Skip to content

It’s tempting to poke fun at artsy Beacon, New York, in a Portlandia kind of way, but it’s too loveable. Sixty miles north of New York City, this little city is cool. It’s quirky. It’s walkable. It’s full of locally owned shops and galleries. There is a beautiful waterfall right in town. There is yarn. It is, obviously, a perfect place for a Knitter’s Weekend.

Contemporary Art Changes Everything

All the artisanal goodness began fairly recently. Beacon was a manufacturing city for decades, declining with shutdowns in the 1960s. Dia:Beacon opened in 2003. A renaissance followed. Nineteenth-century buildings got new tenants and new purposes, while preserving an historic Hudson Valley vibe.

For contemporary art lovers, Dia is the reason to visit Beacon. It’s a wonderful place to start the weekend. The spacious, skylit museum is on the Hudson River in a former Nabisco box factory. Everything on the property is in keeping with the large-scale installations; it’s expansive and relaxing. With a single artist shown in each gallery, there’s space for the work to speak to you.

Main Street All Day Long

Start Saturday strolling Beacon’s mile-long Main Street at Beetle and Fred, a fabric and yarn shop. Pick up local skeins to sit and knit later. There’s plenty to inspire and a friendly staff. Across the street is Hudson Beach Glass, a workshop and gallery with opportunities to try hands-on hot glass work (sign up in advance!).

Nia Thomas of Matcha Thomas, her family’s wellness teahouse with boba teas, Beacon NY

Then it’s a full-on meander, popping in and out of shops and galleries. Need a zen moment? There’s mother-daughter owned Matcha Thomas for custom-crafted matcha latte boba tea in a wellness teahouse. If you’ve been meh on matcha, this could be a gamechanger. Zakka Joy offers lots of tween/teen (and me) appeal items with a wall of writing implements and notebooks. I skeptically bought a gel pen that promised not to smear. I returned to buy five more because … game changing. Just like the matcha!

Continuing along are multiple chocolatiers, art galleries, a gem and mineral gallery, silver- and goldsmith jewelers, vintage clothes shops, modern clothes shops, an arts and cultural center, shops with locally made items, with some so local they are being made in the store while you watch, like Nourish Natural Soaps. And some shops are very specific, like the Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company, offering bespoke marshmallows and cocoa kits. I love a bookstore in a house with nooks and crannies and, yup, there’s one of those. At Binnacle Books, choose a new or used book or a plain brown wrappered “Blind Date with a Book” that you buy knowing only the hint of a synopsis clipped to it. 

 Stopping to knit and sip local brews at Melzingah Ale House.

Break to Drink Local

Beacon has not one but two craft breweries in the center, a third nearby, plus a distillery for tastings. If you prefer many local origin brews and cocktails on one menu, the Melzingah Tap House is the choice to sip and watch the world go by. If you are a record lover or fan of arcade games, you must visit the Vinyl Room, a bar and record store with a space to listen to your LP’s before you purchase. 

Roadside Attractions

A quirky throwback is the Dummy Light, one of two left in the U.S.A. It’s at the intersection of Main and East Main, flashing unhelpfully to separate traffic lanes. The Beacon Dummy Light is an oddly beloved local landmark and subject of souvenirs. Also in the Roadside Attraction category: the Yankee Clipper, a preserved 1946 dining car classic diner on Main Street.

On to Italy … and Sardinian Donkeys

On Sunday, before leaving the area, have an Italian art adventure at Il Magazzino, about 15 minutes outside of town. This private art museum houses a stunning collection of the post-war avant-garde Arte Povera movement. The pieces use found and non-traditional materials. The gallery space was designed specifically to show them. It’s peaceful, spacious, and beautifully lit.

One building houses the permanent collection and a research center for modern Italian art, and the other has traveling exhibits and Cafe Silvia, a stylish Italian cafe and gift shop. In good weather, the outdoor patio gardens are the perfect place to relax with an espresso as the sun gets low while listening to the braying of Sardinian donkeys, an endangered species that also call Il Magazzino home.

A piece on display in the permanent collection of Arte Povera at Il Magazzino

Notes

Beacon can be reached by train from New York City. Everything I mentioned is walkable from the train station, except for one of the breweries and Il Magazzino. Those can be reached via Uber or Lyft. In town there’s a Beacon Free Loop bus if you get tired of hoofing it, and a trolley between Beacon and the nearby village of Cold Spring, with stops at area hiking trails. More transportation info here.

Check hours before you visit. Many establishments are open only Friday-Monday or limited hours. If you’re a hands-on kind of traveler (and if you’re reading this that is quite likely), check for workshops at Beetle and Fred. They also offer open sew time in their workshop space, which could be a fun way to kick off the weekend with friends, in your own private sewing retreat.

About The Author

With a degree in photojournalism from the University of Minnesota, Gale Zucker has made a career of capturing the humanity and humor in the people and places that are her subjects.

43 Comments

  • Beacon is indeed a wonderful walkable town. My favorite is Hakan, a chocolatier where we can come in for a unique BonBon and one of 4 different custom made hot chocolate. Reasonable for sure. We always stop in. Lucky me, I only live 35 minutes away!

    • Love Hakan–their coffee and pastries are also amazing!

      • Heyyyy, thanks for the mention! Anyone whose visit includes a Thursday evening should come to our Make Out–lots of friendly stitchers!

  • Readers may also want to visit a charming yarn shop, The Endless Skein, which is nearby in Cold Spring, NY. The shop occupies three levels of a beautiful building and you can book a private lesson for an incredibly reasonable fee. The teachers are wonderful.

    • Yes! The Endless Skein is a wonderful yarn shop. Highly recommend!

    • Thank you for this virtual trip, Gale! And thank you for the tip on The Endless Skein, Jeneba!

  • Recently spent a knitting weekend in Beacon with my sisters. We loved shopping at The Endless Skein nearby. Also enjoyed a visit to historic Bannerman Castle.

  • Come see us in the Hudson Valley! Beacon is a treasure. If you visit be sure to include the Village of Cold Spring in your day ( 15 min drive from Beacon). Walkable & full of welcoming restaurants & shops, it boasts a breathtaking view of the Hudson River from the bottom of the hill. Be sure to visit The Endless Skein, my favorite local yarn shop. Beautiful goods and lovely, helpful staff.

    • And if you go in summer, there is a place, I think Hudson River Expeditions, where you can rent kayaks in Cold Springs or Beacon.
      Endless Skeins sounds great.

  • Oh, now I want to go! But the possibility is remote. Love the description, though!

  • This will go on my places to go list. I would like to knit Bart Blowfish shown in the banner photos! Wonder if the pattern is available anywhere but Beacon.

    • Heya, Bart is actually created using a Hardicraft kit! He and a bunch of his pals are available on our website

  • My son and daughter in law had their wedding reception at The Roundhouse in Beacon. It was absolutely perfect, but as mother of the groom I didn’t have the opportunity to really explore the town. Time for a second visit!

  • Beacon is wonderful, and Dia Beacon is one of my favorite places on earth. Spectacular and don’t miss the book shop.

  • Another worthwhile visit is to Stone Crop Gardens in Cold Spring.

    • Stone Crop Gardens on Route 301 is just east of Cold Spring and definitely a worthwhile visit. As is The Endless Skein in Cold Spring.
      Now I am looking forward to another visit to Beacon.

  • Sounds charming. Are there any hotels or b and b’s nearby?

    • The Roundhouse is a gorgeous place to stay and there are lots of airbnbs and smaller B and B’ Inns around and in Cold Spring nearby.

    • There are a couple in Beacon itself.

  • My sister lives in Beacon and it is a wonderful town with lovely shops. And, about 15 minutes away from Beacon, in Cold Spring, is Endless Skein, another lovely yarn shop.

  • Is there a specific “knitters weekend “?
    Is this referring to an organized retreat or an idea to go visit the area and enjoy knitting?

    • There is no organized retreat. Our “A Knitter’s Weekend” stories are about some of the lovely highlights of a place we’d love to spend 48 hours in.

    • In the summer Beetle & Fred, and The Endless Skein are both part of the Hudson Valley Yarn Crawl. Look online for info.

  • Beacon was the home of my grandparents and great-grandparents. I grew up visiting there. It has been a joy for me and my cousins to see the city revived with the arrival of DIA. It had languished too long.

  • All of this sounds great Gale! Are you will to share more about the gel pens you bought? Maybe the maker? Pens are often a wildcard.

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      For those looking for Japanese pens, the Tokyo Pen Shop (https://tokyopenshop.com/) is a fabulous online store. Really helpful owners are quick to respond to any queries. They carry the OTHO pens.
    • Upon further investigation (I googled it) the pens are OHTO Rays.

      • Thank you!

      • Thank you – I was just about to ask!

    • As far as I can figure out the pens are Japanese , there’s a teeny sticker on them that says Rays in English and then some Japanese characters . They look like traditional ballpoint pens with half metallic and half colored plastic bodies (choice of color).

  • Beaconite here. One of the nicer and most comprehensive articles I’ve read recently about my home town.
    Brava – and thank you!
    Patricia Schultz
    1000 Places
    Beacon and Manhattan

  • I live in Los Angeles now, but I was born and raised in Beacon, and still have a house there. In fact, I only just arrived back from there late last night (and my time included two lovely stay-home-and-knit snow days)! I second all the recommendations and also have to rave about The Endless Skein, which is probably the most beautiful yarn shop I’ve ever been to.
    It’s been wonderful to see the city come full circle, from a wonderful small city growing up in the 60s and 70s, seeing the painful mall-induced blight in the 80s and 90s, and now its vibrant resurgence. Great little place!

  • I grew up in Beacon, it was a fascinating City – but without the art culture of today, instead a factory town. Everyone knew everyone else, no mugging, robberies. People’s doors were never locked, keys usually left in cars, but – this was the 40s and 50s. I’m blessed to still be in touch with my classmates – tes, that kind of town, that place in time, I miss it. As many have I moved away, me to Florida in 1991. It’s not the town of my youth, but has again reinvented itself with the art movement, but geography pretty much the same. No mayyer where I roam, Beacon NY will always be my home.

    Thank you for a lovely article capturing the magic of Beacon NY.

    • No “MATTER” where I roam Beacon NY is always my home. (Typo, sorry)

  • Terrific piece! Always love traveling with you Gale!

  • Another travelogue that has my feet itching! Did you make glass? I love the idea of blind date with a book!

  • I live in the upper Hudson Valley and Beacon and Cold Springs have long been on my list of places to visit. Maybe I’ll take a road trip in the spring!

  • And if you can, sign up for a fun class at my niece’s studio, Passion-The Adult Dance Studio right on Main St.

  • If you’re coming to Beacon, you should stop at Finders Keepers 285 Main Street one of the best vintage and vinyl stores around. They have great stuff, great staff, great prices and there’s something for everyone. You’ll love it.

  • Thanks so much for this. I just made arrangements with two friends to spend a weekend there in late April!

  • Sounds like A fun and doable place to visit!

  • I have my pilot husband checking out nearby airports. Sounds just our cup of matcha!

  • All of this is mouth-watering! Any advice about yoga studios in Beacon??

  • Because of your Portlandia reference I have to ask, no coffee?

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping