My family and I recently went to Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, NY at the suggestion of my husband, an architect. How I have not visited this spectacular outdoor space just 20 minutes away from my home in Westchester, and just north of the city, I’m not sure. But for anyone living in or visiting the New York area, I strongly urge you to pay a visit, and soon! (and actually, I should’t say pay, as it’s free). It is one of the most exquisite gardens you will ever see. Known as “Eden on the Hudson”, this Persian-Indo garden was designed and based on the Garden of Eden; and, upon entering, indeed it’s like walking into paradise and going back in time. A City of Yonkers public park, it was once the home of Samuel Untermyer, a prominent corporate lawyer (as well as leader of the anti-Nazi movement), who in 1899 purchased the estate, named Greystone, from Samuel Tilden, former Governor of New York. Untermyer expanded the land to over 150 acres, with the intention of building the “finest garden in the world”, set atop and sloping down the Hudson River.
And that he did. Hiring Beaux-Arts architect William Wells Bosworth, of Rockefeller fame, to design the gardens, he created what the press in the 1920’s called “America’s Most Spectacular Garden”. Maintained by 60 gardeners and supplied by 60 greenhouses, it was a great personal triumph for Untermyer, a horticulturalist himself, and he opened the gardens to the public for all to see in the 1920’s and 1930’s. When Untermyer passed away in 1940, the gardens went into ruins as they were very expensive to maintain. Today the City of Yonkers owns 43 acres, and although much is still in ruins, the core is still intact. The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy was established to restore the gardens, along with the help of the Founding Director of Horticulture at Wave Hill in the Bronx. For those of you familiar with Wave Hill (another gem – see my post here), I should say they are in good hands!
As for the lay-out of the gardens, they are composed of seven sections: the Walled Garden, The Vista, the Color Gardens, the Vista Overlook, the Woodland Trail, the Temple of Love and the Rock Garden. Together they form what the Conservancy calls “a garden for the world”, drawing inspiration from Persia, India, Spain, Italy and Greece. The Walled Garden, based on the Garden of Eden, has criss-crossing canals, which symbolize the four ancient rivers; the crenellated walls are characteristic of Persian and Indian traditions; there is an amphitheater with Italian influences; and there also stands a phenomenal large Grecian temple atop what used to be a swimming pool. The Vista, as it is called, is a doorway in the northern part of the Walled Garden, and when you walk through it you come upon a magnificent stairway leading down to the Hudson. It is an amazing sight, one that was modeled after a Renaissance garden on Lake Como in Italy. At the bottom of the stairs you come to the Vista Overlook, containing two monolithic ancient Roman columns. The Temple of Love and Rock Gardens are equally as impressive, with their waterfalls and rock formations. Walking through the entire park is like walking into another world, a time machine taking you back to the former glory of what this garden and estate used to look like. It’s simply amazing.
How did the kids hold up? The gardens are a great place of adventure and wandering around for families. They do not, however, have food or beverages, so if you are going when it is sunny and hot out, make sure to go prepared. We were not prepared on the water front, and my girls were very thirsty the entire time. But besides that they had a ball, as it was like one big ancient playground. Pack a picnic and stay a while.
Untermyer Park and Gardens, 945 North Broadway, Yonkers, NY 10701. 914.613.4502 Admission: Free Hours: 7:00 a.m. – Sunset every day. Walled Garden Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7:00 a.m. – Sunset. Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – Sunset. Closed on Major Holidays from November to March.
Cape Cod: lazy summer days on the beach, sand grass blowing in the dunes, the Nantucket Sound illuminating under the sun, a bike ride into town for a lobster roll or ice cream at some old-fashioned New England outpost. That’s what people think of when they think of the Cape. There is a slowness to this Massachusetts summer haven, and a low-key vibe that makes it so popular to visit. Especially with city dwellers in Boston and New York, it’s the ultimate seaside retreat – it’s the very definition of rest and relaxation amidst beauty and tranquility. Read More
When people think of visiting or vacationing in New York City, usually the term New York is synonymous with Manhattan. That’s where Times Square and Broadway are after all, not to mention the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. So many of the city’s big attractions are located in Manhattan, and indeed it is a fascinating place to visit (see my post on Top 10 Family Destinations in Manhattan). But Manhattan is one of five boroughs, and just a part of the puzzle that makes up New York City. There are four other wonderful boroughs that deserve exploring as well. One of our favorites is the Bronx. Home to the Bronx Zoo of course – one of NYC’s most visited attractions – but there are also some other really great gems in this part of the city. Here are fifi + hop’s Top 5 Family Destinations in the Bronx: Read More
When people think of New York City, kids is not the first thing that comes to mind. This busy metropolis conjures images of tall buildings, business suits, a buzzing nightlife, people on the move, a sophistication unto itself. Yet New York has become increasingly more child-friendly, with more attractions for families than ever before. The city’s sheer size and density can make the prospect of visiting with kids both exciting and overwhelming. On the one hand there is so much to see and do, yet on the other, the crowds and general fast-pace way of life can seem daunting. Where do you begin, what should you leave in, and what should you leave out? Below are fifi + hop’s top picks to help guide the way. Some are obvious choices, while others are a little more off the beaten path. There will be 5 different posts for each borough, and to start off we’ll cover Manhattan. From museums to parks to shows to cultural sites to the best views of the city, Manhattan has it all. Here are fifi + hop’s Top 10 Family Destinations in Manhattan: Read More
For Father’s Day my family and I decided to take a trip to Grace Farms in New Canaan, CT for our architect dad. A former 80 acres horse farm, Grace Farms was transformed into essentially a community center – but one like no other. Built by the renowned Japanese architecture firm SANAA, the five circular buildings that make up the center are referred to as the “River”. Meant to integrate into the land and its natural surroundings, the buildings are all interconnected by walkways and courtyards and weave in and around the landscape, like a river. With large glass-wrapped windows in each of the buildings, one can see through to the outside, and the beauty of the country setting, at any given point. The buildings, with their roofed walkways leading to one another, almost seem part of the landscape, which is the premise of the project. Read More
Newport, Rhode Island is one of those New England cities that if you have visited, you’ll find a way to visit again. Located on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, this seaside resort is popular for so many reasons. Apart from its views of the bay and Atlantic Ocean, it has an incredibly charming and historical downtown, filled with cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, a picturesque harbor, and a plethora of shops, restaurants and bars. It’s very lively and bustling, making you want to stroll around for hours. Newport is also home to the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, and for years it hosted America’s Cup; there is a lot going on in this “city-by-the sea”. And then of course there are the famous Gilded Age Newport mansions on Bellevue Avenue, the Cliff Walk and the beaches, and more. Newport breathes history and allure, and transports you back to an era long ago, all the while feeling modern and happening at the same time. It’s this combination that makes you want to go back and visit again and again. There simply is no other place like Newport.
Living in the New York area, people always think of the Hamptons as the place to go during the summertime. Sure it’s beautiful and fun and has great beaches, but it’s not the only retreat around for busy New Yorkers. Of course there’s the Jersey Shore, the Connecticut countryside, the Adirondacks, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the list goes on…and there’s also the state of Rhode Island. A 3-4 hour drive from New York City, Rhode Island offers historical seaside towns, long sandy beaches, and a low-key vibe, all without the heavy traffic of Long Island. That’s perhaps what I love about Rhode Island the most- just how easy it is to get there. A straight shot up north on I 95 (or the leafy Merrit Parkway for part of it) and before you know it you’ve crossed the Connecticut border and are in the land of some of New England’s most beautiful summer vacation destinations. Read More
I lived in New York City for 12 years, and somehow I never made it to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in Upper Manhattan. Funny since I almost got married in Fort Tryon Park, a beautiful 8 mile park set majestically atop the Hudson River, and home to the Cloisters. But I suppose that’s the wonderful thing about New York City – you can never discover too much, as there is always more. So when my family and I had about a four hour block of time this past weekend, I said let’s go to the Cloisters, once and for all. Read More
Wow, time certainly does fly, as May marks fifi + hop’s 1 year anniversary! Thank you to all my readers for following along and for all your support! It really means a lot to me. I decided when I first started this blog that at some crucial point along the way I would reveal the story behind fifi + hop. What better time than now. So what – and who – are fifi + hop?! Read More
On Florida’s west coast, just east of Fort Myers, lie the beautiful islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Long known for their magnificent shelling, white sand beaches and spectacular sunsets, these sister islands are more than just another pretty Florida destination. With miles of wildlife refuge conservation, beach shack bungalows and no high rises to speak of, the overall feel is laid-back and low-key. If you want to get away from it all, this is the place. A true island escape with a ton of outdoor day activity and serene quiet nights, Sanibel and Captiva will give you that ultimate peace of mind you’re looking for. Read More