More Fun to Be Had: Westchester Magazine Editors' Favorite Summer Fun Activities
Couldn’t get enough of our 2013 Summer Fun guide? Our editors pick their favorite activities from years’ past
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In our Summer Fun feature story, we guide you through some of the best entertainment available in the County this summer. But that's not everything—we list our all-time favorite summertime activities below. From the best nearby beaches, drive-ins, and amusement parks to bars where you can drink in a view of the Hudson River, we've got even more reasons to get out of the house and enjoy Westchester in its finest season.
Gardens to Visit
Sure, we all know about (and love!) the PepsiCo sculpture garden, the grounds at Caramoor, and the Wildflower Island at Teatown. Here are a few notable public gardens that may not be on your radar—but are definitely worth a trip.
Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church’s 250-acre estate, Olana, in Hudson, New York, (olana.org) is one of the few remaining artist-designed landscape gardens in the world. One highlight is the 165-foot-long, 20-foot-wide flower garden that curves along the stonewall leading up to the house.
Innisfree Garden in Millbrook (innisfreegarden.org) comprises “cup gardens,” a Chinese design concept that creates a series of garden vignettes tucked throughout the 150-acre property, allowing visitors to stroll from one scene to the next amid meadows, streams, and waterfalls.
Author Edith Wharton’s Berkshire estate, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts, (edithwharton.org) has three acres of gardens including an Italianate walled garden (which she paid for with the proceeds of her first bestseller, The House of Mirth); a French-style formal flower garden surrounding a pool with fountain; grass terraces; a lime walk of linden trees; and a woodland walk.
Steepletop in Austerlitz, New York, (millay.org) is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s former estate with walled rose gardens, wildflower and rock gardens, and a spring-fed swimming pool. A poetry trail leads to the family gravesites.
The Climbery in Livingston, New York, is the largest private clematis garden in the world with nearly 6000 vines, along with specimen trees, peonies, irises, lilies, English rose gardens, and lotus ponds. Be aware, though: Viewing is by appointment only.
Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, New York, (stonecrop.org) features 12 acres of rock, woodland, and water gardens, along with an enclosed English-style flower garden, an extensive collection of dwarf bulbs, and an exquisite conservatory.
With gas prices north of $4 a gallon, you might be looking to take your old bike out for a spin again. But where to ride? We asked the experts—the pros at our local bike shops—for their favorite rides.
“There are three really good mountain biking trails in the area,” says Bino Cummings, manager of Hickory & Tweed Ski & Cycle in Armonk (914-273-3397; hickoryandtweed.com). “Sprain Ridge in Yonkers, Graham Hills in Pleasantville, and, my absolute favorite, Blue Mountain in Peekskill. It’s the place to ride. They’re not really for kids—they’re more aggressive.”
AJ Picarello, owner of Down Cycles in Croton-on-Hudson (914-827-9570; downcycles.com), couldn’t agree more, causing Stefan Pappalardo, the shop’s manager, to opine: “I try to get him to ride elsewhere in Westchester, but there’s no doubt that he could easily spend the rest of his life riding at Blue Mountain.” Perhaps it’s just a sense of pride—Picarello is actually personally responsible for the construction of one of Blue Mountain’s trails, aptly named “My Favorite Trail.” But, even without the personal connection, Pappalardo says, “Blue Mountain provides the most selection, distance, and variable terrain for all abilities.”
If you’re looking to take the kids with you, Steve Kahn, president of Danny’s Cycles (Scarsdale 914-723-3408; Rye Brook 914-939-1150; dannyscycles.com), recommends the North and South County Trailway. “As part of the Rails-to-Trails project, this trail is dedicated to many forms of non-motorized transportation,” he says. “With scenic terrain, paved paths, and car-free riding, the trail network is ideal for family riding.” Kahn adds that Westchester is “home to one of the country’s longest-running race-pace group rides, the Gimbels Ride, which leaves Yonkers and heads north, covering a huge swath of our county.” You can find out more about the Gimbels Ride at usicycling.org.
Ilene Marcos, co-owner of Bicycle World in Mount Kisco (914-666-4044; bicycleworldny.com), has a tip for those looking for a little serenity. “Picking the right time of day to be on the roads will make them feel like they’re your own,” she says. “Avoid rush-hour rides.” But where to bike during those off-hours? “Connecting the reservoirs in the area—such as the Amawalk, the Titicus, and the Croton—is always a great ride. It’s hard to believe that we’re as close to New York City as we are when you’re taking in such beautiful scenery.”
Ready to hit the road? You can get out onto the trails even if you don’t have a bike—just rent one for the weekend from a bike shop.
Hybrid: $30/day, $55/three days, $100/week; Carbon-fiber road bikes: $40/day, $70/three days, $125/week;
Bike racks: $15/day, $50/week
Danny’s Cycles—Scarsdale Location
Hybrid: $40/day, $120/week; Cross-country: $50/day, $150/week; Mountain: $60/day, $180/week; Road: $60/day, $180/week
Hybrid: $40-$45/day; Mountain: $45/day
Hickory & Tweed Ski & Cycle
Hybrid: $35/day; Full-suspension bikes: $75/weekend
You’re gliding through the water along the twisting current, dipping one oar cleanly into the water on your right, then pulling hard and repeating on your left. You’re a little bit out of breath, but it sure feels good. There’s something so much more satisfying about kayaking than, say, sailing—it’s all personal achievement and no polo shirts.
To find out where to get that feeling, we asked David Hellerstein, founder of the Kayakers Alliance of Larchmont and Mamaroneck (KALM; kayakthesound.tripod.com), and John Clark, program director of Hudson River Recreation (kayakhudson.com), both of whom have been kayaking our waters for more than a decade. Here are some of their favorite spots.
On the Sound:
Dog Beach, Larchmont
Hellerstein, a Larchmont resident, says this is the most popular “put-in” spot in the Larchmont area. “Larchmont Harbor has a lot of little inlets and wetlands, and there are nesting areas, nice homes to look at, rock formations.” The catch, he says, is the weather, which can change quickly. “You have to keep your wits about you.” Experience Level: Moderate
Harbor Island Park, Mamaroneck
Although there’s a fee during the season, there’s also a boat ramp, which makes launching a little easier. According to Hellerstein, Mamaroneck Harbor is a deep, glacial harbor—up to three-quarters of a mile long—which makes it a mellow spot “for the go-out-for-a-half-hour crowd.” He adds that it’s great for people with simple kayaks, and even for kids. Experience Level: Beginner
Glen Island Park, New Rochelle
A Westchester County-owned spot, you need a park pass during the season, but it’s the best place to start out a trip to City Island in the Bronx, or even Glen Cove on the other side of the Sound. “That’s a really nice paddle, but it’s a shipping lane. You’d have to be out of your mind unless you go with other people and lots of safety gear,” says Hellerstein. Experience Level: Expert
On the Hudson:
Eastview Reservoir, Tarrytown
The former reservoir system near the Saw Mill River isn’t open to the public, but Hudson River Recreation is allowed to bring lesson groups there. “It’s good for folks who want to enjoy the water at their own pace,” says Hudson River Recreation’s Clark. “It’s a freshwater ecosystem with birds and ducks and turtles.” Hudson River Recreation also offers kayak rentals starting at $20 per hour, three-hour lessons for $99, and guided tours beginning at $69. Experience Level: Beginner
Echo Canoe Launch, Croton-on-Hudson
Located on a Hudson tributary, kayaking here gives you those Palisades views without the waves, wind, and boat traffic. You can also fish as you paddle by Van Cortlandt Manor, and rumor has it that the area was once used as the setting for one of the old Tarzan movies. “There are some areas with some rocky cliffs,” Clark says. “You don’t feel like you’re paddling so close to civilization back there.” Experience Level: Beginner
Croton Point Park, Croton-on-Hudson
Around the bend from Echo, the sandy-beach launch spot and protected bay make this park somewhat unusual, according to Clark. It is a county-owned park that provides sweeping views of the Palisades. On clear days, Clark says, you can even see Manhattan. But he warns: Kayakers “kind of need the ability to fall out and get back in.” Experience Level: Moderate