Best of Westchester 2011: Kids

Best of Westchester 2011 - where to take the youngest county residents



Shop for Train Hobbyist

Tom’s Trains
Ardsley  |  914.478.9365  |  tomstrainsny.com
 

photo by Phil Mansfield

Toy train enthusiasts will be on the
right track at this choo-choo mecca. Tom’s carries all wooden train lines and the O-gauge electric trains, in addition to all the shrubbery, trees, buildings, and other accoutrements and accessories toy train fans need to build a Utopian train village. The shop has several starter sets on exhibit, in addition to a massive (16’ x 7’) display of six trains running simultaneously on three levels. All aboard!

 

Candy Buffets

Sweet Teez
Larchmont  |  914.630.1744  |  sweetteez.com
Everybody loves a trip to the candy shop—and Sweet Teez does one better by bringing the candy shop to you. For parties or other events, the shop can whip up a photo-shoot-worthy traveling candy buffet, with colorful M&Ms, Pumpkin Pretzels, and Sour Patch candies set up in jars, bowls, and stands of various sizes. The store’s staff then will keep a watchful eye as party guests fill their own goody bags, either to eat then and there or take home as favors. Guests love that they get to choose their favorite flavors, and you don’t have to worry about setup or cleanup.

 

Tween Wear

Stephanie’s Kloset
Larchmont  |  914.834.2144  |  stephanieskloset.com
The rainbow-colored peace signs on the dressing-room curtains and fresh flowers by the register are your first indication that you’ve entered a shop designed to please girls. The second: the large display in the middle brimming with necklaces and bracelets, many made by the owner herself. Stephanie Kole, the former manager of longtime children’s favorite Lorilyn & Co. (now closed), knows what a girl wants, and she delivers. Despite the small space, Kole stocks more than 50 lines, everything from pajamas to dresses. Her latest: J Brand jeans and colorfast ware, which she says are the softest things you’ve ever imagined (and, yes, moms love them too). Kole is frequently mixing it up with the latest fashions. She’s also the perfect go-to source for gift ideas for even the fussiest tweenage girl.

Dance Classes

Steffi Nossen School of Dance
White Plains  |  914.328.1900  |  steffinossen.org
You can see the results of Steffi Nossen School of Dance training in one of our favorite neighbors: Vanessa Williams, who is an alumna. (And, if you’ve ever seen the way Williams moves on a Broadway stage, you know how impressive her moves are.) The school’s jazz, modern, ballet, tap, and hip-hop classes operate on the principles established by Nossen, who emigrated to Larchmont from Berlin in the ’30s and was a contemporary of dance pioneers Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, while the legendary Alvin Ailey and Mark Morris both taught at the school.

Kids’ European Fashions

Star Spangled Carousel
Armonk  |  914.273.9702  |  starspangledcarousel.com
Situated in a quaint, 130-year-old house in Armonk, this lovely shop is filled with fine-quality children’s clothing from high-end brands. Among them: European labels such as Chipie, KKS, Lili Gaufrette, and Jean Bourget from France; Archimede from Belgium; and Naturino (footwear) and Manudieci from Italy. In addition, you’ll find ultra-cool, offbeat, and slightly boho brands like Diesel and Charlie Rocket. Luxury, however, doesn’t come cheap. But when it comes to your little angel, which would you prefer to cradle his skin: a soft-as-a-cloud Italian knit cardigan or a stiff-as-a board jacket with a scratchy, sewn-on Elmo patch?

Toy Store

A Nu Toy Store
Tarrytown  |  914.372.7144  |  anutoystore.com
A Nu Toy Store carries contemporary toys and games, in addition to unusual merchandise like items made from recycled milk jugs (ranging from tea sets for girls to trucks for boys). It also offers used or previously-bought-but-never-opened toys and games (or “pre-loved,” as Nu Toy affectionately calls them). And the store offers a neat selection of vintage toys, including many classics and collectibles. Smurfs and Mickeys and Weebles and Barbies—oh my!

Place to Spend a Friday Afternoon

Chocolations
Mamaroneck  |  914.777.3600  |  chocolations.com
Chocolatier extraordinaire Maria Valente has come up with the perfect Friday afternoon activity to keep your little ones from bouncing off the walls and to give you an end-of-the-week break in the process. From 3 to 5 pm (translation: after lunch, after nap) every Friday, your child gets to become the “cake boss” by choosing a cupcake and decorating it with yummy toppings (there’s a tablefull to choose from), e.g., marshmallows, jelly beans, sprinkles. If you like, you can be your child’s “assistant,” or you can treat yourself to a cup of coffee—and a little downtime—at one of the bistro-style tables up front or on the outdoor deck. Come Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays, there are more seasonal offerings, which, incidentally, are also a hit with tweens and teens. Valente says she started “Kids’ Fun Fridays” as a way for busy parents to wind down at the end of the week. “It’s really a very simple activity,” she says, “but it’s proven to be very popular.” Sign up to be on Valente’s newsletter as she also hosts mom’s nights in, area fundraisers, and more. And oh yeah, the house-made chocolate ain’t bad, either.

Karate

Toshindo Karate and Fitness Center
White Plains  |  914.285-9001  |  toshindokarate.com
If you think your kids might like martial arts but are worried they’ll start karate-chopping the house (or playmates) down, then check out White Plains’s Toshindo Karate and Fitness Center. Shihan (“Master Instructor”) Don LaMattina, a voluble eighth-degree black belt, runs Toshindo with more than an emphasis on muscle-flexing. Sure, students at Toshindo do kick butt, regularly winning competitions at every level (including a couple international tournaments), but the 45-year karate veteran teaches plenty of other skills. “If they aren’t behaving at home, they can’t receive a new belt,” says LaMattina of his younger students. Toshindo also offers classes for teens and adults.

Zen Mommy and Me

Mommy and Me Yoga
at Destination Maternity
White Plains  |  914.681.1234  |  destinationmaternity.com
We have no idea if yoga cleanses your liver of toxins or if you have a third eye in the middle of your forehead (we strongly suspect that the answer to both is no, however). But we do know that Destination Maternity’s Mommy and Me Yoga class offers a wonderful zen-like experience. Mothers with infants up to 12 months old are invited to take part in the class, which is geared toward students of all levels. In addition to taking in the oh-so-adorable sight of other mommies trying the tree pose with their babies, participants get to exercise, socialize with other new moms, and bond with their new babies—all in one outing. Now that’s the way to find inner peace.

Kids Parties

Cool kids’ parties even parents will love

Sports Parties: Pro Swing

Port Chester  |  914.937.6700  |  proswingbaseball.com
For your baseball-loving progeny, this is a foolproof birthday-party option. These aren’t just baseball-themed parties, with coordinating cups and plates. Kids actually get to play a baseball game and participate in a variety of other baseball-related contests and games. Of course, a qualified instructor is on hand, too. Best of all, the birthday child, depending on his or her age, gets either a free half-hour lesson or a free half-hour in the batting cage.

Fairy Parties

On a Whim
845.558.5671  |  fairyparties.com
Forget that Camille McKay, the owner and “Head Fairy” of this unique and dreamy party-planning company, works as a part-time histologist for the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her heart is in the business of making children’s fantasies a reality—at least for a day. The company offers dozens of whimsical, fantastical party themes, mostly for little girls—such as the “Fairy Fun Celebration” (complete with fairy wings, garlands, a fairy doll, and a fairy party favor); “Tangled Princess Fun” (with games such as “pin the hair on Rapunzel”)—though there are some for girls and boys (e.g., “Princess and the Frog” and “Pirates and Pixies.”) Ask about the “fairy dust,” too.

Fairground Parties

Carnival Time
Mamaroneck  |  914.381.8944  |  carnivaltime.org
Self-described “momtrepreneur” Dawn Handler knows how to throw a kids’ party. After all, she started this business after friends complimented her on one of her own children’s parties and asked how she did it. For a good, old-fashioned, day-at-the-carnival experience—complete with games (the “sombrero toss” is a favorite), sand art, spin art, jewelry making, and face painting, plus carnival treats like cotton candy—look no further. Carnival Time offers three basic party packages. A big plus: it looks like a carnival fairground, but it’s indoors, complete with indoor grass, so you don’t have to worry about running up the roller-coaster tracks to grab your kid.

Sweet-Tooth Parties

Longford’s of Larchmont
Larchmont  |  914.834.0207  |  longfordsoflarchmont.com
Kids and ice cream. They go together like, well, kids and ice cream! Add “grand prixe” car racing, pizza, crafts, face painting, and you have the makings of a perfect party. Plus, this isn’t just any ice cream—it’s Longford’s own lush, creamy, ultra-smooth ice cream. And party kids get to go behind the counter, scoop their own ice cream, and add their own colorful toppings. With all that sugar, though, you may want to skip the juice.

Haircuts

Where to get the kiddies’ hair clipped

Magic Cuts for Kids
New Rochelle  |  914.813.8142
A pink Barbie car, a blue Mini Cooper, and tons of “electronic toys” make a haircut here a walk in the park. New Rochelle resident and owner Gabby Mendoza says kids never cry in her chairs. She caters to babies, toddlers, and grade-schoolers, and, yes, first-haircut clients are treated to a certificate and a lock of hair.

Little Stars Haircuts
Eastchester  |  914.779.1261
There are a lot of things to love at Little Stars: the cute tot-sized airplanes, taxi cabs, and cars parked in front of individual big flat-screen TVs, colorful paintings of animals and clowns on the wall. And the fact that this bilingual (Spanish/English) team of stylists is dedicated to making your child’s experience—whether he’s seven months or seven years old—a fuss-free experience.

Hudson Shears
Irvington  |  914.591.3737
There are no miniature Jeeps or cars as seats at Hudson Shears. No electronic toys or TVs, either. That’s why we love it: Hudson Shears is simply an old-fashioned salon where the kids feel “grown up” for sitting in a “regular chair.” Or not. No matter. The stylists are patient, and the end result is a nice new ’do. FYI: it’s cash or check only.