56 Things Every Westchester Resident Must Do
All the things you absolutely must see, do, taste, and experience to earn your 914 bragging rights.
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1. Attend the Caramoor Summer Music Festival
Haven’t been to one yet? Well, make this the year that you pack a picnic, grab a blanket, and spread out on the lawn at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts to enjoy wonderful music outdoors. Caramoor’s summer festival is a genuine treat—a collection of some of the world’s finest classical, jazz, and popular musicians making harmonious, melodic sounds in a dazzling setting. It’s as much about the experience as the music. Do spend the day—wander through the gardens (there are 90 acres of woodlands, manicured grounds, and jewel-like formal gardens), tour the Moorish manse, and stay for an evening concert. Lucie and Walter Tower Rosen once used Caramoor as their “summer home” and started the festival to entertain their seasonal guests. Lucky us, we can visit year round.
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, 149 Girdle Ridge Rd, Katonah
(914) 232-1252, caramoor.org
2. Read Washington Irving’s Short Story
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow isn’t just any ghost story—it is Westchester County’s very own ghost story, and every card-carrying, SUV-driving, four-buck-latte-sipping resident should read it at least once (watching Johnny Depp in the 1999 movie version, as cute as he is, doesn’t count). In his story, set in the sleepy little town of
3. Visit the Tarrytown Lighthouse
Our poor little lighthouse. It hasn’t any function anymore, thanks to the
useless. But with so few mementos of our early marine history around anymore, who cares if it’s on duty or not? It’s so cute and cozy and there are ecological exhibits inside explaining the importance of preserving our river—and that is enough for us. The best place to see it is from Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow. Periodic visiting hours allow the public to go inside; otherwise, the lighthouse is open for group tours by appointment only (with a fee of $150 for a group of up to 25 people).
1883 Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow
Kingsland Point Park, Sleepy Hollow
4. Visit "Hollywood on the East Coast"
Tom Cruise in Pelham? Yep. Sean Penn? Michael Douglas? Yes indeedy. Credit Rolling Stone film critic and Mamaroneck resident Peter Travers, a film advisory board member of the Pelham Picture House, with helping bring megawatt celebs to the southern reaches of the county. The 1920s theater is still a work in progress, so if you haven’t visited yet, get there quick so you can say you knew the place before it became known as “Hollywood on the East Coast.”
Pelham Picture House, 175 Wolfs Ln, Pelham, (914) 738-3161
5. Listen to The Peak
While you’re tooling up the Taconic, tune in to the county’s own world-class rock station, 107.1FM The Peak. Listen in the morning for the famous “10 @ 10,” DJ Rob Arrow’s collection of songs, commercials, film clips, and other snippets from years past, or tune in Wednesday and Sunday nights for “Next,” Chris Bro’s preview of the Next Big Thing starring such cool new artists as Vampire Weekend, The National, Okkervil River, and Let’s Go Sailing. Because it’s cool.
6. Visit the Rockefeller Home
Even if your great granddaddy didn’t start Standard Oil, you can still experience a taste of the über-good life by visiting Kykuit, the family’s palatial, six-story Beaux Arts mansion in Pocantico Hills, which has panoramic views of the Hudson. It’s spectacular indoors and out, so opt for the three-hour Grand Tour, which gives you the best of the shorter tours plus entry to the second floor. The terraced gardens (including the Inner Garden with its Roman Tea House, the Morning Garden, and the oh-so-fabulous Brook Garden with its gorgeous perennial borders and grotto) are graced with 70 fountains and 90 sculptures by Noguchi, Calder, Picasso, Moore, and more. The house is jam-packed with antiques and fine ceramics including four seventh-century Tang Dynasty pieces and a rare seventh-century sculpture known as Bodhisattva. Even the basement here is chock-full of art: pieces by Motherwell, Nevelson, Segal, Warhol, and a whole slew of enormous Picasso tapestries. The clan that worked hard played hard, too. So naturally, they had their very own golf course (a reversible nine-hole affair) along with a “playhouse”—complete with a bowling alley, billiard room, gym, and croquet field. Did you expect anything less from the Rockefellers?
Kykuit, (914) 631-9491, hudsonvalley.org
7. Catch a Broadway Show—in the County
We Westchesterites do have a sense of entitlement (well-earned, of course), so we like it when Broadway comes to us, rather than vice versa (with the attendant $100-plus seats and exorbitant parking fees). While the food is hardly haute and the décor a tad tired (may we suggest a complete facelift?), we enjoy the shows produced at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. Many of the actors hail from Broadway or touring companies; those who don’t—well, you can always brag that you saw them here before their big break on the Great White Way.
Westchester Broadway Theatre
75 Clearbrook Rd, Elmsford
8. Admire Chagall Windows (and a Matisse, too!)
Union Church, a quaint old chapel on Route 448 in Pocantico Hills has nine—count em—Chagall stained-glass windows and one by Chagall’s esteemed peer, Henri Matisse. We can thank those deep-pocketed and well-connected Rockefellers for those windows. Nelson, to be specific, commissioned the Matisse “rose window” above the chancel to honor his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art and a huge Matisse fan (she collected his work and even entertained him in her New York City home). The design for the rose window was completed just two days before Matisse died. David and Peggy Rockefeller commissioned the Chagall windows, the only cycle of Chagall church windows in America.
The Union Church of Pocantico Hills, Rt 448, Pocantico Hills, (914) 631-8200, hudsonvalley.org
9. See the Stars
Where else in the county can you kick back in comfy chairs and gaze at the stars—no matter the weather or time of day—other than at the Andrus Planetarium in the Hudson River Museum, the oldest museum in the county? Not a single place. With a flick of a switch, the 40-foot dome becomes the night sky right over Westchester…or Mars. There are also lots of fun, informative shows to explain the mysteries of the heavens to all ages. After you’ve had your fill of stars, amble over to the nearby Glenview Victorian home, where six turn-of-the-century rooms are open for viewing. Of course, you’ve seen the wonderful collection of about 500 Hudson River School paintings in the museum’s permanent collection, inspired, naturally, by our very own Hudson River.
The Hudson River Museum
511 Warburton Ave, Yonkers
(914) 963-4550, hrm.org
10. Stroll Through PepsiCo’s
Sometimes, the best things in life really are free, so there is no reason not to have strolled through the outdoor art gallery that is the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden at PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase. (It’s stroller and wheelchair accessible too, so honestly, no excuses!) Get up close and personal to 45 sculptures by such luminaries as Auguste Rodin, Henri Laurens, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Arnaldo Pomodoro, and Claes Oldenburg. The lush landscaping (168 perfectly manicured acres, to be exact) is as stunning as the artwork. The grounds are open to the public, and a visitors’ booth is open during the spring and summer. Don’t miss Hats Off by Calder and Girl with a Dolphin by David Wynne, which stands at the garden’s entrance.
Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden at PepsiCo, 700 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase, pepsico.com
11. Play with Clay
We may not be pottery connoisseurs, but when Judith Schwartz (art curator, critic, associate professor of art and art professions at NYU, and one of the top art collectors in the country) touts the Clay Art Center as a county gem, we listen. This unpretentious and bustling center is a wonderful place for learning how to spin a wheel, and also for buying some of the prettiest pots and pitchers, all fired in the gallery’s four huge gas-powered kilns. Gallery exhibits change every month, and there are workshops and lectures by renowned artists for those looking to perfect their craft.
Clay Art Center, 40 Beech St, Port Chester
(914) 937-2047, clayartcenter.org
Perhaps you’ve become jaded commuting on Metro-North, but put down the latest Grisham novel and look out the window. See that great expanse of water up against those majestic cliffs? That, pal, is the Hudson River and, believe you me, there are thousands of people who would—and do—pay lots and lots of money for that riv-vu. And you get it free with your train ticket. Take advantage of it. Every Westchester resident should—at least once.
13. Bike the Bronx River Parkway
We don’t know of any other parkway that bans four-
wheelers just for the benefit of two-wheelers (and now bipeds). The Bronx River Parkway does just that every Sunday between 10 am and 2 pm in May, June, and September (except holidays), prohibiting cars between Yonkers and White Plains. Never done it? And you call yourself a Westchesterite?
It’s so much fun to spot celebs and rub elbows with industry insiders that seeing a movie at the Jacob Burns Film Center can almost be an afterthought. Michael Moore was in the audience when his controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 was shown, Hilary Swank was at the advance screening of the recent P.S. I Love You, filmmaker Jonathan Demme spoke after a screening of 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. You don’t have to have a membership to be an authentic resident, but it helps (and it’s smart, too—you’ll get the invites to screenings and celeb-hosted discussions in advance and pay $4 less at the door). When the Spanish mission-style landmark building was renovated into the Jacob Burns Film Center and opened in 2001, critics scoffed that Westchester wouldn’t support such highbrow fare. We’re glad they were wrong. A recent showing of Helvetica—a documentary about a type face, for heaven’s sake—was sold out. Who knew there were so many type geeks in the county? Two thumbs up for the popcorn, too.
Jacob Burns Film Center, 364 Manville Rd, Pleasantville, (914) 747-5555, burnsfilmcenter.org
15. Sled Down Dead Man’s Hill in
When we dream of a White Christmas, we’re dreaming of Dead Man’s Hill (right next to the cemetery—get it?) on the Lake Isle Town Park Golf Course in Eastchester. You haven’t had a real Westchester winter until you’ve slid your sled, saucer, tube, or toboggan down this bad boy after a snowfall. But do get to the hill early—we’re hardly the only ones who know to head here when Joe Rao predicts a winter snowstorm or a “thunder snow,” or other wintery weather unique to Westchester.
The Aqueduct Trail is the state’s longest, narrowest, and, in our opinion, prettiest public park. It’s a mostly flat, fairly easy, ramble following the underground masonry tunnel running the length of the county that used to bring water to Manhattan. In addition to taking in the Hudson River views, you can enjoy back-door peeks at some of the top county landmarks: the Octagon House, Lyndhurst, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Croton Dam Plaza, and plenty of river-town Main Streets, where you can grab a cuppa and a little nosh.
17. Visit Our Own Modern Art Museum
MoMA, SCHMoMA. We’ve got the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (and it costs just $5—not $20—to get in). Weird, wild, and wooly things by young cutting-edge artists (Damien Hirst, Francesca Dimattio, Folkert De Jong, Yan Pei-Ming) reside in this 12,000-square-foot white gallery. Think of it as Dia:Beacon’s little sibling—same concept sharing similar DNA, but in a much smaller, more intimate space. Current exhibits are Size Matters XXL, large-scale paintings, and intricate paper sculptures by Chris Jones from London. You can thank local collectors Livia and Marc Straus for sharing their vision with all of us.
Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, 1701 Main St, Peekskill
(914) 788-0100, hvcca.com
It’s kind of a mini Woodstock year after year (and some years, about as muddy). The Clearwater Music and Environmental Festival, the oldest and largest environmental festival in the country, is a funky, laid-back, come-as-you-are music festival that’s held to benefit the mighty Hudson River. Folk hero Pete Seeger, one of the festival’s founders (it originated in 1966), is still a mainstay supporter today. Expect to see lots of Birkenstocks and tie-dye (this is definitely a Frisbee crowd) and booths offering vegan wraps, arts and crafts, and hippie bumper stickers and pins. And of course you’ll hear lots and lots of music—reggae, blues, bluegrass, funk, folk. This year’s celebration, which is expected to draw 15,000 visitors (plus you and yours—right?), will be held, fittingly enough, on the Summer Solstice, June 21 and 22.
Since this is just a two-year old event, we’ll give you a pass if you haven’t yet been to the annual Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor. But man oh man, you’re in for a treat this October. Thousands(!) of intricately carved and illuminated pumpkins are on display, posing in fields, hanging from trees, perched on the porch, mounted on stakes. Wind your way along candlelit paths, while spooky music plays, and oooh and aaah over the cemetery of ghosts, the patch depicting dead musicians, even a replica of our very own Headless Horseman. Grab a kid (or your inner child, if you don’t have one) and get crackin! Reservations are necessary—and tickets sell out fast.
Van Cortlandt Manor, South Riverside Ave Croton-on-Hudson, (914) 631-8200