Katonah is a charming Westchester County hamlet. It is well-known for its historic charm, fashionable shops, and major cultural institutions. It is one of three hamlets that make up the town of Bedford, New York, and has had famous residents throughout history, from John Jay to Martha Stewart. The town’s roots date back to Colonial times, but exploring its earliest history requires scuba gear. Katonah bears the name of the Native American chief who sold land to the town of Bedford. The entire village was rolled to its current location in 1897 to make way for the construction of the New Croton Dam. The expanded Muscoot Reservoir covers the old village site.
The town’s relics comprise the current downtown. Visitors to Katonah’s downtown are forgiven for feeling as if they’ve stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting. The town has a variety of attractions, including:
- Historic homes
- And nature trails
Making it an ideal day trip or weekend destination. Katonah is a great day trip destination with a rich history, vibrant community, and a variety of attractions that are open all year.
Ready to poke around the best things to do in Katonah, NY? Let’s get into it:
- Explore Katonah, NY for a scenic escape with historic sites, art museums & more!
- Get lost in nature at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation or explore nearby towns like Bedford and Yorktown.
- Uncover Sleepy Hollow’s mystery and magic, perfect for an extra spooky Halloween adventure!
A Brief History of Katonah, New York
Katonah is named after Chief Katonah. This American Indian sachem sold Bedford’s land to English colonists.
Locals supported the Continental side during the American Revolution. Some joined the New York 4th Regiment of the Line, though the majority joined the local Militia. Despite being on “Neutral Ground,” Bedford Township was attacked by both sides. The area suffered thanks to its proximity to the Croton River and the “Westchester Lines,” defended by Continental Army units.
Back in 1897, Katonah, a humble town, was uprooted and moved to make room for the New Croton Dam and the Muscoot Reservoir. The Katonah Village Improvement Society and landscape architects B.S. and G.S. Olmstead were the masterminds behind the “New” Katonah. The layout is a Celtic cross-shaped town with grand boulevards and abundant greenery.
Katonah was just one of many settlements in the northern parts of Westchester and Putnam counties wiped off the map. And all for the creation of the Croton Watershed, a crucial part of New York City’s drinking water supply. When New York City announced plans to flood the village in April 1893, the residents of Katonah, instead of accepting their fate, chose to move.
Katonah was a mill town on the Cross River back then. The Katonah Land Company bought farmland a mile south, and the villagers buckled down to move about 55 buildings, including:
- And a church
To their new home. Many of these buildings were dragged, fully intact, by draft horses along tracks of soaped-up timbers. Families were still living them in more than a few while they moved.
This bold move, questionable to some, established Katonah as one of America’s first planned suburbs. And strategic thinking over haphazard expansion is what makes Katonah so charming today.
Today, Katonah still stands as a snug and inviting hamlet, a refuge for a lively community, and a haven for art. It sits a comfortable 45 miles from the throbbing heart of Manhattan, offering a respite from the relentless pace of city life.
Martha Stewart, who lived on a large estate in Katonah, wanted to show appreciation to the town in 2007. She filed a trademark for a new line of furniture, aptly named the “Katonah Collection.” Representatives of Stewart argued that this was a gesture of reverence. It was an attempt to capture the unique spirit of the town in the form of tables, chairs, and perhaps a tasteful ottoman or two. And yet, the local community, represented by:
- Katonah Village Improvement Society
- Katonah Architectural Hardware
- With the Ramapough Mountain Indians at their back
Saw a storm brewing on the legal horizon. The fear was that if Stewart succeeded in branding the name, they’d be caught in the crossfire.
It’s still in the courts, as far as this writer is aware.
The Best Things to do in Katonah, NY
Perched atop the urban jungle of New York City, Katonah, a small hamlet, has witnessed a metamorphosis over the last thirty years. From a town of toil and sweat, it has transformed into a haven for the well-heeled. Bedford’s zoning laws and its location within the New York City watershed have kept the growth in check, but it hasn’t dimmed the town’s allure. It’s the most happening place in the area. But Katonah isn’t just about art and music. It’s a town that refuses to be pigeonholed.
John Jay Homestead
Katonah’s National Historic Landmark, the John Jay Homestead, is a goldmine for American history. Here, you can wander through the immersive Discovery Centers. You’ll find yourself transported back to the days of the Jay Farm in the 19th and 20th centuries. You’ll feel the echo of the past as you step into the home of Founding Father John Jay. If you have a thirst for the tales of Alcoholics Anonymous, then head to Stepping Stones. The historic abode of Bill and Lois Wilson was the starting point of the organization.
Katonah Historical Museum
Perched in the heart of the Katonah Village Library, this history museum is a quiet guardian of the hamlet’s rich tapestry of history. Each year, it unveils two exhibitions, like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat, revealing the lives and tales of Katonah’s past denizens. Illustrious figures include artist George Randolph Barse Jr. and the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When you find yourself in town, it’s worth taking a gander at the museum’s calendar. You never know when a special event, lecture, or workshop might be on the horizon, ready to enrich your visit with a dash of local color and knowledge.
Katonah Museum of Art
The Katonah Museum of Art is a sanctuary for those with a penchant for the aesthetic. It’s a place where:
- Contemporary exhibitions
- An outdoor sculpture garden
- And educational programs of all ages
Collide in an explosion of creativity.
The museum is the work of modernist architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. And it plays host to a revolving door of exhibits and thought-provoking programming. It recently tipped its hat to environmental artist Christo. The Katonah Art Center boasts:
- Two expansive painting studios
- A children’s studio
- A darkroom
- And a Mac computer lab
It’s a place where pottery, photography, painting, and drawing classes come alive. And their summer camps ignite the imagination. The Learning Center, a dedicated space for fostering creativity and a love for art among the young, is the cherry on top.
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
A hub of melody and color, the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts is nestled within a bucolic part of Katonah. With an array of performances at this live music venue, Caramoor is a feast for the senses. Its 80-acre estate plays host to a myriad of artists, from classical virtuosos to jazz maestros, folk crooners to operatic divas. All performing in spaces that are as much a work of art as the performances they house. The Spanish Courtyard, with its Byzantine columns, and the butterfly garden, inspired by Filippo Brunelleschi, are just two examples.
The Center was the brainchild of Walter and Lucie Rosen, who founded it in 1945. Today, it offers performances as diverse as symphonic concerts, opera, chamber music, American roots, and jazz. The Caramoor Summer Music Festival is a particular highlight, drawing crowds from far and wide. So, if you’re planning a visit to the Caramoor Center for Music and The Arts, be sure to check their calendar for upcoming events.
Bedford Audubon Society
For those with a love for nature, the Bedford Audubon Society is a must-visit. This environmental organization is committed to the conservation of local wildlife and their habitats. Visitors have the opportunity to explore a variety of nature sanctuaries, participate in bird walks, and marvel at the beauty of the Leon Levy Native Garden.
Don’t forget to check their calendar for special events and educational programs that offer unique insights into the region’s natural wonders.
Imagine, if you will, a place where time stands still, a place where the past and the present collide in a harmonious dance. That place is Muscoot Farm, a living, breathing monument to the rural life of yesteryear, on the edge of Katonah.
Here, you can rub shoulders with pigs and sheep, lose yourself in the labyrinth of hiking trails, and bear witness to the changing of the seasons through the farm’s year-round events. It’s a place where children can get their hands dirty in the earth and adults can breathe in the sweet scent of hay and nostalgia. With every corner turned, you can discover a new treasure, from exhibits showcasing the simple beauty of 19th-century farm life to the sprawling 777 acres that the farm calls home.
This is not just a farm, but a time capsule, lovingly preserved by Westchester County since the swinging sixties. And if you’re lucky enough to visit in the late winter, you’ll be treated to the farm’s pièce de résistance: a maple syrup harvest that will make your taste buds dance. So, come one, come all, to Muscoot Farm, where the past lives on and the present is just a visitor.
The Village of Katonah & Katonah Avenue
Katonah’s heart is a quaint hamlet, pulsating with life. This activity mirrors the rhythm of the nearby Metro-North Railroad tracks.
The hamlet boasts two modest shopping centers and Katonah Avenue, a vibrant strip of eateries, businesses, and boutiques. These establishments are housed in Victorian buildings that have witnessed the turn of the 20th century. Further exploration reveals a landscape of residences with the Katonah Village Historic District nestled to the west of the Avenue. Here, shingle-clad colonials, ornately embellished Queen Annes, and colorful Victorians stand together in harmony. Bungalows inspired by the Shingle Style or Arts & Crafts movement, mid-century raised ranches, and center hall colonials complete the architectural collection.
As a visitor, you’re invited to immerse yourself in the rhythm of the Village of Katonah and Katonah Avenue. Take a leisurely stroll along picturesque streets, unearth the hidden gems of unique shops, and indulge in the culinary delights that await you.
Katonah Village Library
The Katonah Village Library, an impressive building indeed, doubles as a haven for bookworms and a hub for community gatherings. A treasure trove of narratives, it hosts a smorgasbord of cultural galas, exhibitions, and brain-boosting programs. The library is the proud stage for the Katonah Poetry Series, now in its 52nd year, where you can hear the lyrical musings of the former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Nestled in the library’s underbelly is the Katonah Historical Museum, a tribute to the area’s storied past, in operation since 1984. Keep an eye on their calendar; it’s filled to the brim with events, lectures, and workshops that are as varied as the books on the library’s shelves.
Lasdon Park Conservancy
The Lasdon Park Conservatory, a 2,500 sq. ft. structure, is a brainchild of the same minds that gave life to the New York Botanical Gardens’ Conservatory. This edifice is a microcosm of our globe’s ecosystems, housing a vibrant rainforest, the quietude of woodlands, the freedom of open grass meadows, and the meticulous precision of formal gardens. The park boasts a grand, three-story Colonial-style mansion, a doppelganger of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, set amidst a sprawling 234-acre park. It’s a sanctuary that offers a refuge to trees, plants, shrubs, and a stunning entrance garden that greets visitors with a burst of color. The park is also a hub of knowledge, offering horticulture workshops, art classes, shows, and concerts that echo with the harmony of nature and creativity.
Seasonal Events in Katonah, NY
Locals gather quite regularly for merry-making. The Katonah Fire Department’s parade and carnival, a spectacle of light and laughter, brings the town together in a riotous celebration of life. And then comes the Halloween parade, an event that not even the dogs of Katonah would dare to miss. Dressed in their spookiest best, they join the townsfolk in a parade that is as much a tribute to the spirit of Halloween as it is a testament to the town’s love for its four-legged companions.Winter sees the town square aglow with the holiday tree-lighting ceremony, the spruce standing tall and proud, its branches adorned with twinkling lights that dance in the cold night air.
Restaurants in Katonah, NY
In keeping with the local identity, Katonah is home to a host of dining establishments, each with its own unique flair. The Blue Dolphin, a charming diner turned trattoria, is renowned for its homemade pasta and romantic ambiance. The Katonah Reading Room, with its expertly brewed espresso and locally sourced snacks, offers a level of sophistication for even the most discerning Brooklyn hipster. Sgaglio’s Marketplace, Katonah Pasta, and Village Market form a culinary trifecta, with a Farmer’s market held at the historic John Jay Homestead, once the stomping grounds of America’s first supreme court justice. Muscoot Tavern, a long-standing North County landmark, serves up classic American fare with a side of history. The Whitlock, a local favorite, offers comfort food like bone-marrow-enriched French onion soup and honey-drizzled roast chicken.
The Reading Room
Enter The Reading Room, a quaint nook tucked away in Katonah, where coffee and literature dance in a delightful duet. Nestled just a stone’s throw from the Metro North Train Station, it’s a sanctuary for the weary traveler and the curious local alike. Once the first library in Katonah, The Reading Room now serves a trifecta of pleasures – breakfast for the famished, coffee for the sleep-deprived, and books for the insatiable. The toast is the talk of Westchester County, and the building itself whispers tales of its past life as Katonah’s first library.
Shopping in Katonah, NY
Every sidewalk sale is a carnival and window shopping is still an adventure. Welcome to Katonah. The village prides itself on its locally-owned stores, a mark of its independent spirit. A stroll down Katonah Avenue and its side streets will reveal a tapestry of shops, restaurants, and galleries, each with its own unique charm.
Independent boutiques, New York antique shops, and specialty stores line the streets, each offering a unique slice of Katonah.
- Penny Pincher Boutique in nearby Bedford Hills
- Katonah Thrift Shop
- Old New House
- DeCicco Family Markets
- Sgaglio’s Marketplace
- Phat Olive
Are just a few of the gems waiting for you to explore.
The grand dame of these is Charles Department Store, which has stood the test of time and is now in its fourth generation of operation. It offers a smorgasbord of items, from camping gear for the adventurous souls to snow shovels for those snowy New York winters. And you’ll appreciate those creaking floorboards here a bit more, now that you know the whole building started its life about a mile away.
Every Saturday from May through October, the historic John Jay homestead on Jay Street hosts a farmers market. It’s a place where the community comes together to celebrate the bounty of the land.
So, come to Katonah. Explore, shop, eat, and discover the charm of this vibrant village.
Directions to Katonah, NY
Katonah is easily accessible by driving or public transportation. From Manhattan, take Metro North’s Harlem Line for an hour-long ride. For Manhattan, catch the Metro-North Harlem Line at Katonah station. Peak trains to and from Grand Central Terminal take 58 to 80 minutes. Access to the Saw Mill River Parkway and Interstate 684 is quick. Travel between Katonah and Manhattan takes about an hour, depending on traffic.
Routes 22 and 35 provide easy access to nearby areas like:
- And Lower Westchester County
Hotels, Inns, & Places to Stay near Katonah, NY
Whether you’re looking for a quaint bed and breakfast or a modern hotel, there are plenty of accommodations in and around Katonah. Some of the top recommendations include:
The Honey Maple Grove Lodge’s rooms are bright, quiet, and comfortable, with views of the forest. The lodge is stunning, spacious, and extremely comfortable. The selling point for this lodge, however, is the locally made honey and maple syrup that you can enjoy with your hearty breakfast.
Venture a little further, about 21 minutes to be precise, and you’ll discover the Bedford Post Inn in Bedford, NY. This isn’t your average hotel, oh no. This place is a culinary adventure and a yogi’s dream, with three unique dining experiences and a yoga studio that’s always buzzing with activity. And with just eight rooms, you’re guaranteed to be treated like royalty, as Richard Gere intended.
But why stop there? Continue your journey south to our Bed and Breakfast in Greenwich, CT. This charming inn, built in 1843, has been welcoming weary travelers since 1985. With 21 rooms and suites, a complimentary breakfast, and a seasonal outdoor pool, it’s the perfect place to kick back and relax. Westchester Magazine even named us one of the most romantic weekend getaways in the New York Tri-State area.
More Westchester Attractions Near Katonah, NY
Aside from all that Katonah has to offer, the surrounding Westchester County area is also home to a variety of attractions, including parks, historic sites, and charming towns.
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
As the largest park in Westchester County, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. The park features miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and the Trailside Nature Museum, where visitors can learn about the natural history and Native American exhibits. Make sure to seize the opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes and wildlife inhabiting Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.
Discover the historic town of Bedford, NY, known for its picturesque village green, antique shops, and beautiful countryside. Be sure to visit Balanced Rock, The Glass House, John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, and Kykuit for a taste of history and culture in Bedford Hills.
When in Bedford, it’s worth taking time to discover the quaint shops like The Cottage, Old New House, Offerings, and Our Place Antiques.
Pound Ridge, NY
Experience the rural charm of Pound Ridge, New York, known for its scenic landscapes, nature preserves, and local events, including the presence of mid century raised ranches.
Explore the numerous nature preserves, such as De la Torre, Fancher Meadow, Goldfein, Honey Hollow, Isaacson, Laurel Ponds, Old Stone Hill, and Olesen, for a peaceful retreat into nature.
Remember to review the local events calendar for seasonal festivities such as the Pound Ridge Harvest Festival and the Spooktacular Oktoberfest.
Explore the historic town of Yorktown, NY, featuring a vibrant community center, parks, and cultural attractions. Visit the following places for a dose of history and culture:
- Yorktown Historical Society
- Town of Yorktown Museum
- Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden
- Stamford Museum and Nature Center
Enjoy the parks and trails in the area, such as Patriot Skate Park, Railroad Park, Turkey Mountain Nature Preserve, North County Trailway, and Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.
Sleepy Hollow, NY
Visit the legendary Hudson Valley River Town of Sleepy Hollow, New York, famous for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and its historic sites. Explore:
- Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
- Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground
- Philipsburg Manor
To get a taste of the town’s storied past.
For a truly spooky experience, consider visiting next-door Tarrytown, NY, in October. The town hosts a ton of Halloween events, including:
- The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
- The Haunted Hayride
- Cemetery Tours
- The Tarrytown Halloween Parade
These events are sure to give you a thrilling and memorable Halloween experience.
In conclusion, Katonah, NY, and the surrounding Westchester County area offer a perfect blend of history, culture, nature, and community. From exploring historic landmarks and art centers to attending local events and savoring delicious cuisine, there is something for everyone in this charming hamlet. Whether you’re planning a day trip or an extended stay, the treasures of Katonah await your discovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Katonah have a downtown?
Katonah definitely has a downtown – its historic downtown was created over 100 years ago by the people of Katonah who worked hard to save their town from a flood.
What’s it like to live in Katonah?
Living in Katonah is like having the best of both worlds – a down-to-earth, inclusive suburban rural mix feel with easy access to the city. Residents are often out and about taking children to school or running errands, plus it offers plenty of cultural and recreational options to enjoy.
What is the best time of the year to visit Katonah, NY?
If you’re looking for the perfect time to visit Katonah, Spring, Summer, and Early Fall are your best bet. Enjoy all the activities and events the town has to offer during these warmer months! From outdoor concerts to farmers markets, there’s something for everyone in Katonah. Take a stroll through the historic downtown area and explore the unique shops and restaurants. Or, take a hike in the nearby woods and enjoy
What are some must-see attractions in Katonah, NY?
Explore history, art, and nature with a trip to Katonah – John Jay Homestead, Katonah Historical Museum, Katonah Museum of Art, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Bedford Audubon Society, and Muscoot Farm are some must-see attractions.
Are there any unique shopping experiences in Katonah, NY?
Experience shopping like never before in Katonah, NY! From specialty stores to vintage shops and independent boutiques, you can find unique finds that’ll make your visit memorable.