The Best of Westchester 2010
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Westchester, a kid’s paradise? Yup. From water parks to hip-hop classes, here are the best.
Special-Occasion Cakes (Above)
Hamburger Cake at Dream Cakes Bakery
Cortlandt Manor (914) 734-2253
From a distance, this round hamburger cake looks like the real thing, complete with lettuce, mustard, and ketchup. It’s all colored buttercream, including the “seeds” on the bun. In reality, the bun is vanilla cake; the patty is chocolate cake, and inside is a ribbon of fudge. The cake started as a special the bakery created for Father’s Day, but it has turned into a summertime staple (meaning, yes, they have it in stock; in fall and winter, order at least two days in advance). Aiming to please is part of the owner’s motto: “You dream it, we make it.” And yes, junk-food junkies: they also do a pizza- slice cake for custom orders.
Park for Water Fun
Willson’s Waves Mount Vernon
(914) 813 6990
Water, water everywhere—that’s what you’ll find at Willson’s Waves, Westchester’s very own aquatic wonderland, located in the 23-acre Willson’s Woods Park, one of the oldest parks in the County. It’s our fave place to splash around in a wave pool, soar down an 18-foot-high water slide, and enjoy a spray deck and fountains. And the best part? You can experience it all for the price of a Westchester County Parks Pass. Cool.
Applause Westchester Mamaroneck
Here, it’s okay if your kids are little divas. The theater instructors have seen it already, being showbiz pros who work—right now, not years ago—in all areas of the entertainment biz, from Broadway to film. Applause offers classes for kids as young as four months, though “we’re not doing entire ‘book shows’ or trying to put on a full play with kindergartners,” says Director of Operations Heather Capelle. Instead, the focus is on teaching acting through improvisation, games, and the nuts-and-bolts of pitch, diction, and projection. So, by the time older kids move on to master classes, rehearsing for shows that are eventually performed in a real Off-Broadway theater, they’re full of confidence and enthusiasm, not quivering lips and knocking knees.
The Village Soccer Shop Dobbs Ferry
You could go to a big-box sporting-goods store for basic soccer gear, but why would you, when you’ve got the Village Soccer Shop? The year-old store stocks not only the major-name basics but also a great selection of hand-picked, high-end merchandise from brands like Umbro and Puma; coveted Select balls from Denmark; Italian-made socks from Diadora; street soccer/lifestyle duds from ultra-hip names like Calle and Monta; retro jerseys from COPA Football of Holland; and tons of soccer-related books, toys, DVDs, and games (many imported) from Panini, Topps Match Attax, and FT Champs. There’s just no place (this side of Brazil) as possessed by the game as Daniel D’Angelo’s under-the-radar (until now) little Dobbs Ferry shop.
Place to Throw a Party
Life The Place To Be Ardsley
A place that calls itself “Life The Place to Be” (pictured left) deserves an award just for sheer chutzpah. But, in this case, the chutzpah is not unwarranted, because this ultra-chic, tricked-out, 29,000-square-foot space, located (can you believe it?) in a former trucking warehouse is the place to be—to dine on Abigail Kirsch’s award-winning food (it’s Life’s exclusive caterer); to play arcade games (there’s 3,000 square feet dedicated to them); to bowl a 300 (or a 100, or an 80); to climb a wall; or to pop the question (there’s an on-premises ceremony site just in case you’re the impulsive type).
Beyond Costumes Yonkers
You know those cookie-cutter costumes that have the durability of a plastic grocery bag and the style and panache of a $3 disposable rain poncho? They don’t have those here. What they have is an inventory of 20,000-plus costumes (for rent or purchase) made of wonderful fabrics and materials (many have had past lives on Broadway and in the movies), from creative Halloween getups to authentic period dress to detailed stage outfits. Whether your kid is planning to trick-or-treat as Angelina Ballerina or to take the stage as King Lear, the showbiz and costume-design pros here will help you find—or assemble, with the help of oodles of wigs, hats, masks, makeup, nips, tucks, props, and embellishments—exactly what you want. No wonder regional theater troupes and groups (the Westchester Broadway Theatre, for example) are regulars.
Good (and Inexpensive) Haircuts
Carmen’s Unisex Hair Salon Croton-on-Hudson
There are no bells and whistles at Carmen Montalvo’s teeny six-year-old shop—just two stylists (Montalvo, a former stylist at Supercuts in White Plains, and her daughter, Jacqueline); three chairs (including a race-car styling station for little ones); and quality haircuts at great prices ($12 for kids under 12; $15 for men; $20 and up for women; $35 for wash, cut, and blow-dry). Frankly, that’s good enough for us.
Aqua Tots Westchester
Pleasantville (914) 747-2070
There’s a reason parents rave about Aqua Tots: the instructors. For starters, Aqua Tots Westchester’s owners, Aileen Crampton Bucciero and Fiona Crampton Kearney, hand-select and hire more instructors than other programs do. (Their teacher/student ratio is 1:2 for beginners, while other programs are usually 1:4.) The program also ensures that, except in the case of instructor illness or emergency, children will have the same instructors every time. Even the most nervous new swimmers are comforted by the consistency. Parents, too.
Gym for Kids
The Little Gym Scarsdale
(914) 722-0072 (914) 722-2773
We love The Little Gym. Maybe it’s because of co-owner Jeff Freeman’s love for kids, or maybe it’s the always-hopping, laughter-filled, 4,000-square-foot, completely matted space—just for kids. The Little Gym is stocked with real (albeit smaller) balance beams, parallel bars, uneven bars, high bars, rings, and more.
This 9,000-square-foot private family-membership club offers all the recreation a family could want or need—together or separately—all under one very chic roof. There are cool kids’ classes, an indoor playground, a decked-out café with healthy offerings (and child-sized tables and chairs)—and a gym for Mom (and the au pair, natch.) What’s not to love?
Gerald Cox at Club Fit
Briarcliff Manor (914) 762-3444
When it comes to teaching kids to swim, nobody does it with more confidence, more skill, more grace—or more success—than Gerald Cox. Children—and their parents—flock to Cox, and is it any wonder? On any given day, Cox—who gives private, semi-private, and group lessons at Club Fit in Briarcliff, and also runs his own swim-training company, My Swim for Kids—can be found in the pool, singing to an infant, soothing a baby, or making an initially whimpering toddler laugh, and, of course, helping him to swim. “Kids come in crying, and they leave laughing,” one parent declared. “Before you know it, even the fearful ones are swimming.” How does he do it? “He takes the intimidation factor away,” says Club Fit’s aquatics director, Scott Karsen. “He doesn’t have just skill, he has charisma. I wish I could clone him.”
Logrea Dance Academy
Ossining (914) 941-2939
Just a few facts: It’s the school of the Westchester Ballet Company. Its directors have received the Cab Calloway Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to dance in the County. The academy is nearly 25 years old—and thriving. ‘Nuff said.
Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists
Sleepy Hollow (914) 909 5070
This award-winning, not-for-profit outfit is so synonymous with cutting-edge, authentic, superior-quality dance instruction that it’s getting embarrassing already. Debralyn Press, SHPA’s tireless artistic director, trolls New York City for the best and most relevant talent to teach these cool classes. Press is proud that many SHPA dancers grow up to become working professionals and return to SHPA to teach new generations of top-rockers and moonwalkers. “All of our kids,” she says, “are fierce.”
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