When people ask us where to take a day trip, we always recommend Beacon — and when they ask us where to spend a weekend off the MetroNorth, we always recommend Beacon.
The city has been an Escaper’s destination for well over a decade, with top-notch shopping, hiking, dining, and some of the best contemporary art on the East Coast. In the last few years, though, Beacon’s Main Street has exploded with new boutiques, restaurants, bars, and cafes along its many-block length.
And while there’s a lot to do in town, one of Beacon’s best draws is its landscape. Main Street lies at the foot of Mt. Beacon, the highest summit in the Hudson Valley and a beautiful day hike, with sweeping views of the city and the Hudson river below. To get to this charming, town-like city, it’s six stops and about an hour and a half on the MetroNorth. Though Beacon is very walkable — even to hiking spots — cabs or the local 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
The iconic Richard Serra installation at Dia:Beacon. All photos by Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.
For art lovers, Dia:Beacon is a no-brainer. The contemporary art museum — which features works by Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin, Louise Bourgeois, and many others — is the city’s crown jewel, especially for first-time daytrippers. Part of what makes Dia:Beacon so unique is that each gallery is designed specifically for the artists’ works — no small feat, considering the massive scale of Judd’s and Serra’s sculptures. The museum, which was once an old printing factory, is almost completely lit by skylights, giving dramatic lighting to the sculptures and paintings within. For reduced admission, the MTA has a getaway package ($40), which includes roundtrip tickets to Beacon and admission to the museum.
In addition to Dia:Beacon, Beacon has many art galleries, including BAU, a fine art gallery and project space which features emerging and mid-career artists, and Mother Gallery — sister gallery to the Chelsea space — which always has new and inventive exhibitions to see.
Madame Brett Park in Beacon, NY offers a scenic stroll along Fishkill Creek before it drains into the Hudson River.
Beacon’s other main draw is its hiking, with tons of Escapers fleeing the city to take on one of its day hikes; we recommend a couple of tough, but totally rewarding hikes up Mt. Beacon. The first is to its summit, where hikers can explore the Beaconcrest Hotel ruins, including the foundations of its old casino, and the gear house that powered Mt. Beacon’s funicular. The hike is steep on the way up, but it is well worth the two-hour round trip, with incredible views of Beacon below, Newburgh across the Hudson River, and the Catskills in the distance.
Another 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 that is beautiful year-round, even when it’s partially frozen. The trail eventually leads to the access road, where a right turn up the hill leads to the massive Beacon Reservoir. If you’re looking for an even bigger challenge, take Dry Brook to the Fishkill Ridge trail, which will give your lungs a good workout and less crowds.
Want to stretch your legs but have less of a time commitment? Check out Madam Brett Park, a 1.6 scenic stroll whose trail begins at abandoned early 19th century hat factory. It runs along the Fishkill Creek right before it drains into the Hudson River.
After trekking Beacon’s trails, you’ll want to trek its lengthy Main Street, where, as mentioned, Beacon’s shopping scene has soared. Our favorite store is Berte, an expertly curated home decor and lifestyle shop that features items made by local and international artisans. Stop in for some swoon-worthy tabletop pieces or the loveliest paper goods. For plant parents and botanical babes, Flora Good Times is the best plant and flower shop in town. Kaight is Beacon’s sartorial destination, selling sustainably-made clothing from independent labels — a haven for conscious consumers. If you’re looking for adornment, check out the fine jewelry shop King + Curated; or if you’re looking for some self-care, Beacon Mercantile is a must. Part apothecary, part parfumerie, everything at Beacon Mercantile is handcrafted in small batches with natural ingredients. The Last Outpost is great for menswear and leather and camping goods, and Hyperbole is a great place to source art that won’t break the bank — plus they have gorgeous candles, cute clothes, and thoughtful gifts. And Afton Road is the ceramics shop of your dreams, where the owner actually throws pots in the shop’s main retail space.
Where to Stay in Beacon: the Roundhouse Beacon, a Boutique Hotel Overlooking a Waterfall
The Penthouse Suite at Roundhouse Beacon overlooks a waterfall and has a large soaking tub, plus a walk-in steam shower.
Beacon is a great day trip, but if you’re willing to shell out a little cash and stay overnight, it is well worth your while. Enter, 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 industrial yet elegant, with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and concrete — not dissimilar from the vibe at 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 a large walk-in shower (three! shower! heads!), beautiful slate floors and skylights. The big draw, though, was the round Jacuzzi in the middle of the bedroom, which overlooks Beacon Falls and was the perfect indulgence in the loft-like room.
Despite the vibrant bar and restaurant, the Roundhouse is surprisingly quiet and zen—almost like being in a gallery—with the ever-present white noise of the waterfall outside. It’s a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Eating and Drinking in Beacon, NY: the Best Restaurants, Diners, Cafes and Bars
Kitchen & Coffee, a vegetarian cafe & bakery in Beacon, NY.
For breakfast, there are a couple of great options. The cardamom buns at Hakan — a chocolatier and cafe from the same owner as FIKA in NYC — are a must, and pair well with a hot latte. Kitchen & Coffee is a gluten-free and vegetarian restaurant and bakery with excellent breakfast and lunch items, as well as delicious baked goods; try the cheddar scallion corn muffin. Matcha Thomas is the go-to spot for matcha in town, and Peaceful Provisions has our favorite donut on Main Street (bonus: it’s vegan+gluten-free, so it’s basically healthy, right?!). If you’re in town on a Saturday, fuel up with an empanada from Nana’s Homemade Kitchen at the Beacon Farmer’s Market before your eastward walk along Main.
Whenever we’re in Beacon, we make a point of getting Homespun Foods for either lunch or takeout dinner. Our favorite hearty winter dish there is the nut and cheese loaf (aka “vegetarian meatloaf”) with mac and cheese. Aside from larger entrées, they also offer wholesome sandwiches, soups, and salads; a nice bottled beer and wine selection; plus a fantastic little backyard to enjoy your spread. (Fans will love to know there’s now a second location inside the Dia:Beacon.) On a similar vibe, The Beacon Daily has delicious, hearty sandwiches that often necessitate a nap. For lighter fare, there’s Vegetalien, a plant-based cafe and juice bar. Last, One More Bite serves up Korean Fusion food, like the Bulgogi Hoagie — but offer traditional Korean dishes as well.
For dinner and drinking in Beacon, we recommend Melzingah Tap House for craft beer and New American fare. They have 22 beers on tap, plus a handful of bottles to choose from. Meyer’s Olde Dutch (MOD to the locals) has the best burger in town; Enoteca Ama has great pizza; and Ziatun serves fresh Palestinian food with incredible hummus (we suggest their grilled vegetables over hummus or their kofta hummus).
Other longstanding favorites include Quinn’s, where ramen is served in an old diner and Dogwood, a neighborhood bar steps from the Roundhouse with a fun atmosphere. On any given night, you may be treated to live music at either of these laid-back, more local joints that also boast great food.
For an 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 — though the mac and cheese is a hit year-round. (Note: reservations are recommended!) For a more casual experience, check out their bar and lounge, or have one of their excellent cocktails on their patio during the summer.
For Beacon nightlife, head to Wonder Bar, which boasts an inventive cocktail menu, has dramatic Art Deco vibes, and serves tasty small plates. If you want to get loose, District Social has live music, axe throwing, an arcade, billiards and darts, as well as craft beers and a full bar. And, speaking of beer, Beacon has even more places to drink it: Hudson Valley Brewery has an excellent selection of sour beers, Industrial Arts brews on the hoppier side, and Happy Valley is a classic arcade bar that has a great beer list, some of our most nostalgic arcade games (“Finish Him!”) and some pretty punny cocktail names (Bloody Mario, anyone?). Cheers!