Canandaigua – the name means “chosen place” – located on the shores of Canandaigua Lake, about 90 minutes east of Buffalo, offers a variety of fun things to see and do, especially during the summer months. I like coming here on a perfect summer day to enjoy Canandaigua’s main attraction, the beautiful waterfront. Take a sightseeing cruise on the Canandaigua Lady (www.steamboatlandingresort.com), the only replica 19th century paddlewheel steamboat in the Finger Lakes Region and then be sure to take a stroll along the Canandaigua City Pier. The picturesque boathouses (circa 1903), located near the end of the pier, are often the subject of photos and paintings by local artists.
My favorite place to eat along the waterfront is the Muar House Café, known as the “sweetest spot in town,” because of its homemade ice cream and gelato. It has expanded its menu to include wraps, paninis, sandwiches and salads. You can eat inside or outdoors on the deck, which overlooks the lake (www.themuarhousecafe.com). Another waterfront restaurant, Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake (www.nolansonthelake.com), located near the city pier, specializes in steak, seafood and pasta.
If you have kids in tow, be sure to visit Roseland Waterpark (www.roselandwaterpark.com), a 58-acre family-oriented waterpark, located a short distance from the waterfront, that has a giant wave pool, tube rides, water slides and more.
A bit of history
Canandaigua, which is the Ontario County seat, played a major role in Western New York history. It was the site of the signing of the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty between the United States government and the six Iroquois nations. Learn more about Canandaigua history at the Ontario County Historical Society (www.ochs.org), which has a number of permanent and changing displays on area history. The nearby Ontario County Courthouse was the site of Susan B. Anthony’s famous 1872 trial for voting, something that women were not permitted to do at the time.
Visitors also can learn about local history in 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 more than 70 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.
Pick up a self-guided walking tour brochure from the historical society or chamber of commerce and explore some of downtown Canandaigua’s historic buildings and 19th century architecture at your own pace.
Shopping along Main Street
One of my favorite pastimes in Canandaigua is shopping along Main Street, which is the widest Main Street in the country. You can easily spend several hours perusing the shops. Some of the stores include Unique Toy Shop (www.uniquetoyshop.com), which has a large reasonably priced selection of educational toys, games and books. Renaissance: The Goodie II Shoppe is a Canandaigua landmark that carries unique gift items, jewelry, books, cards, home décor and more. Liberty Cottage (www.libertycottage.com) has primitive country décor items, along with quilting and stitchery supplies. The American Made Store only sells products made in the USA, including accessories, home décor, food items and more. Sweet Expressions (www.sweetexpressionsonline.com) specializes in fine chocolates, candies, gourmet foods and gift baskets, while the Old Homestead Country Store (www.oldehomesteadcountrystore.com) carries antiques, collectibles, primitives and country décor items. There are also several other antique stores located along Main Street.
Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park (www.sonnenberg.org), just a short drive from Main Street, 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. This 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.
The Finger Lakes Wine Center at Sonnenberg houses a gift shop and a wine tasting room, where you can sample and purchase wine from dozens of Finger Lakes wineries.
Wine and Culinary Center
The New York Wine and Culinary Center (www.nywcc.com), located on the waterfront, features wine tasting, special events, exhibits on New York State grapes and agriculture, along with a gift boutique. The restaurant, the Upstairs Bistro, which is open for lunch and dinner, features seasonal dishes that use ingredients from around the state. It also offers more than 400 cooking classes every year in the Hands-On Kitchen.
Places to stay
You might want to turn your visit to Canandaigua into a weekend getaway. There are a number of places to stay, from bed-and-breakfast inns to hotels, including the historic Bed & Breakfast at Oliver Phelps (www.oliverphelps.com) and also the 1840 Inn on the Main (www.innonthemain.com), which are within walking distance to downtown shops and restaurants. Waterfront accommodations include the Inn on the Lake Resort and Conference Center (www.theinnonthelake.com), which overlooks the lake and is located adjacent to the Wine and Culinary Center and Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake.
Ontario County Fair, July 22-26, 2820 County Road 10, Canandaigua, (585) 394-4987, www.ontariocountyfair.org. This fair, in its 171st year, offers typical fair diversions, including games, rides, farm animals, food and more.
Waterfront Art Festival, July 26-27, Kershaw Park, Canandaigua, www.waterfrontartfestival.com. This open-air art festival, held in Kershaw Park on Canandaigua Lake’s north shore, features more than 160 artists selling hand-made items.
Pageant of Steam, Aug. 6-9, www.pageantofsteam.org.This event, in its 54th year, features 100 acres of antique steam-powered vehicles, tractors and farm machinery. It is sponsored by the New York Steam Engine Association.
Canandaigua Farmers’ Market, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays, June-October, www.canandaiguafarmersmarket.com About 30 local farmers and vendors sell vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats, baked goods and more.