Best Things to Do in Beacon NY: A Perfect 24 Hours

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best things to do in Beacon NY! I usually end 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!

best things to do in beacon ny
best things to do in Beacon NY

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

best things to do in beacon ny

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!

best things to do in beacon ny

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.

best things to do in beacon ny

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.

best things to do in beacon ny

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.

24 Hours: Best Things to Do in Beacon NY

What to Pack

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 these are some places you simply can’t miss, dah-link.

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.
best things to do in beacon ny
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.

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 hipster elves live under the waterfall.)

best things to do in Beacon NY
4) 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 soups of the day like my rich and spicy vegetarian bean soup.

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.

best things to do in beacon ny
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.

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.

best things to do in Beacon NY
best things to do in Beacon NY

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 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. 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. But if you’re visiting the museum on your own and want a little help, I recommend this book, which is one of the best guides to appreciating art.

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!


best things to do in Beacon NY
1) Michael Heizer, “North, South, East, West”

Art can be some holes in the ground.

best things to do in Beacon NY

Strings hanging from the ceiling can be art.

best things to do in 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.

best things to do in Beacon NY

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. 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.

best things to do in Beacon NY

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.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a reservation! You can just wander about and see which place looks the most promising. In my case 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.

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.

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 leave your thoughts below!

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 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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