This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best things to do in Beacon NY! I usually tell my readers to plan their trips 24 hours at a time. But I also mention that you should spend more than 24 hours in each city. One day in Tokyo or Rome, for example, isn’t going to cut it.
Well, this post doesn’t need that disclaimer. 24 Hours is the perfect amount of time to spend finding the best things to do in Beacon NY.
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 got a reputation for being one of the best things to do in Beacon NY.
Despite Beacon NY’s increase in popularity, it is a small town, so I strongly recommend that you spend 24 hours there 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.
24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
Where to Stay?
If you really want to explore the beauty and majesty of the mighty Hudson River, I suggest finding a hotel that will be a good base and spending at least a weekend exploring the different adorable towns in the Hudson Valley like Cold Spring, Tarryown, and Ossining. I recommend staying in nearby Fishkill if you have a car and want to stay close to Beacon. There are some excellent more affordable options there and it’s just outside town.
One excellent choice is the Residence Inn by Marriott. It’s much more affordable than NYC hotels, there’s a free breakfast included, and there’s even a full fitness center and indoor pool if you get antsy and want to blow off some steam far away from the hipster elves of Beacon.
However, if you’re seeing Beacon as a day trip from New York City, I recommend staying in the Artezen Hotel in Lower Manhattan. It’s got a super convenient location, it’s affordable, and it has nice amenities like complimentary snacks and bath products from the local Bigelow pharmacy.
If you’d like a great deal on this hotel, click here.
And if you’d rather explore other hotels in the area and find the best choice for your needs, just click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay during your plans for your day of the best things to do in Beacon NY. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.
24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
Morning: Exploring Beacon’s Main Street
The main drag in Beacon is conveniently named Main Street, and exploring this street is definitely one of the best things to do in Beacon NY. There actually aren’t any other streets in Beacon that you really need to explore. There are tons of fun wonders of Main Street, but I’m going to concentrate on the absolutely top places you simply can’t miss, dah-link.
Approximately Top 5: Beacon Main Street
1) Glazed Over Donuts
Glazed Over Donuts is many things. First, it is a popular donut shop in Beacon that has been voted the best donut shop in the entire Hudson River Valley. Second, it is a perfect place to get breakfast on your 24 hours exploring the best things to do in Beacon NY.
At Glazed Over, you have two main options. You can either create your own donut, which means you choose the base, the glaze, the toppings, etc. Or you can choose the specially designed donut of the day. I’m the world’s least picky eater, and I also hate making decisions, so I opted for the donut of the day.
In my lucky case, this meant I could nosh on a coconut lime cookie donut with raspberry drizzle. YUM! It was like a tropical hurricane exploding in my mouth, only with a lot less destruction and a lot more deliciousness. This donut will certainly not be on the menu when you go, but you might be able to recreate it yourself. Just ask the friendly staff for help!
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.
Solstad House, which sells everything from hand-painted tiles with magical whales on them to bourbon-infused bath oil.
A lovely clothing/accessory store called Hyperbole, where I bought a sweet pair of vintage-looking sunglasses that I get tons of compliments on.
And finally Sybil, which is a great home furnishings boutique. (I bought a beautiful set of salad servers that were made in Kenya.)
No matter which store you decide to hit up, you’ll soon see why shopping is one of the best things to do in Beacon NY.
3) Public Art
Stores aren’t the only thing sprouting up like daisies on Main Street! You can also find fun murals and pop up art installations during your 24 hours in Beacon. Keep your eyes open for beauty and fun, that’s my motto! This mural above looks almost like a Banksy.
And this one is apparently the love child of a butterfly and an elephant. (Love child! Never meant to be!)
This one is almost like a Magritte!
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.
4) Delight in nature’s wonders
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. (PS. Pretty sure the hipster elves live under the waterfall.)
5) Have Lunch at Kitchen and Coffee
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 Kitchen & Coffee because they make scrumptious flavored seasonal lattes and have deliciously hearty salads like this lemon tahini salad above.
Even though I’m an omnivore, I enjoyed this filling vegetarian salad full of cauliflower and chickpeas. There was so much flavor that I didn’t miss the meat at all. And the gluten-free scallion flatbread that came with it was extremely light and tasty.
I also enjoyed the fire and ice coffee drink, which is a shot of espresso over cold milk. It has a very pleasant cinnamon flavor without being too sweet.
FYI, for those of you who are gluten-free, Kitchen & Coffee is also a gluten-free bakery, but their baked goods are good enough to even please the glutenphilic among us.
6) Ice cream at beacon creamery
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.
The flavor I recommend you get at the Beacon Creamery is called Mint Summer Night’s Dream, which is just more proof that the hipster elf mafia runs this town. I mean, the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream is just full of fairies and elves.
My other suggestion would be Coconut Almond Joy, which has real pieces of Almond Joy candy. If you love coconut, this is definitely the ice cream for you.
24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
Afternoon: Dia: Beacon
This is the most famous attraction in Beacon, so you can’t say you’ve found the best things to do in Beacon NY if you don’t come here. 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 called the Beacon Free Loop 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.
24 hour TIP
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. Try to see how many of the following you can spot when you visit!
APPROXIMATELY TOP 5: DIA: BEACON EDITION
1) Michael Heizer, “North, South, East, West”
Art can be some holes in the ground.
2) CAN YOU SPOT THE WORK OF ART HERE?
Strings hanging from the ceiling can be art.
3) JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, “DADDY IN THE DARK”
Crushed up cars are definitely art! But don’t try this with your daddy’s car, whether it’s dark out or not.
4) ROBERT SMITHSON, “CLOSED MIRROR SQUARE”
The best art is maybe a big pile of dirt with cut up 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!
5) “FOUR-SIDED VORTEX” BY ROBERT SMITHSON
This is my favorite piece at Dia: Beacon. It made me reflect about how each person’s self is not the smooth and polished image normally seen in a mirror. Instead 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 24 Hour 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. Don’t worry about me, though! I quickly disposed of my beer by throwing it on a Louise Bourgeois sculpture.
24 Treasure: Beans Cat Cafe
You’ll have some free time in between your excursion to Dia: Beacon and dinner, so why not stop for some furry refreshment at Beans Cat Cafe. You can book 30 or 60 minutes with these adorable fluffy kitties at a time. They are so soft, and you can pet them, but please don’t pick them up. It’s much more fun to watch them be friendly and peaceful.
Beans also has delicious coffee drinks and snacks that you can order to go with your cat-sitting experience. I especially liked my iced raspberry chai in this adorable kitty face cup!
But the cats are the real star! I’m just going to keep posting cute kitty photos until you agree to go to Beans Cat Cafe. You will surrender eventually!!!
24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
Our day of the best things to do in Beacon NY are coming to a close, and it’s time for dinner. Don’t worry if you don’t have a reservation! You can just wander about and see which place looks the most promising. I’m so nice that I’ll give you two of my favorite options.
One of my favorite restaurants in Beacon is the old-school Italian Brother’s Trattoria. It’s usually super busy and popular. Fortunately I am just one me, so I can usually get a seat at the bar even if a restaurant is crowded.
Behold the wonders 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.
If you’re looking for something a little fancier, try the gorgeous Roundhouse restaurant. The produce is always seasonal. You can tell I ate here in the summer because of those gorgeous nectarines and red plums in vincotto served with a succulent burrata.
My favorite part of this dish was dipping the light crostini in the fragrant basil oil. Usually I prefer butter on my bread, but a great oil can be very tempting.
And here’s another bit of summer on a plate: gnocchi with summer squash, corn, and heirloom tomatoes. I usually think of gnocchi as a cold weather food, but this dish completely changed my mind. I did feel curious about what kinds of dishes they’d serve in the other three seasons, but I suppose we’ll have to go back and visit in the other three seasons to find out. Poor us!
24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
What to Pack
- A cell charger so you can take photos of all the best things to do in Beacon NY
- My favorite guidebook to the Hudson Valley, where Beacon is located.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
- The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds during our day of the best things to do in Beacon NY
- These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
How To Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you some of the finest treats from the hipster elf mafia that runs Beacon. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to Beacon.
However, I can tell you that 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 of the best things to do in Beacon NY 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 me!
If you need to take a plane or car to get to New York City, I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight or car rental, depending on how you want to get around. Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight or car rental, so you can head out to Beacon.
That’s the Best Things to do in Beacon NY
What do you think are the best things to do in Beacon NY? Are you more of a Betty, a Rachel, or an Irene Dunne? And is the hipster elf mafia coming for my zuppa di pesce? Please email me at email@example.com and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. If you have more time in the Hudson River Valley than just 24 hours with the best things to do in Beacon NY, try some more itineraries.
Add on a day of the best Tarrytown NY things to do. Check out the best things to do in the New York Renaissance Faire. Get to know the best things to do in Ossining NY. Find the best things to do near the Garrison New York train station. Experience the best attractions in Cooperstown NY.