There’s no place like home for the holidays— just not your home.
(Above): Tarrytown House King Mansion
It happens year after year. Your relatives descend on your peaceful household for holiday festivities. Your bedroom gets taken over by grandparents, Uncle Joe camps out on your living-room sofa, assorted cousins float in and out, and kids are doubled and tripled up in every room. And, in the midst of all that chaos, you’re supposed to cook?
Save your sanity this year by setting up your kin in one of the county’s inns, B&Bs, or hotels. Chances are, you can find somewhere that’ll please everyone from your picky in-laws to your siblings who just want WiFi and DVDs to distract your nieces and nephews. They may turn up their noses at an impersonal Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott, but what about an elegant Victorian, a historic mansion, a full-service resort—or even a castle? Here are eight local options that don’t involve trying to inflate an air mattress with a hair-dryer.
Alexander Hamilton House
49 Van Wyck St., Croton-on-Hudson
Rates: $110 to $350 (includes full breakfast)
No. of rooms: 8
If this charming 1889 Victorian on sleepy Van Wyck Street in Croton-on-Hudson feels just like home, that’s because it is—to someone, at least. For the past 25 years, owner Barbara Notarius has raised her daughter, Cyd Klein, in the Alexander Hamilton House. “When people move out, most parents turn their kids’ rooms into exercise rooms,” Klein says. “My mother turned my childhood bedroom into a money-making guestroom!”
The mother-daughter team today takes care of the inn from the house next door, and they’ve brought on a third innkeeper, Autumn Saunders, a mother of two young boys, to help. As a result, Klein says, “You get all the comforts of home, but with someone else taking care of you.” Here, “taking care of you” can mean securing restaurant reservations (they’re good at snagging tables at even the busiest hotspots), scheduling salon appointments, or recommending the best place to shop for that last-minute holiday gift. At the very least, guests are well fed. Klein, who has returned to the inn after a stint as pastry chef at a local Pleasantville eatery, is a CIA-trained chef who can accommodate all types of diets at her hearty full breakfasts. (Be sure to try one of her homemade cookies.)
Since downtown Croton and the Croton-Harmon Metro-North station are located within walking distance of the inn, flown-in guests won’t necessarily need to rent a car—and won’t be relying on you to act as both entertainment coordinator and chauffeur for the week.
That’s if they venture out at all. Some might choose instead to relax all day in the sun-drenched enclosed porch, soak in the view of the Hudson River from the backyard garden chairs, or lounge on the period furniture in the guestrooms. Those lucky enough to stay in the Master’s Suite, which comes with its own separate sitting room, can relax in a whirlpool tub beneath a set of skylights.
For a celebration that’s completely different, the Alexander Hamilton House can be booked for suspenseful “murder mystery weekends.” The staff takes care of setting up the mystery, transforming the house into a creepy crime scene, and cooking up a “21 Hors d’Oeuvres” dinner for the sleuths to munch on as they try to unravel the puzzle. All you need to bring is a costume, a sense of whimsy, and your thinking cap (double-brimmed is optional).
Castle on the Hudson
400 Benedict Ave., Tarrytown
Rates: $255 to $810 (meals not included)
No. of rooms: 31
It’s almost like a fairy tale: imagine cresting the hilltop driveway to see the Castle on the Hudson’s gothic tower covered in snow, then stepping into the Great Hall to marvel at the 40-foot vaulted ceilings and dark burnished wood beams. Surely, that scene will impress even the snobbiest of guests. If not, the Castle’s two-room luxury suites, with their unobstructed panoramas of the river from the private living-room windows, certainly will.
Even without the view, the newer wing of the Castle offers plush four-star amenities including super-soft goose-down comforters, luxurious Frette linens, and sleek marble bathrooms.
After setting foot inside the posh palace—a medieval-style castle built by playwright and socialite Howard Carroll so that he could entertain his New York society pals on a grand scale—your guests may not want to leave, even for your home cooking. Go with it: the Castle’s Equus restaurant offers sumptuous special menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and a warming High Tea is served every day.
Crabtree’s Kittle House
11 Kittle Rd., Chappaqua
Rates: $137 to $157 (includes continental breakfast)
No. of rooms: 12
The oenophile in your family might threaten to bring a sleeping bag so he can camp out in the Kittle House’s Grand Award-winning wine cellar. You might convince him that the accommodations upstairs are a bit more comfortable—especially when he sees the four-poster bed overlooking the grounds of the Mount Kisco Golf Course. Each of the 12 guestrooms is appointed in a manner befitting a 1790s farmhouse, furnished with an eclectic mix of antique furniture and country accents (love the king-size sleigh beds in some of the rooms). Be careful: staying in the welcoming embrace of the Kittle House can be addictive. “We have had many business travelers who return to the Kittle House every week,” innkeeper Judith Kissel reports. “And we also have many guests who come back here every time they’re visiting family.”
Once your guests have settled in their rooms, make sure they make it back downstairs to sample chefs Kevin Bertrand and Anibal Komero’s progressive American cuisine at Crabtree’s restaurant—and pair it with a good bottle of wine.
975 Anderson Hill Rd., Rye Brook
Rates: $169 to $199 (breakfast included with some weekend packages)
No. of rooms: 373
Doral Arrowwood is the destination for those relatives who want access to everything—from fine dining to in-room video-game systems to 24-hour entertainment—all within the confines of their hotel. It may be close to cultural centers like PepsiCo, Playland, and the Neuberger Museum, but Arrowwood has a culture all its own. The combination indoor/outdoor pool is heated to provide year-round access (kids have been known to be mesmerized at the prospect of swimming outdoors in the winter). There are rooms set aside for spa treatments; movie nights for kids and adults; free, on-site clinics with golf and tennis pros; a golf course; and courts for tennis, racquetball, squash, basketball, sand volleyball, and even paintball.
And for sustenance? There’s The Atrium, a three-tiered restaurant famous for its elaborate brunch buffet—and home to cheek-to-cheek dancing on Saturday nights—plus The Pub, a casual eatery with darts, billiards, and loud music.
Edith Macy Conference Center
550 Chappaqua Rd., Briarcliff Manor
Rates: $149 to $229 (includes continental breakfast)
No. of rooms: 52
Heading out to the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor feels like being sent off to summer camp. There’s a drive down a long, winding, forested road that feels more like the Adirondacks than central Westchester. The trail ends at a lakeside retreat that, with its dark woods arranged in unusual geometric shapes, looks like an oversized, ultra-modern cabin.
Once you learn the history of the center, though, it all begins to make sense. The property was founded in the 1920s by the Girl Scouts of America as a meeting and training space. The Scouts still own it today as a not-for-profit conference center. Though most of its business is still from the Girl Scouts, the Edith Macy Center accepts corporate and individual reservations. And your guests might be wise to make one, particularly if they want to commune with nature.
The center is situated on 405 wooded acres; the rooms are built into the side of a mountain overlooking the abundant greenery. “Our guests like to get up in the morning and go take a jog with the deer,” says Sherri Hoy, director of sales.
Monteverde at Oldstone Manor
28 Bear Mountain Ridge Rd., Cortlandt Manor
Rates: $325 to $800 (includes continental breakfast for all guests and a complimentary dinner-for-two for guests who stay two evenings during the high season).
No. of rooms: 2
Talk about extreme makeover. Last year, Monteverde’s new owner completely shut the place down for a two-month-long renovation. It reopened last spring with a new attitude—one that blends Old World, contemporary, Eastern, and Western sensibilities. And the best part: what was once the previous owners’ living quarters is now a plush inn and spa. (Oddly enough, when the estate was built by the Van Cortlandt family in the 1790s, they used it as an inn.)
The inn has only two suites: the spacious Ludlow Room and the positively humongous Van Cortlandt Suite. While both offer spacious steam showers, a comfortable sitting area, some goodies from a local chocolatier, and amazing Hudson River views, the Van Cortlandt Suite also has a working fireplace, a Jaccuzzi tub, and a massive bi-level balcony overlooking the grounds and river.
With the spa located just steps from the suites, there’s no reason not to indulge in one of the signature aromatherapy facials or an “anti-aging boosting” treatment. “Our guests leave feeling very relaxed and rejuvenated,” Robin Queen, the spa director, says. Because there are only two guestrooms, the staff can completely customize their guests’ visits, down to the “bath butler” who can put on a little music, light some candles, open a bottle of complimentary Champagne, and have a scented bubble bath drawn and ready upon arrival. The staff can also help plan a day’s itinerary, complete with car service, to any of the area’s attractions: Cold Spring, the Paramount, Dia:Beacon, etc. Or your guests can just stay put, grab a drink at the downstairs restaurant, and, if the weather allows, sip it at the Hudson’s edge.
Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center
49 E. Sunnyside La., Tarrytown
Rates: Guestrooms are $129 to $200; King Mansion suites begin at $229 (includes full breakfast) No. of rooms: 212
Tarrytown House Estate is perfect for those who want to strike a compromise between the intimate feeling of a B&B and the all-inclusiveness of a big resort. The Estate consists of nine historic buildings, all situated on 26 rolling green acres in Tarrytown. The most famous of these historic houses is the 1895 Biddle Mansion, which is often rented out for weddings and other elegant affairs.
Guests are treated to the same superb cuisine at the buffet breakfasts offered in the dining room. In the wake of its recent $11 million renovation—changing everything from the carpeting to the walls to the beds—the guestrooms today have a luxurious feel and look. Those who are looking for something extra-special, however, should request one of the 10 guestrooms in the 1840 King Mansion, if only for the views of the Hudson River alone (though the separate sitting areas, downstairs dining area, one-and-a-half baths, and private balconies don’t hurt much, either).
Though this may seem all too charming, tucked away in various corners of the Estate are all the features of a corporate retreat, the likes of which co-founder Mary Duke Biddle could never have imagined, including complementary high-speed Internet access, a high-tech fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and racquetball courts. Hidden in the basement of the Biddle Mansion through an Alice in Wonderland-sized door lies the Sleepy Hollow Pub, a tavern stocked with bites, brews, and billiards. There, guests can take part in one of Mary Duke Biddle’s favorite activities, bowling, hich is played on a back-room, one-lane alley that dates back to the 1920s.
Delamar Greenwich Harbor
500 Steamboat Rd., Greenwich, CT
(203) 661-9800 www.thedelamar.com
Rates: $249 to $1,550 (includes continental breakfast on weekends only)
No. of rooms: 82
THERE’S A REASON the Delamar has received nods from high-end tastemakers like CondÃ© Nast Traveler. In addition to the no-tip-required bellboys, guests here are greeted by 600 feet of private dock space right on the Greenwich harbor (and the yachts bobbing along the shore hint as to the kind of clientele it attracts). Once inside, guests are treated to sleek Italian bed linens, marble baths, and views of the harbor from private balconies. Dining is no less luxurious; the acclaimed L’Escale restaurant will whisk guests away to the Mediterranean with its innovative ProvenÃ§al menu.
Harbor House Inn
165 Shore Rd., Old Greenwich, CT
(203) 637-0145 www.hhinn.com
Rates: $149 to $279 (includes continental breakfast)
No. of rooms: 23
INNKEEPER DAWN STUTTIG hits the nail on the head when she says, “Sometimes, people just get tired of big, fancy hotels.” If your guests are feeling the big-hotel rut, they can opt for the Old World charm of the Harbor House. While the inn regularly hosts family reunions during the holidays, those who manage to return in the summer are treated to complimentary bicycles for a short ride to the beach. And, while in the surf, guests should keep their eyes peeled for other notable guests; the Today Show’s Anne Curry and All My Children’s Bobbie Eakes are among the inn’s recent visitors.
420 Field Point Rd., Greenwich, CT
(203) 869-7500 www.homesteadinn.com
Rates: $250 to $495 (meals not included)
No. of rooms: 18
WHAT STANDS OUT most about this Relais & Chateaux-designated property is not its plush Fili D’Oro linens, luxurious Bulgari lotions, relaxing steam showers, or posh Duxiana mattresses (though those are all certainly nice). Instead, owner Theresa Henkelmann’s artistic eye takes center stage over the luxe amenities. The brightly painted guestrooms are decorated top-to-bottom with objects d’art, from fun, colorful sculptures of high-heeled shoes to elegant furniture and accessories imported from China, Bali, India, and Morocco. And while Theresa’s vision is presented in the dÃ©cor, Thomas Henkelmann is the artist in the kitchen, serving five-star contemporary French cuisine in his eponymous restaurant.
Stanton House Inn
76 Maple Ave., Greenwich, CT
(203) 869-2110 www.shinngreenwich.com
Rates: $139 to $239 (includes continental breakfast)
No. of rooms: 22
LOCATED WITHIN walking distance to downtown Greenwich is this Federalist-style mansion, designed by Stanford White in the early 1900s. No two rooms are alike, each featuring its own mix of period details like four-poster beds, antique furnishings, working fireplaces, and modern amenities like DVD players, Duxiana mattresses, and wet bars. Guests staying in the King Suite are treated to a mini-kitchen, a separate sitting area with a fireplace, and a large, claw-foot tub.
Two to Watch
In Bedford Village
The 18th-century manor home and farmhouse at 954 Old Post Road in Bedford Village, once Nino’s, a celebrated neighborhood restaurant, has fallen into dilapidated disrepair. Yet all is not lost: just as he did at the end of Pretty Woman, Richard Gere has come riding in to save the day. Wife Cary Lowell and business partner Russell Hernandez plan to join Gere in revamping the property into a nine-room inn, complete with on-site restaurant, yoga studio, and equestrian trails winding through the 14-acre property.
In Dobbs Ferry
The Rivertowns Inn, a 10-room inn that has been proposed for the “gateway” area to downtown Dobbs Ferry (at the convergence of Broadway, Ashford Avenue, and Cedar Street), has been having a rough time getting approval from the town. But a new planning and design firm, the New York City-based BFJ Planning, has been brought in to help develop the gateway, and plans for the inn are still on the table. Keep your fingers crossed; if it goes through, the county will gain another inn that’s sure to send guests home with tales of breathtaking walks along the Hudson.