Just north of New York City sits Westchester, a county with seemingly endless opportunities for outdoor adventures—from cycling to hiking, kayaking to picnicking. There are farmers' markets galore, outdoor movie theaters, endless fall foliage, outdoor arts centers, and, perhaps most importantly right now, space to comfortably practice social distancing without putting a damper on your adventure.
So if you're looking for a long weekend escape from the concrete jungle, look no further. These 10 activities will fill your days with a whole lot of sunshine, fresh air, and idyllic, Instagrammable views.
For help with lodging carefully vetted for COVID-19 safety measures–and to get a curated list of local grocery stores, wine shops, restaurants offering take-out, and hidden gems—turn to Journy. We're here to help.
1. Explore Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Since 1983, the Rockefeller family has donated over 1,700 acres of forested, pastoral land to New York State. The weaving trails throughout Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow were originally designed as stone carriage roads by John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Jr. during the first half of the 20th century. Today, they're widely used for running, casual strolling, and bird-watching—there are 202 recorded bird species on the property, which has been designated an "Important Bird Area" by the National Aubudon Society. The soaring oak, tulip poplar, maple, and beech trees provide ample shade during hot days, making RockefellerState Park a go-to all summer long.
- Swan Lake: a 1.4-mile scenic loop around a 22-acre lake—perfect for all skill levels
- Fern Garden: A volunteer-maintained garden space located near the entrance to the preserve
- 13 Bridges Loop Trail: A 1.9-mile moderate trail that crosses 13 bridges on the Gory Brook
Parking capacity at the Preserve's lot on Route 117 is capped at 50% to reduce visitor density and improve social distancing. The Visitor Center/Art Gallery buildings are closed, although restrooms are available in the main parking lot.
Post-Covid, be sure to visit Kykuit in the Pocantico Hills (near Valhalla), which served as the home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Tours of the historic site are unfortunately suspended at the moment.
2. Hike in Teatown Lake Reservation
Teatown is a 1000-acre nature preserve with 15 miles of hiking trails open to the public all year round. Ranging from novice to moderately difficult, the trails—which connect to the Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway and Croton Aqueduct Trail—offer a glimpse into the biological diversity of the lower Hudson Valley as they traverse fields, hardwood forests, laurel groves, streams, lakes, and farm land.
- Lakeside Loop: A 1.5-mile trail that runs along Teatown Lake—perfect for all skill levels
- Three Lakes Loop: A 3.8-mile moderately difficult trail that runs along Teatown Lake, Vernay Lake, and Shadow Lake—with some stunning views along the way
Wildflower Island is closed to the public until further notice. The Visitor Center and restrooms also remain closed. Outdoor public programs are set to resume this month.
3. Rent a kayak at Croton Point Park
Croton Point Park spans 508 acres along a peninsula on the eastern shore of the Hudson River. Archaeologists have discovered oyster shells confirming that the land was inhabited as early as 7,000 years ago by Native Americas—a history that earned the park its name, "Croton," after the Indian sachem, "Kenoten" (or "wild wind"). The park also boasts what are widely considered to be the oldest wine cellars in New York State.
Today, the park in Croton-on-Hudson is the perfect spot for camping, a picnic, and a stroll along the waterfront. If you're up for it, they also offer kayak rentals from 10AM - 6:30PM on weekends.
- 9/11 Memorial Sundial using steel from the World Trade Center site (located a 5-minute drive away at Croton Landing)
Although RV and tents are available to rental, there is limited availability due to social distancing protocols. The nature center, pavilions, cabins, grills, and playgrounds are closed until further notice.
4. Walk across the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge
When the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge was opened in 2018, it became the longest shared bicycle/pedestrian path in the nation. Spanning three miles across the widest part of the Hudson River, the bridge connects Tarrytown in Westchester county with Rockland.
The 12-foot wide path on the northern side of the westbound span features six scenic overlooks as well as interpretive art displays.
- The energy efficient, LED light fixtures that illuminate the bridge every night
5. Spend the afternoon in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
40 miles from NYC, in Yorktown, is Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, a 960-acre property boasting a double Olympic-sized pool that can accommodate up to 3,500 people. There's also picnic space (which must be reserved in advance) and freshwater fishing/boating opportunities at Mohansic Lake and Crom Pond, with bass, perch, and sunfish as the most popular catches (although keep in mind that a New York State Freshwater Fishing License is required). Rowboats and pedal boats are also available for rental.
- Newly renovated playground with climbing walls and swings
- Disc Golf Course: 9 or 18 holes
Parking, indoor spaces, and restrooms may be limited or closed. Additionally, pool capacity is reduced (so expect a wait at peak times). Face masks are required while on line and in locker rooms, but not in the pool.
6. Bike along the North County Trailway
Spanning just over 20 miles, the North County Trailway is the longest of four commuter rail corridors-turned-trails (the other three are the Old Putnam Trail, South County Trailway, and Putnam Trailway). It once laid claim to the "Old Put" commuter rail connecting the Bronx to Westchester and Putnam Counties. Passenger service ceased in 1958, followed by construction to pull the tracks in 1962. Today, it's a haven for cyclists, runners, and walkers alike.
- Kitchawan Preserve: A 208-acre nature preserve (and former research facility of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden). The North Country Trailway runs along its eastern edge.
- Amawalk Friends Meeting House: An 1830s house on Quaker Church Road that has been listed, along with its adjoining cemetery, on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being one of the most well-preserved Quaker houses in the county, it is notable for existing today exactly as it did in the 19th century (i.e. without plumbing and electricity, heated exclusively by a pair of wood-burning stoves and lit by oil lamps and natural sunlight).
7. Enjoy a picnic at the Kensico Dam Plaza
The 307-foot high, 1,843-foot long Kensico dam was completed in 1917 to form the Kensico reservoir. It was built using stone from Cranberry Lake Park and employed more electric power than any other construction work for the Catskill water supply. Today, the grounds surrounding the dam are widely used for picnicking and casual strolling. In 2014, an electrical lighting system was added, so walking after dark is now permitted. Plans were announced in May of this year to upgrade the plaza by replacing playground equipment, adding picnic benches and tables, and sprucing up the landscaping.
Visitors must abide by social distancing via one-way traffic on all paths and trails. Playgrounds are temporarily closed, as is The Rising 9/11 memorial. Additionally, parking lots may close for periods of time on high-volume weekend days.
8. Shop at the Muscoot Farm Farmers' Market
Muscoot Farm is a former, late-19th to early 20th-century working dairy farm that is now home to 50+ animals (including cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs), a historic milk house and carriage house, and over six miles of scenic trails through fields, woodlands, and wetlands that offer up-close views of the local wildlife. Every Sunday, Muscoot hosts a farmers' market offering local fruits and vegetables, as well as bread, dairy, and more. (Runs until November 22.)
- The "Hairy Coo" (aka Highland): A Scottish cattle breed that lays claim to the longest history as a registered animal. They have long, shaggy coats (red, black, or white) and a set of horns that can reach 3-4 feet from tip to tip.
Although walk-ins to the market are welcome, it is recommended that only one person per family attend in order to reduce crowding. Face masks and social distancing are mandatory. Although the barnyard complex and farm buildings are closed, all hiking trails are open.
9. Visit the Untermyer Gardens
After purchasing Samuel Tilden's former state of Greystone in 1899, Samuel Untermyer—a prolific lawyer and civic leader—transformed the gardens and greenhouses as he expanded the property to the north and east. In 1916, he brought onboard the Beaux Arts architect Welles Bosworth to design the gardens, which were by then sprawling over 150 acres overlooking the Hudson River. Upon his death, Untermyer bequeathed the Yonkers land to New York State. Today, it's an idyllic public park and garden that offers a welcome haven from the bustle of the surrounding city.
- The Walled Garden: An Indo-Persian walled garden inspired by religious descriptions of paradise
- Color Gardens: A series of six terraced gardens each planted in a single color
- The Temple of Love: Rocky, round temple perched atop a hill, offering sweeping views of the Hudson River and the Palisades
- Rhododendron Walk: A trail lined with rhododendrons that leads from the Ruin Garden up to the historic gardens
Spending most of your time in southern Westchester? Consider visiting the Greenburgh Nature Center near White Plains, which is just a 20-minute drive from Untermyer Park and Gardens.
Although it is free to enter, there is a timed reservation system in place to reduce capacity.
10. Tour the John Jay Homestead (and catch an outdoor movie!)
This 62-acre estate in the Katonah/Bedford area served as the home for five successive generations of the Jay family—including John Jay himself, a Founding Father and first Chief Justice of the United States. As you walk through the grounds, you'll pass through the Sun Dial Garden, Herb Garden, and Terrace Garden. There's even spots to picnic on sunny days, as well as a farmers' market that runs every Saturday through October and outdoor movies on select summer nights.
Masks are required for everyone shopping at the market, with only one patron permitted per booth (and 6-foot social distancing measures enforced). No sampling is allowed and contactless forms of payment are preferred.
Although indoor tours of the house are suspended, there are virtual tours available online.
Although the majority of Westchester lines the Hudson River, there are some towns in the southeast reaches of the county that line the Long Island Sound, such as New Rochelle, Port Chester, and Rye (where the famous Rye Playland amusement park is...cue the family fun).
For more outdoor adventure inspiration, discover these bike routes in, around, and outside New York City.