Canandaigua: The “Chosen Place” in the Finger Lakes Region
Whenever it’s one of those perfect summer days; low humidity, not too hot, sunny, with puffy white clouds in a clear blue sky, I like to say, “It’s a perfect day to go to Canandaigua.” If our busy schedule permits, that’s what we’ll do.
Canandaigua, the name means “chosen place,” is located on the shores of Canandaigua Lake, about ninety minutes east of Buffalo. The city offers a variety of fun things to see and do.
A bit of history
Canandaigua was the site of a Seneca village and also the site of the signing of the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty between the United States Government and the six Iroquois Nations. The first white settlers in the area arrived in 1789 and Canandaigua has been the seat of OntarioCounty since then.
If you want to learn more about Canandaigua history, visit the Ontario County Historical Society (www.ochs.org), which has a number of permanent and changing displays on area history. Just down the street from the historical society is the Ontario County Courthouse, the site of Susan B. Anthony’s famous 1872 trial for voting.
Another place to learn about local history is the Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum (www.grangerhomestead.org), a restored 1816 Federal-style mansion built by Gideon Granger, the first U.S. Postmaster General. Of special interest are the over seventy 19th Century horse-drawn vehicles that are on display in the barns behind the home. Horse-drawn carriage rides are offered during the summer months.
A beautiful waterfront
Canandaigua’s main attraction is the beautiful waterfront, which is lined with green space. This is why I like coming here on a perfect summer day. The 16 mile long Canandaigua Lake offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including swimming, boating, and fishing. Take a sightseeing cruise on the Canandaigua Lady (www.steamboatlandingonline.com), the only replica 19th Century paddlewheel steamboat in the Finger Lakes Region.
Be sure to take a stroll along the Canandaigua City Pier. The picturesque circa 1903 boathouses, located near the end of the pier, are often the subject of photos and paintings by local artists.
One of my favorite places along the waterfront is the Muar House Café, known as the “sweetest spot in town,” because of their homemade ice creams and gelatos. They also serve wraps, paninis, and salads.
Not far from the waterfront is Roseland Waterpark (www.roselandwaterpark.com), a 58-acre family-oriented waterpark that has a giant wave pool, tube rides, water slides, and more.
Shopping along Main Street
If I go to Canandaigua with just my daughter, she loves to walk along Main Street, which is the widest Main Streetin the country. There are numerous shops and restaurants in the downtown area. You can easily spend the whole day shopping; stores carry a variety of items including candy, gifts, home décor, jewelry, artwork, and clothing. If you have children with you, there is also a very nice toy shop, Unique Toy Shop (www.uniquetoyshop.com), which has a large reasonably priced selection of educational toys, games, and books.
Lovely manicured gardens
SonnenbergGardens and MansionStateHistoricPark (www.sonnenberg.org) is one of my favorite places to visit in Canandaigua. This manicured estate was once the summer home of Frederick and Mary Clark Thompson. Frederick was one of the founders of Citibank and Mary was the daughter of the governor of New York.
Sonnenberg features 50 acres of themed gardens, along with a turn-of-the-20th-Century glass conservatory and a 40-room, three-story 1897 Queen Anne Mansion. Some of the gardens include a huge rose garden and an Italian garden, which has 15,000 annuals planted in it each year. There is also an old-fashioned garden, reminiscent of gardens in Colonial Williamsburg and a rock garden. Ask at the admission gate for a “Kid’s Trail” booklet for you kids; they can look for clues at each garden and turn in a competed booklet at the end of their visit for a small prize.
As you leave, be sure to stop by the Finger LakesWineCenter at Sonnenberg, which houses a gift shop and a wine tasting room, where you can sample and purchase wine from dozens of Finger Lakes wineries.
More wine tasting at the Wine and Culinary Center
The New York Wine and CulinaryCenter (www.nywcc.com), located near the Canandaigua waterfront, features wine tasting, special events, cooking classes, exhibits on New YorkState grapes and agriculture, and a gift boutique. They also have a restaurant, which is open for lunch and diner. The menu features seasonal dishes that use ingredients from around the state. This is a place that you would most likely visit without the kids in tow, as the restaurant’s menu tends to be more upscale/gourmet, rather than kid-friendly.
Summer events in Canandaigua
There are several large annual events that take place in Canandaigua each July and August that offer activities for the entire family.
Ontario County Fair, July 26-30, 2820 County Road 10, Canandaigua, 585-394-4987. www.ontariocountyfair.org This fair, in its 169th year, offers typical fair diversions including games, rides, farm animals, food and more.
38th annual Waterfront Art Festival, July 30-31, Kershaw Park, Canandaigua, www.waterfrontartfestival.com This open-air art festival held in Kershaw Park on Canandaigua Lake’s north shore, features over 160 artists selling quality, hand-made items.
Pageant of Steam, August 10-13, www.pageantofsteam.org This event, in it’s 51st year, features 100 acres of antique steam powered vehicles, tractors, and farm machinery. It is sponsored by the New York Steam Engine Association.
Cheshire Union Antique Show, August 13, 8am-3pm, Grounds of the Cheshire Union Gift Shop and Antique Center, 4244 Route 21 South, Canandaigua, www.cugifts.com
Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce, 113 S. Main Street, Canandaigua, 585-394-4400, www.canandaiguachamber.com
Take the I-90 east to exit 44, Farmington. Follow Route 322 south to Canandaigua.