Our annual Best Places to Live feature is back to help you decide the ideal place to plant your Westchester roots.
One of the big draws of living in Westchester is the proximity to Long Island Sound, the Hudson River, and the county’s lakes — and the water views that come with them. Located on the Sound Shore, just northeast of New Rochelle, Mamaroneck offers some of the most stunning vistas around and the sound of lapping waves when you need a break from your laptop.
In this 3.2-mile town of 31,000 people, there are plenty of destinations where you can soak up those waves, like Harbor Island Park a big part of the social life of the community. There’s plenty of dining to keep foodies interested, too, including Donjito, Modern on the Rails, Le Provençal, 25 North, and the original and historic Walter’s Hot Dogs stand.
“Mamaroneck is a great place to live and work,” says Dorothy Palomares, president of the Mamaroneck Chamber of Commerce. “It’s rich in culture. We have a vibrant business district with pretty much anything one would need within the village. It’s a foodie’s paradise. You can take in a show at the Emelin Theatre or Mamaroneck Cinemas. There are private clubs you can utilize for nonprofit events. There is a lot in this little village that attracts people to come and live here.”
And though the downtown area lost some occupancy during the pandemic, it’s come back to life. “Storefronts are filling up,” says Palomares. “People are walking on Mamaroneck Avenue. It looks like a village that’s thriving. You can see people at The Roaster Café, sitting outside and enjoying a cup of coffee.”
The town also offers lots of cute shops, like pharmacy/ gift shop Mama Village, 92-year-old Robert’s Department Store, Siren women’s boutique, Toy Box, and Miller’s, a bicycle shop/children’s-clothing and toy store open since 1948.
And there are plenty of things to do, like the Annual Firemen’s Carnival, Outdoor Movies in the Park in summer, the Mamaroneck Summer Concert Series, and skating at the Hommocks Park Ice Rink (which had its official opening October 1), and swimming at Hommocks Pool. Highly rated public schools and camps, like the town recreation department’s kayaking camp for kids, make the town a popular one for families.
There are all of these attractions, plus all that NYC has to offer, just about a half-hour down the road by car or train. But if you live in Mamaroneck, you probably won’t be looking to leave too often.
If you’re looking for fun things to do with your kids in Westchester County, all roads lead to the village of Pelham. “They’ve done a great job of engaging families and young people in sports and recreation and the arts,” says John Ravitz, EVP/COO of the Business Council of Westchester (BCW). “It’s giving people a well-rounded opportunity to access so many different things.”
Known for its walkability, the two-square-mile town is home to The Picture House Regional Film Center (aka The Picture House), which shows the latest family-friendly movies; Pelham Art Center, which has its own gallery and classes in everything from comic-book drawing to abstract digital painting; and SOOP Theatre Company, where youngsters can immerse themselves in acting, mainstage theater production, public speaking, and more.
That means lots of events to keep families entertained. In October, the Pelham Art Center will celebrate Diwali and Day of the Dead with two free folk-art events. And as the holidays approach, there will be family-centered arts workshops. The Manor Club of Pelham is another venue, hosting everything from children’s programming to craft nights in its 44,000-square-foot historic building. Pelham Children’s Center holds annual programing for families such as the Pumpkin Festival with games, a petting zoo and plenty of pumpkins, and pictures with Santa in the winter. The Pelham Village Council on the Arts holds events like its Summer Sundowns concerts in July and August. And Chabad of Pelham hosts the Shofar in the Park event at Wolf’s Lane Park.
For families whose kids love sports, Pelham won’t disappoint, with youth leagues in basketball and tackle football, Little League, a youth hockey association, rugby (now available at the high school varsity level), a community rowing association, lacrosse for boys and girls, and cheerleading and karate offered by the town. That’s not to mention a plethora of camps, such as the day camp run by the Pelham Recreation Department, offering sports, arts and crafts, and more.
A few miles south of the village border, in the Bronx, there’s Pelham Bay Park, which, at more than triple the size of Manhattan’s Central Park, is New York City’s largest park property. The park has miles of hiking trails, bridle paths, two golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, Orchard Beach, playgrounds, and a 13-mile shoreline on Long Island Sound.
Retail in the village is family-friendly, too, with draws like the Treehouse Sweet Shop and the indoor play space Tig & Peach. There’s even an ice cream truck, run by entrepreneurial youth and overseen by the community-based organization Pelham Together. Teens have rebuilt the vintage Good Humor truck, known as Pelicones, which members of the community can reserve.
“We put a lot of energy, investment, and focus into our youth and make sure they’re a big part of our community and a priority for us,” says Cristina Chianese, president of the Pelham Chamber of Commerce and the mother of children ages 5 and 7.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the community is home to highly rated public schools just 17 miles from Manhattan. “It’s almost like you’re getting a private school in a public setting,” says Chianese.
Two small communities that can’t be beat when it comes to fun per square mile are Mount Kisco and Bronxville. “The downtowns are packed,” says Marsha Gordon, president/CEO of the Business Council of Westchester (BCW). “They’re very walkable. Dining outside has become a nice option.”
With a population just under 11,000 and occupying 3.1 square miles, Mount Kisco is the perfect place to stroll, with boutiques, myriad dining options, and a movie theater in a downtown, urban-village setting. You can enjoy an upscale, all-day breakfast (including cannoli pancakes!) at Mount Kisco Diner; lunch on street food, like bacon-jam pizza or seafood paella, at Exit 4 Food Hall; and enjoy a leisurely dinner out at Tamarindo’s Fiesta Latina, Little Kabab Station, or Kisco River Eatery. After your meal, grab a nightcap at Pour or Village Social, or get an early start on holiday shopping at Porch Home Gifts or Fairground Attraction. You can always check out a flick at Bow Tie Cinemas, on East Main Street, or visit the town’s municipal complex, which was added to the state’s National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
“The downtowns are packed. They’re very walkable. Dining outside has become a nice option.”
Outside of the downtown area, you can hike in Leonard Park or Westmoreland Sanctuary, bird-watch at the Arthur W. Butler Memorial Sanctuary, or visit one of the local horse farms. There are community events, like the Summer Concert Series at Fountain Park and Concerts in Leonard Park. Housing options in Mount Kisco are very diverse, ranging from apartments to sprawling estates. And if you need to get to Manhattan, it’ll take you an hour.
Nineteen miles away, Bronxville is a picturesque, one-square-mile English-style village along the Bronx River with a population of roughly 6,700. Sporting a vibrant restaurant scene, Bronxville will keep you full and contented with dining options like Rosie’s Bistro Italiano, tredici SOCIAL, Il Bacio Trattoria, and Haiku Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar. You can spend a relaxing afternoon shopping at the farmers’ market, gift boutiques like The Silk Road or Silverspoon gift shop, or over-the-top candy store Candy Rox. And if you’re looking for entertainment, you can duck into The Picture House, a cinema in Bronxville that’s part of a regional film center with a sister location in Pelham. You can also enjoy Bronxville’s tall trees with a hike along the Bronx River Pathway — all just a 28-minute train ride from Manhattan. But make no mistake: Bronxville is a playground of the well-heeled, boasting not only the highest median home sale price in the county ($2.7M as of Q2 2022) but also Westchester’s highest-ranked public high school, according to U.S. News & World Report.
If you’re looking for urban living with access to parks and amenities, Yonkers Waterfront District is a solid choice. New York State’s third-largest city offers urban living along the Hudson River, with an easy 25-minute commute to Manhattan thanks to four Metro-North Railroad stations. There’s also quick access to the rest of the region via five major highways.
In recent years, many high-rises have sprung up along the river, providing unparalleled views of the Hudson and the Palisades. And there are more to come. Earlier this year, Rose Associates broke ground on a development that includes 440 rental apartments at 57 Alexander Street along the Hudson, adjacent to the Metro-North and Amtrak rail lines, with the first phase of completion set to debut in 2023. Extell Development broke ground in May on Hudson Piers, a $585 million mixed-use development on the waterfront in Yonkers that will include a mixture of market-rate housing, affordable housing, and retail space. And there are plenty of lures for foodies, with restaurants like X20 Xaviars on the Hudson, Zuppa Italian Restaurant, fried-fish specialist Off the Hook of Yonkers, and Lost Borough Ice Cream, known for its creative flavors (lavender with candied walnuts, rose with praline pecans).
“There’s been a tremendous amount of development, not only on the waterfront but farther back,” says Sara Brody, executive director of the Yonkers/Downtown Waterfront Business Improvement District. “It’s providing more space and spaces for people to come to, people who have just graduated from college and are just getting their first jobs, young people who are just married and starting families. What this is affording these people is the ability to have a quick hop, skip, and a jump to New York City. You have an area that is growing in population, diversity, and new businesses. It’s an exciting time to be here.”
For those who prefer to work locally, there are many career opportunities in Yonkers, which is home to one of the largest office parks in the area and two hospitals: St. John’s Riverside Hospital and Saint Joseph’s Medical Center.
Yonkers also has more than 70 parks and historic sites. Among them are the bucolic Untermyer Gardens Conservancy; Tibbets Brook Park, where you can walk, jog, or bike on the scenic trails; and the newly renovated Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site. There’s lots of cultural activities, with nearby colleges such as Sarah Lawrence, cultural amenities as the Hudson River Museum and Planetarium, events like Yonkers Arts Weekend, Riverfest, Jazz & Blues at Dusk at the city’s waterfront amphitheater, the Yonkers Philharmonic, YoHo Artist Studios, and Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. There’s plenty of shopping at Cross Country Shopping Center, Ridge Hill, and the Central Park Avenue corridor along I-87.
“With all of the activities going on, it’s a great place for families, singles, and empty nesters to call home,” says Gordon of the BCW.
23 Water Grant St, Yonkers
1 BR; 1.1 BA; 957 sq ft; $3,361 est. taxes
This duplex boasts the cachet of riverfront living. Includes hardwood floors, renovated kitchen with quartz tops, and new bathroom vanities. Amenities include 24/7 concierge, gym, laundry room, and garage parking.
Listed by Michael A. Brown, Keller Williams Realty Group
The town of Somers is one of Westchester’s best-kept secrets. Located on the Putnam County border, it occupies 33 square miles but is not as well-known as such nearby towns as Katonah and Yorktown. Yet, its residents have deep roots. “We’re big, square-mile-wise, but a very tight-knit community,” says Robert Scorrano, Somers town supervisor. Within the borders of the town of Somers are communities that include Amawalk, Baldwin Place, Granite Springs, Heritage Hills, Lincolndale, Lake Lincolndale, Lake Purdy, Shenorock, Lake Shenorock, and Somers hamlet.
All that space offers a lot of privacy. Somers was, for many years, a summer getaway. Now, it’s a year-round haven. “Somers only started to get built up when I-684 came up here [in the 1970s] and with the addition of IBM and PepsiCo [in the 1980s],” says Scorrano. “That’s when people really started to find the hidden treasures of Somers.”
Somers is known for tall trees, lots of wooded areas, and homes with decent acreage, plus the Somers National Golf Club, situated 695-feet above sea level, one of the county’s highest points, and Stuart’s Fruit Farm for pick-your-own apples, peaches, and Christmas trees. The nonprofit Somers Land Trust dedicates itself to preserving open space in Somers. It was responsible for creating the Angel Fly Preserve, in which Somers joined New York City, Westchester County, and New York State in purchasing a 654-acre property that would have otherwise been developed. The Land Trust is now the official steward of both Angel Fly and the 115-acre Rhinoceros Creek Reservation. The town is also known for 82-acre Reis Park and the 234-acre Lasdon Park & Arboretum — perfect for those looking for a quiet place to reflect.
As part of the community’s forest management plan, Somers is creating an inventory of local trees, complete with photos and short stories submitted by residents about individual trees. “The developers who have been here in town have always done a great job throughout the years,” says Scorrano. “There are some communities where they come in and develop and tear down all the trees. The town has been very careful to make sure developers who come in preserve the natural environment if they’re building homes.”
Somers has a historic downtown business district that’s another well-kept secret. The town is often referred to as “the cradle of the American circus” because Hachaliah Bailey brought an African elephant to the town on a tour of the Northeast and later put up a hotel in Somers that honored the elephant, named Old Bet. Since converted to Town Hall, the hotel was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006. It recently received $100,000 in funding for new upgrades. “We’re very conscious of keeping the historical feel in the center of town but also adding new amenities,” says Scorrano.
After the isolation of the past couple of years, breaking bread or enjoying a cocktail with friends and family has never been more appealing. The villages of Port Chester and Pleasantville offer dining options to suit every palate.
With its fast-growing and relatively affordable community, Port Chester has emerged as one of the county’s top foodie meccas. “Port Chester has become a hotbed of restaurants and entertainment, and it’s a wonderfully diverse community,” says BCW’s president/CEO Marsha Gordon. One centerpiece is The Capitol Theatre, where live acts like ZZ Top, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Lindsey Buckingham will play this fall.
Port Chester is also culturally diverse, which means residents and visitors can enjoy a variety of cuisines, notes Stuart Rabin, village manager of Port Chester. “Those cultures come from more than 20 different countries,” he points out. “It leads to a great melting pot of business, commerce, and restaurants. You have Peruvian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Venezuelan — a lot of different nationalities that do similar cuisines but in different ways.”
“Folks are really interested in having the chance to meet and greet friends and colleagues in their home community.”
Other popular eateries include bartaco, offering upscale Mexican street food and craft cocktails near the waterfront; Saltaire Oyster Bar and Kitchen; and Colony Grill, known for its thin-crust pizza.
And with redevelopment coming, says Rabin, “We’re hoping a lot of these properties will be looking to include new types of restaurants on Main Street and in the downtown areas.” The Castle at 201 Willett Avenue, a $24 million residential construction with 120 market-rate rental units, and The Magellan, at 108 S Main Street, a mixed-use project, are just two of many developments planned.
Port Chester is also known for its excellent bakeries. They include Neri’s Bakery, known for its bread, bagels, and pastries, and J.J. Cassone Bakery, known for fresh-baked breads and pastries. They are predominately wholesale operations, but “they both have storefronts on their own properties,” says Rabin. “You can go and buy bread and desserts.”
Farther north and west, Pleasantville also offers lots of yummy dining and a walkable environment where you can enjoy an evening stroll afterward. “Pleasantville provides more of a suburban village atmosphere,” says the BCW’s Gordon. “It’s really taken on a very vibrant life of its own, with the Jacob Burns Film Center at the heart and many dining establishments to support that.”
Mayor Peter Sherer points to at least 10 new restaurants, many in retail spaces that were converted to food-service establishments. Popular destinations include homegrown craft brewery Soul Brewing Company and Asian-fusion restaurant Fatt Root. “They’ve made a significant reinvestment to reimagine their space,” says Sherer. Other top spots include Pubstreet, Southern Table Kitchen & Bar, Little Mumbai Market, and The Taco Project.
And the party is nowhere near over. “Folks are really interested in having the chance to meet and greet friends and colleagues in their home community,” says Sherer. “At the same time, it’s clear that as the pandemic has ebbed and flowed, we’ve had restaurants that have been very successful with outdoor dining. That has reminded people of how nice it is to eat outside. I’m pretty sure lots of aspects of that will continue down the road.”
1 Landmark Sq, Unit 332, Port Chester
1 BR; 1 BA; 1,065 sq ft; $8,368 est. taxes
You can live large, NYC style, in the iconic and Art Deco LifeSavers Building, home to this bright and spacious one-bedroom with an additional loft. Here, you’ll find high ceilings, along with an updated kitchen with stainless-steel appliances, renovated bath, hardwood floors, living room, and custom closets. Amenities include concierge service, exercise room, pool, and spa.
Listed by Joseph Stilo, Julia B Fee Sothebys International Realty
If you’re looking to live in a town that’s close enough to New York City to enjoy its charms but far enough to come with a slower pace, Armonk and South Salem have plenty to offer. Armonk, a quiet suburban town with population of 4,500, is about an hour away from the city by train and near Westchester County Airport. Located in the northeast corner of the county, South Salem, with its 7,200 residents, is about an hour and a half by train (even less by bus or taxi). Whether you’re enjoying the work-from-home lifestyle or just seeking a weekend-escape house, either is worth considering.
Yet, each town is distinct and offers its own charms. Armonk is home to scenic Wampus Pond (a favorite of fishing enthusiasts), Betsey Sluder Nature Preserve, shops like Wine Geeks Armonk, All About the Dress, and Hickory and Tweed Ski and Cycle. Foodies are happy with downtown restaurants, like Armonk Country Kitchen, a popular lunchtime destination; Amore Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen; Lenny’s North Seafood & Steakhouse; and Fortina, known for its wood-fired pizza. And there are plenty of fun events to enjoy, like the Armonk Outdoor Art Show, a juried event now celebrating its 60th anniversary, and the Cider and Donut Festival, sponsored by the Armonk Chamber of Commerce. It’s also got excellent public schools and is home to the world headquarters of IBM and the U.S. headquarters of Swiss Re.
South Salem’s lures include the stunning Le Chateau mansion and event center; the historic, pre-Revolutionary Horse & Hound Inn; South Salem Winery; and the Wolf Conservation Center, a nonprofit that protects wolves in North America.
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Elaine Pofeldt is a Westchester-based writer whose work has appeared in 914INC and Forbes.
Related: Discover Westchester’s Top Towns — And What Makes Them So Unique