11 Sustainable Things to Do on an a Romantic Weekend in Beacon and Cold Spri
- by Alden Wicker
- Dec 11, 2013
You won’t often find New Yorkers piling into cars, yelping, “Road trip!” We move here, (most of us) give up our cars, and instead of finding kitschy delight in road side attractions, we become experts on the various places the LIRR, Metro North, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak lines will take us.
And around this time of year, some of the most compelling retreats within train distance are upstate. The Metro North Hudson and Harlem lines are strung with small, charming towns like twinkle lights on a railing. Ask any New Yorker who’s been here a while, and they can name a few favorites. Two favorites of mine are Beacon and Cold Spring.
These towns are only 45 minutes away from NYC and have it all: locally-owned boutiques, world-class art, farm-to-table restaurants and everything else you need for a romantic and sustainable getaway. The train stations are a 10 minute walk from the center of town, and to walk from one outer edge of the town to the other takes just 26 minutes.
New Yorkers like it so much, they’re moving there. Even though the downtown area is a heartwarming tale of economic resurgence driven by relocating Brooklynites, gentrification still hasn’t hit property values, and you can get a one bedroom apartment for $750 a month, or a three bedroom house for $325,000, according to Zillow. More changes are on the way, with two craft breweries opening up in the next year.
Just take resident Sarah Womer, who runs the organization Zero to Go. During during the warm-weather months, she handles waste management at events, composting, and recycling with her crew. She keeps all the materials local, transporting the compost and recyclables within the city with cargo bicycles. She also handles materials on a large scale. If an office building is closing, or a house needs to be cleaned out, she activates her network to ensure that everything useful gets to small businesses and non-profit organizations in the community.
“I’ve lived in Beacon for about eight years,” she told me by email, “and have found that it’s a really supportive place to start a business. The people who have been here and have just moved here are working together to make this little city of 16,000 a great place to live, work, and start a family. I’m connected to an amazing network of farmers, teachers, artists, creators, designers, retailers, and not to mention a rabbi and pastor who hike weekly and work closely to connect the religious community!”
Womer has set the bar high for Beacon, though. “I wouldn’t say it’s a sustainable city. We have many steps to make that I’d really like to see happen, such as getting recycling bins on Main Street, getting rid of styrofoam in our schools and businesses, reducing car usage, increasing bike parking, and starting a composting infrastructure. I started Zero to Go to try and address some of these things, and we are. Everything takes a long time.”
Sounds like a typical small town in transition to progressive, sustainable policies. Here’s my guide to a quick weekend in the little, artistic town of Beacon, NY.
The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls
This out-of-commission mill has been renovated into a rustic and charming hotel, complete with locally-sourced furniture. But the real draw is the beautiful view of the falls right below. Stay away from the dining room–the service is reportedly atrocious. But do stop for a drink on the patio, where you’ll be seduced by the perfect setting. Rates for rooms start at $150 a night during the week and $219 on the weekend.
If you want the ability to cook up your own farmer’s market finds in a kitchen, then grab a place on AirBnB. We’ve done this several times and it’s a great way to get a feel for the town by living in a neighborhood. Just make sure it’s not so far out of town that you need a car!
If you’re in the market for a new bike–or your old bike needs some love, there’s Peoples Bicycle and Peoples Cargo (the latter of which is brand new). The bicycle shop focuses on bicycle as transportation for all, working on all types of bikes and the occasional stroller and wheelchair. They sell used and new bikes, and build custom electric-assist bikes to suit a variety of needs. Peoples Cargo provides scalable local delivery solutions to businesses, building cargo bicycles designed for heavy hauling and city delivery.
Things to Do
Art Gallery Hopping
You can walk through the more than a dozen art galleries lining the main drag any time of the week. I’m especially fond of the modern and beautiful work at the Theo Ganz studio near the riverside end of Main Street. On the second Saturday of each month, all the galleries stay open until 9 p.m. with exhibitions, wine and lots of crackers and grapes. Leave your checkbook at home, unless you want to drop a few hundred or thousand on an amazing piece of original art.
The piéce de resistance is is the old Nabisco factory five minutes from the train station. Or as it is known now, the Dia:Beacon art museum. This space offers an experience to rival to that of MoMA PS1, with lavish, warehouse-sized, naturally-lit rooms fully devoted to each artist. Spend hours wandering through 300,000 square feet of modern art, examine dozens of matching Warhols, walk through the monolithic Richard Serra sculptures, and overcome your fear of basements to explore the bottom floor of mind-bending artwork. Tip: Show up at 10:30 a.m. before the museum opens and request a guided tour of Michael Heizer’s mind-f*** holes in the ground. You won’t regret it.
Of course, what trip upstate would be complete without poking around in some of the several antique shops on Main Street? If you’re in town between April and November, hit up the Sunday Beacon Flea Market for 50 vendors selling a trove of finds, like wall art, place settings, furniture and albums.
There are too many great trails to name in the area. But I suggest skipping Breakneck Ridge, which is way too crowded, and hitting up another trailhead nearby.
Meet and Caffeinate: Ella’s Bella’s
Now for the requisite coffee shop. This cozy little place provides tiny two-tops and large communal tables where you can read the newspaper or plan your next big creative project with friends. I can’t speak to the coffee (it’s not my specialty and I didn’t get any). Instead, I’ll tell you about the perfect feeling of a mug of hot chocolate in my hands after walking in from the sub-freezing temperatures outside, and flipping through the latest issue of the New Yorker left on our table. My kind of place.
If you’re totally tired of “artisinal” fair, then stop into Homespun for more comfort food, like macaroni and cheese, quiche, Banh Mi, and a big selection of sandwiches. A shelf on the wall in front of the register also displays chocolates, jams and other local foods, so load up.
Apurveyor of bulk teas, artisanal bitters, handcrafted tisanes, and bespoke cocktail accessories.
Beacon Farmer’s Market
Here on Sunday? Pop by this year-round market to pick up freshly baked bread, eggs, grass fed beef, cider, maple syrup, produce and more. During the summer, it sets up shop at Long Dock Park by the Hudson River. But during the winter, it moves indoors to a bi-level space, where you can get hot chocolate topped with locally-made marshmallows.
Also check out Dogwood Bar and Towne Crier Café.