Editor’s Note: New York by Rail updated this past blog experience to include current information.
Did you know Yonkers is the third largest city in New York behind Manhattan and Buffalo? Not many people do, and it’s because the city is a hidden gem in the Hudson Valley and the state. I was eager to spend my day in Westchester County in a city I had yet to explore.
You may not think of escaping into the great outdoors when you are visiting a city, but Yonkers is full of parks and trails. I was excited to embark on a bike ride through the South County Trailway, a portion of the Empire State Trail that stretches from Hastings on Hudson to Yonkers. I knew it was an ideal biking trail, so I took my bike on an Amtrak train, taking advantage of the recently expanded carry-on bike service available on Amtrak’s Northeast Service, including New York’s Empire Service, from Moynihan Train Hall to Yonkers Station. From the station, it was an easy ride to the trail, which is roughly 14 miles long.
Starting in the morning around 8:00 a.m. was the perfect time to experience the trail. The sunlight was pouring through the surrounding greenery and it was peacefully quiet.
A few fellow bike riders passed me by alongside runners, and people taking their morning walk. I couldn’t help but think that if I lived here, I’d be on this trail every morning. It’s paved making it easy to walk, run or bike, and it’s a short escape from the city.
Next on my list of favorites was Untermyer Gardens Conservancy. The gardens were by far my most anticipated stop on my trip, and it certainly did not disappoint. A quick Google search will show you a fraction of how gorgeous this place is, and if you’ve been spending time on TikTok recently, you might have caught a glimpse of its growing popularity.
I honestly was in awe at every turn. Right when I’d think I’d seen it all, I’d turn the corner or end a trail in an area more beautiful than the last. And if the gardens weren’t striking enough, the property overlooks the Hudson River, so nature is always in view no matter where you look. I couldn’t help but think that the gardens were the perfect date location if you want a day of leisure and beauty. It’s also a great place for taking photos. I really don’t think it’s possible to take a bad one here.
The Untermyer Gardens consist of several gardens on one property. The Walled Garden, The Vista, Color Gardens and Rose and Dahlia Garden, Rhododendron Walk, Ruin Garden, Temple of Love, Rock and Stream Garden, and the Sundial Garden are all fixtures of the park, and each are more stunning than the last.
According to untermyergardens.org, the gardens have a rich history dating all the way back to 1865. John Warring was the first to purchase the property, then former governor Samuel J. Tilden in 1879, and finally, Samuel J. Untermyer in 1899. In 1916, Williams Welles Bosworth was hired for landscaping, and in 1946, the gardens became a public park.
To expand on this history, guided tours are available at the park April through October. Tours can span anywhere between 75-90 minutes, providing an in-depth experience. Because some of the terrains in the garden aren’t the most accessible to traverse, tours at varying walking difficulties are offered. Different themed tours take place throughout the season as well.
I was visiting on a hot day, well into the mid to high 90s, so of course, I wanted a cold drink to beat the heat. But a good beer is key any time of the year. Yonkers has plenty of places to drink, but two places caught my eye: Yonkers Brewing Company and Nahmias Et Fils Distillery. The former is a popular spot near the waterfront, whereas the latter is a liquor producer.
Right along the waterfront, and close to some amazing restaurants, is Yonkers Brewing Company. This was the perfect place to sit down with an ice-cold drink before dinner. I don’t usually drink beer, but everything they had on tap sounded amazing. I ended up opting for a cider, which was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had.
The brewing company has both outdoor and indoor seating, and is very close to the Yonkers Amtrak Station. It was too hot to sit outside, but it’s definitely something I would do on a cooler day to get a glimpse of the Hudson River nearby.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say that finding good restaurants is probably the most important part of planning a getaway, whether it’s a day trip or a long weekend. I was in luck because I had a wide array of options to choose from, as the many restaurants of Yonkers offered an impressive variety of cuisine. But, I’m a seafood girl at heart, so I knew I had to sit down at Dolphin Restaurant and Bar and X2O Xaviars on Hudson. Both restaurants are right on the waterfront, and if you’re renting a car, valet parking is offered for both of the locations.
I decided to have lunch at the Dolphin Restaurant and Bar, a restaurant that’s been in Yonkers for the past 12 years. The venue is owned by the Rugova family, a family native to Yonkers. I had the pleasure of speaking to Jimmy Rugova, who just like everyone else I met in Yonkers, was incredibly friendly and welcoming.
Everything on the menu sounded so delicious, but my eyes stopped once I reached something I hadn’t seen before: Crab Nachos. How could I pass it up? The answer is, I couldn’t. The heaping pile of nachos decorated in a mix of cheeses, tortilla chips, jalapenos and crab landed on my table and though it was a large portion, my mother and I easily ate the whole thing.
Since I had a lot of walking to do after lunch, I wanted something light and opted for a Summer Salad, while my mother ordered the Shrimp Fried Rice. Both dishes were amazing and a satisfying midpoint to our day.
Dinner was a no-brainer. Right by the Dolphin Restaurant & Bar, overlooking the Hudson River, X2O Xaviars on Hudson is a must-visit for foodies. The chef of X2O is Peter X. Kelly, who’s renowned for running the Xaviars Restaurant Group. You may even recognize him from the Food Network’s Iron Chef.
We ordered a special, dumpling appetizer filled with shrimp and bacon. And for dinner, I got the Shellfish Crepe of Lobster, Shrimp, Crabmeat, Scallop with Star Anise Glaze, while my mother ordered the special, Pan Seared Rosemary Lamb Loin.
Everything was decadent and cooked to perfection, but dessert was probably my favorite part. We ordered the Crème Brûlée and Tiramisu, both of which were fantastic. On top of delicious food and cocktails, you can get a view overlooking the river with the New York City skyline visible in the distance.
The Hudson River Museum is the perfect stop for art lovers or people with children. Paintings from the Hudson River School of Painters, LGBTQ+ art, and interactive exhibitions can be found throughout the museum alongside a planetarium and a historic mansion.
The distillery is a little piece of Morocco in Westchester County. For over a decade, Nahmias Et Fils has been run by husband and wife, David and Dorit Nahmias. The Nahmias family has been making Mahia, a Moroccan whiskey for generations, perfecting their craft over the years. Today, the family produces their famous Mahia and serves as the producer for other brands of alcohol that can be found throughout New York. I was lucky enough to try a sample of Mahia which was nothing like what I was expecting. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but Mahia is sort of in a class of its own as it’s with figs. The flavors reminded me of Sambuca, except much tastier.
This hotel is a cozy place to stay while visiting the area.
Located on Tuckahoe Road, the Royal Regency is an optimal place to stay. And it’s not just a great place to lay your head at night. It’s also a site for amenities, parties, dining and more.
Just got off the train and have some time to kill? Walk along Yonkers’ waterfront area. The waterfront offers sweeping views of the NYC skyline, the Hudson River and the Palisades cliffs. And because it’s so close to Yonkers Brewing, Dolphin Restaurant and X2O, it’s the perfect place for a stroll after a hearty meal.