Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, New York

Most people think of Manhattan, and the greater New York metro, as the home of skyscrapers and “concrete jungles.” But there are plenty of preserved outdoor places to enjoy all year. Last spring, we enjoyed exploring the Met Cloisters and we were members of the New York Botanical Garden for years and went each season to see new exhibits and perennial favorites. This weekend, we had the opportunity to visit the Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, New York and it won’t be our only visit!

What began in 1862 as a property featuring a granite mansion for a local industrialist and then a retirement home for New York governor Samuel J. Tilden became a 150 acre property for respected lawyer Samuel Untermyer and his family. Untermyer and his wife, Minnie Carl, were well known philanthropists, patrons of the arts, and horticulturists. Untermyer commissioned the same architect who designed the nearby Rockefeller estate Kykuit (also a great place to explore!) to design the gardens. At its peak in the mid 1930s the gardens were supplied with flowers grown in 60 greenhouses. The Untermyers opened the property to the public one day a week and intended it to become a state park after their death. However, parts of the property were sold off and the mansion was demolished. In the 2010s a Conservancy was formed to help restore the property and gardens and the now 43 acre site, owned by the City of Yonkers, is open to the public.

Travel Tips:

  • The gardens are free to visit 360 days a year (closed on New Year’s Day, MLK Jr Day, Presidents Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The gardens open at 9am and close at varying times throughout the year- check here for up to date information.
  • There are about 75 free parking spaces in two lots in front of the gardens, and additional metered parking is available on the street. Information on public transportation and driving directions here.
  • Check out special programs and events, including Sunday tours, and kid friendly events.
  • Restrooms are located near the main gate.
  • Information on nearby dining and lodging options can be found here
  • Find a full trail map and garden description guide here.
  • Plan on 70-90 minutes to walk the trails through the entire property.

A note about accessibility: Many of the trails are flat and covered in wood chips or gravel and are wide enough for wheelchairs and strollers. However, some spaces (like the Vista) are on an incline/decline and have lots of steps. Some spaces are open and easy for little ones (or anyone not paying attention) to fall into the water (like the Walled Garden). 

Six Spaces to Explore at Untermyer Park: 

  1. The Police and Fire Memorial: Located on a slight hill across from the parking lot, near the main entrance, the memorial was built in 2004 with donations from several local organizations and community members. There are four granite monuments, centered around an angel statue, with the names of local police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty, flags, and benches for quiet reflection. 
  2. The Walled Garden, which includes the amphitheater, Temple of the Sky, and Persian Pool: This was our favorite spot in the park. Based on the Garden of Eden, the main feature is the four canals with adjacent stone paths and cement bridges that crisscross the garden. There are several sculptures and columns throughout the garden, as well as mosaic tiling. The Temple of the Sky rotunda offers views down into the Persian Pool and lower terrace.  A wide variety of flowers and plants outline just about every feature of the garden and bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Note: The Persian Pool is under restoration through 2023.
  1. The Vista, which was restored in 2017, follows a 136 steps path down to a platform, anchored by two Roman marble columns, with a stunning view of the Hudson River. The path is accessible by an enchanting doorway at the edge of the Walled Garden.
  2. The Ruin Garden, which includes the nearby ornamental Vegetable Garden and Orchard, Grotto, and Vista Overlook. Walk down the Vista steps and find the sunflower and vegetable gardens, which are tended to by students at the local high school.  Continue down the short series of steps to the Rhododendron Walk that comes to life during spring months and a replica of the original gardens. The garden is adjacent to the remains of the Gate House, with interior walls covered in graffiti  that was intentionally left. Make sure to look for the lion and unicorn sculptures and peek inside the Grotto (you’ll hear the running water from a distance).
  1. The Temple of Love: Start at the bottom and follow the stone steps that run parallel to the waterfalls. There are a few cement benches at the base of the largest waterfall and a beautiful space inside the rotunda. The rotunda also offers beautiful views of the Hudson River. Various flowers thrive from April through October.
  2. The Rock and Stream Garden: Numerous rock formations and garden beds center around a waterfall that streams towards the Temple of Love. Various plants and perennial flowers bloom from April through October.

Bonuses:

  1. The Trails: The mile long Carriage Trail intersects the Aqueduct and Warburton Avenue; the Woodland Trail weaves through the southern portion of the property and passes the Switchback Fountain.
  2. Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park: Pick up the 26 mile trail right in front of the Ruins Garden . The National Historic Landmark runs throughout Westchester County, from Yonkers to Cortlandt. See related maps here and here.

Looking for nearby family fun? Check out our posts on the Met Cloisters, the New York Botanical Garden, Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, and our index of New York City posts. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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7 Comments

  1. Wow, about a beautiful place to spend the day, thank you so much for sharing this guide. 🙂 I’d love to stroll The Walled Garden, I can definitely see the resemblance with the Garden of Eden!

  2. Wow! It’s gorgeous. It’s sad, though, that their wishes were not originally honored and that the mansion was demolished. Glad to see that the gardens are being maintained now.

  3. These gardens look wonderful. It would not be the first thing on my “tourist” itinerary (time poor, budget etc. , coming from Europe) but I can see this as a nice “break” day when you need a bit of rest and quiet. Lovely post, thank you for sharing!

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