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June 2011

Ten Hidden Gems in Western New York


            Anyone familiar with Western New York knows about the big must see destinations, like Niagara Falls, the Strong Museum of Play, and the Corning Museum of Glass. However, for every big destination, there are dozens of lesser known attractions and destinations that are just as much fun to visit, and you don’t have to fight the crowds.           

            We have compiled a list of ten hidden gems in Western New York that are off the beaten trail, but definitely worth the trip.

1. GriffisSculpturePark.

            This 400 acre park, located 45 miles south of Buffalo, was founded in 1966 by the late artist, Larry Griffis Jr. The park, which was the first outdoor sculpture park in the country, as well as the largest, has more than 250 sculptures created by over 100 local, regional, and national artists, including a large number created by Griffis. Enjoy ten miles of hiking trails while you explore meadows, forests, fields, and ponds that are dotted with unique creations made of wood, aluminum, welded steel, and bronze cast. Sculpture shapes include animals, insects, abstract figures, and more. Considered a marriage of art and nature, the park is popular with nature enthusiasts, bird watchers, star gazers, and, of course, art lovers. What makes this park different from other art venues is that visitors are actually encouraged to touch and climb on the sculptures. Tour at your own pace; just follow the map and trails. Guided tours are available for groups. The park is open May-October.

Griffis Sculpture Park, 6902 Mill Valley Road, East Otto


2. CobblestoneMuseum Complex

            Between 1825 and 1860, over 1,000 buildings made of smooth round cobblestones were build in North America. About 800 are still in existence, with about 90% of them being in the western New York area. There are actually more cobblestone structures along NY 104 than any other route in America. One of the more interesting places to stop along this route is the Cobblestone Museum Complex, located in the hamlet of Childs, about 30 miles west of Rochester. This museum complex has 7 historic buildings, including three of cobblestone construction, which have been designated National Historic Landmarks. These include the cobblestone church (1834) which is the oldest cobblestone church in North America, a parsonage (1840), and an 1849 schoolhouse. Other buildings include a blacksmith shop, print shop, harness maker, and a farmer’s hall with over 300 farming artifacts. The cobblestone church can be rented for weddings. The museum is open late June – Labor Day.

CobblestoneMuseum Complex, NY 104 and NY 98 Childs 585-589-9013

3. Village of FindleyLake

            This quaint ChautauquaCounty village, with its lake of the same name is often overlooked by visitors heading to Chautauqua Lake 15 miles away, but a visit to FindleyLake is well worth the stop. Located just one mile from the Pennsylvania border and conveniently just off the I-86 expressway, the village, referred to by some people as the “Best Kept Secret in New York State,” offers recreational activities, shopping, and dining. Over a dozen shops located along

Main Street
carry items such as home furnishings, clothing and accessories, jewelry, gifts, nature products, candy, candles, and more. The Blue Heron Inn Bed & Breakfast, which overlooks the lake, offers overnight accommodations and dining. The lake is a fisherman’s paradise; catch bass, walleye, muskie, and panfish. Nearby, Peek ‘n Peak Resort has golf in the spring, summer, and fall and snow sports in the winter.


4. Village of Angelica

            The Village of Angelica in AlleganyCounty is so quaint that it was chosen by Readers Digest as the setting of their 1997 holiday video, An Old Fashioned Christmas. This tiny village, population about 1,000, is a great place to shop for antiques and gifts, enjoy fine dining, or stay overnight in a romantic B&B inn. Many of the buildings in the community, which has been dubbed the “town where history lives,” are listed on  the National Register of Historic Places. In fact there has been little new construction in the town since 1900’s, so most homes are Greek Revival or Victorian style. The town’s

Park Circle
, which has a gazebo and playground, is the site of most of the festivals and events that take place throughout the year, including their annual luminaries in the park and living nativity, which takes place the week before Christmas. Their annual angel stamp cancellation takes place in their historic post office in early December.


5. Abbey of the Genesee

            Nestled in the tiny village of Piffard, about 35 miles south of Rochester, NY, the Abbey of the Genesee offers spiritual and well as physical nourishment. The abbey is a community of contemplative monks belonging to the order of Cistercians of Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappist. The brothers, who speak only when necessary, have dedicated themselves to a cloistered life of prayer and manual labor.

However, the Abbey of the Genesee is probably best known for the physical nourishment it offers. When the abbey was first established in 1951, Brother Sylvester, one of the abbey’s founders, began baking bread for the monks and visitors, using his own recipe. Soon guests started asking to purchase the bread to take home. The monks decided to start a small bakery and began making “monks” bread. The operation grew and soon the monks were operating a large modern bakery, which supports the abbey financially to this day. The bread is sold at the abbey’s bread store, as well as in major supermarkets in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, NY.

Abbey of the Genesee (585-243-0660; 3258 River Road, Piffard, NY 14533. 


6. Springdale Farm

            Springdale Farm is a 200 acre working demonstration farm that is located within NorthamptonPark, part of the MonroeCounty park system. The farm, which was established as a private farm in the early 1800’s, features historic buildings which house farm animals, like horses, chickens, sheep, and goats. One of the more unique features of the farm is the Riedman robotic milking parlor, which opened in 2004, where cows are milked without the farmer’s assistance.  It is the first robotic milking parlor in the Northeast to be open to the public. For a nominal fee, guests can tour the parlor at 11am and 2pm, Monday-Saturday. The milk is collected and distributed by Upstate Farms. Another interesting aspect of the farm is that it is operated by Heritage Christian Services, which serves young adults with developmental disabilities. These young people work at the farm, caring for the animals and maintaining the grounds.

Springdale Farm, 696 Colby Street, Spencerport 585-352-5320,


7. RockCityPark

            Rock City Park, a 23-acre rock park hidden in the woods about 6 miles south of Olean, is the largest formation of quartz conglomerate, known as “pudding stone,” in the world. This rock, which resembles concrete, was formed millions of years ago when quartz was carried from the mountains by rivers and streams and deposited in the sand and mud along ancient oceans. Visitors will be amazed at some of the huge rock formations, which were once used by Native American’s as a fortress. One formation includes a 1,000 ton boulder precariously perched on another. However, be warned, visiting RockCityPark is no walk in the park, so wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes and be prepared to do a lot of climbing and walking. RockCity has actually been open to the public since 1890. During the early days the park featured a luxury hotel, dance pavilion, and amusement park. Today, things are a bit more natural, with only a gift shop and museum as amenities.

RockCityPark ,505 Rt. 16 South, Olean, 716-372-7790 or 1-800-404-ROCK,


8. Country Barn Quilt Trail

            Take a drive through rural OrleansCounty and experience country charm when you follow the Country Barn Quilt Trail, which features large painted wooden quilt squares displayed on barns and other structures. This project was the brainchild of Laura Partyka, who operates a farm market in Kendall. One night in 2006, she had trouble sleeping and was flipping though a quilting magazine and saw an article about a similar project in Iowa. She organized this project  to draw visitors to her community and it was a success. To date, there are over 40 barns and other buildings thought the county that have painted wooded quilt blocks on them. Each quilt block is unique and reflects the interests of the people whose building they adorn. Maps are available at Partyka Farms and they even have an audio cell phone tour available that describes each quilt block along the way.

Country Barn Quilt Trail Maps at Partyka Farms 1420 County Line Road, NY 272, Kendall 585-569-9131




9. NationalSoaringMuseum

            The NationalSoaringMuseum is located in Elmira, which has been dubbed the “Soaring Capital of America.” National soaring contests were held in Elmira in the 1930’s and 1940’s which helped to established it as the soaring capital. The National Soaring Museum is the only US museum that focuses on motorless flight and it is home to the largest collection of gliders and sailplanes in the world. The museum’s collection has sailplanes from the late 1890’s to the late 20th century. Visitor’s can experience flight in a soaring simulator and design and land a sailplane using the museum’s interactive computers. The museum offers fun and education programs for children of all ages, including overnight programs and a week-long summer camp. If you’d like to experience motorless flight first-hand, sailplane rides are offered at the Harris Hill Soaring Corporation, located adjacent to the museum. Rides last 15-20 minutes, but the experience will stay with you for a lifetime.

National Soaring Museum, 51 Soaring Hill Drive, Elmira, 607-734-3128


10. Vineyard Express

            The Vineyard Express is a train ride that departs from Lockport at 10 am, with stops at the MedinaRailroadMuseum and Spring Lake Winery, before it makes its return trip to Lockport at 3pm. The Vineyard Express excursion is the brainchild of the Varallo family, who own and operate Spring Lake Winery in Lockport, and Marty Phelps, founder of the MedinaRailroadMuseum in Medina, which offers scenic train excursions. When the winery opened its doors in 2007, the Varallo’s realized that the rail line ran through their property and thought it might make sense if the train could stop there. Two vintage New York Central E-8 diesel locomotives pull the five circa 1948 passenger coaches on the excursion train. Riders get to tour the railroad museum for an hour, then stop for lunch, wine tasting, and live music at the winery. The Vineyard Express runs the first and last Sunday of the month, June through October.

Reservations for the Vineyard Express can be made by calling Spring Lake Winery, 7373 Rochester Road (NY 31), Lockport, 716-439-5253;