Sandwiched between the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands State Park, with Fishkill Creek winding its way through town, Beacon is a quaint Hudson Valley town about 60 miles north of Midtown Manhattan and New York’s Central Park. With Mount Beacon and the Catskills as a backdrop, ample waterfront views, and Fishkill Falls cascading adjacent to Main Street, Beacon is a beautiful spot in New York State filled with natural beauty and experiences for outdoor lovers. And if that’s not your style, it also boasts an impressive contemporary art museum, a variety of delicious restaurants, and a vibrant downtown filled with boutiques and unique shops. Whether you opt for active outdoor adventures or a chill food-filled experience, Beacon is a great day-trip destination or weekend getaway from NYC.
Fun Fact: Beacon is named for the historic beacon fires that blazed at the top of the surrounding mountains to alert the Continental Army of British troop movement during the Revolutionary War.
1. Mount Beacon
For unparalleled views of the scenic Hudson River, with a line of sight to both NYC and Albany on a clear day, hike Mount Beacon. Begin the trek with a staircase that parallels the Beacon Incline Railway. Long abandoned, it was once the world’s steepest passenger funicular used to shuttle guests up the mountain to the Mount Beacon Casino and Beaconcrest Hotel, until both were destroyed by a fire in 1927. Then, continue winding your way along switchbacks for a mile until you reach the fire tower. To enjoy an even more impressive sight, scale the 60-foot-tall Mount Beacon Fire Tower.
2. Bannerman Island
For a truly unique experience at Hudson Highlands State Park, tour Bannerman Island in the middle of the Hudson River. Also known as Pollepel Island, it’s home to the ruins of the Bannerman Castle and offers truly unique views of the Hudson Valley. Note that you’ll start your visit to the island by climbing more than 70 stairs and will explore on foot, often walking along unpaved paths and uneven surfaces.
3. Dennings Point State Park
Dennings Point State Park is part of the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve that spreads across 8,000 largely undeveloped acres on the east bank of the Hudson River. Located on a peninsula in the northwestern corner of the preserve, this riverfront park includes a tree-lined, 1.2-mile, easy hiking trail that delivers beautiful water scenes and ample bird-watching opportunities, including a bald eagle viewing spot.
Dennings Point State Park is also full of history. If the tall trees standing along the river for many years could talk, they would share stories of watching Alexander Hamilton pen his first drafts of the Federalist Papers while living on Dennings Point during the Revolutionary War. And if the gentle breeze could turn back time, the ruins of the Dennings Point Brick Works would be cranking out building blocks for iconic sites like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center.
4. Beacon Institute For Rivers & Estuaries
This state-of-the-art educational facility on Dennings Point is dedicated to sustainable solutions for estuary and freshwater ecosystems throughout the Hudson Valley and across the Empire State. The Water Ecology Center at the Beacon Institute for Rivers & Estuaries is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, and visitors can meet native animals and examine ecology exhibits.
Pro Tip: Guided visits are available upon request between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
5. Long Dock Park
Just south of the Beacon train station, Long Dock Park is located on a manmade peninsula created in the 1800s. While its original use was as a terminal for ferrying rail cars across the Hudson, it is now a popular place to fish in, kayak across, or picnic near the Hudson River.
Pro Tip: Other local parks worth visiting include Madam Brett Park and the Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park.
6. Madam Brett Homestead
Built around 1709, the Madam Brett Homestead is the oldest house in Dutchess County. Although she was widowed at a young age, Madam Brett remained in her home (surrounded by wilderness at the time) while raising her three sons and successfully running several businesses. At a time when women couldn’t vote and rarely owned property, that’s quite impressive!
The Dutch-style home with scalloped shingles, Dutch doors, and sloping dormers is open for tours every second Saturday from May through December. Visitors are able to see all 17 rooms — including the Federal Style dining room, drawing room, and kitchen — decorated with the original Georgian, Empire, and Victorian furniture.
7. Dia Beacon
Located downstream from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge that connects Beacon to Newburgh, Dia Beacon is a modern art museum in a former Nabisco box-printing factory that features collections from the 1960s to the present, including a larger-than-life spider by Louise Bourgeois and a creative display of broken glass by Robert Smithson. Since its opening in 2003, it’s been hailed as one of the largest contemporary art galleries in the United States, pulling artists north to Beacon from New York City like a magnet.
Dia Beacon keeps long weekend hours, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Monday. If you visit on Saturday or Sunday, be sure to join a tour at noon or 1:30 pm. This experience is included in the price of your admission ticket.
8. Hudson Beach Glass
Inside a renovated fire station at the corner of Main and Cross Streets in the heart of downtown Beacon, Hudson Beach Glass is an art gallery featuring handmade glass pieces that range from decorative, like animal figurines and glass beads fashioned into jewelry, to functional, like soap dishes and serving pieces. Visitors can also observe glassblowing demonstrations in the glassblowing studio. After watching a professional, if you’re itching to pucker up and give it a go, you can sign up to blow your own ornament for a unique souvenir to decorate your Christmas tree!
9. Main Street
Just half a mile east of the Beacon train station, Main Street is the lifeline of town, with the majority of Beacon’s shops and restaurants lining both sides. Fuel up with a latte or cappuccino at Bank Square Coffeehouse, then stroll and shop for about a mile. Some of my favorite stops are Zakka Joy, Beacon Bath & Bubble, Hyperbole, and Berte.
If you’re looking for delicious food and amazing live music, Towne Crier Cafe is the place to be. For more than 50 years, it has hosted a wide range of now-famous musicians in the early stages of their careers, including Don McLean, Kevin Bacon, David Byrne, Vanessa Carlton, 10,000 Maniacs, and many others. As Main Street curves north and runs parallel to Fishkill Creek, give your feet a rest by stopping for a burger and craft beer at Melzingah’s Tap House. And before you start the 30-minute, 1.4-mile walk back to the train station, grab dessert in the form of a made-to-order s’more at the Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the “dummy light” at the intersection of Main and East Main Streets, about a block south of the Tap House. In place since 1926, this old-fashioned traffic light mounted on a pedestal is one of two left in all of New York.
10. Fishkill Overlook Falls
Also known as Beacon Falls, Fishkill Overlook Falls cascades down Fishkill Creek just across Main Street near Melzingah Tap House. One of the best spots to view the falls is from the Ron & Ronnie Sauers Bridge that crosses the creek at East Main Street just east of The Roundhouse. If you continue east across the bridge and follow the sidewalk to the left immediately after crossing the creek, you’ll discover fantastic views of the falls, unobstructed by the tall trees that line the east side of Main Street on the other side of the water.
11. Beacon’s Historic Post Office
In an age when vacation photos can immediately be shared with 2,000 of your closest friends in real-time, I appreciate that many people no longer send old-school postcards. But even if you don’t pen a note home, be sure to visit this 1930s-era, Dutch Colonial Revival-style post office on Main Street. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building’s fieldstone exterior is a distinctive feature of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation during the Great Depression. It also features a beautifully painted map of the Hudson Valley and a wrap-around New Deal mural.
12. Beacon Farmers Market
Enjoy locally-sourced goods while supporting Hudson Valley farmers by shopping at the Beacon Farmers Market, held every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You’ll discover a wide variety of fantastic wares for sale at the market, including fresh ingredients to fill a picnic basket to enjoy along the Hudson River or another scenic spot in Beacon.
Purchase bread from All You Knead, a small artisanal bakery with an emphasis on small-batch bread using locally-grown organic grain. Top it with cheese from Cooperstown Cheese Company. Or whip up a salad with fresh produce from Obercreek Farm and Common Ground Farm.
For dessert, treat yourself to unique cookies from Midnight Acres or cheesecake from Cooperstown Cheese Company. Then, take your food selections to a new level by pairing them with hard cider from Abandoned Cider, or a ready-to-drink, farm-fresh cocktail from Liquid Fables. Or purchase a bottle of smoked maple bourbon from Cooper’s Daughter Spirits to mix up a Kinderhooker: a Hudson Valley take on an Old Fashioned, made with cherry applejack, fresh lemon, sugar, and orange bitters.
How To Get To Beacon, New York
Whether you drive or take the train, allow about 90 minutes to reach Beacon from the Big Apple. Although it’s an easy drive (once you get outside, the non-stop hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps), if you want someone else to take the wheel, simply hop on the Metro-North Hudson Line. Head toward Poughkeepsie at Grand Central Terminal and disembark at Beacon Station. Depending on the time of day, riding the train will cost a little less than $50 round trip. Calculate the current fare for your trip to Beacon here.
Whether you take the train or drive, you’ll discover that Beacon is a delightful little Hudson River Valley town filled with fantastic things to do just 90 minutes north of New York City.
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