Best known for its art galleries, the small Hudson Valley city of Beacon comes alive on the second Saturday of every month with live music and extended hours for its local distillery, brewery, many local restaurants, and — of course — galleries (like Dia:Beacon). Beyond all the happenings in town, Beacon is also home to some of the best hiking trails in the Hudson Valley.
The easiest way to reach downtown Beacon is by taking Metro North from New York City. The ride is approximately an hour and a half as the train winds along the scenic Hudson River Valley — make sure to sit on the left side of the train towards Beacon to soak in the best views! The train ride is perfect if you are planning on just making a day trip out to see the downtown; however, if you are planning on staying for the night and going hiking, driving or renting a car will be your best bet to ensure you easily see the surrounding area.
First Stop: Breakfast
If you're like us and got to Beacon as early as possible to soak up the Beacon experience, then you're likely to be mighty hungry. Luckily, Ella's Bellas Gluten-Free Bakery is waiting for you right on Main Street. The bakery's tag line is "Gluten free baked goods that taste so good you’ll never know the difference!"; let us reassure you this is completely true.
Neither of us are necessarily fans of gluten-free food, but Ella's Bellas has got its noms on lock. The quiche there is particularly amazing, as is the wide selection of teas and coffees. All together, this is a perfect pit stop to make your hunger happy and deliver some needed energy for some hiking - your second stop.
If you're looking for more classic bagels and sandwiches, The Beacon Bagel offers in-house freshly made bagels, cream cheeses, and various sandwiches. While The Beacon Bagel also offers a range of gluten free and vegan options, it still has traditional (and not-quite so traditional) breakfast sandwiches — like Taylor Ham, egg, cream cheese, sriracha, and honey mustard.
Also, for a heartier slower paced meal, the Beacon Pantry offers some of the most delectable locally sourced food you'll find in Beacon. The Turkish breakfast in particular, featuring honey butter and local feta, was mind-blowing and legitimately as good as an actual breakfast in Turkey.
Second Stop: Hike that mountain!
Overlooking Beacon is, what do you know, Mount Beacon. The climb up the mountain starts at the far end of the town away from the Hudson River. Just shy of a mile steadily uphill from the trailhead, the climb up Mount Beacon is technically easy, although be prepared for an intense aerobic workout. Within that mile of uphill hiking, you will have climbed 1,611` and will have been rewarded with some of the most (literally from the exertion) breathtaking views of the entire Hudson Valley.
Along the hike (follow the Red Trail) you'll also pass some pretty badass ruins, including that of an out-of-commission funicular track (at the time of its construction the world's steepest), the Mount Beacon Incline Railway's upper powerhouse, and views from the remnants of a casino that was "mysteriously" destroyed in a fire following its bankruptcy. The remnants of the casino form flat ground and a natural resting point in the hike, as well as being a good point to end the hike if you're getting too tired or want to spend more time in downtown Beacon.
For those with time, the hike to the summit of Mount Beacon continues behind the casino. From the casino, continue along the Red Trail until you reach a branch off for the White Trail, which leads to the summit, an amazing 360 degree view of the Hudson Highlands, and also the Mount Beacon Fire Tower. If you're truly brave (we weren't), you can climb the tower — although the unease of the people already on the tower, and its rickety sounds (despite its apparent perfect stability), made us give a big nope.
Stop Three: A Well Deserved Lunch
If you're anything like us, after the hike you'll be famished and ready to devour the closest fastest thing you can. A stroll down Main Street will show you a world of food to chow down on — ranging from fried chicken to Thai to specialty doughnuts. We satisfied ourselves with a quick slice from Pizza & Stuff II before running off to make the most of the Second Saturday activities.
For a more settled lunch, Beacon Falls Cafe offers full on comfort food — from "Dat's a Gouda Burger" or "Adult Mac & Cheese" to fried pickles and fish and chips — with beer and wine flights. If you're planning on staying the night in Beacon, the Falls Cafe also offers a prize winning Sunday brunch.
Stop Four: Getting Lit
Right off of Main Street is the award winning small batch Denning's Point Distillery. The distillery is home to a wide variety of events, including live blues performances, tastings, and tours of the facilities. The tastings are $5 for a sample of three of the liquors made on site and the tours are free.
For spirit lovers, the distillery is a must-see location in Beacon. Aside from making the standard (but delicious) gin, vodka, and whiskeys, Denning's Point also offers a vodka brewed with honey and spices, an amazing apple brandy, and a vanilla-smokey-oaky bourbon that is full of bite. After getting your fill of the tastings, the distillery sells specialty cocktails that will make the trip up to Beacon worth it on its own. The cocktails can be taken on a tour of the facility.
On second Saturdays, tours end at run at 2:30 and 3:30. Following the end of the tour, be sure to stick around for some of the following three hours of blues as the distillery turns into a blues bar.
Stop Five: Keeping The Good Times Rolling
Once your heart is full of blues and your stomach is contently stuffed with whisky, take a short stroll down Main Street back towards Mount Beacon. A half mile from the distillery is the modified industrial space that now serves as the basis of operations for the Hudson Valley Brewery. On Saturdays, the tasting room is open from 2 PM to 10 PM serving up some of the most unique sour-inspired beers Jen and I have tried.
Among the most interesting ones were a sour strawberry ale that was both tart and refreshing and a sour ale that tasted remarkably like orange gogurt (in the best possible way, as hard to believe as that sounds). The brewery also sells 32oz crowlers for take home fun. On Saturdays, Beacon's local Barb's Butchery also runs a pop-up in the brewery's outdoor seating area selling up unbelievably delicious smelling grilled goodies.
Stop Six: Getting Fed
A five minute walk from the brewery is the undeniably unique restaurant Quinn's. Part music venue, part bar, and part low-key Japanese inspired restaurant, Quinn's drew in everyone from a family with young kids at the table next to ours to a party of older women to young hipster types getting drunk at the bar waiting for the music to start. Overall, the food at Quinn's is not mind-blowing, in that very good ramen at once place tastes very much like very good ramen at any other place.
Still, the ramen at Quinn's is actually very good; it's just not super unique. However, Quinn's also sells Japanese-style curry complete with pork katsu which is exactly what my body ordered after hours of hiking followed by hours of casual drinking. Unfortunately, Jen and I were too wiped out to stay for the music performance at Quinn's. Judging by the excitement on the part of the audience, though, it seemed like it was ready to throw down for a great night.
Stop Seven: Cultivate Yourself
Now that you've been watered and fed, allow yourself time to visit the many art galleries throughout Beacon. Please note that not all galleries observe every second Saturday, so the best way to explore galleries open late is to refer to the Beacon Arts Second Saturday page.
The most famous gallery in town is without a doubt Dia:Beacon, an amazing collection of funky modern art in a truly staggering space. Typically Dia closes at 4pm on Saturdays in the winter and 6pm in the spring.
If Dia is closed, however, don't fret! There are any number of other galleries that are bound to be open. A Little Beacon Blog offers fantastic constantly updated guides on the Second Saturday happenings in Beacon every month.
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