For families looking to swap the bustle of city life in favor of some fresh air and outdoor fun, look no further than Beacon, NY. Located about 90 minutes north of NYC in the Hudson Valley, Beacon is a charming city with a small town vibe. Beacon offers farm-to-table dining, world-class art institutions, cultural activities, and a ton of outdoor adventure that’s great for a fun-filled family day trip.
And what’s cool: the clan can explore this quaint town on two wheels—self guided or with a guide from the Cold Spring Bike Rental & Tours LLC, offering family bike tours (off-road only for young children) from April to November.
For adults who don’t have their own bike and helmet, you can buy or rent them from Danny’s Cycles, which was voted one of America’s best bike shops for the past five years. Or the clan—adults and children—can rent their bikes and helmets in Beacon from Cold Spring Bike Rental & Tours.
If you plan to transport your own bike, you’ll need a bike rack or carrier. For my trip to Beacon, I used Saris’ latest hitch rack, The Glide. It’s easy to install, use, and can hold four road or hybrid bikes—perfect for a small family. You’ll also need bike locks in case you want to pop into a store or eatery in Beacon.
This once industrial city turned sleepy town sprang to life several years ago thanks to its burgeoning art scene, boutique and antique shops, trendy restaurants, and the revitalization of its waterfront. As Beacon evolves, it sill maintains its charm and pays homage to its rich history—spanning over 300 years—which the family can explore.
After you park at the Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park, not far from the kayak pavilion, it’s time for the family to hit the trail.
From the Long Dock’s parking area, you can pick up the Klara Sauer Trail/Fjord Trail that connects you to the White Trail in Madam Brett Park, which eventually leads you to the Tioronda Falls. The 2.5-mile loop is a gravel trail (a little wider than most trails) with gentle inclines, offering a glimpse into Beacon’s industrial past.
The clan will ride alongside old railroad tracks and the Hudson River, speed by a tidal marsh (home to fishes and waterfowl), zoom past the Tioronda Hat Works factory ruins, dash across a bridge and a boardwalk providing spectacular views of Fishkill Creek, and then climb up a gentle slope onto a narrower trail revealing the small, but impressive Tioronda Falls. The trail ends at the observation deck overlooking the beautiful waterfalls.
After zipping through nature, it’s time to hit the streets and see the sights. During my on-road bike tour, there was enough traffic to remind you that you’re not alone and to give you a sense of adventure. Note: I navigated two tricky turns from the parking lot to Main Street via Beekman Street & North Avenue. (Please observe all traffic and safety laws.)
What to See:
The Roundhouse: A Beacon gem that was originally home to the Matteawan Manufacturing Company (one of the first factories in Beacon) and then H.N. Swift Machine Shop (manufactured the first lawnmowers in US). Today, the historic property has a boutique hotel, a topnotch restaurant, and an event space with a beautiful waterfall as a backdrop. 2 East Main Street.
Howland Cultural Center: Dating back to 1872, this historic building was initially a library. Now, it’s a cultural institution that’s the heart of cultural life in Beacon. Fun fact: This landmark is the first building in Beacon listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 477 Main Street.
The Beacon Theatre: This art deco style, opulent movie venue opened its doors in 1934 with the movie “Operator 13” featuring Gary Cooper and closed in 1968. In recent history, 4th Wall Theatrical Productions, a local theater troupe, used it as a live performance space. The theatre is currently being repurposed. 445 Main Street.
Yankee Clipper Diner: This diner was featured in Paul Newman’s 1994 movie “Nobody’s Fool.” But its claim to fame is that it was named after the famous Pan American airplane that made its first trial flight across the mid-Atlantic in 1939; the diner opened in 1946. 397 Main Street.
Hudson Beach Glass: Located in a restored firehouse, this Main Street mainstay is home to a gallery and glass blowing demonstration studio. 162 Main Street.
Dia:Beacon: Opening in 2003 and credited with helping to transform Beacon into an arts destination, the Dia:Beacon presents artwork from the 1960s to the present. Located in the former Nabisco box printing factory, the Dia’s well-manicured grounds is also a work of art and a great place for a family photo. 3 Beekman Street.
Pete & Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park: Named after the famous folk singer, activist, and Beacon resident and his wife, this former landfill is now a beautiful waterfront park with a children’s play area, basketball courts, and a picnic area offering unparalleled views of the Hudson River. 1 Flynn Drive.
Where to Eat:
Homespun Foods: With an outpost in the Dia:Beacon, this relaxed eatery whips up hearty sandwiches, homemade soups, imaginative salads, and freshly made desserts. What’s more, there’s a kids’ menu. 232 Main Street.
Isamu: a trendy restaurant showcasing authentic Japanese and Chinese fare such as sesame chicken, fried rice, stir fry noodles, salmon teriyaki, shrimp tempura, sushi, and sashimi. 240 Main Street.
The Roundhouse: This upscale eatery serves whole farm cuisine sourced from the Hudson Valley in a rustic, chic dining room overlooking a roaring waterfall. 2 East Main Street.
Yankee Clipper Diner: With an extensive menu boasting burgers, specialty sandwiches, wraps, hot dishes, healthy fare, and a children’s menu, there’s a dish here for everyone. 397 Main Street.