Over the last 30 years I have been to Sonnenberg Gardens probably a half-dozen times. Each time the place has focused on a different aspect of the property. Originally the gardens and the formal landscaping were paramount, later the mansion was most important and at other times it has been the special events that have been held there. But each occasion has been interesting and worth a couple hours of my time.
In recent times, the administration of the park has been under heavy financial strain (to the point of almost going bankrupt) but it appears that there is still life left in the old place yet.
Most of the gardens are rose gardens with various themes: british, japanese, colonial american. Other gardens are chiefly shrubs and trellises and rocks and ponds. Seasonally, flowers like tulips and pansies and mums will come into focus in the gardens.
The mansion is extensive with rooms of momentos of the past owners and period pieces of furniture and furnishings (china, flatware, tapestries). It is the part of the property that has probably been the least attended to until recently.
To attract more customers, a wine cellar has been added and seems to be popular among tourists making the rounds in the Finger Lakes Wine Trail.
Their is a small cafe that is open in good weather, that serves basically soup and sandwiches.
Weddings, official gatherings, holiday events and personal parties have been held on the premises. I remember taking the kids to a couple of the Haloween layouts that involved the garden and lawns of the property. Self-guided tours are typical but you can get a guided tour for your group by scheduling with the Sonnenberg Office.
I am sure that I have not yet made my last visit to Sonnenberg.... maybe I will see you there next time.
The Granger Homestead is a place which is steeped in presenting oldtime activities to a new public. They have special events like Christmas Tree Judging, Evening of Lights, sleigh rides in winter and buggy rides in summer, Tea Parties, Olde Time Weddings. They have exhibits of arts and crafts that were indigenous to the area but are now all but gone. There are programs especially aimed at school children and you can rent the place for private parties.
The place is maintained by donations from community members and members of historical societies and by the money they make off of their events and programs. They also have a carriage museum which I thought was a bit "lame" but which might attract a true history buff.
There is a gift shop but it is fairly small. Most of the events have their own items for sale or auction.
Be sure to bring a camera. Each time that we have gone to one of their events, we have easily shot a full roll of one of those single-use cameras.
This park has three levels of activities: restful, daring and outrageous.
The Thrill Hill speed slide and adult inner-tubes and Big Splash ride are more along the outrageous level.
The daring category includes the inner-tube rides and the wave pool.
The wading pools and lazy river ride are the more restful types; or you can even stay dry (and hot) with volley ball or bocce. For a few dollars more you can rent a canoe and slowly paddle around the pond and contemplate your navel. You can challenge a friend to a waterballoon war (at slight additional cost). And before you go home, you can stop in to the gift shop (maybe that should be under the "outrageous" category).
Food is not allowed to be brought in the park, but when you enter you can get a hand stamped which will let you go out of the park to eat and come back in later. Life preservers are available for the water-challenged individuals or you can bring your own if they are coast guard approved.
Cost for general admission is around $20 (sometimes coupons in the local papers or at Wegmans cut off 10% of the cost). General hours are from 10am to 4pm (7pm on weekends and holidays).
So get your bathing suit and get wet.
The OCArts building is an old department store building on Main Street where multi-cultural and multi-media art is exhibited.
The place doesn't look like much from the outside but the inside contains a world of interesting things. There are paintings and sculptures and wall hangings and handmade wood craft and rugs. The exhibits change often and mostly display the craft of local artists.
The OCArts also sponsor classes in many of the crafts and these are headed by the local artisans themselves. There are concerts ranging from Bluegrass to Classical and a variety of other arts-related events (make a rug, create a frame, decoupage a table).
The entrance to the building is free. Donations are accepted and money spent in the gift shop will be used to sponsor new events. Hours are generally 1pm to 6pm on Tuesday through Sunday. Cost and times for some musical events and the learning classes can be seen on the website below.
The Canandaigua Lady is an authentic paddle boat that operates on Lake Ontario for sight-seeing tours or dinner-cruise parties.
My kids gave a party for my wife on her 50th birthday on this ship and they all had a great time. (I have a problem with boats.... a picture of Popeye is enough to give me the queazies).
The cruise director does a spiel about the boat and each of the fancy houses along the shore and a history of the Canandaigua area. The passengers get to visit the wheelroom and meet the captain. Then there is a nice buffet and a little more sight seeing and finally back to dock.
You can schedule sunset and late evening cruises as well (with a band thrown in if you have the coins). Rates run anywhere from $15 per person per 2 hours to $50 per person. (see the website below for latest costs)
Four groups of New York backers (Constellation brands, Wegmans, RIT and NY Wine Foundation) have provided a place where you can learn everything about wines and cooking.
You can join a wine tasting, you can take a wine making class, you can learn to cook a special meal, you can have you kids taught the culinary arts. Each event just takes some of your time and money. Wine tasting is a two hour event for $15 (including a personal tour of the establishment and some finger foods). The kids culinary classes are $100 per day and can last up to four days. So there is a wide range of activities you can participate in depending on your needs and pocket book.
And if you still have some time and money left, you can visit the extensive wine boutique on the premises.
there is a great virtual tour on the website. So see those pictures to get a better feel of the scale and scope of the Center.
FLCC stands for Finger Lakes Community College, on the east side of Canandaigua Lake.
If you are out for a drive in the area, pop over to the campus and snap a few pictures of the nice landscaping they have accomplished there. The campus also has a Performing Arts Center where the latest singers and bands and acting groups have performed in an open ampitheater for the last 20 years. The architecture of the ampitheater is unique and deserves a few frames on your camera.
For more information on the College, try:
For information and concert schedules for the Performing Art Center, use:
The court house is set on a hill on the north side of the downtown area.
Perhaps the most notable event that has taken place here was the trial of the women's rights activist, Susan B. Anthony, in the 1870s. She was tried for treason and fined $1.00 for voting in the 1872 election!
The City Hall is across the street from the County Court House and at the top of the main street that leads through the business district to the lake.
It was constructed in 1824 and bears the honor of being one of the oldest buildings in New York State that has been continually occupied. It has belonged solely to the city since 1988. It is on the National Register of Historic Places -- named so in 1973. A relatively recent renovation has returned the building to the form and appearance it had in 1878.
Fred and Mary Thompson lived here from 1863 to 1923. Fred Thompson, a wealthy banker, founded the First National Bank of the City of New York, now called Citibank. He died in 1899, and Mary in 1923.
In 1931, the estate was sold to the Federal Government, which used it as a hospital. In 1970, a non-profit called Friends of Sonnenberg acquired the property, and began restoration. Despite some setbacks, the work continues.
Guided tours through the mansion, included in the admission, are given daily. I had my own individual tour, given by the lovely Kristen. She was a student at Cornell University.
Be sure to visit the nine gardens that surround the mansion. There are nine altogether, each with its own individual character.
It's open from May to October, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (5:30 pm between Memorial Day and Labor Day). Admission is $10.
The south end of Canandaigua is the north end of its lake. If you go there, then you must stop at one of the small park areas on the lake front and rest and take some pictures or just contemplate your naval. The city has spent a few bucks renovating the area to draw tourists (since they tore down their biggest attraction, Roseland Park).
Kershaw Park (LakeShore Drive) has a path that winds along the shore and you can also walk around in the Marina Park just down the road.
In the summer, you can get an ice cream or a cool drink from one of the local vendors. There are public restrooms in the park.
This town has some excellent examples of American neo-classical civic architecture. It also has a pleasant waterfront. On the lake, near the marina, is Squaw Island--the reputed birthplace of the Seneca Nation. Here, according to local lore, is where the Seneca wives and children took refuge during the Indian wars in 1779. Most of it has eroded away, but conservationists are preserving what's left.
Points of contact are for the town's Visitors Center.
If it hadn't been so cold I would have taken many more pictures as the patterns were endlessly fascinating! These two pictures were of the ice along the shoreline of the lake -- taken under different light.
NYS is being recognized for having great wines as good as California wines. If you read my HP then you know I was on a search for benches this summmer (119) which brought me as far as Canandaigua. "Rhythm and Riesling" was found at the Heron Hill Wine Tasting. 5323 Seneca Point Rd which is on the West coast of Canandaigua Lake. This particular bench was painted by international artist, Philip Burke, whose work can be found in the New Yorker and Rolling Stone magazines. It was a perfect day for a ride in the hills.
Even in winter the lake is beautiful -- although these water fowl are probably quite cold. The picture was taken from the front of the Canandaigua Inn on the Lake.