The small post-industrial city of Beacon, New York, has been well worth a weekend visit (or permanent decampment) for quite some time-and now more than ever during COVID, this popular oasis for city-weary New Yorkers is a welcome art and nature-filled getaway less than two hours from the city.
Situated right on the mighty Hudson River, Beacon boasts bucolic beauty, hiking trails galore, a thriving art scene, small town whimsy, urban ruins, plenty of terrific food and drink, and a castle (yes, an actual castle).
At only 60 miles (but 10-million figurative ones) north of the five boroughs, all you need to do is start your engine, jump on I-87, and just a couple of podcast episodes later, you’ll have forgotten all about that last crazy thing you saw on the subway. As always, please wear a mask and social distance responsibly throughout your travels.
There’s a ton of exciting art and creativity alive in Beacon these days, but the museum that catalyzed it all gets its own section because visiting it is a must.
Housed in a once-abandoned, now repurposed Nabisco box factory, Dia Art Foundation’s visionary contemporary art museum is not just a venue for big, experiential work-but is an experience unto itself. Walking the slick, echoey halls awash in natural light and air, one gets the feeling that imposing sculptures by the likes of Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, and Louise Bourgeois could exist nowhere else. Not to knock NYC’s hallowed art temples, but Beacon’s 300,000-square-foot museum makes even the Guggenheim’s exquisite galleries feel claustrophobic by comparison.
Since Dia:Beacon should be a can’t-miss feature of your trip, it might make sense to plan your trip around the museum’s hours. Entry can be scored by advance reservation for timed tickets.
In Beacon, the artistic community has woven itself into the very fabric of the city. In the summer months, drive to the Beacon Art Club where work is presented in a historic farmhouse. In a former high school across town, Ethan Cohen’s KuBe is an artists’ community replete with studios, offices, and experimental art spaces, as well as a gallery for which you can make a Saturday appointment. The Howland Cultural Center is a hub of visual and performing arts housed in a beautiful red brick building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And there’s also Main Street’s Lotusworks gallery and workshop, where visitors are welcome to spectate or participate to their hearts’ content.
The best way to get a crash course on the arty goings on in Beacon? Attend a Second Saturday, when the city celebrates its identity as an artistic redoubt with citywide openings, food, drink, and special events.
The vintage shopping is seriously stellar
Beacon has no shortage of boutique shops, at any and all of which you can find something unique to wear, use, eat, or display as home decor. At the very least, a fun souvenir of your visit awaits your purchase. Whatever you choose, feel good knowing your patronage makes a real difference to these small businesses who, in case you hadn’t heard, have had a tough year.
The best way to peruse local vendors would be to attend the Beacon Flea on Sundays, but with its seasonal opening delayed, we’ve highlighted a few local shops, each one charming as the day is long. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so be sure to keep your eyes open as you stroll Main Street.
As you may or may not know, the Hudson Valley’s idyllic setting inspired an entire 19th-century landscape art movement. During your visit, you can experience their inspiration firsthand, for free, just by driving around (no really, it’s all around you).
Beacon is, low-key, a craft beer connoisseur’s mecca. This little city is home to not one or two craft beer breweries, but three in town and another three closeby-the furthest a mere 20-minute drive away.
Certain unnamed global pandemics have made indoor drinking and dining an uncertain proposition, but many of Beacon’s excellent restaurants and bars have outdoor seating and/or offer takeout, so grab your mask, and if you can’t snag a table, wine and dine al fresco or retreat to your lodgings.
Speaking of drinks, zany fun is in abundance with a very respectable 14 tap beers and arcade games at Happy Valley. Draught Industries pleases hop heads with 24 taps pouring daily. Slightly off the beaten path is unpretentious dive bar, Barking Frog, serving no-frills fun and in true dive form, has bartender-dependent hours on Sunday nights.
Availability and hours are liable to change, so check local listings before you set out.
Farm to your table
You wouldn’t know it if you’ve never escaped to NYC’s north, but agriculture is an essential part of New York State’s economy and variegated local communities, and you (yes, you) can support them during your trip to Beacon.
Nowhere is NYS’ agriculture more proudly on display than Sundays at The Beacon Farmers Market, which presents visitors with an amazing opportunity to meet locals, engage the hardworking people who make your Williamsburg farm-to-table meal possible, and sample some of the local products cultivated by hardworking folk.
If you want to actually see a farm in action, visit the fabulous Stony Kill Farm Education Center. A mere 10-minute drive North of Beacon, this working farm offers trails to walk as well as educational opportunities for kids and adults alike with hands-on experiences in farm work, conservation, historical preservation, and arts and crafts.
Also…there’s a castle
If you’ve ever sat on the Hudson River-side of the Metro North as it passes Beacon, you’ve probably wondered: “Did I just see a castle on a small island?”
Well, that’s Bannerman Castle, or rather, what’s left of it (we’ll spare you the history lesson). What’s important for our purposes is that, while setting foot on Pollepel Island without official sanction can earn you a run in with the law, from May to October, a tidy $40 buys you a ferry tour departing from a dock in Beacon. If you’ve got your own kayak, that same price gives you leave to paddle yourself out for a self-guided tour. And for those who are kayak-less, a guided kayak tour can also be arranged.
The Bannerman Castle Trust is the nonprofit dedicated to preservation of this delightful oddity, and they encourage visitors to engage by offering a slew of programming and events. Just check the site for an events calendar.
Check out abandoned ruins
Unlike many other localities, brick-and-mortar evidence of Beacon’s past still stands in the form of eerily awesome ruins. But please note: exploring ruins is dangerous and in some cases illegal, so we aren’t suggesting that you visit these places, but instead merely noting their existence for your edification.
The peaceful, abandoned Dutch Reformed Church cemetery is down a hill, behind the still-operating Victorian Gothic church. The graves date back to the Victorian era, but the cemetery has been neglected since the 1920s, so many of the tombs have crumbled into disrepair.
The abandoned sanatorium, Craig House Institute is, in a word, haunting. Several famously troubled individuals spent time within its walls, including Jackie Gleason, Rosemary Kennedy, and Zelda Fitzgerald. The property was recently sold with plans to transform it into an upscale hotel and spa. For now, it’s blocked off, but it’s still there and still creepy.
If you’re not planning on spending much time indoors or you’re just feeling thrifty, there’s no shame in booking yourself into a motel outside of town in nearby Fishkill, a mere 13-minute drive (that’s like, two subway stops) from Beacon’s main drag.
But if you plan on spending evenings in, boutique accommodations on Main street include the lovely Beacon Hotel-a former 1870s townhouse with a slick, no-surprises restaurant; and the adults-only Dutchess Inn & Spa specializing in pampering guests. The Roundhouse may be the hotel exemplar of Beacon’s sensibilities: after a long career as an industrial site, the over 200-year-old structure now sports 23 rooms, a restaurant serving locavore cuisine, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a babbling creek.
If you want to rise and shine to quaintness and muffins, the Main Street-adjacent Beacon Bed & Breakfast is adorable; the restored Federal mansion, Chrystie House is just steps from Dia, and Botsford Briar is a stately Victorian with Hudson River views.
As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.
With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.
Throughout April Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.
Through Easter Sunday NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.
Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.
Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.
Through mid April Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.
Throughout April Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.
Throughout April NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Suprêmes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.
Seasonal Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.
Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.