Katonah Is an Idyllic Hamlet for Culture & Family Life

Looking for a Hudson Valley town that's ideal for families and filled with shopping and things to do? Katonah may be perfect for you.

Quiet, picturesque, and artsy all describe Katonah, an idyllic hamlet in Westchester’s town of Bedford. Elena Becker, co-president of the Katonah Village Improvement Society (KVIS), recalls first moving here over 15 years ago: “Walking downtown felt like being on a movie set, and everyone was so friendly and quick to welcome us.”

In 1852, Katonah was founded as a hamlet of Whitlockville, established 40 years prior on the banks of the Cross River as a mill town. In 1893, New York City announced plans to flood the area to build the Croton Dam as part of its reservoir system. Rather than evacuating, residents of Katonah and Whitlockville (now known as Old Katonah) banded together to create a new Katonah about half a mile away—and they took their buildings with them.

Katonah

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Fifty-five houses were successfully transported by horses over a track of rolling logs, and the new Katonah was established in 1897. Many of these original structures still stand along Bedford Road (part of the Katonah Historic District), which is adjacent to shop-lined Katonah Avenue.

The Culture

“Katonah is definitely the most hip town in the area,” says Gretchen Menzies, owner of the Katonah Reading Room. And it’s a valid opinion—the hamlet is home to both the Katonah Museum of Art (KMA) and Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. KMA presents visual art exhibits of varying cultures, disciplines, and media (their current show, Miniature Worlds, is on view until June 25), and Caramoor hosts a variety of concerts and festivals throughout the year on their historic estate.

Katonah shopping

Art and music venues like these “help to enrich the cultural and social fabric of the town, making it a more dynamic and desirable place to live for residents,” adds Caroline Holder, marketing and communications manager at KMA. You’ll also find small galleries like Oak & Oil, Chroma Fine Art, CB Gallery, and Eclectic Collector Inc. where you can peruse and purchase art.

Family Life

Children in Katonah attend public schools in the Katonah-Lewisboro district, which has an overall “A+” rating on niche.com. Although the town hosts many family-friendly events, residents go all out on Halloween (and attract visitors from across the county and beyond). There’s a parade along Katonah Avenue, when costumed kids can trick-or-trick at downtown shops, and at night, the streets are pedestrian-only. Homeowners outdo each other with elaborate decorations. For over 20 years, renowned “Sesame Street” puppeteer Peter Linz—known as “Creepy Pete” on All Hallows’ Eve—creates a graveyard maze in his yard in the Terrace Heights neighborhood. “It’s hard to say how many people come [to town], but it must be thousands. I have a friend who goes through at least 5,000 pieces of candy every year!” says Becker.

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The market is, as expected, pricey and competitive. The median sale price of a single-family home in Katonah was $896,250 between March 2022 and 2023, according to One Key MLS/HGAR. At press time, only four homes were listed for sale, included the two at right.

On The Town

A big part of Katonah’s appeal is its buzzy business district—Katonah Avenue and its side streets are filled with a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Local favorites for a bite include the Blue Dolphin, a southern Italian spot in a converted diner; The Whitlock, with bistro-style American fare; Jay Street Café, which serves elevated takes on classic diner dishes; and Peppino’s Ristorante, a spot for specialty pasta dishes. There’s also a farmers market every Saturday from May through October on the grounds of the historic John Jay homestead on Jay Street.

You can stock up on books and grab a cup of coffee at the Katonah Reading Room; hit up Old New House for vintage rugs, furniture, and home accessories; explore the (nearly) century-old Charles Department Store; and grab delicious bread and pastries at LMNOP Bakery.

Although the hamlet is petite, the sense of community that residents experience is enormous. In Menzies’ words, “The people of Katonah support small businesses, volunteer for the chamber and local nonprofits, and eagerly welcome newcomers to the area. People want to know their neighbors.”

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