By Liz Susman Karp
While there’s no place like home, as the saying goes, there’s sometimes simply no space there to spare for every dear family member or friend who comes to visit or celebrate a holiday or special occasion. Fortunately, there is a wealth of lodging available locally where guests can stay without compromising family relationships, a friendship or the festive spirit.
“If I needed convenience,” said longtime Armonk resident Anita Greenwald, “and if the person did not drive, did not have a car and needed to be close, I would put them at La Quinta. It’s basic, it’s bare bones, but it’s very convenient so I would absolutely call there.” Additionally, she adds, “When we had my daughter’s bat mitzvah years ago, we had people who stayed at the Holiday Inn in Mount Kisco.”
Pleasantville empty nester Margaret Atkinson also uses those local spots for visiting relatives. When Atkinson and her husband downsized nine years ago, they wanted to continue to host big holiday celebrations in their home. “We lived in Chappaqua and when both of our kids were gone and finished with college, we downsized to a townhouse at Pleasantville Country Club. While it’s large, we have a large family,” she laughed. “And if we’re all here, there’s about 26, 27 of us; then we can’t accommodate everybody in our house.”
Reflecting further on holiday logistics, Atkinson suggested that transportation is also a consideration and appreciates her guests’ thoughtfulness, “When my family comes from out of town, they either drive or fly in and rent a car.” This means she does not need “to give one of our cars to someone to use or shuttle people back and forth” which is, she continued, “probably the most difficult part of having people at a hotel…“getting them back and forth without your having to leave on Thanksgiving morning to go pick people up…that sort of thing.”
If there is a need for a handicap accessible room, Atkinson suggests making sure the room is not oversold as happened to a cousin. “Overall,” she commented, “I would say that the experience we have had at the hotels locally has been a good one. But you’ve got to plan well in advance.”
On the flip side, when transportation is not an issue, the options increase substantially. “Of course, Armonk is so close to White Plains,” Greenwald pointed out, “so if someone had a car and did not mind a 15-minute drive…you have so many hotels in White Plains.”
Indeed, there are a number of well-known hotel chains at various price points in White Plains including the upscale Ritz-Carlton as well as the Crowne Plaza White Plains-Downtown, Cambria Suites, Hyatt House and Residence Inn by Marriott. Further west in Elmsford are the Sheraton, Hampton Inn and Westchester Marriott. A bit more old world-elegant in neighboring Tarrytown is the Castle Hotel & Spa, an 1897 medieval structure that has been transformed into a luxury hotel and spa with 31 guest rooms and suites and an award-winning restaurant as well.
An alternative to hotel chains is the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, a rustic haven for guests and an easy drive to Armonk. Situated on 405 wooded acres, the center, which is owned by the Girl Scouts of America, offers 52 comfortable guest rooms of varying sizes. For those thinking ahead like the Atkinsons, note that for the past two years the center has closed the last week of December and first days of January. Trivia fact: the County’s first hotel, Briarcliff Lodge, opened in 1902, near the Center.
Local bed & breakfasts are a charming option. Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua, also an acclaimed restaurant and event space, offers 14 gracious rooms all with en suite bathrooms and modern amenities. Actor and Bedford resident Richard Gere and friends restored the Bedford Post Inn in 2007. The property, a member of Relais & Chateau, a luxury lodging group, now boasts eight beautifully appointed guest rooms as well as two popular restaurants and a yoga studio.
Online platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) provide a non-traditional route fast becoming mainstream for all kinds of lodging needs. Elizabeth Schub Kamir rents out her quaint two-bedroom home in Chappaqua for half the year through Airbnb while teaching screenwriting in France and has found it to be very rewarding.
“Amazingly, there is a constant demand for my house,” reports Schub Kamir. “Who knew that so many people had so many reasons for wanting to stay in Chappaqua short term? I would say I have equal demand from Airbnb and local people who either know me or have been referred to me on Chappaqua Moms–most of whom are looking to escape renovation hell.”
“Most people are looking for a temporary place to stay while they renovate their homes, others come for work or to visit family in the area,” continued Schub Kamir. “I had another family last year whose daughter was at boarding school in Westchester; they wanted to be closer to her for a while. I have also had several guests from the city who want to test the water in Chappaqua. These are generally young families who want to experience life in the area before making the commitment to buy a home here.”
Schub Kamir’s long-term rentals have fostered enriching connections. “For me renting my home on Airbnb at times becomes a very personal experience,” she said. Currently hosting a family from Brazil for three months, she was able to help them register their daughter for high school and even put the student in touch with potential classmates.
“I knew what it was like to have a child start school in a new country and it was so gratifying to be able to ease the transition to for someone else…For me being a good Airbnb host is more than just providing a clean, pleasant home. It’s an opportunity to make a difference for people in unique situations.”
Using Airbnb or VRBO is vastly different than booking an established hotel directly or through a travel agent, which confirms an assured experience. It’s prudent for users to carefully follow all proper protocols as with any online transaction.
As nice as it is to gather family and friends to hearth and home for the holidays, it’s not always possible for everyone to stay in situ. Hosts don’t always have the extra room while guests often appreciate being able to return to a hotel for some quiet relaxation or breathing space after a long day of visiting. Regardless of where one stays, the goal is enhanced time together; we lucky residents can take advantage of ample options for lodging, as varied as the reasons for needing them, in and around Armonk.
Liz Susman Karp is a freelance writer and public relations practitioner. She, her husband and two teenage sons live in Briarcliff Manor near the site of Briarcliff Lodge where they used to explore the ruins when the boys were young.
LOCAL LODGING WEBSITES
La Quinta Inn & Suites,
Holiday Inn Mount Kisco, ihg.com
Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook, doralarrowwood.com
The Hyatt Regency,
Homestead Inn, homesteadinn.com
Crowne Plaza White Plains-Downtown, ihg.com
Residence Inn by Marriott, marriott.com
Westchester Marriott, marriott.com
Castle Hotel & Spa, castlehotelandspa.com
Edith Macy Conference Center, edithmacy.com
Crabtree’s Kittle House,
Bedford Post Inn,