the block, if you’ve forgotten something for your hike or want to update your outdoor gear, check out Mountain Tops Outfitters.
Speaking of hiking, we’ve done a couple tough but totally rewarding hikes up Mt. Beacon. The first hike we did was up the side of Mt. Beacon to its summit, where lies the foundation of an old casino, and the ruins of the gear house that used to pull trolleys up the side of the mountain. It can be steep on the way up, but reaching the top is well worth the two-hour roundtrip hike. The view of entire city of Beacon, the city of Newburgh across the Hudson River, and the Catskills in the distance is pretty incredible. To get here, you can walk from town but it might be better to splurge for a $6 cab ride and saving your energy for the hike. Tell your cabbie to take 9D to 640 Wolcott Ave; the address is actually for a corner store (with snack food-stuff) and the trail head is directly across the street. A second amazing hike is to the Beacon Reservoir. (Click here for a rundown of this hike.) This trail runs along Dry Brook creek with some nice mini-waterfalls before opening up into a much larger, multi-level waterfall. Since it was winter when we did this hike, the waterfall was mostly frozen but breathtaking nonetheless. You’ll eventually make it to the access road, where you take a right up the hill, directly up to massive Beacon Reservoir.
Where to Stay in Beacon: Boutique Hotel Overlooking a Waterfall
To be clear, Beacon is a great daytrip but if you’re willing to shell out a little cash and stay, it’s worth your while. We stayed at The Roundhouse, a beautiful cluster of restored industrial buildings looming over Fishkill Creek, at the foot of Beacon Falls, and the east end of Main Street. The hotel is named after the round-shaped building that houses its lobby, restaurant, bar/lounge and main hotel; there’s an additional nearby building called the Mill. The Roundhouse’s aesthetic is very industrial yet elegant, very much echoing the atmosphere of Dia:Beacon. We stayed in the Penthouse Suite, which is roughly the size of a large NYC one-bedroom apartment. The bathroom was especially impressive, with large walk-in shower (three shower heads), beautiful slate floors and sky lights. The big draw here is the round Jacuzzi in the middle of the bedroom though–which overlooks the waterfall and is perfectly suited in the loft-like room, with vaulted ceilings and exposed beams and concrete.
And despite the bar and restaurant, the Roundhouse is surprisingly quiet–again, much like being in a gallery. This quietness creates a zen-like atmosphere, only interrupted with whispers down the hallway, or the the white noise of the waterfall, which is ever-present. It’s a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else.
Eating and Drinking in Beacon: At Food Stands, In Back Yards, and at Craft Beer Bars
For breakfast, there’s a couple great options in town including our two favorites, the Beacon Bagel and Ella’s Bellas. Inside Beacon Bagel, which must be the best smelling place in all of Beacon, the little shop makes countless varieties of fresh bagels daily on premises. (You can even catch a glimpse of the boiling kettle through the kitchen.) Their large sandwich menu has no less than 30+ options, rounded out nicely with plenty of “vegan and even almost vegan” variations and ingredients including facon, tofu cream cheese, and the like. Just a couple doors down, Ella’s Bellas is a beautiful gluten-free bakery that you’d never know is gluten-free unless they–or in this case, we–told you. Stop in for breakfast, or a cup of coffee and one of their amazing baked goods.
Whenever we’re in Beacon, we make a point to getting to Homespun Foods for either lunch or takeout dinner. Our favorite dish here is hands-down the nut and cheese loaf (aka “vegetarian meatloaf”) with mac and cheese. Aside from larger entrees, they also offer sandwiches, soup, and salads. They have a fantastic, picturesque little back yard with lots of tables and a good bottled beer selection. If you’re in the mood for burgers, check out Poppy’s which was just voted the Best Burger in the Hudson Valley. (Sidenote: the veggie burger is great too.) New in town is Harry’s Hot Sandwiches, serving up sandwiches, wraps, salads, and even empanadas. Speaking of Mexican food, Tito Santana is also very good, with great tacos, lots of veggie options, semi-psychedelic decor, cheap beer, and addictive salsa. Last, Beacon Bite is a food truck that’s (seasonally) parked along Main Street. Both their food and setup is perfectly suited for the outdoors–and don’t pass up desert at Beacon Pie Company, parked out in the same lot.
For dinner in Beacon, our go-to spot is The Hop, serving up craft beer and fancy (“artisanal”) pub fare. They have 15 rotating tap lines, and a limited bottle and can selection. Our favorite menu item here is the vegan rueben, which can easily be split between two people with a couple appetizers. (We’re guessing that’s the case with many of their sandwiches.) Dogwood is another good bar & restaurant with a similar feel, great food and beer, and is right down the street from the hotel. On some nights, live music is booked in their back room, making this your best bet for late night fun in Beacon. For a more upscale dining experience, look no further than Roundhouse Beacon’s Restaurant. The dining room itself feels like a work of art–a beautifully repurposed industrial space, overlooking the waterfall that once powered the water mill in the same building. Not only is it picturesque, but the food is very good, with a menu that changes seasonally. (Note: reservations are recommended!) For a more casual experience, or just to pop in and check out the space, check out their bar and lounge, or have a drink on their patio during the summer.