Westchester, NY is the perfect place to grow up
It’s not upstate
It was wonderful to grow up with New York City basically in my backyard. No, I didn’t live in Long Island, which is still, and always will be, one of the most painful comparisons. I grew up in Westchester, and it was perfect.
Westchester County was an ideal place to grow up. In one of the northernmost points of the county, a town called Cortlandt made my teen years feel like I was in a small town from a Lifetime movie. And like any small town, Cortlandt has a special place in my heart for making me who I am today.
When people who are not from Westchester think of Westchester, the first things that probably come to mind are: The Westchester Mall, rich people, Playland (and if you’ve been there, you know that it would’ve been better named Horrifyingland), and maybe even the Clintons’ estate. But let me be clear when I say that there’s way more to Westchester than BMWs and Gucci sneakers. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s true…
Westchester is what it is because of New York. And obviously, Metro North is your lifeline into it. From childhood school field trips to the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History, to running for the “drunk train” (the last one’s at 1:50 am, but you already knew that), the city being right there was an integral part of your childhood. If your parents didn’t work in the city, your friends’ parents did, or you knew at least one person who lived there. Times Square was the shit when you were 15. And the recent edition of the Yankee Stadium stop on Metro North meant more baseball games in the summer.
The Hudson River Valley
Apart from being the neighbor of New York, Westchester is really freakin’ pretty. Springs, summers, and autumns were all spent outside as often as possible. When you were a kid you probably played in your local town soccer league, baseball league, or on a lacrosse team. There’s a likely chance you even volunteered as a coach for your siblings too.
And of course you knew all the best views and hiking spots in, or around, Westchester. Anthony’s Nose is nearby, for you northern Westchester people. And you’re a 20-minute drive from Breakneck Ridge, Bear Mountain and The Palisades (the park, not the mall… but that also).
Even if hiking isn’t your thing, there are tons of public parks along the Hudson River with paths to run, playgrounds, and pretty views. The Croton Landing, Croton Point Park, George’s Island Park, and the Peekskill Riverfront were all within ten minutes of my house, and the frequent hangout spots in high school.
Who decided that so much of your social life would take place at the mall or shopping center near you? Westchester did. Being at the mall with your friends as a kid was the shit. Growing up, you had things to shop for anyway—there were always bar/bat mitzvahs and sweet 16s to attend. My excitement for the mall has drastically declined since I moved to the city, but as a kid in Westchester, it was the coolest thing to do in my free time.
Delis and coffee houses
Your local deli, wherever in Westchester that may be, is your home base. It’s the place you return from college and drive immediately to, because the BECs and sandwiches are as homesick-worthy as your family. I would bet that the Montrose Deli serves every resident in my town.
Starbucks is hardly relevant in northern Westchester. After getting my license, I spent many hours at the local coffee houses with my friends. In my opinion, the coffee house is one of the things that Westchester outdoes New York City in, if we don’t count Central Perk. The Peekskill Coffeehouse and The Black Cow were the two greatest spots to hang in high school, and it was considered strange if you didn’t run into a familiar face there.
NO. The worst part of being from Westchester is the need to explain this to every Long Islander and city native you meet. It’s not upstate. But no matter how many maps you pull out, you’re already labeled as “someone from upstate.”
But hey, if that’s the one downside, then Westchester is pretty awesome.