Beacon is a small town–we’re talking about 15,000 people here, folks–about 60 miles north of the Big Apple, located on the Hudson River Valley. Despite the prime riverside location, it was not much of a tourist destination until 2003, when the fancy contemporary art museum, Dia:Beacon, opened. Tourists started coming up from NYC to see the exhibits and soon the town of Beacon had as many vintage clothing stores and hipster coffee shops as any 20-something’s heart could desire.
Despite Beacon’s increase in popularity, it is a small town, so I strongly recommend that you visit on a weekend between April and October. Lots of things will be closed otherwise. I personally think the best time of year to visit Beacon is early to mid October. Look at all those fall colors!
If you’re very lucky, you can also encounter some corny leaf jokes.
Beacon is extremely easy to get to either from New York City or from another town on the Hudson River, like Cold Spring, by using the Metro North train. However, this itinerary will be easier for you if you have a car or a bike because some of the attractions of Beacon are a little far from the train station. If you don’t, fear not! You just have to be a champion walker, like the Travelerette!
Morning: Exploring Beacon
The main drag in Beacon is conveniently named Main Street. There actually aren’t any other streets in Beacon that you really need to explore. Old Main Street has really gotten spruced up over the last decade, while still maintaining some of the cute little brick buildings you’d expect in a town with 15,000 people that’s over 100 years old.
But you don’t want to just admire the bricks. You came to Main Street to shop til you drop like a red sugar maple leaf! There are adorable trendy stores popping up on Main Street all the time, but here are my favorites.
- Beacon Bath and Bubble, which sells original bath products in cute packaging like teddy bear honey bottles. They also have fun scents like Monkey Farts, which smells like bananas of course.
- Vintage:Beacon, which sells amazing clothes. I bought a handmade ice blue dress from the 1950s there that looks exactly like something Betty Draper would wear, even though I clearly am more of a Rachel Menken.
- Hudson Beach Glass, which not only sells gorgeous glassware and glass jewelry, it also has its own glassblowing studio where you can watch the glass taking shape. You can even get your own glassblowing lesson if you wish for the low starting price of 75 dollars.
Stores aren’t the only thing sprouting up like daisies on Main Street! You can also find fun murals and pop up art installations. Keep your eyes open for beauty and fun, that’s my motto!
I really wonder whose job it is to paint these murals. Maybe it’s no one’s job and Beacon is just a town run by hidden hipster elves. Maybe that’s why it seems like there’s another cute shoe shop opening up on Main Street every other week. Elves did it.
Don’t forget to walk all the way to the end of Main Street, no matter how tired your footsies are! There you will get an amazing view of this waterfall and the surrounding mountains.
Lunch: Ella’s Bellas
Address: 418 Main Street
Hours: Closed Tuesday
You won’t be starved for choice if you want to find something to eat in Beacon. The elves are just almost as dedicated to opening cute little cafes as they are devoted to opening stores that sell 80s memorabilia. I liked Ella’s Bellas because they make scrumptious flavored seasonal lattes and have deliciously hearty soups of the day like my rich and spicy vegetarian bean soup.
FYI, for those of you who are gluten-free, Ella’s Bellas is also a gluten-free bakery, but their baked goods are good enough to even please the gluten-phile.
If you’d rather flee from gluten-free, you can get some delicious ice cream at the Beacon Creamery on 134 Main Street. (All ice cream places in the Hudson Valley are called creameries. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s some obscure law dating back to colonial times.)
This flavor is called Mint Summer Night’s Dream, which is just more proof that the hipster elf mafia runs this town.
Address: 3 Beekman Street
Hours: April-October 11 AM to 6 PM
Price: 15 Dollars
Dia is a contemporary art museum located in a former Nabisco factory, which makes sense because even hipster elves love cookies. Because it’s in an old factory, there are many high ceilings and large windows that make Dia a perfect setting for large-scale installations.
Dia is located almost an hour’s walk from Main Street, but never fear, halt of foot! Conveniently, there is a shuttle bus that goes from Main Street to the train station to Dia, so just check the schedule to see the correct times. Be aware that the bus does not operate on Sundays. If you take the 12:20 bus from the Beacon Theater, you should get to the museum with plenty of time to take the free tour.
As I just hinted, there is a free tour of one of the exhibits every 1 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. I would say that Saturday is the best day of the week to visit Beacon because it’s the only day where you can take both a free tour and the shuttle bus.
I believe that the best way to explore an art museum is to start looking for patterns. If you have time or the inclination, you can then think about what those patterns mean. This is especially true in a contemporary art museum because so much contemporary art is non-representational and therefore can be confusing. What I noticed on this trip to Dia was how many different non-traditional materials contemporary artists use to make their work. We have art made with doors,
art made with holes in the ground,
art made out of pieces of string hanging from the ceiling,
art made with crushed up old cars,
or even a pile of dirt with glass in it.
I like to think the underlying message of all this is that art can be anywhere and come from anything, which coincidentally is the same message of Pixar’s Ratatouille. But if you have a different interpretation of this pattern, feel free to share it!
My favorite piece in Dia is this “Four-Sided Vortex” by Robert Smithson. It made me reflect about how each person’s self is not the smooth and polished image normally seen in a mirror. Rather our self is fragmented and made up of many different parts: how we want people to see us, how others actually see us, repressed childhood memories, behavior determined by social norms, etc. Also it’s really cool how I just wanted to take MY picture and I ended up snapping some randos too.
Can you find out which one is me? It’s like the Travelerette version of Where’s Waldo. Also, like Waldo, I am wearing stripes.
Once you are done perusing the art, be on the lookout for any special events that might be taking place at Dia. I happened upon a free beer tasting in the gardens, which was fun until I bumped into one of my second grade students and his dad with a beer in my hand. I was mostly just impressed that the dad wanted to take his seven year old son to an art gallery for the weekend.
Evening: Brother’s Trattoria
Address: 465 Main St.
There’s no place to get dinner right at Beacon, so you will want to hop back on the bus and head over to Main Street. I had not made a reservation so I decided to dine at the restaurant that seemed most crowded that evening, and this was the old-school Italian Brother’s Trattoria. Fortunately I am just one me, so I can usually get a seat at the bar even if a restaurant is crowded.
I was instantly tempted by the sight of the daily special, this overflowing bowl of goodness known as zuppa di pesce. Every single element, from the mussels to the calamari, was fresh and just the right amount of chewy. The broth was swimming in garlic and just a teeny bit spicy, which was perfection on an October evening. If this soup is on the menu, don’t hesitate to pick it up. Brother’s will send you home on your train/bike/car/elfmobile well satisfied.
what would you do on a perfect day in beacon?
Would you stare at your reflection in a broken mirror? Would you buy some Monkey Farts? Or perhaps would you join the Hipster Elf Mafia? What if they made you an offer you couldn’t refuse? Please leave your thoughts below!
I am here to provide perfect travel itineraries with 24 hours, 3 fun facts, and 1,000,000 laughs! I hope that I can motivate you to get out there, see the world, learn something, and have a sense of humor about it all.