As soon as you enter Dia:Beacon with the kids their imaginations start to run wild

Dia:Beacon is a contemporary art museum that rests on the shores of the Hudson River, conveniently located a short drive or train ride north of the hustle and bustle of New York City.  Past the well-manicured lawns and inside the modest building live a collection of impressive installations that stretch the limits of what you may expect to find in an art museum. The abstract nature, as well as the size of the galleries, are precisely what make Dia:Beacon an approachable art museum with kids.

Aside from the art itself, the journey to Dia:Beacon with kids either by road or by train along the Hudson River provides a welcome respite from the horn honking, occasional smells, and breakneck pace of the city.  Skirt along the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, watch the Columbia University crew team row about and gaze at the grace of sailboat gliding by. Upon arrival, the vast well lit galleries covering over three floors provide a great opportunity to simply exhale and engage the imagination.

The original Dia Art Foundation was formed in 1974 to help artists achieve visionary projects that may not otherwise be realized because of size or scope.  Dia:Beacon, which opened in 2003 replacing an old Nabisco factory, houses a lot of these projects.

Torqued Ellipse by RIchard Serra at Dia:Beacon
Because our kids are occasionally feral, they had an amazing time running around the Torqued Ellipse collection by Richard Serra.  While not exactly ideal, the kids would never get enough of their wiggles out in a traditional art museum. Dia has the size to accommodate some of the kids’ more animal instincts.

Dia:Beacon Art and Artists

Andy Warhol is probably the most widely recognizable artist on display at the museum, but exhibits by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, and Robert Morris are some of the highlights.  One of the most fulfilling ways to enjoy the museum is by entertaining the unbounded imagination of kids. When visiting Dia:Beacon with kids simply asking what they think they see while gazing at a giant crouching spider by Louise Bourgeois that fills an entire room is a great conversation starter.

Louise Bourgeois - Crouching Spider at Dia:Beacon
The boys cautiously approached Crouching Spider by Louise Bourgeois.
Andy Warhol - Shadows at Dia: Beacon
Here’s Rowan looking at one of the 102 paintings that make up Andy Warhol’s Shadows exhibit that fills an entire room.  
Dan Flavin - Untitled at Dia:Beacon
Dan Flavin has a number of fluorescents fixtures in the gallery.   
Robert Morris - Untitled (Cloud) at Dia:Beacon
Once again, the scale of the art here is what makes Dia unique.  Here is our son inspecting Untitled (Cloud) by Robert Morris

Getting to Dia:Beacon with Kids

Public Transit: Metro North to Dia:Beacon from NYC

The Metro North is an excellent option because in addition to the scenic ride, the MTA offers discount packages that include tickets to the museum.  Current prices from Grand Central Terminal via the Harlem-125 street station are $40.00 for adults, $36.75 for children 12-18, and $2.00 for children ages 5-11.  Children under 5 are free. 

Pro Tip: When you get on the train, sit on the left side for the best view of the river.  Left depends on what direction you are facing, you say? Stand facing the direction the train will be leaving the station.  In the summer and fall, try to arrive at the train station about 30 minutes early. The routes get crowded on the weekends.

Trains run hourly in either direction to and from the museum.  At the Beacon station, you can either walk or ride a free bus to the museum.  

Note: be sure to hold on to your rail ticket for the trip home!

Walk

The walk takes about 10 minutes.  There are two signs pointing in opposite directions.  Both are fine and similar walking distance, but the more scenic walk is via the sign that reads “Dia:Beacon Via Walkway.”  This walk overlooks Red Flynn Drive, which overlooks the river.

Bus

The bus stop to Dia:Beacon is literally at the train station.  Follow signs for the Beacon Free Loop, which runs Monday through Saturday.  In addition to the museum, it also stops at Main Street and Mount Beacon.  

By Car: Driving to Dia:Beacon from NYC

If speed is your goal, simply follow Google Maps or Waze or whatever app you fancy.  The most scenic drive, however, the Palisades Interstate Parkway through New Jersey. Follow Google Maps, but when you get close the last turn is going to be from Wolcott Ave onto Beekman Street.  Dia:Beacon is going to be on the left just before a sharp turn so it is easy to miss. If you pass it, do not worry, entrance to the Long Dock Park is very close and an easy location to turn around. 

Essentials: Parking, Tickets, and Events at Dia:Beacon

Parking

Parking at Dia:Beacon is free.  They have their own parking lot, but it does tend to fill up at peak hours in the summer.  If driving, or just in general, it is best to arrive relatively early. If the lot is full, you can park at Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park a short distance down the road.  To get to Long Dock Park, from Beekman Street, turn left on Long Dock street and the park will be on the left.

Tickets

Dia:Beacon with kids can get sneaky expensive. As of 2020, Ticket prices are currently $15 for adults and $12 for children.  Tickets can be purchased on-site and are not available online unless you purchase the discount package that comes with your Metro North ticket from the MTA. 

Nearby

Aside from Dia, the city of Beacon has plenty to offer to fill the weekend with or without the kids. 

Galleries and Attractions

The area surrounding Dia capitalized on the influx of visitors interested in creative expression so there are a number of galleries nearby.  The BeaconArts website highlights the various museums and galleries in the Arts District.

Second Saturday is a monthly city-wide kid-friendly event chock full of gallery openings, artist receptions, and special events.  

Bannerman Castle is located on a “tiny jewel” of an island about 5 miles from Dia:Beacon.  The island was originally uninhabited and considered haunted by Native Americans so it became a refuge for those seeking safety.  Francis Bannerman commissioned the construction of the castle in 1901, and while it looks like a castle, it was mainly used as storage.  The island offers walking tours, special events, and theatrical performances. 

Outdoors and Hiking near Beacon

The Hudson Valley is a fantastic location for outdoor activities with a variety of options for all skill levels.  The Hudson Highlands State Park offers 52 trail miles over 7,400 acres.  The area was strategically important during the Revolutionary War and features stunning panoramic views of the valley rich in history and occasional artifacts.

The most famous and trafficked hike is Breakneck Ridge, but various trails range from 0.3 miles to 10 miles.

For a kid and toddler-friendly alternative, visit Hudson Long Dock Park, right around the corner from Dia:Beacon.  The stroller-friendly trails offer a number of accessible walkways. Rent kayaks and paddleboards through Mountain Top Outfitters, or take a stroll on a bicycle from Cold Spring Bike Rental & Tours (Thursday-Sunday).  Both activity rental offices are located in the park.

The accessible trails near Hudson Long Dock Park are a great option for a quick walk, or run, after visiting Dia:Beacon.
The Hudson Long Dock Park has accessible trails that help burn off some steam before the ride home.  A little further down, the trail runs alongside the Metro North railway for a few exciting moments whenever trains roll by.
The boys are checking out the water near Hudson Long Dock Park
The kids weren’t feeling up to kayaking, but throwing sticks and rocks in the water never gets old.

Storm King

Storm King Arts Center is a sculpture park located a quick 25-minute drive from Dia:Beacon across the Hudson.  It contains the largest collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the United States on a property that spans nearly 500 acres.  

Storm King is a short drive from Dia:Beacon
Storm King is worthy of a day unto itself, but kids and adults will love it either way.

Where to Eat in Beacon

There are food options aplenty in Beacon that should satisfy any taste.  Many farm to table options are available as the area is close to many nearby farms. The Pandorica is a Dr. Who themed restaurant stocked with cool memorabilia from the show.  For a unique sweet treat, head over to Glazed Over Donuts or the Hudson Valley Marshmellow Co.  If you are like our family, however, you may enjoy a locally brewed beer and our favorite is 2way Brewing which offers cold beers for the adults, unhealthy food for all, and board games for the kids.

2Way Brewing

2Way Brewing in Beacon is a nice little spot where you can see the brewery and play some board games after a long hike or a day at the museum.