Westchester School Break Staycation with My Teen Son & Birthday Party Package Giveaway by Robin Gorman Newman

As a change of pace for my son’s December school break, we decided to make our staycation in Westchester versus the usual NYC.  And, the good news is, we’d love to return.

Finding activities to engage a teen boy is not always the easiest, but my research turned up some “keepers.”

(The Lounge)

We spent four nights at the lovely, elegant and welcoming Ritz-Carlton White Plains.  From the moment we entered, we felt well taken care of.  While  we had a longer wait time than expected for our room, the hotel explained they were extremely busy this holiday season, and they were very gracious and accommodating during our stay.  They truly endeavor to make your visit personal, calling you by name, and attending readily to needs.  I noted that there seemed to be some regulars checking in when we arrived, and each was warmly received.

Our one bedroom suite, with a king bed, was extremely spacious, with an excellent street view of the busy downtown adorned with festive holiday lights.  My son loved having his own separate area with a pullout sofa, television and half bath.  We were able to request a mini frig, and as a Marriott Rewards member, wi-fi was complimentary.  Valet parking is available for a fee.

(High Tea)

The hotel has a good size heated indoor pool and well equipped gym, and a lobby with an inviting fireplace and ample seating.   There is a restaurant, BLT Steak, on premises, as well as dining opportunities in The Lounge lobby area.  The Lounge food was very good (with the best warm chocolate chip cookie dessert), and my son and I experienced a Saturday afternoon high tea, which was lots of fun and classy.  He loves all things British, so this was an appealing experience for us.

The hotel offers a unique program called Junior Chefs Academy, which we did not participate in, but caught my eye, and might interest local families.

The Ritz-Carlton is conveniently located easy walking distance to restaurants and shopping malls, and The Westchester, an upscale mall that we took an Uber to, was our destination for a test drive in a Tesla.  My son belongs to the car club in high school, so this was right up his alley.  We had a great time, and while I don’t know what the future brings in terms of potentially owning a Tesla, we will certainly keep the car on our wishful radar.

The next day, we made our way to the Palisades Mall in West Nyack…..after briefly exploring some of the quaint shops in downtown Nyack.

This mall is a kids/teens paradise!  We spent eight hours and left nearly at closing time.  There is so much to do, not to mention the shopping opportunities, which has many more affordable stores with teen-appeal.

Our first stop in the mall was lunch at FIREHOUSE SUBS.  Owner/General Manager Tejash Patel warmly greeted us and explained about the food.  It is a small venue with limited seating, but he said they are hoping to be able to put more tables in the mall common space itself.

The subs come in three sizes, and we both had combo meals which included chips.  I enjoyed a custom turkey/cheese on whole wheat sub, and my son enjoyed the Firehouse “Hero” sub with roast beef, smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham, and provolone cheese.  Subs, and there are many to choose from, can be ordered hot or cold, and they are made quickly to order.  The bread was very soft and fresh, and they also sell chocolate chip cookies and brownies.  Additionally, they feature chili and chopped  salads, a kids combo menu, and catering is offered. Their signature Cherry Lime-Aid was delicious.

Aside from the food, what is most impressive about FIREHOUSE SUBS, which was founded by firefighters, is their commendable commitment to the community.  In 2005, after Hurricane Katrine, they proudly created the FIREHOUSE SUBS Public Safety Foundation.  The mission of the organization is “dedicated to impacting the life-saving capabilities, and the lives of local heroes and their communities.”  They allocate funding through donations collected both online and in their restaurants, and to date, more than 2,600 public safety organizations have received equipment and resources, directly impacting their life-saving capabilities.

After lunch, my son spent four hours at 5 WITS.  He met other teens there, and together they embarked on the three adventures and had a beyond super time.  Recommended for ages 7 and up, each adventure takes about 30 minutes, and there can be a wait time.  In each, you are immersed in a live-action, entertainment challenge, where you travel through multiple rooms, and work as a team to overcome obstacles, solve puzzles, and reach the next level.

The three adventures are TOMB, DEEP SPACE and DRAGO’S CASTLE.  My son’s favorite was DEEP SPACE. Their brochure describes it as: No word from Starship Nebulous for years….until the distress signal that just came in!  Transport to this abandoned ship drifting in a distant galaxy, and figure out how to save it!  Be prepared for the asteroid storm that’s about to hi.  Lather you’ll require the ship, refuel the power core, and match wits with the evil Artificial Intelligence that wants to destroy Earth!

Next up was a casual dinner at IHOP in the mall, before visiting the Autobahn Speedway, where my son spent two hours enjoying the indoor go kart races.

We had some excellent meals during our trip including CITY LIMITS DINER — one of the best diners ever — and a lovely meal (good food and ambiance) at LAGO in West Harrison.  LAGO happened to be right next to their local firehouse, so of course, my son and I paid a visit.  Nearly every trip we’ve had (if not all), we visit a firehouse, as my son is a volunteer Jr. Firefighter in our town, and he loves to meet other firefighters and learn about their work and vehicles.

In warmer weather, Westchester and neighboring areas of Connecticut, would make it a desirable destination, so you could explore other quaint towns and spend time outdoors.   It was also nice this trip to have the opportunity to connect with a number of local friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen much since college, and I’d hope to do that again, should we return.  It was a cool way to kick off the new year!



The party package for the giveaway will include a private adventure for 10 guests, the birthday child and 1 adult to go through one 5 Wits adventure. It also includes a party room for 30 minutes following the adventure which comes with one drink per person, all party supplies, and a party host. The package has a value of $219.99. To enter, please write [email protected], and indicate why you would like to win.  Winner will be notified via email.



Note: We were provided with press experiences by the Ritz-Carlton White Plains, 5 Wits, and Firehouse Subs, but our opinions are our own.