Kykuit Tour: Visiting the Rockefeller Estate in Sleepy Hollow, NY
"Secret Garden" doesn't begin to describe the lush setting that welcomes you as you step off the Kykuit shuttle bus to a four-generation home turned museum: the Rockefeller estate in Sleepy Hollow, NY.
Day Trip from NYC by Train or Car
One of the best things about visiting the Rockefeller Estate’s Kykuit Mansion is its proximity to NYC by train or car. Hop on the Metro North if you don’t have a vehicle and you’ll be enjoying one of the best things to do in Westchester / Sleepy Hollow, NY in less than an hour.
Kykuit Tours: The Rockefeller Estate Classic Tour
There are different Kykuit tours you can choose from if you want to visit the Rockefeller Estate. They are offered by Historic Hudson Valley.
I chose the Classic Tour; I picked up my ticket for the one o'clock Classic Tour of the estate 30 minutes early as instructed. The tour lasts 2+ hours and the forecasted rain and summer humidity had me already second guessing choosing a walking tour in July heat.
Our guide, Susan greeted us at the waiting area outside of the Visitor Center / Gift Shop and luckily, our shuttle was well air-conditioned. Within five minutes familiar Westchester surroundings came to a halt as a large gate opened to mark the beginning of our journey through the Rockefeller estate.
Here are the Kykuit Tours offered as of 2019:
Classic Tour: 2.25 hours, $15-28pp (runs Thurs-Sun throughout the day)
Grand Tour: 3 hours, $30-40pp (runs at 9:45am, 1:45pm Thurs-Fri, 3pm Sat-Sun)
Landmark Tour: 2.25 hours, $15-28pp (only runs at 11am Thurs-Sun)
Timesaver Tour: 1.5 hours, $15-28pp (runs Thurs-Sun throughout the day)
Group Tours (discounts on the aforementioned Kykuit Tours)
The Meaning of "Kykuit"
"Kykuit", dutch for "Look out", represents the high hill that the Rockefeller Estate rests on, offering views overlooking the Hudson River and New York City skyline.
An Estate Influenced by English and Italian Design
Influenced by Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy (which I recognized from my trip to Florence), John D. Rockefeller, Jr. chose a fountain statue of Oceanus to stand directly across the manor front entrance.
The standing 20th century home was built by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and lavishly decorated by his junior. The Classic Kykuit Tour gave us insight about Junior and his son, (Governor) Nelson's love for art, sculpture, and automobiles, amongst other treasures.
From the romantic English-style gardens, to the Italian-style garden rooms adjacent to the Rockefeller house, sculpture collection, and five-hole reversible golf course, the 4,000 acres of landscape gives the opulent six-story stone mansion a run for its money (and lots of it), some might say.
Inside the Rockefeller Estate’s Six-story Kykuit Mansion:
Still in a nostalgic fog of my time exploring the garden fountain, the Kykuit front porch made of limestone led me through grand double doors and into the historical home, with a men's and women's room on either side of me.
The men's room gave me a glimpse of the working Rockefeller, his desk, and hobbies, while the women's room told a story of card games and planning what is now the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA: founded by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of Rockefeller Junior).
In-home elevators dressed the decorated halls and an open, atrium-style chamber purposed for enjoying music divided the front gender-based quarters from the back of the house. I paused to imagine the family often sitting in this area before I turned and entered a small room housing decorated china collections from around the world.
Through a discrete door, our guide led us into a large kitchen pantry that would put some New York City studio apartments to shame. The annunciator alone was indication of the house's size and grandeur. Each visitor and guest were marked on this device in order to keep track of who was where (and when).
Other rooms explored during this Kykuit tour were the dining room, library, tea room, and basement featuring an elaborate collection of modern art.
Picasso tapestries draped the basement walls and temperature controlled settings ensured each work of brilliance was properly preserved.
Before our departure, we were shuttled to the massive Coach Barn, where antique carriages, automobiles, and other gems remained stored and on display.
Why Don't the Rockefellers Live in the Kykuit Estate Anymore?
Well it was just too much work, frankly. There is still one "small" house (originally built on the estate as a playhouse for the children) that family members use to gather and have events but overall, the main Kykuit residence proved to require too much maintenance and Nelson, Rockefeller Junior's son decided to share his childhood home and grounds with the public.
Important Wellness Tips For Your Visit to the Kykuit Rockefeller Estate
Be mindful of the weather forecast when you tour the grounds. The Rockefeller gardens are not completely shaded so if sun is an issue for you, make sure to lather on the sunscreen.
Food isn't allowed on the Kykuit tour so eat something beforehand and make sure you bring a bottle of water. Within 30 minutes I was already thirsty. Note: you cannot drink inside the house so hydrate outdoors whenever you can.
Save this inside look at the Kykuit Rockefeller Estate and share it with anyone looking for NYC day trips in Westchester. History fanatics, era design and art enthusiasts, and luxe lovers will really enjoy the Kykuit mansion and gardens.
For Information about the Rockefeller Estate and Kykuit tours, check out the Hudson Valley website.
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