What's it like living in Beacon, New York?
September 6, 2017 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in possibly moving to Beacon or another Hudson Valley town. I currently live in a large city and I'm wondering if anyone can comment on what it's like to transition to a much smaller town (I particularly like the anonymity of cities; is Beacon small enough that everyone knows you?). I also think I might have seasonal affective disorder, and wonder how the winters are there—does it go weeks without sunny days?

If you live there or have lived there in the past, I'd love to hear what you most like or dislike about it. I would be working remotely, so commuting is not an issue. I'm a homebody and don't need much entertainment, though I like bookstores, cafes, art like the Dia, etc. I would be buying a house rather than renting.
posted by pinochiette to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My mom used to live in Beacon, and I visited a fair amount, mostly in the spring and fall. It's a cute town, slightly bougie Main Street with shops and cafes, a great modern art museum (Dia:Beacon) and lots of artsy people. It's near a train station, so getting to NYC is easy if you want a more metropolitan experience from time to time. The foliage in the fall is gorgeous, and there's lots of good hiking around there. They also have several town festivals throughout the year.

The spring and fall are lovely and temperate. My mom likes the sun, and she was pretty happy with the balance (200 days of sun per year), but it does get quite cold and snowy in the winter so you might want to invest in one of those full-spectrum lights and make sure you're taking vit D supplements.
posted by ananci at 8:16 PM on September 6, 2017

I live a little south of Beacon, but am up there for music shows and dinner semi regularly. I think ananci does a very good job of describing Beacon. Beacon is not so small that everyone knows you. I am sure that within certain circles, there may be a smaller pool of people from which to draw. Good food, good music, art, reasonably near minor league baseball, etc. It is also close to other smaller towns along the Hudson such as Cold Spring.

I am not sure where you are coming from, but it does get cold in the winter. Expect snow. But, people there deal with the snow. Roads get plowed, sidewalks shoveled, parking lots sanded, etc. I find the winters to be somewhat grey, but also some really sunny days where the snow cover can be blindingly white. It is certainly not overwhelmingly grey. Summers can be hot, but that is summer. Falls are beautiful. I expect a few Indian Summer days in late September early October each year. Spring can be wet but is as ananci mentioned temperate.

As you go further north, the towns get smaller. The town of Hudson is very nice too.
posted by AugustWest at 9:16 PM on September 6, 2017

Best answer: I moved from Chicago to Newburgh (across the river from Beacon, roughly twice the size) early last year. On Saturday I will be moving to Queens—the small-town life just didn't work for us. Some observations:
  • I have to disagree with AugustWest—these towns are definitely small enough that you know everyone. We run into people we know nearly every time we go out. Even in Beacon we run into people we know from Newburgh. It's great when you're in the mood for it but can be hard when you're not.
  • It's good that you're a homebody; while Beacon (more than Newburgh) has pretty good entertainment options, there are still only so many of them, and lots of things close very early during the week. (Beacon, in particular, has an economy so driven by weekend visitors from NYC that lots of visitor-oriented shops, restaurants, and bars are closed several days during the week.)
  • I moved here with my partner. I think it would be difficult to date in these towns, where there are fewer people and everyone knows everyone's business.
  • Like you, I work remotely. I don't know your job situation and maybe it's very different, but I never felt very secure living here because I knew that if I lost my job, there'd be nothing comparable locally. I'd either need to find another remote job, move, or deal with a pretty crushing commute into the city.
  • The people from big cities who really seem to thrive here are people whose jobs have them traveling a lot, going to meetings or events in NYC, etc. I think these towns make a great home base for somebody like that. For somebody like me, whose job involves sitting at home looking at a computer from 9 to 5, it's been a little isolating. (Maybe not an issue for you if you're a homebody.)
  • Beacon is much less diverse than any big city, and the surrounding, more suburban areas are even less diverse. It shows in the local politics and attitudes. Trump nearly won Dutchess County (Beacon) and won Orange County (Newburgh). There are a hell of a lot of Confederate flags for a northern state. On my side of the river there are semi-regular scandals involving public officials using racial slurs or racially-charged language (they are rarely, if ever, fired). Somebody on Facebook the other day described New York State as "Alabama with a few metropolitan areas" and that's not too far off.
  • I recommend renting for a year before you buy to figure out if you like it, and, if you do, where in town you want to live, what a reasonable price is, etc.
  • There is great food in the Hudson Valley, but it tends toward a kind of farm-to-table Americana and is pretty limited beyond that niche. Forget anything spicy. There is no spicy food here. At Barb's Butchery in Beacon their Italian sausages come in mild, hot, and "burn your face off." The "burn your face off" is barely hot.
  • Probably the hardest thing for me to deal with was the car culture. We'd never had a car in the city and I hate having to have one here. I hate the cost (which really eats into the savings you'd otherwise see from the cheaper housing prices), I hate the car-driven sprawl and the strip malls and the McMansion developments that surround all those cute little Hudson Valley downtowns, and I hate watching the city governments ruin those downtowns by requiring huge parking lots for new buildings to appease the contingent that believes there is a constitutional right to never have to park more than 20 feet away from their destination (and which complains endlessly about parking even though it is ridiculously easy to find compared to any real city anywhere).
All of that said, there is a lot that I'll miss. I think the Hudson Valley is one of the most beautiful places you can live on the east coast. It still takes my breath away when I'm headed east on Verplanck in Beacon and crest the hill at Fishkill and Mount Beacon seems so close you could reach out and touch it. The hiking is amazing. There are beautiful places to bike if you're a cyclist. It's much easier to start something—a club, a side business, a political project, whatever—than in a bigger city. You can talk to the mayor or your city councilor personally without having to be a big shot. You can have have a much bigger impact on your town than you'd ever have in a big city. It's nice to be able to just go out and run into friends without having to make plans. The Beacon Sloop Club has ridiculously cheap moorings if you ever thought you might like to have a boat (and they have Pete Seeger's personal sailboat, the Woody, which does public sails from the waterfront).

I didn't mean to write this much but I guess I have some strong feelings on this. Feel free to send me mail if you'd like answers to any specific questions.
posted by enn at 5:12 AM on September 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

I love it.

Winters can be rough, but that is part of living in the Northeast.

There is a very "artsy" hip vibe here. Lots of cool shops and galleries. There are a bunch of great places to eat. I affectionately refer to it as a poor mans Brooklyn. There is definitely a community feeling here. I love the proximity to NYC and the train station, in addition to Mount Beacon for hiking and the Hudson River. The Hudson Valley is a beautiful place to live, especially if you enjoy nature.

Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

posted by kbbbo at 7:32 AM on September 7, 2017

I grew up in Newburgh (across the river from Beacon) and have lived in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY most of my adult life. Most of my immediate family still lives in the Hudson Valley, so I still visit there often. Beacon is a small city with more artsy flair than the surrounding towns (Fishkill, Wappingers Falls, Newburgh, Cornwall). I have some old high school friends with lefty-arty leanings who live in Beacon happily.

A nice perk is that you can take Metro-North into the city easily (be in midtown Manhattan in 90 minutes). There are a scattering of art museums and cultural attractions, and intersection of the mountains and the river are really beautiful. The DIA museum is very cool, though be aware it's a big warehouse-like space that focuses on large installation art.

Since it's the Northeast, yes, there will be winter between November and March, with occasional accumulations of snow anywhere from a coating to a couple feet once or twice a year, and many gray days throughout the year when it rains or snows. I don't know where you're coming from but if it's the Southwest or California, that will require an adjustment. Though as someone else said, few things are as beautiful as a bright snow-covered landscape when the sun comes out after a storm -- and that's particularly true on the mountains all around Beacon and the river.

I feel like between Beacon, Fishkill, and Wappingers there is a decent selection of interesting food, including Middle Eastern, Indian, and Thai restaurants. (Right in the middle of Beacon I seem to recall mostly cafes, bistros, American and Italian food places, though it's been several years since I have eaten there.)

Bookstores? I think there may still be a pretty good used bookstore on Main St in Beacon, which is a miracle and I hope I haven't jinxed my mentioning it, and there may be a Barnes & Noble in one of the malls in adjacent Wappingers Falls, but for serious bookstore action you'd have to go into NYC / Brooklyn.

For local transportation I know there's a bus service around Beacon and Wappingers, but I don't know how extensive it is. I would think you'd want to have a car if you lived there.

Somebody on Facebook the other day described New York State as "Alabama with a few metropolitan areas" and that's not too far off.

Yeah, no. I mean, it's not Berkeley or even (ahem) Ithaca, but it's no Alabama.
posted by aught at 11:12 AM on September 7, 2017

Have you seen this NY Times article? It provides advice and resources on finding the right suburb for you.

Also: PicketFencer might be a useful website for you to visit.
posted by cleverevans at 11:44 AM on September 7, 2017

Yay Hudson Valley peeps! I live about 40 minutes south of Beacon, but my brother is in Wappingers (pretty close to Beacon) and I used to rent kitchen space in Beacon. I don't know Beacon all that well, but I'm familiar with it and have lived within the region for most of my life.

We do get all four seasons, but even in winter with snow and stuff we still get sunny days.

Driving around can be really beautiful in the hudson valley - especially in the fall, if you are into the leaves changing color and whanot. Beacon's a little more urban than a lot of the hudson valley suburbs, but it's not a bustling metropolis, either (look to Newburgh or Poughkeepsie for more of a "this is a city"-city-sort of vibe).

There is a main strip that has a variety of cafes and restaurants (I think the Dr. Who themed place that opened up a few years ago is still open? The Pandorica, I think, if you are into that sort of thing.) Calling it a poor man's brooklyn is not inaccurate - there's definitely a push for the artsy-hip thing - galleries, quirky shops and cafes, a farmer's market.

It's not such a small town that everyone knows everyone, I don't think.

If you like any outdoorsy things, Beacon is right on the hudson river, so you could definitely do kayaking or other boating, and there's lots of hiking in the area.

If you decide to move and you want a localish acquaintance, hit me up!
posted by firei at 7:07 PM on September 7, 2017

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