Westchester's Hidden Gems: Outdoors

The Birds and the Butterflies

Butterflies and birds may not be what you expect to find right off busy North Broadway in Yonkers—but they are both there in droves at the 40-acre Lenoir Preserve: a tranquil, oft-missed park that borders Hastings-on-Hudson. Past the park’s more standard fare (fields, gazebo, nature center) is the Beverly E. Smith Butterfly Garden, created and maintained entirely by volunteers from the Hudson River Audubon Society. Dozens of species of butterflies are seen every year; visit in summer for peak viewing. The Preserve is also a prime place to observe hawk migrations (spring and fall), check out a dragonfly pond, spot unusual specimen trees and shrubs, and enjoy stunning Hudson River and Palisades views. 

19 Dudley St, Yonkers (914) 968-5851; parks.westchestergov.com/lenoirpreserve

Off the Beaten Parkway

Everything about the Woodlands Lake section of V.E. Macy Park feels like a secret. If you’re traveling by car, the only way to get there is by turning off the northbound side of the Saw Mill River Parkway. Once you find it, you can walk around the picturesque pond, but way in the back, there are more hidden treasures to uncover. At first, the monolith you see in the distance looks like one of Westchester’s stone walls, albeit one in a perfect A-frame shape. If you peek behind the wall, you’ll find sculptor Eamonn O’Doherty’s “Great Hunger Memorial,” which commemorates the Irish Potato Famine. The stone wall represents the homes that people were forced to leave, and the memorial also includes a sculpture of a fleeing family. 

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V.E. Macy Park, Saw Mill River Parkway, Irvington (914) 946-8133; parks.westchestergov.com/v-e-macy-park

A Trail of Leather

Today, sightings of a mute homeless man clad fully in leather would warrant 911 calls, but during the Civil War era, the itinerant wanderer known as the Leatherman was a frequent, and harmless, fixture in Westchester. You can retrace some of his steps—and see one of the caves he slept in—on the 1.25-mile Leatherman’s Loop trail in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. The trail climbs to a panoramic lookout over the Cross River Reservoir and is part of the Leatherman’s Loop 10K trail race each April. 

Route 35 and 121 South, Cross River 
(914) 864-7317

Hidden Garden, in Plain Sight

Tucked in next to the hulking Michaelian Office Building on Martine Avenue in downtown White Plains is an unexpected find: the Garden Of Remembrance, devoted to the memory of those lost in the Holocaust. The highlight is the “Gates of Remembrance,” created by sculptor Rita Rapaport to memorialize the suffering and death of millions during the Nazi era. The walls of the garden—a tiny oasis for reflection—are inscribed with the names of 26 places where Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution were tortured and murdered.   

148 Martine Ave, White Plains 

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Horsing Around

Think you need a trust fund and a 10-acre spread in Bedford to join Westchester’s horsey set? Not so. The surprising site for Westchester’s largest equestrian center is the county-owned Twin Lakes Park on the Eastchester-Bronxville border, the home of Twin Lakes Farm. This 112-stall riding academy and competitive show stable boasts two indoor rings, four outdoor rings, and miles of trails that are perfect for learning to ride. For more experienced riders, Twin Lakes also offers drill teams, interscholastic teams, trail lessons, horse showing, and summer leasing or year-round boarding. 

960B California Rd, Bronxville
(914) 961-2192; www.twinlakesfarm.com

Rock On

If you can’t make it to Stonehenge, Westchester has its own mysterious, gravity-defying rock that’s worth a visit. Known as the Balanced Rock, it is literally just that: a huge rock perched on top of several much smaller rocks. According to the sign from the North Salem Historical Society, the rock—which lies a short distance from Keeler Avenue—weighs an estimated 60 tons and is thought to have been deposited there during the glacial period. 

Routes 121 and 116, North Salem

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Post Roller-Coaster Relaxation

If your trip to Rye Playland is leaving you feeling a little dizzy, take a break and head out the gates by the Crazy Mouse ride, then take a right-hand turn. Just down the path you’ll find the 179-acre Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary—recognized by the national Audubon Society of New York as an Important Bird Area—featuring three miles of trails, a half-mile of accessible shore, and diverse marine and plant life. (Bonus: no screaming kids or long lines.)

Playland Parkway, Rye
(914) 967-8720; parks.westchestergov.com/read-wildlife-sanctuary

Before “Fore!”

Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Trump National… and 480 North Broadway? Yes, the address belongs in the same mention as those hallowed grounds of Westchester golf because it is where golf in the United States actually began. In 1888, Scottish-born businessman John Reid and some friends used the site (which, at the time, was part of a cow pasture) to layout and play a three-hole golf course. Soon after, they founded The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club. (Still operational and now located in Ardsley, The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club prides itself as America’s oldest golf club.) The historic blue plaque is the only remaining hint of the former meadow, which brought the world’s most frustrating hobby to the United States.

480 N Broadway, Yonkers

The Stones Behind the Dam

The Kensico Dam gets all the love, but it wouldn’t be there without the early 20th-century quarry where the stone used to build the dam was mined and cut. You can see the quarry remains and other historic artifacts at Cranberry Lake Preserve, an under-appreciated 190-acre park about a mile away. Hike the History Trail (marked with purple trail markers) and gaze at Cranberry Lake, an ancient lake rimmed with cranberry bushes. The Preserve also houses cliffs and scrubland, mixed hardwood forest, and vernal pools.

1609 Old Orchard St, North White Plains (914) 428-1005

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