Kykuit: The Rockefeller Estate in the Hudson Valley

You know that I love to know different, unusual, and not obvious places here in New York, right? And I love to explore the areas outside the city. One of my goals for this fall/winter season is to visit attractions and towns in the Hudson Valley. Last Sunday, we were at Kykuit, the Rockefeller family residence, located in Sleepy Hollow. The hilltop paradise was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, beginning with the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. His business acumen made him, in his day, the richest man in America. The residence – as well as its gardens – are part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and has been maintained for over 100 years.

Our tour begins in the shuttle bus that departs from the Visitor Center and ends at Kykuit. Audio give us an introduction about how the house was built and other details. The path is breathtaking: the city has a super countrified atmosphere and the Fall landscape is magical. The residence has a huge green area – including golf courses and sculptures that are similar to those at Storm King Sculpture Park. The bus leaves us in front of the residence, where the tour begins. The guide explains several interesting facts and curiosities: all the details have some meaning.

We pass through several rooms of the house – is not allowed to take pictures inside. The family appreciated arts in general and you can realize this fact by the paintings and sculptures – from different origins and styles –  in the house. Many pieces from the family collection are now at the Metropolitan Museum – but the house still has an impressive collection. In the basement, there is a real art gallery, with a larger number of paintings and sculptures. The artists include Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and David Smith, among many others. The cavernous Coach Barn, with its collections of classic automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, is also part of the experience.

I’m not gonna lie that I was actually looking forward to checking the gardens. As the residence is in an elevated area, there is a wonderful view of the Hudson River, sculptures, and the fall landscape, breathtaking. I must confess that Kykuit makes me remember the Palace of Versailles in France. The guide explained that the standards that the family lived, at that time, were very simple. It was also nice to know more about their philanthropic feeling and how they encouraged new artists by buying their paintings. Unfortunately, it rained while we were there, which didn’t allow us to explore a very nice area of the gardens. Still, it was amazing. Our guide said that the place is also very beautiful in the spring.

How to get there? By Metro-North trains. Trains depart from Grand Central and also from 125th St, Harlem. You can buy your ticket on the machines and you choose Round trip, destination Tarrytown. Prices may vary depends if you choose peak or off-peak. In our case, it was a Sunday and we spent $20 per person, round trip. Check the screens with information about the train to know the track of your train. Keep your ticket. We departed from Harlem at 12:54 and we arrived there at 1:20 pm. Fast! The path goes by the edge of the Hudson River. Once you arrive in Tarrytown, there are several taxis waiting in the area. From the train station to the Visitor Center are about 5 minutes and the ride costs from $8 to $10.

Tours – you can visit Kykuit through one of the offered tours. We chose the Classic Tour, which is great for those visiting the place for the first time. It costs $25 on weekdays and $28 (Friday to Sunday). I recommend buying your ticket in advance on the website. We bought tickets for the 2:30 pm tour – and the visit took about 2 and a half hours. We arrived at the visitor center in advance and headed to the counter to pick up our tickets – you receive a sticker with the date and time of your tour. You can present your train ticket to get a discount of $5 on the Kykuit ticket.  When you return, you can call a taxi from the Visitor Center to get to the train station.

Operation: Kykuit doesn’t open all year. The season begins in early May through mid-November. From May to September and in November, Kykuit opens from Thursday to Sunday. In October, it opens every day.

Important information: Food is not allowed – you can only bring water. There is also no place to eat – there is only a coffee place at the Visitor Center. But the city has some restaurants. Our intention was to eat at some of them after the tour, but we were very wet because of the rain and we decided to go home. As I mentioned earlier, you can not take pictures inside the house. Also, please note that you can only visit the site through one of the tours and no one has permission to walk alone on the property. This fact particularly frustrated me, because I really wanted to walk across the place, it is too beautiful! Still, I loved Kykuit and I was curious to check out the place in the spring. Also, I did not think it was a long trip – we left home at noon and were back before 7 pm.

 I hope you liked this post!


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