An easy train ride from New York City, Beacon is an up-and-coming artists’ community that has successfully risen from the ruins of post-industrial decay, with Main Street at its heart. Near to the Hudson Highlands and the river, this is a great destination for arty and outdoorsy types alike.
Matteawan Gallery during Second Saturday in Beacon | Courtesy of Matteawan Gallery
One of the more convenient and fulfilling ways to take in the splendors that Beacon has to offer is Beacon Arts’ Second Saturday, a citywide celebration of the arts held, you guessed it, on the second Saturday of each month. Gallery exhibitions, music, food tasting and more go on all day and well into the night, making it one of the Lower Hudson Valley’s most talked-about street fairs. Of note is the fact that most of Beacon’s countless galleries schedule their exhibition openings to coincide with the event.
The Towne Crier Café has been serving American roots, jazz, and world music since 1972, not to mention its acclaimed food, with a feast of dessert and pastry offerings. Back in 2013, owner and founder Phil Ciganer relocated his legendary nightclub from Pauling, New York, to downtown Beacon. Every aspect of this exceptional performance venue has grown and flourished since, not least in hosting some of the area’s finest musical offerings. Sunday brunch often features free entertainment too.
Situated on more than 30 acres near the banks of the Hudson River, Dia: Beacon houses the Dia Art Foundation’s permanent collection of works dating from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as curating regular special exhibitions and new commissions. Housed in a former Nabisco box printing factory, the industrial building features sprawling open spaces and abundant natural light, making the unique 28,000sqm (300,000sq ft) brick, steel, concrete, and glass structure a perfect complement to the museum’s exhibitions.
At American Gypsy Vintage, curators Nicole Alyse and Cabot Bramhall carefully select only the finest vintage clothing and denim, ensuring that the trendy consignment shop radiates its own fashion flair; casual, edgy, and tastefully worn-in. The shop specializes in denim and tees, but you can also get a wide variety of other bits and bobs including jewelry, boots, and leather.
Bannerman Island, also known as Pollepel Island, is located on the Hudson River just south of Beacon. Its most famous feature is the towering ruins of a castle compound, now a part of the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve. Walking tours are regularly offered by the Bannerman Castle Trust, which is dedicated to the upkeep of the fragile site. Cast off from Beacon’s Long Dock Park to visit. Make reservations ahead of time aboard the Estuary Steward, or join a kayak tour sponsored by Beacon’s Mountain Tops Outfitters. Also consider attending one of numerous special events, such as the Constellation tour and light show on weekend evenings, or one of the regular outdoor theater productions.
Hudson Beach Glass, Back Room | Image Courtesy of Hudson Beach Glass
Housed in a lovingly restored former firehouse near the head of Main Street, Hudson Beach Glass casts and sells stunning glass art, both sculptural and functional. In the back of the shop you’ll see magnificent, beautifully lit glass artwork. Price tags here can be steep, but the eye appeal is boundless and unforgettable. Additionally, the building’s former fire engine garage bay, attached to the side of the store, serves as an open-air glass blowing demonstration studio. Sign up for an instructional Hudson Beach glass-blowing session, which guides participants to create their own beautiful ornaments, paperweight, or beads.
Mount Beacon Observation Deck | Image Courtesy of Robert Rodriguez, Jr.
If spectacular views and challenging hiking trails are your thing, consider a trek to the peak of Mount Beacon. The well-groomed site is one of a number of Hudson Valley parks managed and maintained by Scenic Hudson, the crusading activist organization credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The journey begins at the original access road to the now-defunct Mount Beacon Incline Railway, which used to haul passengers to the Beaconcrest Hotel and Casino that once sat at the mountain’s crest. The trailhead continues sharply uphill via a stairway to the first of many observation decks, followed by a steep, switch-back trail that ultimately joins the Fishkill Ridge system. Efforts are underway to restore the railway, but for now only the sturdiest hikers are able to indulge Mount Beacon’s breathtaking vistas.
The DTA Dunny Show at Clutter Gallery | Image Courtesy of Clutter Gallery
Drawn to the quirky and offbeat? Then check out Clutter Gallery, which highlights the very best of toy design and customization, as well as modern pop and lowbrow art. The gallery and its exhibitions share space with Clutter Magazine, which itself holds a sizeable permanent collection of eclectic designer toys, and includes the work of POPaganda artist Ron English. Nowhere else is the concept of “fun as art” more in evidence.
Beacon Flea Market, New York | Courtesy of Beacon Flea Market
What distinguishes the Beacon Flea Market from other sizeable flea markets is a strictly enforced requirement that all merchandise be either handcrafted or authentically vintage: absolutely no knock-offs or new mass-produced items allowed. Every Sunday, from April through November, weather permitting, vendors share their crafts and wares among the market’s more than 50 stalls, which line the Henry Street parking lot, located behind the Main Street Post Office. Sleuths in search of the rare and unusual will revel in the treasures waiting to be discovered among tabletops, bins and clothing rails. Be aware that most vendors accept cash only.