Fall Day Trip: Washington Irving’s Sunnyside

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

The grounds at Sunnyside.

Much as we love New York, we also love a change of scene. Especially when the scenery looks like this. Last weekend, we headed with friends to the Hudson River Valley home of writer Washington Irving, who penned that famously spooky tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was a fun fall/Halloween outing with kids.

Here’s the scoop on Washington Irving’s Sunnyside.

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

Irving's getaway, overlooking the Hudson River.

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

So, what’s up with Sunnyside?

Dating from 1835, Washington Irving’s home sits on the banks of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. The cottage, setting, and views of the Hudson are beautiful, and well worth the trip on their own. Tour the home, picnic on the grounds, tell the kids all about the Headless Horseman and let them run wild and take part in simple, homespun crafts.

Plan ahead, though: This is a popular fall destination for families — buy tickets in advance AND make sure to see which activities happening the weekend of your visit require reservations in addition to your admission ticket.

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

Three or four heads are better than one.

What is there for kids to do?

There’s a puppet show, a bonnet- and hoop-skirt-wearing magician (Magnolia deemed her “beautiful”), and cute period crafts — make a scarecrow (lucky for us, we had help from Superman), walk on stilts, roll hoops across the lawn. The kids found all of this way low-tech fun just as enjoyable as the fancy stuff we sometimes do.

And there’s plenty of room to run up and down hills and over picturesque bridges. As we have kids who rarely stop moving, this was a big bonus.

There’s also a Spooky Walk which was wildly popular — but truth? Other than a mild ghost story which went over the kids’ heads, there was nothing spooky about it. We were hoping for at least a glimpse of a staged body hanging from a tree, but nothin’. My two cents: it’s skip-able.

How long does it take to get there?

Not long. About 45 minutes to an hour from Brooklyn, depending on traffic. Here are directions.

What’s the sitch with food?

They sell simple picnic fare, sweet treats, and coffee. Or you can bring your own and picnic on the grounds with the price of admission.

Are they about to close for the season?

No! They’re open on weekends through December 26 — look for tours, fun, and events this weekend, Halloween, and also for special Thanksgiving Weekend events. In December, they hold Evening Candlelight Tours starting at 4pm — I’m sure they’d be gorgeous.

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

Wide open spaces.


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