Beacon, New York has been described as the hippest town in the Hudson Valley. If hipness can be measured by the impressive modern art museum that drew us there, coupled with a craft beer and local restaurant scene to rival any around, I agree. It is hip, and more. Not only did the town have the more sedentary activities covered, with beautiful little storefronts selling toys, used books, outdoors gear, and vintage clothing, and the aforementioned food venues, it’s also at the foot of Mt. Beacon, with an enviable collection of hiking trails and stunning views of the Valley from above.
Metro-North has an hourly departure from Grand Central on Saturdays at 7:43, 8:43, and 9:43am. We took the third of those options which stops at Peekskill, Cold Springs, and Beacon, while the prior two morning trains also make the stop for hikers at Breakneck Ridge. An incredibly steep hike with panoramic views of the Hudson, it is one of the handful of camping and hiking activities directly accessible by commuter rail.
Total journey time is approximately 90 minutes from GCT. Round-trip for two, including ticket package to Dia: Beacon was $73.00, purchased together at the ticket machine in Grand Central.
Modern Art in Context at Dia: Beacon
It has always bothered me that some works of art are considered so simply because they’ve been placed inside a museum space. Confronting this critique, at Dia: Beacon the art was built specifically to interact with its space: a skylight-filled and expansive former Nabisco box factory set a short walk from the train station along the Hudson. We had the luck to catch a guided tour, which heightened our appreciation of the work as the slanted light of a November afternoon cast shadows among the totems of mangled car parts and smooth swooping cast iron ship-hulls.
During the winter months Dia: Beacon is open Thursday or Friday-Monday 11-4. General admission is $12, $10 as part of Metro-North package. Details at: http://www.diaart.org/sites/page/1/1680.
Exemplary Craft Beer Situation
After the art museum gently nudged us out at closing time, we headed north along the river towards our AirBNB accommodations to leave our gear. On the way we stopped at the first beer-related establishment, Beacon’s first brewery, Two Way Brewing. Tucked away among several other light-industrial uses, we had a great view out over the Hudson as night was falling. We ordered a full flight of their seven tap selections, among which Heart of Darkness Stout was the true standout, dark and malty with good body.
Shortly thereafter, we traversed the length of the picturesque Main Street, settling on Dogwood restaurant for dinner (website, Yelp). My tasty chicken pot pie was paired with a local Peekskill Brewery Eastern Standard IPA. Little did we know, we passed the future site of Hudson Valley Brewery, which is under construction at 7 East Main Street.
Post-dinner we headed to The Hop (website, Yelp), a bar-restaurant with an impressive tap selection backed by an even larger and more varied bottle selection. [Beer nerd alert] Their draft selection included a rotating Hill Farmstead ale, and they had Pipeworks and Grimm cans in their display fridge. I settled on a bottle of Jack’s Abby Mass Rising IIPL and a tall boy can of Port City Brewing Optimal Wit to go, one of my top two favorite wheat beers and which I hadn’t seen in stores since moving away from Washington, DC.
Further west on Main Street, we settled on Draught Industries (website, Yelp) for a few craft pours, starting with Prairie BOMB! (99 on Beer Advocate) on tap, a boozy stout flavored with cocoa nibs and ancho chillies. Paola claimed this as hers after the first sip and it got better as it warmed, releasing more of the flavor of its ingredients. I chose another, Crooked Stave Progenitor, which was a well-balanced wild ale, sour and fruity, yet complex and not overpowering. I followed that with the St. Bretta (Valencia Orange), another sour from the same brewery, with what I suppose was a tint of orange mixed with the sourness. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the area beer scene, tipping us off to Plan Bee Farm Brewery and the aforementioned development on East Main Street.
We ambled back along deserted streets and climbed the stairs to our cozy accommodations in the 18th-century farmhouse that was our AirBNB, sleeping incredibly soundly once our heads hit the pillows.
Breakfast on Main Street and Hiking Mt. Beacon
On a recommendation from Trish, our AirBNB host, in the morning we headed to Beacon Bread Company (website, Yelp) on Main Street, where fresh baked bread and pastries tempted us and we ate heartily. Reinforcing the small-town diner feel of the restaurant, our chocolate croissant had been baked that morning by the man now dining with his family in front window table nook. Our steak and eggs, the latter over-easy and served on toast with cheddar cheese, fired us up for our planned hike that day.
Mt. Beacon, forested and rising steeply to over 1600 feet and crowned with cellphone and radio towers, looms over the east side of the Village of Beacon. The trailhead was a brisk mile-and-a-half walk along suburban neighborhood streets until reaching a small parking lot, clearing, and path. The hike up to the top of Mt. Beacon begins with a gentle slope, then heads up several flights of metal-grated stairs which start at the base of the former incline railway. The hit is around 3.5 miles round-trip from the trailhead and it took us four hours to leisurely hit to the Mt. Beacon Fire Tower at the summit. On the way, we passed the gears and wheelhouse of the railway, which once served a casino, and generally enjoyed the wide and well-traversed trail, which was never steep enough to require a scramble.
The views from the top were worth the trip: we could see up and down the Hudson, with the rolling brown-hued leafless hills and mountains of the Hudson Highlands obscuring the towns further downriver. Unlike many similar towers, the Mt. Beacon Fire Tower is fully open to those members of the public not averse to climbing up a narrow metal staircase to a perch on top of the tallest rock in sight.
On our much speedier trip back down the mountain, aided by gravity and the thought of a warm drink, we had resigned ourselves to the cheery yet gray day dissolving into night with no further comment, when the sun peeked out under the clouds and we froze to bathe in the warm orange light. It was one of those moments that reminds you why we get off the couch in the first place.
A perfectly mixed coffee mocha and hazelnut cake at Ella’s Bellas, a coffee shop on Main Street, and we were ready for our 7:12 return to New York. The roll of the train as it sped us back to Grand Central was soothing: no more exertion, nothing to do but kick back, crack a book, and let the locomotive do the work.
Thanks for reading. Until the next adventure!