At last the secret is out. Some call it a Carla Bruni lyric. We call it a new refrain for Westchester. At a recent press conference, County Executive Robert Astorino let the cat out of the bag. He revealed what some know intuitively, others just hint at, but most are unaware of – “Westchester is a great place to visit. We’re not just a sleepy little county. All lights are not out at 9:00 pm!”
Music, arts, hiking, boating, golf, slots, scenic views, parks, history, restaurants, farms, fireworks, festivals, boardwalk, museums, theaters were all on the County Executive’s list of great things to do in Westchester, where tourism grew by 8% in 2011, reaching the pre-recession level of $1.7 billion. With so many wonderful amenities close by, why would a tourist want to visit, let’s say, Massachusetts, we asked. “They wouldn’t,” the County Executive countered. “In this region, we’re one of the most convenient and wonderful places to spend a day or weekend. And besides, we’re Yankee fans.” But all kidding aside, Astorino is banking on the fact that, “We just need to get the word out.” And that’s the plan…to market Westchester as a tourist destination initially within a 100-mile radius.
The new “Meet Me in Westchester” promotional campaign was launched on June 20 by Astorino and Natasha Caputo, the Director of the Westchester County Tourism and Film Office, with a ramped up focus on the county’s park system, hiking and fine dining. “We have 900 restaurants with amazing chefs and some of the finest parks in the country,” raved Astorino, conceding of course that there’s only one Central Park and only one New York City. “Think of Westchester as a partner or supplement to New York City,” Astorino said. “Westchester is well known, but still not known well enough. It’s a hidden gem that people need to explore. Once people know what we have to offer, I believe they’ll come here and come back often.” With that Astorino, an avid golfer with a 17 index, began to tick off the names of the premiere Westchester golf courses and the six county courses. He went on to tout the Yonkers Raceway, Playland, George’s Island, Long Island Sound and of course the Hudson River. And then we talked about the arts. “It’s all here,” he said. “Caramoor, Historic Hudson Valley, three art museums, galleries and Kykuit.” And then, throwing a bouquet to us, he said, “Just click on www.ArtsWestchester.org.”
“Is there anything we don’t have here?” we ventured. “Come to think of it, my kids would probably vote for a water park,” he chuckled. For information on tourism opportunities in Westchester, go towww.visitWestchesterNY.com. Then he concluded, “Once people try us, they are going to love us!”