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Holiday Gift Ideas for Westchester County Families

Some unique holiday gift ideas perfect for Westchester County families.

I’ve been posting various holiday gift guides these past few weeks. However, there are some unique gifts that you can give to families living in Westchester County.  Check out this post that I shared on the Westchester County Moms Blog last year for some holiday gift ideas especially for Westchester County Families!

Some new additions this year include “Experience Gifts”:
While these places may not sell gift certificates, you can give money with a note for its intended use, or ask for a family experience, to these Westchester County family fun venues.

Grand Prix New York (Mt. Kisco, NY) -This venue has Go Karts, bowling and an arcade.  A full day of fun for families with older children.

Legoland Discovery Center (Yonkers, NY) – Designed for children ages 3-10, this venue has 2 rides, 10 build and play zones and a 4D cinema.  Located in Ridge Hill, there are several restaurant choices nearby for lunch or dinner.

Spins Hudson (Peekskill, NY) – Your family can have a day of fun here.  There’s an indoor ropes course, arcade and laser tag in this one venue.

 

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The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze 2017 {in 7 Pictures}

The 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze in 7 pictures.

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze is the not-to-miss Fall event in the Hudson Valley.  Set on the historic grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, over 7,000 carved pumpkins are on display.  Lights, sounds and even movement accompany the elaborate jack o’lantern displays.  Tickets for the Historic Hudson Valley’s biggest event of the year are still available for a few select evenings in November!  Here is a summary of the 2017 Blaze in 7 Pictures – Pumpkin Zee Bridge, Celtic Knots, Circus Train, Pumpkin Carousel, Statue of Liberty, Arachno and the Pumpkin Planetarium.

A display at the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze 2017.

 

A beautiful display at the 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze.

 

A fun display at the 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze.

 

This pumpkin carousel at the 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze moved!

 

A beautiful display at the 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze.

 

A display at the 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze.

 

A moving and changing color light display at the 2017 Great Jack O'Lantern Display.

Westchester County Fall Fun

 

Tomorrow marks the official first day of fall. With the leaves changing color and Halloween quickly approaching, there is so much to see and do.  Here is a round-up of some of the Westchester County fall fun to be had!

Please note, not all of these events are family-friendly! 

Apple Picking:

While there are many apple orchards throughout the Hudson Valley, you don’t have to travel far to go apple picking.  Westchester County is home to four apple orchards.  In addition to apple picking, many offer family-friendly activities, as well as (Please check each website for specific dates, times and cost.)

Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard (North Salem)

Outhouse Orchards (Croton Falls)

Stuarts Farms (Granite Springs)

Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm (Yorktown Heights)

Fall Festivals:

There are tons of fall festivals taking place in September and October throughout Westchester County.  While there are too many to list, we’ve listed some of the more popular events.

Hudson Valley Irish Fest
September 30, 2017 – 11 AM – 7 PM
Peekskill Riverfront Green
Peekskill, NY 10566

Enjoy a fun day celebrating all things Irish.  There will be live music, food, vendors and family fun.

Once Upon a Time Fall Fest & Train Show
Weekends beginning September 30 – 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Lasdon Park
2610 Amawalk Road, Rt. 35
Katonah, NY 10536
Tickets: $10/adult, $5/child (12 and under)
**Free admission on October 29 for children in costume!! 

Enjoy seeing trains, a hay maze, storytelling, a dinosaur plant garden and more. This year’s theme is Once Upon a Time, centering around children’s books.  There will be wine and craft beer tastings on select dates.

Farm Fest at Fable Farm
October 1, 2017 – 10 AM – 4 PM
1311 Kitchawan Rd.
Ossining, NY 10562

Enjoy a day at the farm.  Feed the chickens, tour the hydroponic greenhouse, shop local vendors, enjoy cooking demos and more.

Harvest Fest
October 7, 2017 – 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Stone Barns Center
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591
*General Admission tickets sold out!!
Celebration Tickets and packages available starting at $150

Enjoy a day on the farm with hayrides, educational tours, cooking activities, live music, local food and beverage vendors and more!

Fall Fest
October 7-10, 2017, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Hilltop Hanover Farm
1271 Hanover Street
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Free to attend, but activities will have fees

Enjoy an entire weekend of fall fun! Farm produce will be on sale and there will be pumpkin picking and other family fun activities.

Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival
October 14, 2017 – 10 AM – 4 PM
Robert E. Bell Middle School
50 Senter Street
Chappaqua, NY 10514

More than 90 children’s authors are expected to attend the book festival and will be signing books and reading excerpts.  Enjoy a day of books, fun, food and entertainment.

21st Annual Sleepy Hollow Street Fair
October 14, 2017 – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Beekman Avenue
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591

Enjoy vendors, a kid’s carnival, food from local restaurants and more.

HarvestFest on the Hill
October 21, 2017 12 PM – 3 PM
Ridge Hill
1 Ridge Hill Blvd.
Yonkers, NY 10710

Enjoy an afternoon of family fun and entertainment.  Children can wear costumes and trick-or-treat from 12 PM – 1 PM.  There will be square dance lessons, pumpkin painting, live music, food and drink and more.

                                                                                    Croton Gorge Park
Fall Foliage:

Westchester County has some great places to do some leaf peeping!  Here are a couple of recommendations.  Please leave me some of your favorite places in the comments!

Croton Gorge Park
35 Yorktown Rd.
Cortlandt, NY 10520

Enjoy an easy wooded hike up to the Croton Gorge Dam and then take in the beautiful waterfall and scenic views!

Fall Foliage Afternoon Cruise on the Hudson River with Trinity Cruise Company
Riverfront Green Park
Peekskill, NY
3 PM, select Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October
$22/adults, $20/seniors, $14/children 16 and under

Enjoy a 1 1/2 hour cruise on the Hudson River as you take in highlights including Iona Island, Bear Mountain, Anthony’s Nose and more.  Food and beverage are not included but snacks and beverages are available to purchase on board.

Rockefeller State Park
125 Phelps Way
Pleasantville, NY 10570
7 AM – Sunset
$6 parking fee

Read our Rockfeller State Park blog post for more info!

Halloween Fun:

(photo by Angie Gaul – courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley)

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
Van Cortlandt Manor
525 S. Riverside Avenue
Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520
Dates:  Check website for specific dates
Tickets: $20/adults ($25 – Fri./Sat.), $16/children (3-17) ($20 – Fri./Sat.) (Free for members and children under 3)

There’s a reason that thousands of visitors visit the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze each fall.  Sound effects, lighting and an original soundtrack accompany thousands of carved pumpkins artfully arranged on the grounds of Van Cortland Manor.  Get your tickets soon as this event always sells out!

Jay Ghoul’s House of CuriositiesHalloween Without a Clue
Lyndhurst
635 South Broadway
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Oct. 19 – 22 and Oct. 25-31, 6-9 PM (check website for specific dates and times)
Tickets:  $25/adults, $20/children (12 and under)   advance reservations are necessary

Enjoy a nighttime, fun and spooky theater performance that lasts approximately 30 minutes.  It is a family-friendly event, though young children may be scared by the costumes and low lighting.

Spooky Tales
October 30, 2017 – 3:30 PM
Caramoor
149 Girdle Ridge Road
Katonah, NY 10536
Tickets:  $15/adults, $10/child

Children ages 3-8 are invited to listen to Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk tell spooky, but not-too-scary, stories to celebrate Halloween.  Come in costume and enjoy some refreshments in the Summer Dining Room after the performance.

Haunted Houses:

There are not many haunted houses in Westchester County but get your scare on with these three.  Parents, you  know your children.  Even though many of these attractions are recommended for ages 10+, don’t take your children if you don’t think that are up for it.  Weeks of nightmares are not worth one night of fun for you! 

The Haunt at Rocky Ledge
1402 Old Orchard Street
White Plains, NY 10603
Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in October (check website for specific times)
The Haunt at Rocky Ledge includes two haunted houses, a walk through the woods and a haunted cornfield.  Expect to be scared!

       (Photo by Tom Nycz – courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley)

Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor
100 Continental Street (Philipsburg Manor overflow parking lot)
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591
Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in October (check website for specific times)
Tickets:  $25/Saturday tickets, $20 (online)/Friday and Sunday, $22 (phone order)/Friday & Sunday Fast track tickets are an additional $15 per person (members receive a $5 discount)

Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow is transformed into a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman. Get your tickets in advance as many nights sell out.  Recommended for ages 10+

Scared By the Sound
Playland Amusement Park
Playland Parkway
Rye, NY 10580
Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in October (check website for specific times)
Tickets:  $20

This walk-through attraction is recommended for children 10+

Performances:

                (Photo by Jennifer Mitchell – courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley)

Irving’s “Legend” at the Old Dutch Church
Parking is at Philipsburg Manor:
381 North Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591
Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in October (check website for specific times)
Tickets:  $25/adults, $20/children under 18 (members receive a $5 discount)

Enjoy master storyteller Jonathan Kruk’s dramatic performance of Washington Irving’s classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Performances take place weekends throughout October and last approximately 45 minutes.  This event is recommended for children ages 10+.  The event takes place at the Old Dutch Church across the street from Philipsburg Manor.

Oktoberfest:

Bear Mountain Oktoberfest at Anthony Wayne
September 23 – October 29 – 12 PM – 6 PM
Anthony Wayne Recreation Area
Palisades Parkway, Exit 17
Bear Mountain, NY 10911

Although not in Westchester County, the Bear Mountain Oktoberfest is one of the largest in the area.  Enjoy live music, food and of course beer now through the end of October.

Farmers Markets:

Pick up locally grown produce and shop local vendors.  #SupportLocal

John Jay Homestead
Saturdays (through October 28) – 9 AM – 1:00 PM
400 Jay Street (Rt. 22)
Katonah, NY 10536

Muscoot Farm
Sundays (through November 26) – 9:30 AM – 2:30 PM
51 Route 100
Katonah, NY 10536

Check out the 20+ vendors and then go visit the animals or take a hike!

Also check out other local farmers markets in Croton-on-Hudson (Sundays), Harrison (Saturdays), Hastings (Saturdays), Larchmont (Saturdays), New Rochelle (Fridays), NY Presbyterian in Cortlandt Manor (1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month), Ossining (Saturdays),Peekskill (Saturdays), Pleasantville (Saturdays), Rye (Sundays) and White Plains (Wednesdays).

Food:

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week
From October 30 – November 12, 2017  almost 200 restaurants throughout the Hudson Valley will be offering special three-course lunches ($19.95) or dinners ($32.95).  Now’s a great time to check out some new restaurants in Westchester County and beyond.

Dance:

Costume Bash Dance Party (for adults)
October 13, 2017
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street (Rt. 22)
Katonah, NY 10536
7 – 8 PM, VIP experience
8 PM – 12 AM, costume bash
Tickets: $80/each, VIP experience: $125/each

Adults, put on your costumes and get ready for a fun evening of music and dance.  Enjoy cocktails and raffles with a prize for most creative costume.

Movies:

Fall Flicks Outdoor Movies
Cross County Shopping Center
8000 Mall Walk
Yonkers, NY 10704
Schedule:
Friday September 22 – Beauty & the Beast (2017)  Arrive at 5 PM to get selfies with the characters before the movie.
Friday September 29 – The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Friday October 6 – Monster House (2006)

Bring a blanket or chairs to the Green for a movie, free popcorn and family entertainment.

If you know of a Westchester County fall fun event that should be added, please let me know in the comments below or e-mail me at NYFoodieFamily@gmail.com. 

Rockefeller State Park Preserve {Westchester County}

 

Recently, our family visited Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County.  The park’s main entrance is located off of Route 117 in Pleasantville. Since that first visit several weeks ago, we’ve already been back.  The park includes over 1600 acres that were deeded to New York State as a generous gift from the Rockefeller Family.  Much of the park was designed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. beginning in 1910 and reflects his passions of conserving nature and carriage driving.  Today, over 350,000 people visit this park every year.

The Visitor Center is open from 9 to 4:30 PM with a person inside available to answer questions.  Outside the visitor center are maps of the trails.

Rockefeller Park also has an art gallery on premise, which is open from 9 AM – 4: 30 PM.

The current exhibit, “Winged Jewels of the Forest” is on display until August 13.  All of the artwork is available for purchase and proceeds that the Preserve receives directly support the gallery.

The park has four main areas, Swan Lake, Eagle Hill, Rockwood Hall and Buttermilk Hill. Each area consists of several different trails that you can walk, jog, or in winter, cross-country ski on.  You can even get a permit to horseback ride or carriage drive on the trails.

Our family enjoys visiting parks to hike and geocache.  However, during trout and bass season, fishing is permitted with a state license and in winter cross-country skiing is allowed.  On this trip we started out on Deer Run and then walked Brothers’ Path which circles around Swan Lake.  The path is 1.1. miles and a perfect, short hike.   It was a beautiful day and we saw many other hikers and joggers along the trails. Using the geocache app, we found four caches on our first trip.

On our second trip we walked a little bit of Overlook Trail.  Then we went back to the parking lot and walked Glacier Erratic, where you can find this amazing rock formation.

With  almost 40 trails, this is a local park that you can visit and hike many times without getting bored.

Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve work with New York State to, “promote the conservation and operation of the Preserve.”  Donations to the Friends go directly into preserving and maintaining the park, as well as supporting educational programs.  Upcoming events include Rocky’s 5K.

The Details:

Rockefeller State Park Preserve
125 Phelps Way
Pleasantville, NY 10570
(914) 631-1470

Parking:  $6 or free with an Empire Pass

Tips to know:

There are bathrooms in the art gallery and in the main parking area.

There are a couple of picnic tables near the park entrance.

Be sure to pack bug spray and sun screen.

We like to carry water with us as we hike.

Savor Westchester: Changing the Food Court Experience

*I was invited to a preview tasting of Savor.  All opinions are my own.

After visiting Savor Westchester, the new dining experience at The Westchester, you will never want to eat at an ordinary mall food court again.  After a year-long, multi-million dollar renovation, three of the six planned eateries are currently open.  Shoppers can currently choose from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, Whitman’s and Australian-based coffee shop Bluestone Lane.  This is the first Westchester location for all three eateries, which all have establishments in NYC and other metropolitan areas.  Located on the fourth floor, Savor has plenty of seating as well as an outdoor patio.  SAVOR is adjacent to PLAY (a free 2,300 square foot play area)  and CONNECT (a technology lounge that contains flat screen televisions, work space and phone charging stations).  Here is a more detailed look at the three open eateries.

Mighty Quinn’s

Mighty Quinn’s is a BBQ restaurant  that cooks, “the old school way with plenty of wood and time.”  They offer traditional barbecue items including brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, spare ribs and more.

Several of the meat options can be ordered naked or on a sandwich.

For those who prefer chicken, options include a half chicken, a crispy chicken sandwich or chicken wings.  Unfortunately the only vegetarian choice is a veggie burger.  They serve a variety of sides including pomme frites, onion rings, burnt end baked beans, sweet potato casserole, buttermilk broccoli salad, potato salad and mac and cheese.  Mighty Quinn’s serves beer both in bottles and on tap as well as glasses and bottles of wine.  Prices range from $7.50 for 6 chicken wings to $28.00 for a Brontosaurus Rib. Many of the meat choices can be ordered as a single serving, a half pound or full pound.

Whitman’s

Whitman’s serves a variety of salads and sandwiches.

They have several burger selections including a Green Chili Burger, Bacon Egg & Cheese Burger, and a PB & B Burger (that stands for peanut butter and bacon!).  If you’re not feeling a burger you can also order a grilled chicken club, a cheesesteak or a hot dog.

Whitman’s also offers a veggie burger on their menu as well as three different salads, including this Brussels Sprout Salad.  Prices range from $4.50 for a hot dog to $12 for most burgers.

Bluestone Lane

Bluestone Lane is an Australian-based coffee shop.

They offer an extensive menu of hot and cold coffee options using their own roasted beans.  A variety of tea and wellness drinks, like beetroot and matcha lattes, as well as fresh juices are also available.  Bluestone Lane is the place to go for lighter fare.

They sell a variety of toast including the infamous avocado smash, salmon toast and a turmeric sweet potato toast as well as a variety of pastries and sweets.

Have you visited SAVOR at The Westchester?  What is your favorite dish from these eateries?

Untermyer Park and Gardens {Yonkers, NY}

If you’ve ever driven on North Broadway in Yonkers, you may have sped right past Untermyer Park and Gardens and not even known it {guilty!}.  Hidden behind a gated brick wall, the entrance is unassuming.  However, once you pass through those gates, you are transported to another world.

Untermyer Park is a public park in the city of Yonkers.  It’s named for successful corporate lawyer, Samuel Untermyer, who acquired the property in 1899.  An avid horticulturist, he commissioned architect William Welles Bosworth  to design the gardens in 1916.  Untermyer opened his 150 acres of gardens to the public and intended for them to become a state park when he died.  Unfortunately, due to the high cost of this endeavor, his dream couldn’t become a reality.  Instead, in 1946 a portion of the property was given to the City of Yonkers to be used as a city park.  Today, Untermyer Park consists of 43 acres that is maintained and being restored in a collaboration between the non-profit, Untermyer Gardens Conservancy and the city of Yonkers.

I recommend picking up a brochure which is available in an outdoor case at the Community Center (bathrooms and benches to sit and rest are located here as well).  You can read about the history of the gardens and use the map to ensure that you don’t miss anything. As much as I wanted to fill this post with tons of beautiful pictures of the gardens I restrained myself. There’s nothing like seeing their beauty for the first time in person.

 

Begin your tour at the Walled Garden.  This Indo-Persian garden is based on the Garden of Eden. Divided into quadrants by waterways, some things you will see in this garden include an open air amphitheater, reflecting pools filled with goldfish and koi, marble columns, a Grecian temple, fountains and mosaic-tiled floors and walls.

Make your way toward The Vista, the staircase that takes you down towards the Vista Overlook. At the circular Overlook, you will have spectacular views of the Hudson River.  As you make your way down the steps, you’ll pass the remnants of what was the Color Gardens.

At the bottom of the Vista Overlook you can take the Woodland Trail up the the Temple of Love.  We opted to walk down past the old Gatehouse and take the longer Carriage Trail.  This trail runs parallel to the Old Croton Aqueduct and Warburton Avenue.  Hearing police sirens and cars driving by as we walked on the trail were the only reminders that we were in the midst of a city.  When we came upon the waterfalls at the Temple of Love, my jaw dropped in disbelief! Seeing the rock gardens with the water cascading down is truly a breathtaking sight.

The whole family was surprised at the history and beauty of Untermyer Park.  These gardens are truly a hidden gem in Yonkers that every Westchester County resident should visit at least once.  The beauty of the gardens is that you can come back at different times throughout the year and get a different perspective, as they change the floral displays with the seasons.

The Details:

Untermyer Park and Gardens
945 North Broadway
Yonkers, NY 10701
(914) 613-4502
www.untermyergardens.org

Admission:  Free

Hours:  7 AM – dusk (daily)
Please check the website for the Walled Garden hours

Tours:  90 minutes – given on Sundays by docents from late April through early November (focus alternates weekly between history and horticulture – check the schedule for information)
Cost:  $10/adult, free for children 12 and under  –  no reservations required

President’s Tour:  Given one Sunday a month
Cost:  $20/adult, free for children 12 and under  – no reservations required

Parking:  Two small lots at the community center next to the community center at Untermyer or street parking on  North Broadway (both metered and unmetered)

Additional Info:
There are restrooms on the property.

Pets are not allowed on the grounds.

Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Food and drinks are not sold on the property.  However, feel free to bring your own and enjoy a picnic on the grounds.

We visited with our two children, ages 8 and 11.  Walking at a leisurely pace, we were able to see all of the gardens and take plenty of pictures in about one hour.  You can make a longer or shorter visit, depending on your needs.