The Village of Sleepy Hollow was anything but sleepy this past fall, and it has the Fox network to thank. Last September, Fox premiered the mystery-adventure drama Sleepy Hollow, a modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in which Ichabod Crane, after a 250-year slumber, awakens to battle the Headless Horseman. Though the show takes many liberties with the original story, it seems to be working not only with fans—drawing more than 10 million viewers—but with the village as well, as it’s become a boon to local businesses.
Sleepy Hollow Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio says tourism increased following the show’s premiere in September 2013. The local tourism website, he says, got three times as many hits as in 2012, which began with the premiere of the show and has spiked during each episode, and the village was noticeably more crowded, especially on weekends. Furthermore, all of Sleepy Hollow’s featured events, such as the Horseman’s Hollow, sold out in record time this past fall.
“It’s clear the attention we have been getting from the show is bringing people here,” says Giaccio. While Giaccio says the village hasn’t seen a big jump in tourism outside the weeks preceding Halloween, he does note that the season stretched nearly a month longer than usual—into mid-November. “We’re hoping that the show will bring people during the off-season and encourage those who have already visited to return,” says Giaccio.
The village has worked to encourage tourism since it changed its name from North Tarrytown to Sleepy Hollow in 1997, and the extra visibility from the series has helped accelerate that goal. “The show highlights and promotes the area by tying in our history and heritage,” says Natasha Caputo, director of tourism and film for Westchester County. “It really is driving visibility and business in the area, and that’s very important.”
While fall is the busiest season for tourism throughout all of Westchester—accounting for 30 percent of hotel room bookings in the County each year, according to Caputo—Gilbert Baeriswil, GM of the Castle Hotel & Spa in Tarrytown, has noticed a difference since the show’s premiere. The hotel sold more than twice as many “Fall Blaze Getaway” packages than it did in 2012 due to increased awareness of Sleepy Hollow attractions and the popularity of the Fox series.
“The Hudson Valley is hotter than ever,” says Baeriswil. “We have maintained occupancy in the high 80-percent range for the remainder of the year.” Baeriswil says this occupancy rate is huge for the region, and believes it will continue along with the series. Guests consistently ask how close Sleepy Hollow is to the hotel and express interest in “The Legend,” he says, and it doesn’t seem like the chatter is dying down anytime soon.
Horsefeathers, a popular Tarrytown restaurant, has also appreciated the curiosity of new and old customers alike. Manager Dina McCue, who’s been working at the establishment for 25 years, says that there are more tourists about than ever. “I’ve noticed an increase in people coming from farther and farther away,” says McCue. “Typically we only have customers from Westchester, but I’ve met patrons recently from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island,” she says—many of whom approach her with questions about “The Legend” after mentioning they watch the show. McCue has even seen people continue to explore the area during the usually dull winter months, which she believes can be attributed to the show.