As its name suggests, Riverdale is defined by its position on the banks of the Hudson River. Like a little slice of New England in the northwestern Bronx (north of the Harlem River, south of Yonkers and west of Van Cortlandt Park), Riverdale is one of the few places in New York City where you’ll find stately single-family homes, rock walls, winding roads (some without sidewalks) and mature trees. This upscale neighborhood’s historical sites rival those of Manhattan, which locals refer to as “the city” or just “downtown.”
In the 1860s, train service from Manhattan brought wealthy industrialists who built summer mansions on the cool, windswept high ground by the river. In the early 20th century, smaller, but still tony, single-family homes followed. The construction of the Henry Hudson Bridge over the Harlem River and the development of bus lines connecting to nearby subway stations in the 1930s led to high-rise apartments with views of the river and the Palisades cliffs on the New Jersey side.
Fieldston, Riverdale’s wealthiest neighborhood, located between 250th Street and Manhattan College Parkway, has a decidedly Connecticut-like feel. If you’re visiting with a car, it’s worth taking a spin through it — this is the closest New York gets to Beverly Hills. A more urban environment, including popular Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants, can be found along Broadway and on Riverdale Avenue. An Beal Bocht Café is a favorite for its Irish pub food and drink, plus traditional music and original theater. But, in general, it’s not the food or nightlife that will bring you to Riverdale — residents themselves head to Manhattan for that. Instead, people prize the neighborhood for its first-rate schools, proximity to stunning Van Cortlandt Park and historic sites, such as the Van Cortlandt House and Wave Hill.
Van Cortlandt Park, on Riverdale’s eastern border, is twice the size of Central Park and attracts hikers and mountain bikers. It’s also home to the Bronx’s largest freshwater lake, a nature center that offers workshops and walking tours, plus cricket fields, which are a popular destination for Riverdale’s West Indian population on weekends. The 1748 Georgian-style manor house, Van Cortlandt House Museum, in the southwestern part of the park, is the Bronx’s oldest house; its exhibits cover the history of the park. The mansion and estate grounds at Wave Hill, on the western side of the neighborhood, date to 1836 and are now a cultural center and public garden.
You can get to Riverdale on the No. 1 subway line, which ends in Van Cortlandt Park. The ride from Midtown takes about 45 minutes. The more expensive, but quicker, Metro-North Hudson line will get you there in 25 minutes from Grand Central Terminal. (Shuttle service to Wave Hill is available at both the subway and Metro-North stations.)