13 Cool Things to do In Beacon NY: Former Mill Town Rebuilt for Romance

WHY GO: Beacon NY grew up a mill town. Hunched at the foot of mountains and wedged between waterfalls and the navigable Hudson River, factories that harnessed those raging waters decimated the landscape. Industrial waste turned the Hudson into “a sewer,” according to Beacon’s most famous resident, the late Pete Seeger.

Red brick shops along the tracks in Beacon NY

When fortunes and industry fell, so did Beacon. But when a contemporary art museum built to house installations too large for MoMa or the Guggenheim was carved from the closed Nabisco Box Printing factory, it put Beacon back on the map.

Exterior Roundhouse at Beacon Falls Hotel

Opened in 2003, DIA:Beacon gave culture hounds a reason to come upriver for the day. The boutique hotel, Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, gave them a reason to stay.

As more people came, artists, chefs and aspiring retailers did, too, creating the perfect overnight arts, shopping, and wine and beer-sipping Getaway.

Beacon is but one of our Best Romantic Getaways in New York State. Check out others in this post.

Things to do in Beacon NY

Symmetrical grove of trees outside contemporary art museum in Beacon NY

VISIT: Dia: Beacon

Visit the 300,000 square foot Dia Art Foundation on the banks of the Hudson River, and you will be faced with the question: What exactly constitutes “art”?

This former paper factory, glossed up and renovated for massive contemporary art installations opened in May 2003 and draws art students, historians and the merely curious to its soaring halls.

Over two dozen masters of visual art from the 1960’s and 1970’s are featured in a space so vast it will take a relatively athletic person a couple of hours just to sprint through.

Mansion-sized galleries highlight Andy Warhol’s Shadows, minimalist Donald Judd’s simple wooden boxes, Sol LeWitt’s weblike drawings, Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light works and the macabre body parts and spiders from Louise Bourgeois tortured imagination. Check website for hours and admission fees.

Bannerman Castle ruins on the shore of the Hudson River

TOUR: Bannerman Castle – Mid Hudson River

What’s this ruin of a Scottish castle doing in the middle of the Hudson River? Take a hard-hat tour offered by the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. to find out.

Oh, all right. I’ll give you some background. It was the “storage shed” of America’s first Army/Navy Store.

As a pre-teen in the 1860’s, an enterprising Francis Bannerman looked for ways to make money. Scavenging rope and scrap metal from waters off the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he found that he could resell these government supplies for pure profit.

In just a few years, young Bannerman had amassed a mountain of Civil War surplus, including bugles, buttons, swords, scabbards and uniforms, in addition to military ordinance – so much, in fact, he opened up a very successful store in Brooklyn.

Bannerman Island Tours

But Bannerman required a remote location to house his ever-growing collection of explosive materials.  In 1900, he discovered an island on one of his trips on the Day Liner up the Hudson and bought it for $1,600.

Origins of the Castle in the Hudson River

Originally from Scotland and a lover of castles,  Bannerman had this organically designed warehouse built from a variety of local bricks, cobblestones and boulders; a series of six buildings that ended up looking like a Scottish king’s abode.

Bannerman Castle Illustration

When Francis passed away in 1916, Bannerman Island passed down to his children. Two years after New York State purchased the island from the Bannerman family, in 1969, the castle caught fire and was engulfed in flames that reached 260 feet above the warehouse roof.

Ruins of Bannerman Family Home

Its wooden floors – old ships’ planks impregnated with highly flammable creosote – created an inferno that burned for three days, leaving the castle an empty, weed-choked shell. The Bannerman Castle Trust has been working to stabilize what’s left of the warehouse and restore the main residence since 1994.

There are multiple ways to access the island. Most popular is the 2 ½ hour tour aboard the Estuary Steward, a tour boat that shuttles you from Beacon to the island and drops you off for a fascinating walk around the ruins. Or, you can paddle your kayak and join a walking tour that way. Other events include “Movie Nights” on select Friday nights in the summer, theatrical productions, and farm-to-table dinners. Sign up online for all. RSVP Necessary, tickets sell out quickly. 

AIA award-winning Kayak Pavilion at Long Dock Point Park in Beacon, New York.

SEE: Kayak Pavilion at Long Dock Park

How many kayak storage sheds have won architectural awards?  I assume not many.  But this Hudson River kayak-port at Long Dock Park has won the AIA (American Institute of Architects) 2013 Honor Award and is as snazzy as they come.

From the Pavilion, stroll out to the tip of the formerly industrial 15-acre Long Dock Park to scramble around George Trakas’s steel stair-step sculpture. Park open daily dusk to dawn.

Kayaks lined up on Hudson River shore at Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York

DO/SUMMER: Kayak on the Hudson With Hudson River Expeditions

If it’s a nice day or evening, squiggle into your own craft with Hudson River Expeditions. You can rent by the hour or day or join a tour. Reserve a kayak and pick it up at Long Dock Park. Or sign up for one of a few dozen group paddles organized throughout the summer.

This is one of our favorite spots for kayaking in New York State.

Check the website for dates and fees. (Prefer to stay on land? Rent a bike from Cold Spring Bike Rental & Tours)

DO/YEAR ROUND: Climb Mount Beacon

The climb to the summit of Mount Beacon is challenging. It’s a mile practically straight up and a nice lung expanding workout. But the views of the Hudson River and Valley are so worth it from the first stop: the Casino Overlook. Double the trip to the Fire Tower for a greater view and workout. Hiking fiends will want to accomplish the fierce 7.7 mile loop – deemed a 10 out of 10 for difficulty. Free, Open Dawn To Dusk. 

Interior displays of Not Too Shabby Shop in Beacon NY

SHOP/WORKSHOP: Knot Too Shabby

Purchase something for your own personal DIY from the upscale Knot Too Shabby paint and craft shop. Or, make something yourself right here. You can sign up for a Annie Sloan Chalk Painting Class, offered five times a month. 3 hours $120. 

Exterior window display at Play Toy Shop in Beacon NY
Play, Beacon NY

SHOP: Play

“Play” basically says it all. This is one fantastically awesome store, where Boomer nostalgia meets nods to Gen Z. It is not in the least bit “politically correct.”  You’ll find everything from rock-climber earrings to Moomin Valley coin banks, adult coloring books, and even Vincent Van Gogh ear erasers. Plan to spend awhile here: you won’t believe what you’ll find.

Shelves of bar tools and selection of bitters at a shop in Beacon NY

SHOP: More Good

You won’t find a better selection of unusual “Bitters,” bar tools, house-made soda syrups, or loose leaf tea at better prices than the tiny More Good shop on Main St.

Owned by a bartender who couldn’t find decent tools of his trade, he solved the problem by opening his own store.

And what’s better than a bevy of bitters? Beneficence! More Good donates 10% of net profits to Generosity Water – an organization dedicated to ending the clean water crisis in developing countries.

Displays of fun plastic products at Dream in Plastic, Beacon NY

SHOP: Zakka Joy

It figures this “Designer Vinyl Art Store” – Zakka Joy – began online out of Brooklyn, NY.  You’ll find mini works of plastic art, stationary and paper goods like a “Decomposition Book” made with recycle materials, a shelf-full of vintage cameras, including the original Kodak Brownie, and a slew of Polaroid’s among a plethora of colorful plasticine paraphernalia.

Restaurants In Beacon NY

Michael O'Herron, brewer at Two Way Brewery

DRINK/EAT: Two Way Brewing Co

A bit over 2 years ago, entrepreneurial Michael O’Herron took his Engineering degree and turned it into his passion: beer-making. Discovering a yeast strain on local black berries, he employed this newfound strain in the making of his signature, Saison-ish Confusion. 

You can down a pint of Confusion, or Farmhouse IPA or any number of brews from Two Way Brewing Co.: a small craft brewery named for the Hudson River – the tidal river, right outside the Brewery’s window – that flows two ways.

Come in for great pub food and beer, and bring the kids (juice and healthy drinks for them). O’Herron stocks games for families who just want to hang out together at the end of the day. Check website for hours. 

Dennings Point Distillery Beacon NY
Dennings Point Distillery Beacon NY

TASTE: Denning’s Point Distillery

At Denning’s Point Distillery, New York State grains become Viskill and Maid of the Meadow Vodkas, Beacon Bourbon, Great 9 Gin, and Denning’s White Rye Whiskey. Come watch the process, take a tour (and a few sips), and enjoy Friday afternoon Happy Hours. Check website for operating hours and tour times.


You’ll find blues, soul, rock, World Music, Open Mic, and more at restaurant/performance venue, Towne Crier, smack in the middle of Maine St. Beacon. There’s something going on almost every night. Just check the website for the latest.

Shirley Hot, owner of Pandorica Restaurant in Beacon NY

EAT: Pandorica

When “Who-vians come through the door, there are squeals of delight,” says Pandorica owner, Shirley Hot, who closed down her “cup and saucer tea room” in this space and, in 2014, opened up a restaurant devoted to everything Doctor Who.

Fans from all over the globe converge on Beacon NY for this restaurant alone: It’s the only Dr. Who themed restaurant on the East Coast USA.

On TV off and on since 1963, Doctor Who has a fan base aged 7-70. So, it’s not unusual to see whole fan families gathered together to dine on Fish Fingers and Custard (Who’s favorite meal). “Art, silverware, furniture, menu items are all Who related,” says Hot.

Zora Dora's Natural Popsicles, Beacon NY

SNACK: Zora Dora All Natural Gourmet Popsicles

The little hole in the wall, Zora Dora, sells only ice-pops and other frozen deserts – in flavors you never knew existed.  Try the “Mount Beacon” – a blend of pureed bananas, peanut butter, dark chocolate and Oreos. 

Tito Santana Taqueria restaurant interior

SNACK/EAT: Tito Santana Taqueria

Tito Santana Taqueria, at the foot of Main Street closest to the Hudson River, gets “crazy busy” in the summer. But on a Sunday at 4pm offseason, you don’t have to wait too long for one of the best (and best value) taco’s in the land. Ask for the incredible BBQ Smoked Brisket Taco, stuffed with shredded beef and chopped onions, cloaked in sweet/tangy sauce. You won’t be able to stop at just one.

Exterior shot of Homespun Foods restaurant in Beacon NY

EAT/LUNCH: Homespun Foods

Homespun Foods is so good, owners were offered the concession at DIA:Beacon. This adorable 50’s Formica-kitchen-kitsch café serves up some of the best fresh food in town.  Lines form out the door for meals like the Vegetarian “Meatloaf” – nutty and enhanced by a dollop of homemade smoky ketchup – with a large side-salad.

EAT: Locals Love

There’s been an explosion of new, unique, and innovative eateries in Beacon. Most raved about include: Kitchen Sink Supper Club, Melzingah Tap House, Red Pepper Diner, Momo Valley, and Meyer’s Old Dutch.

Dining by window overlooking waterfall and Fishkill Creek, Beacon, NY

Hotels In Beacon NY

STAY: The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls

Opened in 2012 in a former dye-works (and then lawnmower) factory, The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls brought boutique cred to Beacon NY. Perched right over cascading waterfalls and boulder-strewn rapids, the Roundhouse’s crisp, industrial-luxe design draws urbane guests from The City, giving them a reason to stay in town after visiting DIA:Beacon.

For the best views, plan to stay in the Roundhouse, where you’ll also find the Lounge and the restaurant, Roundhouse Restaurant.The Mill building sits on the other side of the creek atop the falls. It offers rooms for significantly less than the ones in the main building. You are, after all, paying for a bit more opulence – and the view.

Honeymooners generally book one of two Penthouse Suites on the 3rd floor, if only for the private deck nearly cantilevered over the frothy water, round soaking tub at the foot of the bed, and deep-colored metallic tiled double rain shower.

STAY: Bed and Breakfasts

There are over a dozen well-rated Lodgings and B&B’s in Beacon, including Hotel Beacon, Chrystie House, Inn and Spa at Beacon, Beacon B&B, Swann Inn, Botsford Briar  among them.

Looking for more weekend getaways near New York City? Here are a few of our favorite places to visit in Upstate New York.

Beacon NY Kayaks


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

23 thoughts on “13 Cool Things to do In Beacon NY: Former Mill Town Rebuilt for Romance”

  1. Pingback: Homespun Foods: September News | Beacon Arts Community Association
  2. This article is not complete…there are 4 excellent B&Bs in Beacon that are open year round that this article omits, making it seem like there is nowhere else to stay in Beacon. The Swann Inn of Beacon, Botsford Briar. Mt. Beacon Bed and Breakfast, and the Christie House. If you want cozy, quiet, intimate lodging, B&Bs are the place to stay!

  3. Additional Beacon “Do’s” include, hiking up Mount Beacon, playing disc golf on the free disc golf course, hiking along the riverfront trail to Denning’s Point and/or Madam Brett Park, sledding in Memorial Park in winter, playing various sports there in summer, and of course, checking out the many art galleries and stores along Main Street.

  4. An additional Beacon “Do” lies between Beacon and Fishkill (actually Glenham , which has it’s own Post Office). Southern Dutchess Bowl, 629 Route 52, Beacon, NY (& no, I do not wish to get into a geography debate here, but in brief lots of mailing addresses are listed as Beacon, Fishkill, Wappingers, etc. there is no rhyme or reason why, but that’s just the way it is :-). It is also home to the Beacon Music Factory on it’s lower level so you can get your fix of not only bowling (leagues, open bowling, cosmic bowling, children’s birthday parties, Pro-operated Pro Shop for equipment, etc.) but live music just about every weekend as well! Further info: Southern Dutchess Bowl is family owned & operated, & is on FB, has a website http://www.SDB300.com, telephone (845) 831-3220 for those of you who wish to speak to a live person :-). Feel free to use any of those means for details!

  5. On the matter of chocolate, you need to try The Alps, family-owned & operated since 1922. Everyoneof course has opinions, but IMHO, they RULE!!! 🙂

  6. Don’t forget if you wanna have a great breakfast or get artisan breads Beacon Bread Company offers weekenders a great breakfast, and to see more sgreet art and have great tacos at Tito Santana Taqueria

  7. I didn’t get to experience that, Shirley, but will next time for sure! Thanks for reading.

  8. Thanks so much for the tip, Susan. I do rely on “local knowledge” quite often, so this is great.

  9. …and don’t forget to relax with a Himalayan Salt Hot Stone Massage Experience after your explorations – at River Therapeutic Massage – just 2 miles off Main Street ;D

  10. For those who cherish and honor our beautiful planet, don’t forget to pop into Notions and Potions. Owned and operated by Sheryl. This place is an apothecary like you have never seen. Sheryl respects all who enter and will answer all queries. From bikers to pagans, all are welcome. Looking for herbs, statues, or just a special gift? Sheryl has it all.

  11. When you come back to Beacon again Malerie, let me know beforehand…..Bubba will whip up a fresh batch of “Bubba’s Hot Boiled Peanuts”! For a taste of ” Southern Beacon”!

  12. Let me know the next time you make a batch of boiled peanuts. I grew up in Beacon, but my father was from South Carolina. As kids we use to have boiled peanuts all the time. I haven’t been able to find green peanuts in New York.

  13. Alps alone is worth the trip. Please get the chocolate covered potato chip and or pretzels. ok anything the cover in chocolate is to die for!!

  14. So awesome, this write-up! You picked a lot of good ones among the gems. For all of Beacon, our local blog, A Little Beacon Blog (www.alittlebeaconblog.com), has over 10 fully loaded guides that help anyone find what they are looking for. These are called our Things To Do In Beacon Guides, and include Shopping, Beauty, Restaurants, Adult & Kid Classes, and more. For example, did you know that there are 3 makeup counters here in Beacon? Lots of options. Have fun next time you come, and come buy our office at 291 Main Street to say hi! Sometimes we even have pop-up shops in here.

  15. Pingback: Thank you so much @getawaymavens for the mention! We love being a part of all that is great about Beacon NY!! https://www.getawaymavens.com/beacon-ny/ | The Beacon Hotel
  16. Love the suggestions! Hudson Valley Bucket List does awesome walking tours of Beacon’s Bites and Beverages with a story of “the underdog” turned Medici Effect. Lots of great things to do in Beacon.

  17. We are seeing a lot of clients from Beacon utilize our transportation services. We gladly take your car and our driver to all the wineries, distilleries, and breweries in the Hudson Valley.

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