We are all about the Family Road Trips, but driving with four kids in the car for very long? Not so much. That's why I love finding little trips that are low on driving and high on fun and experiences. Quick little weekend trips are perfect for getting away without breaking the bank or spending half the time off crammed in a car together. Last time we went north, this time we went south. This past weekend we all piled into the car and headed to Westchester, NY (Yonkers, specifically) where we were invited to take a little tour of some of the family fun they had to offer. Just down the Thruway and over the Tappan Zee Bridge (sort of a highlight for the kids) we arrived at the Hampton Inn Yonkers to a big, comfortable room with plenty of space (even for all 6 of us in one room). The kids each staked out and claimed a bed and in a flash everyone had changed into bathing suits and were waiting impatiently at the door to go down to the indoor pool.
A quick dip was all we had time for before we went on our tour, the first stop being Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, Westchester County’s oldest standing building. Built around 1682 by Dutch-born merchant and trader Frederick Philipse, it is currently owned and operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Our tour focused mainly on the architecture, design and decorating of the residence, and we saw some incredible fireplaces created with Delft tiles and a circa 1750 papier-mâché and plaster Rococo ceiling, one of two in-situ ceilings of its type in the United States. The elaborate ceiling is covered in designs and motifs relevant to Frederick Philipse III’s lifestyle with lute players, bagpipers and singers, hunting dogs and game birds, and busts of Alexander Pope and Sir Isaac Newton. The tour was engaging enough (and brief enough) to keep the kids attention, and they actually loved finding the different elements in the ceiling, figuring out the designs of the Delft tiles and fitting the history into the timeline of the house itself.
Yonkers itself is having a re-birth of sorts. Just 25 minutes by train to midtown Manhattan it has a perfect location to become the "new Brooklyn", with new shops and restaurants and an influx of artists, one highlight being the recent million-dollar sale of the old city jail to art collector Daniel Wolf and Maya Lin, the renowned artist and architect who is best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
One of the spots we saw on the tour was X2O Xaviars on the Hudson, Peter X Kelly’s latest addition to the Xaviars Restaurant Group. It is a gorgeous glass walled restaurant that sits on the water on the only turn of the century Victorian pier still in use on the Hudson River and boasts views of the George Washington and Tappan Zee Bridges, as well as sunsets over the Palisades.
Once the weather warms up we are planning a second trip back down to see the Science Barge, a prototype sustainable urban farm developed by NY Sun Works and acquired by Groundwork Hudson Valley in October, 2008 to be operated as an environmental education center. The Science Barge greenhouse floats on the Hudson River and grows an abundance of fresh produce including tomatoes, melons, greens, and lettuce with zero net carbon emissions, zero pesticides, and zero runoff. All of the energy needed to power the Barge is generated by solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels while the hydroponic greenhouse is irrigated solely by collected rainwater and purified river water, thus operating completely “off the grid.” It is the only fully functioning demonstration of renewable energy supporting sustainable food production in New York. It is now docked in downtown Yonkers just north of the Yonkers Pier.
For dinner we went to the Ridge Hill Mall, which was just minutes from the hotel (this is also where LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester is located), and tried out Havana Central. With Whole Foods, H&M, an Apple Store, LL Bean, Lord & Taylor, it was hard not to shop real quick. Havana Central was buzzing, with tables full of families fresh from LEGOLAND and a unique energy made up of super friendly waitstaff and fab salsa music, I mean the place was hopping. We sat under a supersized portrait of Hemingway and the kids colored while we sipped sangria and munched on empanadas and plantains with guacamole. I LOVED the food at Havana Central, and next time we go back to LEGOLAND we are for sure making a trip back there.
Back to the hotel, it was the perfect jumping off point for the rest of our visit. The kids could expend their excess energy (because there is always excess energy, isn't there?) in the pool and we could relax a little bit rather than pile back in the car and drive back.
Yonkers itself is a great jumping off point as well, it has a great location to be able to make popping into Manhattan part of your trip (without having to spend a fortune on a hotel in Manhattan), or exploring more attractions in Westchester like Rye Playland, any of the more 200+ properties on the National Register of Historic Places in Westchester, or the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture (definitely also on our list for next time).
The timing of our trip was perfect, we drove down on Saturday and checked in. Took the tour of Philipse Manor Hall and had dinner, some swimming and bedtime and then on Sunday it was all LEGOLAND. We popped into a few shops at Ridge Hill after LEGOLAND and then hit the road and were home on Sunday before dinner. Less than two days wound up feeling like a much longer break and since it wasn't a ton of time in the car it was actually relaxing and dare I say even a bit rejuvenating to get out of town for the weekend (as rejuvenating as possible when traveling with four kids 8 and under).
If you'd like to make visiting Westchester part of your spring, click here to enter the Mamatoga LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester Giveaway to win a family four pack of tickets to make your trip even MORE affordable! And if you win, I highly recommend having dinner (or lunch) afterward at Havana Central, get the empanadas, you can thank me later. xoxo
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this visit to Westchester County as part of a blogger family weekend. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”