A Knitter's Weekend
A Knitter’s Weekend: Beacon, New York
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.
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
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.