From the Train (1)
Walk up to town (it's a short hike)
or take a cab
2 ∙ Dia:Beacon
3 ∙ Riverfront Park
4 ∙ River Pool
19 ∙ Mount Beacon
5 ∙ Botsford Briar B&B
17 ∙ The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls
18 ∙ Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground
6 ∙ Nella Bella's
10 ∙ Trendy Tots Take Two
13 ∙ Blackbird Attic
16 ∙ Heart & Soul
7 ∙ Culture Café
8 ∙ Cup & Saucer Tea Room
9 ∙ Gerardo's Seafood Cafe
11 ∙ Get Frosted Cupcakery
12 ∙ Oak Vino Wine Bar
14 ∙ Brother's Trattoria
15 ∙ The Hop
Just a glance at Beacon’s website and you begin to get a feel for what a potent renaissance this post-industrial city has undergone. Some small American cities have websites that are excruciatingly (though earnestly) dry or pathetic. Many are just plain ordinary. Very, very few are this casually and confidently well-written, with no less than seven detailed suggestions for how to spend a day there, a Vimeo channel full of meetings and events, and a library jammed with feature articles about various attractions. But then, very little about Beacon is ordinary.
Hourly trains from Grand Central make Beacon easy to reach from most anywhere. Once you get to the station, you can grab a taxi—they meet most trains—or do what the locals do and walk to town. It’s not a long walk, just over a mile, but it is uphill.
This particular uphill mile, though, will get you to some of the outright coolest sights and doings to be found anywhere—and it makes a great warm-up for Mount Beacon.
But let’s say you get off the train and don’t feel like walking up a hill just yet. You could, quite easily, entertain yourself for hours right at river level. The Newburgh-Beacon Ferry run by Metro-North offers a brief, inexpensive cruise across the Newburgh Bay and back; with or without a stop for a drink at one of the storied bars of Newburgh’s revitalized waterfront, it’s a refreshing welcome to the neighborhood.
Back on the Beacon side, the waterfront is where you’ll find the Beacon Sloop Club, the living and breathing work of the late Pete Seeger and the home of the sloop Woody Guthrie. It’s also where you’ll find Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park, home of their River Center housed in a restored barn and a shoreline sculpture installation by George Trakas. You can rent a kayak or take an easy hike to Denning’s Point State Park.
You’re brief minutes from Dia: Beacon, the globally important contemporary art museum in a repurposed box factory that many credit with fueling Beacon’s resurgence as a destination. With its extensive use of day lighting throughout almost a quarter million feet of gallery space, Dia Beacon is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
A quick walk upriver from the station takes you to Riverfront Park, where you can cool your heels wading in the River Pool in midsummer, thanking whatever powers you care to thank for the contagious dedication and hard work of Seeger and friends in stewarding these glorious waters. Indeed, you can easily spend a day or more just roving Beacon’s waterfront.
But you will want to venture up the hill eventually, because that’s where you’ll find still more of the eclectic selection of creative endeavors that is modern-day Beacon. The mountain with which this city shares its name is the tallest peak of the Hudson Highlands and was a prime spot for rebel signal fires during the Revolutionary War. Today, the entire town shines—a beacon of realized dreams—illuminating what a little post-industrial city can be when it finds the courage to believe in itself and work together.
There’s much more than a day’s worth of fun to be had here and several nice options when it comes to where to stow your stuff and sleep nights. If you’re the camping type, check out Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground. They’ll pick you up at the train and whisk you to your hike of choice, anything from a half hour to five hours. While you walk, they’ll tote your sleeping bag, pack, and cooler to your campsite, a covered platform that comes equipped with everything else you’ll need. With hot showers, clothes dryers, and catered feasts, Malouf’s Mountain is “roughing it” in a mighty smooth style indeed.
If you’d rather bunk indoors, the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls offers spacious loft-style rooms in renovated historic buildings, many with waterfall views. A boutique hotel, the Roundhouse is located right near the nightlife, art, and shopping that you’ll want to explore. Three restaurants—two indoor and one al fresco—serve locally sourced food and beverage. Or try the Botsford Briar B & B, a meticulously restored Queen Anne Victorian with a fairytale turret, lush woodworking, ornamental fireplaces, and river views. (A deck was added in 2008, the better to enjoy those views.) The high-ceilinged rooms furnished with antiques will impart the graces of a bygone era to your downtime, and you’ll get a continental breakfast.
True connoisseurs of recreational retail love nothing more than the thrill of a handmade, vintage, or gently-used find. Let the others flock to the mall and fritter their hard-earned cash away; when you’re shopping indie retail in Beacon, you’ll find classy classics at fractional prices and unique handmade items that you’ll treasure.
Blackbird Attic Boutique, the brainchild of former Brooklynite Michelle Caves, is a lovingly curated selection of vintage and handmade goods enhanced by fresh, edgy artworks on display. The art show changes every month, the inventory more often than that. Just reading descriptions of the inventory online is enough to make a clothing lover’s heart beat faster.
You’re also likely to fall in love at Nella Bella's Boutique, another boutique resale shop. “I was actually trying to find mom and pop thrift shops when I walked in here. I was not disappointed, though,” says an online reviewer. “All of the items are BEAUTIFUL. Although they do have their boutique prices, there are plenty of items on clearance from previous seasons. I was able to find a gorgeous embroidered peplum dress for 75 percent off.” That’s really all a true thrift shop lover needs to know to make a beeline for Nella Bella’s door.
Smart shoppers also know that well-made infant’s and children’’s clothing and equipment outlasts any one child’s tenure, and that’s the founding principle behind Trendy Tots Take Two. “It would be easy to mistake this charming Main Street shop for an exclusive children’s boutique,” writes a reviewer in Hudson Valley Magazine. “But have no fear: the prices here remain bargain-basement, while the merchandise elicits lots of ooh-la-las.” And with word like that going around, you know the selection has only improved.
What could go better with your new and improved wardrobe than soft smooth skin, clear eyes, and tons of energy? Nothing, that’s what, and that’s why you should be sure to stop at Heart and Soul, where they handcraft and curate the finest organic personal care and health products. Lotions, teas, oils, mists, and spices lovingly made in small batches will pamper your every inch.
EAT & DRINK
Nobody, of course, should contemplate too much shopping or exploring without a snack. Here, too, Beacon excels. Stop and indulge your sweet tooth at Get Frosted Cupcakery, where two friendly sisters are baking up a storm. Cupcakes are a constant, other baked offerings change daily, and all of it is from scratch.
At The Cup & Saucer Tea Room, you’ll find “international comfort foods”—cottage pies, meatloaf, goulash, and sauerbraten, to name but a few, and an authentic British-style afternoon tea served up by an authentic British-born woman who “always dreamed of having my own pretty little tea room” and has created one so nice it’s attracted favorable notice in The New York Times.
For dinner, you’ve got some wonderful choices. You can feast on fine Northern Italian fare, impeccably prepared and served, at Brother’s Trattoria, or go casual for fresh seafood delights in a laid-back, intimate setting at Gerardo’s Seafood. And over at the Culture Café, they’re cooking up fusion fare three meals a day. Whether you fancy a breakfast of Belgian waffles with mango or papaya, some shrimp toast or empanadas for lunch, or perhaps some balsamic-glazed short ribs for supper, they’ve got a feast just waiting for you.
You’ll find fine, fresh craft-brewed beer and much more at The Hop, envisioned as “a universal constant in a sea of chaos.” Besides a stunning selection of the best local brews (nine choices on tap at any given moment), you can sample artisanal local fare of all sorts: chef Matt Hutchins crafts exclusive sausages, pates, and terrines, and they hand-select local chocolates, cheeses, pickles, and suchlike treats.
If you’re in a wine state of mind, try Oak Vino Wine Bar. The revolutionary and well-realized idea here is that you don’t need to be a snob to delight in a wide selection of wine by the glass, served in a tasteful setting. You’ll find they are pouring friendliness and free wi-fi with a generous hand.
TOP IT OFF
Towering over the city of Beacon, Mount Beacon is the highest peak of the entire Hudson Highlands. For most of the twentieth century, the public could ride the Incline Railway funicular—a marvel that combines features of railway and elevator—to the top and stand on the same ground where colonial rebels lit their signal fires of long ago. And there are exciting plans for a revival of the Incline Railway in the works. But don’t wait. Get a good night’s sleep, pack a picnic, and hike the steep mile to the summit. You’ll get a workout, true. But the indescribable reward is a view that stretches, on a clear day, all the way from Manhattan Island to the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge—pretty much the most Hudson Valley that can be seen at once without an airplane getting involved.
And we all know there is nothing — just nothing — that equals that.