Day Trip to Dia:Beacon

Eighty minutes north of New York City sits Dia:Beacon, one of New York’s great destinations for viewing contemporary art. Housed in a former Nabisco box factory, the expansive galleries contain the Dia Art Foundation’s collection of art from the 1960s to the present, and it’s a joy to meander through the the maze of rooms spread over three levels, most of them washed with light from enormous windows overhead and along the perimeter. The space here feels luxurious compared to some New York art museums, and the bit of distance from the city means the crowds are more modest, making the experience more intimate in a way, even given the large scale of many of the works.

The collection is extensive and varied and includes works, like Michael Heizer’s North, South, East, West that were commissioned specifically for the space. We spent the most time with sculptor Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses, a series of four massive steel sculptures housed in the building’s former train depot. As I’m an admirer of Richard Serra’s work, it thrilled me to see my daughter explore and experience some of it on her own level, running in and around each piece, especially delighting in threading through the narrow passageways formed by the steel plates on two ellipses, each circuit a new adventure.

Not every work here is as child-friendly as Serra’s Ellipses, so there were rooms where we spent less time simply given the nature of the materials used, the way the work was presented, and the current state of our ongoing efforts to model and instill good museum manners. That said, we saw a number of other families with young children during our visit, and the very nature of contemporary art seems quite appealing to children, making the museum overall a worthy destination for a family day trip.

Beyond the galleries of the museum, there’s a cafe and bookstore, both of which are accommodating for young visitors: you’ll find high chairs and a children’s menu in the first, and an extensive section of children’s books in the latter. There are beautifully-landscaped gardens outside (even more lovely when it’s not winter, I’m sure) that provide an excellent space for quiet contemplation, running off extra energy, or observing the trains that run frequently up and down the tracks alongside the museum. You’ll want to plan to spend at least a couple hours here given the distance from the city, but I suspect you’ll find, as we did, that time seems to pass quickly.

Additional notes:

  • We drove to the museum, but it’s easily accessible via Metro-North trains traveling along the Hudson Line from Grand Central to the Beacon train station. A special package includes both train tickets and access to the museum, and you’ll want to sit on the left-hand side of the train as it travels north to enjoy the best Hudson River views.
  • Backpacks and other large bags are not allowed in the museum, but can be checked free of charge. Strollers are permitted in the museum but cannot be left at coat check.


Comments (1)

January 26, 2017

This is breathtaking, that spider… What a magical place to visit. Just absolutely love your features from New York. Actually love your features from all over the world, you have such a great team of writers!!!

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