Historic Mansions of Westchester County

Tour Westchester’s grand old estates, including the former homes of Nelson D. Rockefeller and Washington Irving.


For nearly two centuries, New York’s Hudson Valley has provided the captains of Wall Street an ideal getaway from urban chaos. Less than an hour north of the city, the pastoral riverside offered tranquility and plenty of elbow room for sprawling country estates. It’s also a beautiful place for fall foliage tours. To see for yourself, plan a weekend in Westchester County, home to impressive historic sites, authentic castles and luxurious accommodations.

Highlights Along the Hudson

Set aside a day just to cover the neighboring villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, where you’ll find these treasures:

The jewel in Westchester’s crown is Kykuit, the estate home to four generations of the mighty Rockefeller family. The stone mansion itself holds a collection of extremely fine antiques, but the underground art galleries are a wondrous surprise for contemporary art lovers, with 12 Picasso tapestries and works by Warhol, Nevelson, Moore and others. Elaborate gardens contain sculpture by artists of similar stature. In the coach house, a collection of antique automobiles and carriages are on display.

Various tours and start times are available; closed Tuesdays. Admission for the Classic Tour: $23 for adults, $21 for seniors (62 +) and children 5 to 17. Kids’ tours available for kids under 10. Open May until early November. Tel. 914-631-8200.

Lyndhurst, a National Trust for Historic Preservation property, is an impressive Gothic Revival castle overlooking the Hudson built in 1838. It was occupied by three prominent New York City families, including financier Jay Gould, and contains a collection of 20th-century decorative arts. The grounds are noted as a textbook example of 19th-century estate landscape.

Admission: $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, $5 for children 6 to 16, free for children under 6. Open mid-April through October, Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November through mid-April, weekends only and holiday Mondays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tel. 914-631-4481.

Tours of the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor House led by costumed guides provide a peek at farm, slave and estate life during the early years of the county’s development. Given to a wealthy resident by King William and Queen Mary in 1693, it was once the commercial center of the vast Philipse estate.

Admission: $12 for adults, $10 seniors 62 and over, $6 for kids 5-17, free for children under 5. Hours vary: April through October, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day; November through December, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. Tel. 914-631-8200.

In contrast to these extravagant sites is Sunnyside, once home to Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other American classics. His “little paradise” was found in a modest cottage, which he began building on the banks of the Hudson River in 1835.

Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for children 5 to 17, free for kids under 5. Open March, weekends only, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; April through October, daily except Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November through December, daily except Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tel. 914-631-8200.

Guided public tours are offered at each site nearly year-round, as well as a number of special events.

(Read about Westchester accommodations.)

Where to Stay in Westchester County

Such tiring exploration necessitates luxurious surroundings. Several upscale hotels and resorts are up to the task:

The Castle on the Hudson, an authentic turn-of-the-century Norman-style castle in Tarrytown, graces the highest point in Westchester. America’s first “green” castle also boasts what is arguably one of the finest restaurant in the county, Equus. Rates start at $285/night for a standard double.

The Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center resides on 26 sprawling acres, and comprises the impressive 19th-century King and Biddle mansions with a contemporary guest room wing. Rates start at $269/night for a standard double.

The full-service Doral Arrowwood Resort in Rye Brook is set on 114 acres of trees, rolling hills, open meadows and pond surrounded by a spectacular Robert von Hagge-designed golf course. Rates start at $199/night for a standard double.

The area’s newest property is the Ritz Carlton Westchester. The 118-room hotel is in a sleek, glass building amid the bustle of downtown White Plains. The designer appointments raise the bar for the county—Frette linens, Bulgari bath amenities and Sambonet room accessories. Every room has an iPod docking station and master remote control. Rates start at $329/night for a standard double.

Destinations: Westchester County

Themes: Art and Museums, Family Travel, Historical Vacations

Activities: Sightseeing

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