Most of Riverdale’s fast, fun facts originate at Wave Hill. Consider the names that have stayed at its central house: Mark Twain, a young Teddy Roosevelt, and Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. Wave Hill is a sprawling 28-acre garden with the Wave Hill House as its center of activity. Built by attorney William Lewis Morris in the Greek Revival style in the 1840s, Wave Hill House received its name from the wave-like rolling hills (or, potentially, the way that mainlanders waved at boats floating down along the Hudson).
Owners changed several times, as did styles. Publisher William Henry Appleton recrafted the house in a Victorian villa style, and the daughter of a Mr. Perkins favored English country manor house details over Victorian decoration. Some renters also left a personal touch. Bashford Dean, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, added a Gothic-style wing that is now popular for wedding receptions. Toscanini left so many items behind that when he departed, the cleaners referred to his room as “Toscanini’s closet.” The house was finally donated to the city in 1960, and a new era for Wave Hill began.
Nowadays many programs are run from the house: concerts, workshops ranging from beekeeping to candle-making, and internships for school children. For the day visitor, Wave Hill’s indoor offerings include regular exhibitions at the Glyndor Gallery and fun craft-making activities for the kids. To meet some funky plants, step into the conservatory with its cactuses and tropical arrangements. Enjoy the Hudson River views from the Pergola, or lounge around on Conifer Slope.
Accessible from the last three stops of the 1 train (231st, 238th and 242nd), Riverdale already starts feeling less like the city and more like the suburbs, or even – in some parts – the wild. Tree-lined walks, generous yards and surprise wooded areas make the neighborhood a green oasis in New York. Nowhere is this more apparent than Riverdale Park. Though only minutes away from the Metro-North, this park feels like a slice of forest. Ferns, mossed-up oaks, and long shadows cast by old trees make this park a wonderful retreat from that trademark New York hustle n’ bustle.
Fieldston’s Delafield Park
This tranquil pond in the middle of Delafield Park is the perfect detour on a leisurely walk through Fieldston. Three benches and beautiful houses all around make for a peaceful atmosphere. As far as wildlife goes, the pond is frequented by ducks and has been known to host a stork in summer weather. Sometimes the water will be clear as day and other times the algal blooms take over. If you’re lucky you may even spot the orange-gold koi darting around and baby turtles following their mom to tan on a rock.