Beacon, NY is one of my favorite places in the world. This lively town is on the eastern border of the Hudson River, smack dab in the heart of the Hudson Valley. So it’s easily accessible to New Yorkers by the Metronorth train which leaves you right in the town. Just a few steps from the train, you’ll find there are tons of things to do in Beacon. Culture, art, an excellent food scene, and several picturesque hikes are all present.
Beacon, like many places in the Hudson Valley, has grown quickly in the past couple of decades. The introduction of Dia Beacon, a contemporary art museum, in 2003 is a big contributor to the town’s evolution into a tourism destination. Although most of the growth is generally positive, the area is now very expensive to live in, with prices comparable to neighborhoods in NYC. Don’t worry if you can’t afford to spend the night, it’s easy to visit for just the day.
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How to Get to Beacon, NY
Visiting Beacon is easy. It’s one of our favorite day trips from New York City. Here’s are a few ways to get there.
- Driving: You can drive from NYC if you have a vehicle. Depending on traffic, it can take as little as 90 minutes. You could hire a car starting from $75 USD a day.
- Metro-North train: I recommend taking the Metro-North train from Grand Central Station. Beacon is a stop along the Hudson line towards Poughkeepsie. The Metro-North railroad system is a commuter railroad system so there are dozens of trains a day. The train ride usually lasts around 80-90 minutes and always leaves Grand Central on time.
A Quick History of Beacon, NY
This area of the Hudson Valley was home to the Lenape and Wappinger Native American tribes. The Wappinger tribe was one of the first tribes to encounter Henry Hudson and his crew as they sailed up the Hudson River in 1609. Like every Native American tribe in the Hudson Valley, they were decimated by the Dutch invaders and later on, the British. On top of that, there was European disease, duplicitous land sales by Europeans, and warfare with other tribes and colonizers.
In 1683, the present-day location of Beacon was “purchased” from the Wappinger tribe by a couple of Dutch colonizers. The area grew into an industriously prosperous town in the next century. It played a role in the Revolutionary War as people in Beacon would light beacons at the top of Mount Beacon to signal American troops about the location of British troops. In the 1800s, Beacon became a factory town and continued to see even more growth.
In the late 1900s, factory shutdowns and some other factors contributed to an economic downturn in the area. Since the 1990s, Beacon has seen an artistic and commercial rebirth thanks to an increase in general Hudson Valley tourism, the opening of Dia Beacon, and other renewal projects.
Where to Stay in Beacon, NY
- ★ The Roundhouse: The Roundhouse is located on Main Street overlooking Fishkill Creek. It’s housed in a historic textile mill and former factory. You can walk to the small boutique hotel from the train station. It also has one of the best brunches in town. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want to be able to walk everywhere.
- Beacon Hermitage: If you want to really appreciate the nature of the Hudson Valley during your stay in Beacon, spend the night at the Beacon Hermitage. The Beacon Hermitage is a little bed and breakfast that’s just outside of the center of Beacon so you should take an Uber/Lyft to the B&B. The house and property are beautiful, and you’ll want to go back as soon as you leave.
- Home Rental: If you want something more personal than a hotel, there are properties for rent in Beacon. Most are only for long-term stays. It’s a great way to get to know the Hudson Valley, see why people love the area, and experience all that towns like Beacon have to offer. If you’re going to stay at a house in the countryside areas, I recommend using a car during your stay.
- Malouf’s Mountain Campground: Malouf’s Mountain Campground is a hike-in, hike-out camping resort. They will pick you up at the train station, take your bags to the campground on Mount Beacon, and you hike to the site. They have absolutely everything you need – from tents to sleeping bags to coolers. They will even provide all of your meals. The hike into the camp is super easy as it’s only partly up the side of Mount Beacon. It’s basically the easiest way to get some nature time in if you’re living in New York City and don’t have any of the materials necessary to camp on your own.
Things to Do in Beacon, NY
1. Visit the Dia Beacon Museum
Dia Beacon was a big catalyst for the change in Beacon. Dia Art Foundation was founded in the 1970s in New York City. The foundation has a Chelsea location, but it’s the Beacon location that has achieved the most fame recently. Dia Beacon was opened in 2003 in a former Nabisco box printing factory on the banks of the Hudson River. It houses contemporary art and is known for its spectacular lighting.
You can walk to Dia Beacon from the train station. It costs $15 to visit, and every penny is worth it. Even if you’re not a huge contemporary art fan, the layout and building design are gorgeous. The featured artists at the museum change often enough that it’s worth it to visit the space more than once.
2. Go Shopping: Support Local Boutiques & Antique Stores
Main Street in Beacon is full of locally owned boutiques and stores. Stop at The Last Outpost Store for some beautiful Beacon paraphernalia, like mugs and shirts. Pop into Play Toys and Gifts for children’s toys. Zakka Joy is one of those stores where you walk out with something you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it. There are a few bridal stores and clothing boutiques, like Hyperbole that you can wander in for cute artisan crafts and clothes. And most notably, a couple of antique stores, like Dickinson’s Antiques, where you can find a few pieces of treasure.
My favorite stop is Binnacle Books. I love independent bookstores. Binnacle Books usually has a couple of carts outside with $1-$5 books and both new and used books are sold here.
Owning a small business is tough and owning a brick-and-mortar storefront grows harder every year. Supporting small businesses is important, and a lot of these stores in Beacon are filled with perfect holiday gifts for your parents and nieces or the perfect new dress for summer.
There are a lot of things to do in Beacon, and one of our favorites is spending the day wandering into all the different shops.
3. Events at Howland Cultural Center
Check out the list of events on the Howland Cultural Center’s website. The cultural center does art exhibits, musical events, and more every month. In a small town like Beacon, you might assume there won’t be a lot of things going on. But thanks to institutions like Howland, there are events that range from free art exhibits to performances from a Puerto Rican musical group (The Last Moricans). Some events are free and some cost money.
4. Visit Hudson Beach Glass
Hudson Beach Glass is one of my favorite stores in the entire world. Whenever I wander in, I promise myself that when I start decorating my own kitchen, I will start with a set of glasses from Hudson Beach Glass. Hudson Beach Glass is a glass studio and store in a restored firehouse in Beacon.
Pre COVID-19, they used to teach glass-blowing classes and make ornaments with visitors. As of 2022, they haven’t begun doing either again yet, but hopefully, they will soon. For now, visit the studio and store to watch the professionals and pick up something beautiful.
5. Beacon Farmers Market
If you’re visiting Beacon on a Sunday, then make sure you visit the Beacon Farmer’s Market. Like all farmer’s markets, there’s fresh produce. There is also locally made liquor, baked goods, and cheese. One of my favorite vendors is Bandida. Bandida sells a dairy-free version of a Mexican creamy rice drink.
The market operates year-round. In the winter, it closes an hour earlier though so keep an eye on the time. Check the website for the exact times and what vendors are at the market for the season.
6. Beacon Flea Market
Sunday is a busy day in Beacon. In addition to the Farmers Market, there’s also the Beacon Flea Market. The Beacon Flea Market is one of the coolest things to do in Beacon. It’s usually open from April to December so check the website to make sure they’re open when you’re visiting.
The Beacon Flea Market takes place in the parking lot behind the post office so it’s outside. It has vintage and antique furniture, clothing, and more. It’s also a great place to chat up the locals and learn about this perfect little town in the heart of the Hudson Valley.
7. Hike Mount Beacon
Mount Beacon is one of my favorite hikes in the Hudson Valley. First, it’s easy to get there by foot from the train. Mount Beacon Trailhead is a 35-minute walk from the train station though so keep that in mind. After that, there are several times when you can decide how hard and long you want the hike to be. If you’re a little tight on time, then just hike the two miles to the first overlook and back. If you have more time, then go all the way up to the fire tower.
I recommend using the Hike the Hudson Valley website for help with trail instructions, but the Mount Beacon hike is also very well maintained and labeled. The hike provides stunning views of the town, the Hudson River, and the surrounding region. It’s also perfectly located if you want to hike in the morning, then eat and relax in town afterward.
If you’d like a guided hike, you should consider this 2-day tour where you’ll hike up Mount Beacon, visit local wineries, cross the walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park for amazing views and stay at the Roundhouse Hotel.
8. Admire the Art
Beacon is full of art at every other corner. From homes with artistic laws to the many street murals. In fact, there are several murals around Beacon that you should make sure to check out. The first and most famous one is “The Son of Man” inspired mural on North Chestnut. And also the “River Beacon” by Rick Price on the side of the Riverwinds Gallery on Main Street, which you’ll see on your stroll through the town.
9. Visit Bannerman Castle
When you ride the Metro-North train to Beacon, you might notice a small island with a castle on it just a few minutes before you pull into Beacon train station. That’s Bannerman Castle. Bannerman Castle was constructed in the early 1900s by a private family who owned the island. It was used as a private home and to store items like ammunition and was later donated to New York State.
There are only a few ways to visit Bannerman Castle now. You can visit with a tour that covers ferry transportation, book a tour via kayak, or arrive on your own boat/kayak but you have to book a docking visit ahead of time. If you want to visit with a tour via ferry, you leave from Beacon. Bannerman Castle is the perfect day trip if you’re looking for something with history and to get out on the Hudson River.
10. Visit Madam Brett Homestead
If you are a history buff and like touring old homes, then take a walk through Madam Brett Homestead. It’s the oldest house in Dutchess County and is maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Dutch-style house was built in the early 1700s by a Long Island architect that the Brett family commissioned. There are tours every second Saturday of the month. Call or email and book a tour if you’re interested in checking out how some of the earliest colonizers in the area lived.
11. Visit Beacon’s Breweries
The Hudson Valley is rife with micro-breweries. A lot of them are not as easily accessible via public transportation so you might be worried about driving. In Beacon, there are a couple that you can visit and then take the train back to New York City.
- First, walk to Hudson Valley Brewery. It’s at the end of Main Street. The taproom is open Thursday-Sunday, but on-site pizza from Groundlings Pizza is only there Friday-Sunday. They have a big patio and a huge indoor space. They often have unique flavors and great sour IPAs.
- Next, visit Two Way Brewing Company. They are also open Thursday-Sunday. If you don’t like beer, but your friends all want to visit a brewery, then this place is perfect because they usually have a hard apple cider on tap as well.
- If both breweries are a little busy or you want to try a few other local options, then visit Draught Industries. Draught Industries is a narrow bar on Main Street that offers a rotating list of local craft beers. The bartenders are helpful and can give you some recommendations and even let you try some samples if you aren’t sure what you want.
12. Hudson Valley Food Hall
The indoor food hall scene continues to take over the world, and Beacon is no exception. Stop at Hudson Valley Food Hall and check out a variety of different food options from the vendors. There is Himalayan food, Nicaraguan food, and more. In the back of the space is The Roosevelt Bar. The Roosevelt Bar primarily uses Hudson Valley spirits to make its cocktails and has a rotation of tap beers and wines. There is a large outdoor space in addition to the indoor space. You’ll come back to the Hudson Valley Food Hall every chance you get.
13. Fishkill Overlook Falls
This cute waterfall dam is a little prized gem at the end of your lovely walk through Beacon’s downtown. It’s small but beautiful to admire for a few minutes at the end of tour trip, or on your way to one of the top Beacon restaurants (listed below). This quaint spot may be easy to miss, so we’re including it as a heads up. It’s a great way to take a moment to refresh your mind.
It’s located right next to The Roundhouse hotel.
Where to Eat and Drink in Beacon, NY
14. The Roundhouse
Eat at The Roundhouse for the food and the views. The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over Fishkill Creek and waterfalls. I recommend visiting The Roundhouse for brunch. It will not disappoint. They are completely closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and brunch is only on Saturday and Sunday.
15. Beacon Bread Company
Like Oprah, I also love bread. Beacon Bread Company helps feed that addiction. Go here for breakfast or lunch and get a bagel sandwich. Or the grilled cheese on sourdough. Or anything that strikes your fancy. You’ll be happy with all of it. Make sure to order a Beacon Special for your drink. It will sound odd, but you’ll like it. I promise.
16. Melzingah Tap House
Melzingah Tap House is great for every meal. It’s in a beautifully decorated space with murals and the love on Main Street. (If you haven’t noticed it yet, almost everything is on Main Street so it’s easy to find things!) Melzingah has a rotating craft beer list and a small but excellent food menu. The burgers are some of the best items on the list. The owner is often present at the bar so it’s a great atmosphere.
17. Bank Sq. Coffeehouse
Bank Sq. Coffeehouse is my go-to coffee house in Beacon. As soon as I pick somebody up from the train station in Beacon, I stop for an iced coffee and to use the restroom. They also serve beer and snacks. There are both large outdoor and indoor spaces to hang out in, and you can have your dog in the outdoor space. The baristas are always friendly and it’s the first place you see on Main Street on your walk up from the train station.
18. Glazed Over Donuts
I love the donut movement that has made donuts all the rage in the past ten years. However, most places make HUGE donuts. I still love them and eat them, but sometimes it’s too much sugar. I want a smaller, perfectly decorated, and glazed in specific flavors, donut. Glazed Over Donuts can do that. When you walk in, you are given a clipboard with paper, and you pick your glaze, topping, and drizzle for your donut. It’s fantastic. My go-to favorite is vanilla glaze, pretzels, and caramel. Go wild.
19. Denning’s Point Distillery
Breweries and cider houses in New York get a lot of love. There are also distilleries where New Yorkers craft artisanal spirits. Denning’s Point Distillery has bourbon, brandy, vodka, gin, and more. On Fridays- Sundays, you can pop in their location on N. Chestnut Street, just off Main Street, for a $5 tasting. Denning’s Point Distillery is one of the best distilleries in the state so make sure you check it out.
20. Meyer’s Olde Dutch Food & Such
Meyer’s Olde Dutch Food & Such is a mouthful of a name. The restaurant is an excellent example of the farm-to-table movement in the Hudson Valley. They try and use only local ingredients, like produce from their micro-farm in Hyde Park, New York. The menu is really small and has mostly meat options. It’s all delicious. Whether it’s the crispy chicken sandwich or the pork & bacon BBQ burger, it’s very clear that every item on the menu was created with a love and passion for food.
21. Kitchen Sink Supper Club
Before Meyer’s Olde Dutch Food & Such, Chef Brian Arnoff ran Kitchen Sink Food & Drink. Kitchen Sink Food & Drink was another restaurant located up the street. In recent years, Arnoff decided to convert Kitchen Sink Food & Drink into The Kitchen Sink Supper Club. The Kitchen Sink Supper Club is a reservation-only dining room with a rotation chef tasting menu. It’s open on Fridays and Saturdays and only does one seating per day. They use local ingredients and serve food in a communal seating area with an open kitchen. It’s the perfect thing to do in Beacon at the end of the day.
22. Enjoy a food tour of Beacon
Take part in a food walking tour in Beacon where you’ll get to taste local dishes and craft beverages created by locals. You’ll also get to learn about Beacon’s culture and food scene. You’ll also visit some of the creative shops and urban spaces in Beacon.
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About the Author: LEAH WERSEBE
Leah is a TV aficionado and a recovering 9-5 office worker. Her permanent home is in New York, but she has traveled to over 25 countries in search of the perfect latte. In 2022, she’s temporarily living in Galicia, Spain. Leah loves being in debt so has degrees from universities in international politics, film, and wildlife conservation. Follow her on Twitter at @LDWersebe.
Editor: GERRY ISABELLE
Gerry was born and raised in New York City. She is the founder of Dominican Abroad – a culture and travel blog. Her curiosity and passion for culture, history, and the outdoors have taken her around the globe. You can follow her New York State + world travels on her Instagram. Fun fact: She studied in Upstate NY with Leah!
About Us: @ DOMINICAN ABROAD
At Dominican Abroad, we believe in intentional and informed travel/cultural experiences. That means that we practice being mindful of the cultural heritage and natural wonders of the destinations we travel to so that as a community we are traveling with knowledge and respect. Learn more about our missions here.