Sponsored: With the pandemic receding, Westchester welcomes back the world

With the pandemic finally fading into a new normal, people are eager to get out and enjoy life to the fullest. Westchester County, with 24,000 acres of parkland, is confident that its diverse array of attractions has something for everyone.

“For mindful trips, spending time in the great outdoors and then going for a wonderful meal, come to Westchester,” says Natasha Caputo, the county’s director of film and tourism. “There’s easy access—you can get to us by car or train. And then we have waterfronts and rolling vistas—you can bike and hike and sail and canoe. And also great culinary treats.”

Need evidence? Look no further than to chefs Dale Talde of Goosefeather in Tarrytown and Eric Gao of O Mandarin in Hartsdale. Both were nominated as best chefs in New York state in this year’s competition for the James Beard Award.

Restaurants from Archie Grand in White Plains to Basso56 in Chappaqua continue to open in the county.
The did pandemic, of course, do lasting damage, closing some major hotels, but Caputo notes that new hotels and upscale inns are replacing them.

The former Ritz-Carlton in White Plains is now the Opus Westchester, which has a 42nd-floor restaurant, the highest vantage point between New York City and Boston. The former Crowne Plaza in White Plains has been refloagged as Sonesta White Plains; the Westchester Marriott in Greenburgh was recently sold, and its new owners plan a multimillion-dollar renovation. Peekskill’s the Abbey Inn ranked No. 3 on the USA Today list of the 10 best new hotels in the country.

People are now looking to get away on weekends and are booking weddings, Caputo says, and both the getaway urge and the desire to marry are a boon for Westchester’s hotel business.
Hotels are important to the county’s business community, she explains, as companies seek to bring people together once again for meetings and conferences. With ease of access and nearby attractions, she says, Wester’s hotels have become increasingly desirable.

One of the county’s most popular attractions, the Rockefeller estate known as Kykuit, was closed in the pandemic. But it’s back on track. It reopened in May for tours that show off the estate’s art collection, architecture and gardens.

The summer especially provides numerous events that draw visitors. These events include the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown (which now spectators again), the Westchester Pride 2022 event allows the summer concert season at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Westchester Magazine’s annual Wine & Food Festival and the Pleasantville Music Festival.

“There’s always more to be done, of course,” Caputo says, adding that the county doesn’t act alone in drawing people to the region. “We’re part of the Hudson Valley region and we want the whole valley to be successful. Promoting the whole region as interconnected is a way to bring more national and international visitors.”

Westchester draws 45% of all visitor spending in the region.

One more factor boosts the county’s tourism: its film industry.

“We’re the biggest county in the state for production outside of New York City, and we opened during Covid as soon as possible with the proper guidelines and protocol,” Caputo says. “Now there’s a new boom in ‘screen tourism,’ where people come to see the sites where shows and movies were filmed.”

Lyndhurst’s popularity jumped after HBO’s The Gilded Age filmed there. Other sites, such as the Belvedere Estate in Tarrytown and the Glenview Historic Home in Yonkers, have also earned screen time.

It’s not just the luxury lifestyle that draws filmmakers and then visitors. Caputo points out that the Groton Gorge Dam and Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard were both recently featured on one of TV’s longest-running programs: Sesame Street.

So any day now a parade of toddlers may lead their parents to Westchester for a weekend getaway.

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