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Best Tarrytown NY Things to Do

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Greetings, Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost, and welcome to the best Tarrytown NY things to do! Tarrytown, New York is a squeezably soft village about 25 miles north of New York City.

You should definitely spend 24 hours in Tarrytown if you are looking for a weekend getaway out of the city. And I’ll help you out by teaching you the best Tarrytown NY things to do.

Tarrytown is mostly famous for three things: Rockefeller, Headless Horsemen, and a bridge that is likely to collapse and kill us all in our sleep. But you don’t need to worry about that! Just take the train to Tarrytown, avoid the Tappan Zee, and I guarantee you a delightful day filled with dead, white, rich men, dead, white, inordinately rich men, local produce, and the scarecrow invasion.

Tarrytown NY things to do

24 Hours: Tarrytown NY Things to Do

Morning: Sunnyside

Sunnyside is the erstwhile abode of favorite Hudson Valley son, Washington Irving, and it’s definitely one of the best Tarrytown NY things to do. Some of you poor unfortunate souls in my audience may be wondering who Mr. Irving could be.

Most literary scholars might tell you that old “Boom Boom” Washington here was probably the first major American writer. But to any native New Yorker, he is so much more than that. He is the spiritual founder of our city. Without Washington Irving, much of our local mythology would not exist.

24 hours tarrytown ny things to do

Who was the first person to call New York City Gotham? Washington Irving. That’s right kids, without Washington Irving, there is no Batman.

Who coined the term “Knickerbocker” to describe a Manhattanite, thus giving New Yorkers the name of our much maligned basketball team…your New York Knicks? Washington Irving.

Who created such indelible characters as Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane, and this cranially-challenged fellow? Sing it with me…Washington Irrrrrrrrving!

Tarrytown NY things to do

If you’d like to learn more about the Father of our City, don’t delay and sign up for a tour of Sunnyside today. Once you arrive, you will be treated to a tour of his home and learn all about the man and his peculiar architectural tastes. To whet your appetite, here are:


Tarrytown NY things to do

1) What was his family like?

Irving never married or had children. He was engaged when young, but his fiancee died of a tragic olde tyme disease and Irving never loved again. Actually, I think this fact was maybe not so fun for Washington Irving.

Tarrytown NY things to do

2) So what did he do for fun?

Irving loved to travel and his home was inspired by many different European architectural elements.

These included everything from English ivy-covered walls, to Spanish/Moorish towers, to Italian tiles. This mishmash of styles has the effect of making the house look like an adorable insane asylum.

Tarrytown NY things to do

3) What’s the deal with this house?

Irving chose the location because he loved the surrounding views of the countryside. However, he was cheezed to find out that the up-and-coming train line was going to be passing through his country manor.

Irving agreed to let them build the train, but only if they would have the train stop in front of his house when he wanted to receive or dismiss houseguests. So I guess Irving also started the great New York tradition of hating on the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Be sure to explore the best Tarrytown NY things to do around Halloween so that you can be sure to see the homage to Irving’s most famous creation, old Headless Lamarr. Knock yourself out reading the amusing headlines on these cardboard tombstones.

24 Hour Tip

If you are not bringing a car to Tarrytown you need to cab it to here from the train station. Don’t worry because there are always cabs waiting outside the station. You could call a cab or rideshare to take you back, but I always prefer to hoof it from Sunnyside into town.

If you walk, be advised that there is no sidewalk for part of the way. You’ll just have to stroll gingerly down the road, avoiding vehicles as you go. But never fear, Internet Stranger! I have taken this walk two times and I have been hit by a car zero times, so I’m pretty sure it’s safe.

Tarrytown NY things to do

24 Hour Treasure: lunch at Coffee Labs

Whether you walk or cab it to Main St, you’ll want to get some lunch before embarking on the afternoon’s activities. I suggest picking up a snack at the java joint Coffee Labs, located conveniently in the center of town.

Their food selection is tasty, if somewhat limited, but they do a fantastic cuppa Joe. Get whatever fancy coffee your heart desires as well as a savory scone.

tarrytown ny things to do

24 Hours: Tarrytown NY Things to Do

Afternoon: Kykuit

No list of the best Tarrytown NY things to do is complete without Kykuit. If you are anything like me, Internet Stranger, you sometimes dream of being a princess. Like any other princess, you would live in a glorious castle with gorgeous gardens in which you could sing to mice.

But being a classy and cultured princess, you would want your home festooned with fine art, from Ming pottery to Picassos. Also, you would want your castle to be not too far from New York City. NYC is the center of the universe and everything.

At this point, you may be thinking to yourself that this castle is too good to be true. Well, let me reassure you that not only does this castle exist, but it is easily reachable from Tarrytown and it has the almost unpronounceable name of Kykuit. (Say it: KYE-cut) All you have to do is buy the ticket for the tour you want online in advance.

The visitor center for Kykuit is just a short walk from Main St in Tarrytown. Then you pick up your ticket at the visitor center and the bus will take you straight from said visitor center to the Rockefeller manse. There you will receive an expert and thorough guided tour. Allow me to share some of the fabulous knowledge that my guide shared with me.


24 hours tarrytown ny things to do
1) What’s hidden in the basement?

Nelson Rockefeller was such an admirer of Picasso’s that he paid the notorious Spaniard to commission tapestries of some of his most famous works, such as Guernica. Picasso designed the tapestries and used Rockefeller’s major ducats to pay some French women to sew them.

Pablo cleverly realized that Rockefeller had given him too much money and so he had the French ladies make some extra tapestries for himself. Rockefeller was cranky when he found out, but what could he do? You don’t argue with Picasso! The tapestries are amazing and you can see them if you take the tour, but sadly we were not allowed to photograph them.

Tarrytown NY things to do
2) Is there any other freaky art?

Nelson wasn’t the only Rockefeller mad for the modern. His mother, Abby Rockefeller, was one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Nelson and Abby’s love for modern sculpture can be found all over the home, especially in the gorgeous gardens. Seeing these gardens is definitely one of the best Tarrytown NY things to do.

I particularly like this happy little fellow shown above. He is called “Mouse on a Table”. All the mice in my apartment are gray. I guess the Rockefellers can afford to have more interesting mice than the rest of us.

Tarrytown NY things to do
3) What’s the architectural style?

Hard as it may be to believe, our guide kept insisting that Kykuit is modest for an estate. Apparently, Nelson’s pappy, John D. Rockefeller, was a strict Baptist and didn’t want to give himself an ostentatious abode like that of those heathen Vanderbilts.

If this looks like a simple Baptist home to you, te salut.

As we took the tour, the guide would ask us questions and give us Tic Tacs if we got the answer right. I’d love to do something similar with this website, but I don’t know how to send Tic Tacs through the internet.

24 hours in tarrytown ny things to do
24 Hour Tip

To maximize your 24 hours with the best Tarrytown NY things to do, I recommend taking the 1:45 Grand Tour of the estate. You get to see more of the stunning house this way and the Classic Tour doesn’t take you to the top floor.

Also, don’t forget to buy your tickets in advance because the tours often sell out. If the Grand Tour is sold out by the time you get your ticket, the Classic Tour will do just fine.

Tarrytown NY things to do
24 Hour Treasure

The gardens alone are worth the price of admission. They didn’t let us take pictures inside, so wear yourself out taking snaps of the sculpture garden, especially if it’s a nice day. I really dig the way the gold in this sculpture picks up the gold in the trees.

Fall is the best time to visit the gardens for the colors, but I’m sure it would also be lovely to come in warmer weather and see the rose garden in bloom.

Tarrytown NY things to do

24 Hours: Tarrytown NY Things to Do

Late Afternoon: Explore Tarrytown

It’s so fun to spend time exploring the best Tarrytown NY things to do, especially in October. The village really goes all out, probably in honor of the Headless Horseman, who many people do not realize was the first mayor of Tarrytown. That is why they keep his image on the street signs.

Spend your time with the best Tarrytown NY things to do just strolling around Main St. and seeing the decorations in the shop windows.

Tarrytown NY things to do
I’d die for some good olive oil…

You can also admire the way people have decorated their lawns, which range from cute…

to terrifying.

Also, if you encounter the Scarecrow Invasion, RUN! Those scarecrows don’t mess around and all they want is your BRAINS. Or possibly STRAW! They are scarecrows, after all.

If you get snacky, stop at Main Street Sweets on 35 Main St, which is one of the best Tarrytown NY things to do if you like sweets. They have terrific housemade ice cream and it’s a good place to sit if it starts to rain.

They invent some of their own flavors like Devon’s Dream, which is made with white chocolate, peanut butter cups, and chocolate covered almonds. YUM!

Be aware that things close kind of early in Tarrytown, so there’s only so much fun you’re going to be able to have shopping on Main St. I recommend making an early dinner reservation. 6PM should be fine.

24 Hours: Tarrytown NY Things to Do

Evening: Dinner at Sweet Grass Grill

Sweet Grass Grill is a terrific farm to table restaurant, and I eat here every time I enjoy the best Tarrytown NY things to do. They get their produce from many local farms, including the famous Stone Barns where Dan Barber is working to create the one perfect squash to rule us all.

My meal began with a pear Dark and Stormy because the one thing you can count on in autumn in the Hudson Valley, aside from the Scarecrow Invasion, is the presence of pear cocktails. I had four different pear cocktails in four different cities along the Hudson in one weekend one October. I regret nothing.

24 hours tarrytown ny things to do

Sweet Grass has many vegetarian and vegan options, and the vegan buffalo wings with vegan ranch or “blue cheese” dressing are almost always on the menu. I am not even slightly a vegan, but I think this appetizer does a good job simulating the flavors of a classic Buffalo wing. It loses points for authenticity because I can’t feel my arteries clogging as I eat it.

For a main course, I had the decided unvegan pork cheeks with root vegetable medley and Concord grape sauce. This dish exemplifies seasonality to me–is there anything better than a robustly roasted root in autumn? Also, do pork cheeks come from the pig’s face or its butt? It’s tasty to me either way, but I just want to know.

Tarrytown NY things to do

For dessert, I was treated to another seasonal delight: Gala apple confit with Concord grape on the side. I can never get enough Concord grapes.

Tasting it made me feel like I was a six year old feasting on the PB and J sandwich my mom tucked into my backpack. This was an especially tasty dessert because the Gala apple confit was tucked all snug as a pig’s cheeks into a little pastry envelope.

Except for the wings, probably none of these dishes will be on the menu when you check out the best Tarrytown NY things to do. Just get what’s in season, and you should have a high old time!

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24 Hours: Tarrytown NY Things to Do

Where to Stay?

If you’re spending a day with the best Tarrytown NY things to do, I suggest finding a hotel that will be a good base and spending at least a weekend exploring the different adorable towns in the Hudson Valley like Cold Spring, Beacon, and Ossining.

I recommend the Hotel Courtyard by Marriott in Tarrytown. It’s conveniently located just a couple of miles away from all the major attractions in Tarrytown like Sunnyside and Kykuit. Plus it’s a good value for money, and there’s a nice restaurant for breakfast there, so you can fuel up and hit the ground running for a full day of sightseeing!

Tarrytown NY things to do

Still, I know many travelers see the best Tarrytown NY things to do as a day trip from New York City, and if that’s the case for you, I recommend staying in the Artezen Hotel in Lower Manhattan. It’s very easy to get to Grand Central Station from here, which you have to do if you’re taking the train from NYC to Tarrytown. Plus, the rooms are affordable and cozy, and there’s free snacks, coffee, and fancy bath products in your room.

If you’d like a convenient and affordable hotel in NYC, click here.

And if low prices and a great location scare you, just click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay as the base for your 24 hours of the best Tarrytown NY things to do. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

That’s the Best Tarrytown NY Things to Do!

What do you think are the best Tarrytown NY things to do? Is anyone cooler than Washington Irving? And why is that Headless Horseman sneaking up behind you? Please email me at and let me know!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here.

You can also try the best things to do in Beacon NY. Check out the best things to do in the New York Renaissance Faire. Enjoy the best things to do in Cold Spring New York. Get to know the best things to do in Ossining NY. Find the best things to do near the Garrison New York train station. Experience the best attractions in Cooperstown NY.

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