Tarrytown House Estate and Van Cortlandt Manor have more in common than their River Town locations and historic Hudson Valley roots. The two have successfully blended old-world charm with new-world technology to stay not only relevant, but worthwhile destinations. Now they’re doing it together, and we like the result.
This month Tarrytown House Estate is featuring a LIGHTSCAPES package—overnight accommodations, two tickets to Historic Hudson Valley’s newest event, a full buffet breakfast for two (with a Hudson River view), all for a little more than $200—that’s admittedly a pretty great Westchester-style bargain.
Tarrytown House Estate is on 26 acres along the Tarrytown/Irvington border, and is just a stone’s throw from Washington Irving’s Sunnyside. The property, which has been in use for more than 165 years, includes four original buildings: the Biddle Mansion, the King Mansion, a carriage house and a cottage. It’s also the country’s first executive convention conference center. It may sound like a strange combination, but it works.
The 200-plus rooms are spacious, comfortable, and updated (part of an $11 million renovation that followed after Destination Hotels & Resorts took over management of the property in 2005), yet when you step outside the guest-rooms atrium, you feel like you’re a 19th century Rockefeller walking the grounds of your estate. No Rockefeller lived here, but the Duke family (as in the University, and of tobacco fame) did. And evidence of former owner and avid sportswoman Mary Duke Biddle still remain: in addition to an indoor pool and health club, there are also outdoor tennis, basketball, and bocce courts.
Sadly, the bowling alley that was in the Biddle Mansion’s lower level is no more (the restaurant, Cellar 49, is now there), but the spirit of gaming has been kept alive with pool tables, foosball, and table shuffleboard. Take my word for it, after a couple of craft beers or small-production wines at the tavern, and some exceptional pub food with a twist, you won’t miss the bowling.
Speaking of spirits, the ghost of a previous owner, Sybil Harris King (aka “the apparition in white,”) is said to reside in a room on the second floor of the King Mansion, which houses 10 period bedrooms. But don’t worry, she’s not the headless type who will scare you out of your wits. Legend has it, she’s fond of playing with electronics. One guest said he woke up to find his phone’s date had been changed to 1865. Another guest said his Pandora kept repeating the same song, again and again and again. Like I said, a mix of the old and the new. I admit this is a bit odd.
Up the river in Croton-on-Hudson, Van Cortlandt Manor has become legendary itself for its spooky and popular fall event, the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, which draws thousands of visitors to a site that previously had been known for its re-enactments of 18th-century manor life.
When I first heard that its creators were adding a springtime light show to the calendar I was skeptical. Jack O’Lanterns in October make sense. Giant illuminated flowers, fairies and rainbows just seemed weird, and a stretch.
But as soon as I started walking toward the gate, I was hooked. Even my teen-age son let out an involuntary, “Wow!” The sculptures are both beautiful and dazzling, and the music and special effects (nothing too scary), really make you feel like you have been transported to Alice’s Wonderland. (The presence of a giant mushroom doesn’t hurt.) Perhaps the most pleasant part was the sneak attack to your olfactory system. The gardens at Van Cortlandt manor are amazing, but at night you can’t see the flowers, so the sudden smell of lilacs as you walk along the paths is a delightful surprise—and something you definitely can’t experience in October.
LIGHTSCAPES runs weekends through the month of May, and a Sunday night show during Memorial Day weekend has just been added. But book your tickets now, as sales have been brisk and early time slots have been selling out. If you end up booking the LIGHTSCAPES package at Tarrytown House Estate, you won’t have to worry about any of that: the hotel-event ticket is good for any day or time. Plus, you get a delicious breakfast the next morning.