Combining lush landscapes and breathtaking views of the Hudson River,
these lovely, historic estates exude a sense of calm and other worldliness
Just a Metro North train away from Manhattan are many little towns along the Hudson River that offer breathtaking views of nature and an array of wildlife, as well as provide a peek at the rich culture and history of New York State.
One such place is Locust Grove (pictured). I learned of this place from the manager of a local seafood restaurant in Poughkeepsie that I visit annually. I was simply in awe when I saw the estate with its picturesque landscape and beautiful mansion originally owned by painter-inventor Samuel Morse in 1851. After an interesting and educational tour of the house, I spent over three hours exploring the beautiful flower garden that happened to be bursting in colorful blooms.
Locust Grove hosts “Sunset Sensations”, a wine-and-food pairing event from spring to fall that focuses on produce from the estate gardens – a “must” if you want to experience sunset over the Hudson River.
If you love Downton Abbey, then Lyndhurst Castle in Tarrytown is a must-see. It is a Gothic Revival-style mansion that housed many
well-known and wealthy New Yorkers in the 1800s. I walked to it from the train station passing through the densely wooded Croton Aqueduct Trail that winds through several historic villages. There are also many large and majestic houses along the path, some looking out to spectacular views of the Hudson River.
The grounds of Lyndhurst are beautifully landscaped but look natural and not manicured. It has wide lawns, shrubs, large trees,
a curving entrance drive, a
steel-framed conservatory and a circular rose garden with a central gazebo. Trivia buffs would know that the mansion was used in the original Dark Shadows TV series.
Kykuit, known as the Rockefeller Estate, is the ancestral home of that celebrated clan. During the guided tour of the house and gardens, I learned that William Rockefeller, Sr., the father of magnate and philantrophist John D. Rockefeller, was a con artist. There is a fabulous collection of art and sculptures inside the mansion as well throughout the grounds. But what excited me the most were the massive and beautifully landscaped gardens with their peerless Hudson River view.
Highlights of the place include the Morning Garden, the Grand Staircase, the Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden, the Temple of Aphrodite, an Italian-style loggia and a semicircular rose garden.
Untermyer Gardens are part of the Greystone mansion in Yonkers. Although not a very well-known attraction, it is grand in art and beauty. My favorite spot is the walled garden where I immediately felt a sense of calm and peace, and being in another world upon entering it.
I was enchanted by the water ponds, Grecian structures and Roman columns set amid the greenery. It is truly an oasis – an absolute departure from the hustle and bustle of New York City. I was in a total state of zen after wandering through the grounds.
In Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York one day, I learned about the Boscobel House and Gardens from a friendly local. It is in Garrison, a mere 30- to 45-minute trolley ride from Main St. in Cold Spring. Overlooking the Hudson River, this restored attraction was built between 1804 and 1808 and still includes original slave quarters.
I had immense fun exploring the 2.01-km Woodland Trail with its clearly marked pathways. The surrounding forest is rich with native plants and trees and various species of birds. A bridge, gazebo and octagonal summer house complete the picture.
Along the Hudson
Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights occupies rugged terrain and boasts a view of the Cloisters and Hudson River. It was built by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the landscape architect who designed the National Mall and White House grounds. The park has two distinctive gardens – Heather Garden and Alpine Garden. The Heather Garden has 500 varieties of perennials and shrubs that come alive during spring and summer. The Alpine Garden is a rock outcrop with low creeping plants that grow next to the rocks and bloom with tiny, pretty flowers. Some of the rocks in the garden contain quartz, feldspar, mica and garnet. Combined with the flowers, this creates a wide palette of colors – a true feast for the eyes.
Another under-the-radar garden masterpiece is the Voelker Orth Museum in Flushing, Queens. It is a Victorian garden and bird sanctuary that utilizes only natural fertilizers and pesticides. Here, you can find many varieties of berry bushes and trees that attract wild birds. There is also a beehive supplying the honey sold in the gift shop. Many stylish weddings and events have been held on the grounds.
The New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx is endlessly fascinating. This 101.17-hectare national landmark has always something new to see and experience whatever the season. One day is not enough to explore its myriad attractions. There is a garden to match everyone’s interest and mood. There is the rose garden, azalea garden, herb garden, arboretums, perennial garden, lilac garden, magnolia garden and native plants garden. Hiking through the Thain Family Forest and Wetland Trail offers unforgettable ways to commune with nature.