Guide to the Outdoors in Westchester
Parks, waterfronts, and trails—where to find ‘em.
Resting on the edge of the Hudson River Valley and Long Island Sound, Westchester County is perfectly positioned for plenty of outdoor recreation that the entire family can enjoy.
The year 2012 marked 50 years since the county’s Parks Commission merged with the Recreation Commission to form what is now the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. The department celebrated the anniversary with a year‑long calendar of special events, and continues to offer terrific opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
The county park system includes more than 50 parks and recreation areas spanning nearly 18,000 acres. Destinations range from the Kensico Dam Plaza, site of a moving September 11th Memorial called “The Rising,” to the crescent‑shaped beach at Glen Island Park. Mountain biking is a favorite pastime at trails in the Blue Mountain, Spain Ridge and Graham Hills areas, with the latter recommended for the most experienced bikers. Just keep in mind that visiting many Westchester County park properties requires a pass that can be purchased through the parks department and at other locations year‑round.
Westchester is known for incredible fishing opportunities, permitted in all county‑run parks except for nature reserves. There is also a section of the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Lewisboro that allows fly‑fishing in‑season. During winter months, several lakes offer ice fishing, just so long as the conditions are deemed safe and the area is not designated for skating. All fishing in Westchester requires a New York fishing license, which can be obtained by contacting the county clerk or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Some of the best hiking, walking and biking trails on the east side of the Hudson weave through the county. The Northern Westchester Trailway is a paved bicycle and pedestrian path that runs near former New York Central Railroad stations, including a Tudor‑revival‑style Briarcliff Manor station that is now a library. Meanwhile, 33 miles of a planned 51.5‑mile Westchester RiverWalk trailway have been incorporated, and nearly half of the route, which spans 14 municipalities, is directly along the Hudson’s shore. Completed sections in Croton‑on‑Hudson and Tarrytown‑Sleepy Hollow feature interpretive signage describing the ecology, culture and history of the surrounding areas.
Six county‑operated golf courses in Westchester offer everything from leisurely courses lined with maple trees to narrow fairways and tricky water hazards. Golf course architect Tom Winton designed and built three of the six courses in Westchester. The Pete Dye‑designed Pound Ridge Golf Club was named GOLF Magazine’s No. 1 “U.S. Open‑Worthy Public Course” in 2012.
With beaches along Long Island Sound and the Hudson River, Westchester features plenty of lounging space for sand lovers.
Horseback riders congregate at Twin Lakes Park, home to two equestrian facilities, and explore trails at Twin Lakes Park/Nature Study Woods, Blue Mountain Reservation and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.
At Untermyer Park, formerly the estate of a Yonkers civic leader, visitors can admire formal gardens, statuary and a Grecian‑style amphitheater where theatrical performances and summer concerts are held.
Playland in Rye is being transformed so that the popular, 85-year-old amuse-ment park might soon be joined by an indoor sports venue, a children’s museum, restaurants, expanded ice skating opportunities and more. Plus, people can use the Playland parking lot for access to the 179‑acre Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, which hosts more than 5,000 ducks during the winter. Three miles of trails extend through forest and field habitats.
Bird‑watching is likewise a popular pursuit at the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, but animals of the four‑legged variety also earn attention in Westchester: The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem offers programs such as “Evening Howls,” and Faraway Farm in Yorktown Heights is home to a special breed of alpacas with fleece that goes into a wide array of beautiful handmade items.
History, agriculture and art co‑mingle at Muscoot Farm, a functioning dairy farm from 1880‑1967. Visitors can tour the grounds, hike and explore. The Main House is used as a showroom displaying the work of one local artist each month.
Other farms also have pick‑your‑own fruits and vegetables.
A hotbed of professional sports, Westchester residents cheer on some of the country’s most exciting franchises – baseball’s Yankees and Mets, ice hockey’s Rangers, football’s Giants and Jets, and basketball’s Knicks, to name a few. The county also offers other spectator opportunities, ranging from horse racing to professional soccer, and the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway blends the excitement of live harness racing with simulcast racing and casino games.
For those who prefer to be part of the action rather than spectators, Westchester offers a wide range of adult programs – everything from tennis and softball in New Rochelle to rifle, pistol, skeet and archery opportunities at The Sportsman Center at Blue Mountain Reservation.
Along with all of the outdoor facilities, several indoor attractions are just as exhilarating. Recreational opportunities include 13,000 square feet of climbing space at The Cliffs, kart racing at Grand Prix New York and glow‑in‑the‑dark bowling inside FunFuzion at New Roc City.
The LEGOLAND Discovery Center opened in the spring of 2013 in the Ridge Hill neighborhood of Yonkers. It features a LEGO build‑and‑test zone, soft play area and 4‑D cinema, as well as amazing LEGO creations and of course a shop for purchasing all the building bricks your hear desires!