New York City gets plenty of attention from groups, but those looking for effective meetings outside the big city might take a look north. Westchester County has been expanding its event offerings and boasts plenty of hidden gems planners will want to consider. Successful Meetings spoke with Natasha Caba Caputo, director of Westchester County Tourism and Film, as well as president of Hudson Valley Tourism, about what's new in this vibrant part of the state.
What's new in the county for groups?
The Westchester is a premier shopping destination in Westchester County in the Hudson Valley. With total sky lighting above marble and carpeted floors below, commissioned sculptures, and unequaled customer service, all the amenities of Madison and 5th Avenues are available under one roof. The Westchester is reinventing itself with Savor. Savor is the newest dining experience with fantastic eateries, including al fresco patio dining.
Spins Hudson in Peekskill, a 37,000-square-foot waterfront sports and entertainment complex, opened this month. Spins Hudson gives groups the opportunity to bond as they navigate the four-level aerial ropes course, compete in the laser tag arena, and unwind in the sizeable arcade. Attendees can also try their hand at bocce and shuffleboard, and relax at the Captain Lawrence Brewery or the casual seafood restaurant on property. With a seasonal patio that can hold 6,000 and an event space called Factoria, this brand new space can host events of all sizes.
What's a venue or activity that's a "hidden gem" for visiting groups?
Caramoor Center for Music and Arts is home to one of the nation's top five outdoor festivals and is the leading venue for the American Roots Festival that offers a day full of folk, country, bluegrass, gospel, blues, singer/songwriter, string band, old time, and everything in between.
For seven weeks each summer, two outdoor theaters resonate with the music of the world's finest classical, pops, opera, and jazz artists. During fall and spring, the entertainment moves indoors to the Music Room.
What's a good outing for a group looking to get a sense of culture or history?
The mission of Historic Hudson Valley is to celebrate the history, architecture, landscape, and culture of the Hudson Valley, advancing its importance and thereby assuring its preservation. Historic Hudson Valley is a not-for-profit education organization that interprets and promotes historic landmarks of national significance in the Hudson Valley for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. One of these landmarks is Kykuit, home to four generations of the Rockefeller family, beginning with the philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. Hs business acumen made him, in his day, the richest man in America. Now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this extraordinary landmark has been continuously and meticulously maintained for more than 100 years.
Where should a group go to get a truly local culinary experience?
Crabtree's Kittle House Restaurant & Inn, named after local farmer John Kittle, was built as a barn in 1790. It's appropriate that the Kittle Barn and Carriage House began its existence with a farm-to-table connection, a philosophy and tradition that has continued throughout the years.
For more than three decades, Peter X. Kelly has set the standard for dining in New York State. Peter Kelly's X20 Xaviars on the Hudson is one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the Hudson Valley. The restaurant's contemporary American Cuisine brings dining to a new level by providing guests with exquisite food and superb service. X2O Xaviars on the Hudson is Peter X Kelly's latest addition to the Xaviars Restaurant Group. It sits on the water on the only turn-of-the-century Victorian pier still in use on the Hudson River.
Then there is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills. The Barbers helped create the philosophical and practical framework for Stone Barns Center, a working four-season farm and educational center just 30 miles north of New York City, and continue to help guide it in its mission to create a consciousness about the effect of everyday food choices. Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms, Blue Hill at Stone Barns highlights the abundance of the Hudson Valley. There are no menus at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Instead, guests are offered a multi-taste feast featuring the best offerings from the field and market.
Anything else that you think makes your city a great destination for groups?
Our hotels can accommodate groups of any size, from intimate gatherings to large corporate outings. Westchester is a convenient and accessible location, whether a group is looking for tranquil scenery along the Hudson or a happening city vibe. The county is also rich in history, arts and culture and has a fantastic food scene. Our tourism partners are well versed in keeping up with trends -- from farm-to-table to technology. The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester and the Westchester Marriott have recently undergone renovations. Meeting and event professionals should look no further than Westchester County.