The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze photo credit: Van Cortlandt Manor

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
photo credit: Van Cortlandt Manor

The Hudson River towns just north of New York City offer getaways still in sight of NY. My husband and I spent a night at the Tarrytown House Estate, only 25 miles from the city but light years away in terms of ambiance. While we were kid-free for the night, the hotel and the surrounding area are perfect for a family weekend.

Though the hotel has plenty of recreational opportunities right on-site, from (seasonal) indoor and outdoor pools to tennis, basketball and racquetball, we were eager to bike the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. This trail, the original water supply to New York City, is a flat, wide trail that goes from Croton-on-Hudson south to Yonkers. You can walk, bike or run, though you need fat tires for the rocky trail. The Aqueduct has an access point right near the Tarrytown House, through the Lyndhurst estate.

Autumn view, Tarryhouse Estate, from balcony Photo Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian Mom

Autumn view, Tarryhouse Estate, from balcony
Photo Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

The estate, a National Historic Trust Site, offers guided tours, and family friendly seasonal events, like the upcoming ‘Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol’.

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, part of Historic Hudson Valley, is right next door in Sleepy Hollow. This is a great place for a family visit, but it is closed in winter. We did make it to another nearby estate, Van Cortlandt Manor, which has an annual Halloween event, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. This is a timed event, but don’t make the mistake we made and rush through it. There are amazing sculptural pumpkins, plus somewhat spooky side effects (though the Blaze is appropriate for small children), and synchronized lighting.

You should really plan your whole evening around this spectacle, which includes over 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack o’ lanterns. Wear sturdy shoes and warm clothing. The Blaze starts as soon as the sun sets, so you can explore for hours and then have dinner.

We had to make haste for our reservation at Red Hat on the River, a charming restaurant in Irvington. The restaurant has outdoor seating and a rooftop bar in summer, but in colder weather, the leaves don’t obscure the great views: of the illuminated Tappan Zee Bridge to the north, and New York City to the south.

Lyndhurst Estate from Old Croton Aqueduct Photo Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian Mom

Lyndhurst Estate from Old Croton Aqueduct
Photo Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Red Hat made our evening since the onion soup was made with a vegetarian stock. The waitress told us three kids of onions (red, Vidalia and leek) accounted for the complexity of flavor. There are bistro classics and seasonal items; we also had the butternut squash and cider salad, (minus the bacon) warm farro salad with a fried egg and Brussels sprouts and a fish special.

Since we were in apple country, in apple season, we probably should have had the tarte tatin, but we couldn’t resist the bittersweet flourless chocolate cake. Good thing we had so many exercise choices at our hotel!

The Tarrytown House has an excellent buffet breakfast to fuel your day, with plenty of fresh fruit, organic plain yogurt and whole grain breads – plus made to order omelets and pancakes. The coffee could have been hotter, and stronger – but this just gave us a reason to stop at Coffee Lab Roasters. Be sure to walk around the quaint downtown; that coffee shop is actually on Main Street, as is an excellent gourmet food shop, Mint Premium Foods. Parking meters take nickels, though you can park a few blocks away for free.

We used up our spare change to stroll around, then made the very short drive back to city. But finding out all this is so close by, I know we will return soon.