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Greetings Internet Stranger! Sometimes I begin each post by saying that I plan my travel itineraries 24 hours at a time–but that certainly doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in a city. 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!

Fall Colors 24 hours in Beacon
Beacon New York Leaves

If you’re very lucky, you can also encounter some corny leaf jokes.

Reformed Church of Beacon New York

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 me!

Welcome to Beacon New York

24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY

Where to Stay?

Many people who visit Dia Beacon are going to want to do it as a day trip from New York City. Obviously there’s tons of hotels in New York City to choose from. If you’re looking for great NYC hotel options no matter what your budget, you can find great deals on over 1000 hotels if you just click here.

24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY

What to Pack?

You’ll also need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

If the weather is rainy, which happens quite often in New York, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. You don’t want to carry a huge bag around the museum. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

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. There actually aren’t any other streets in Beacon that you really need to explore. I’ll get you started with…

Approximately Top 5: Beacon Main Street

24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY
1) shopping!

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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Beacon New York Street Art
2) 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!

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.

Beacon New York Mountain View
3) 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 elves live under the waterfall.)

ella's bellas Beacon New York
4) have Lunch at Ella’s Bellas

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 glutenphilic among us.

Beacon Creamery Beacon New York
5) 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.)

This flavor is called Mint Summer Night’s Dream, which is just more proof that the hipster elf mafia runs this town.

Dia Beacon New York

24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY

Afternoon: Dia: Beacon

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.

24 hour TIP

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. I will introduce you to some of my favorites.


Beacon holes

1) Michael Heizer, “North, South, East, West”

Art can be some holes in the ground.

dia beacon ny

Strings hanging from the ceiling can be art.

dia beacon ny

Crushed up cars are definitely art! But don’t try this with your daddy’s car, whether it’s dark out or not.


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!


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. 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 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.

Brothers Trattoria Beacon New York

24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY

Evening: Dinner at Brother’s Trattoria

Our day of the best things to do in Beacon NY are coming to a close, and it’s time for dinner. There’s no place to get dinner right at Dia: Beacon. Therefore, 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. 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.

Further Reading: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY

Are you ready to start booking your NY hotel right now? My favorite guide to the Hudson Valley is the Moon Travel guide. They have interesting attractions for every town in the area. Although I still don’t understand why this brand calls itself Moon if they don’t make any guide for travel to the moon.

If you’d rather have fiction, the most famous writer to come out of the Hudson Valley is Washington Irving. Still haven’t read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Want to know how Irving named the Knicks basketball team? Read his short stories!

And if you’re new to museums, the best introduction to art appreciation is Ways of Seeing. This book will lead you gently, like a very stupid baby, through the wonders of seeing the hidden patterns and beauty in a white on white painting, among other things.

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 in Beacon, try spending 24 hours in Cold Spring as well. Or you could make time for 24 hours in Tarrytown. I’ve got you covered either way!


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