Your first impression of Canandaigua, New York, might be its unusual name.
Derived from a Seneca village of the same name, this tongue twister word means “The Chosen Spot” —and indeed it is.
The city is one of the gateways to the Finger Lakes of the state and is located on the northern end of Canandaigua Lake.
Because of this setting, the city has many natural attractions, green spaces, and water features.
It’s also blessed with plenty of fertile lands that allow residents to grow various crops, including grapes for wines.
Then there’s the historic downtown, filled with old buildings and landmarks from the city’s first years.
So if you want to experience a peaceful but colorful side of New York state, make this your top choice.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Canandaigua, NY:
Explore the Grounds of Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park
One of the most famous attractions in town is Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park.
The estate is a regal destination that boasts a Queen Anne-style mansion and 50 acres of surrounding grounds.
Once owned by a wealthy banker, this property is now under the care of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
They offer tours of the 40-room home, allowing you to view the exquisite furnishing and antique items that have been around since the 1880s.
You’re also welcome to roam the gorgeous, well-manicured gardens.
So go ahead and smell the blooming springs flowers, marvel at the sculpted shrubbery, and feel the soft grass under your feet.
Within the estate, you’ll also find the Finger Lakes Wine Center.
It’s where you can sample some of the fine wines created on the fields surrounding the city.
Go Restaurant Hopping Downtown
Because of access to nearby growers and fields, Canandaigua boasts a farm-to-table cuisine where the freshness and quality of ingredients are guaranteed.
The best place to sample these dishes is at the city’s historic downtown.
Since the establishments are close together, you can visit them all in one epic restaurant hopping trip.
Green Front has classic American staples like burgers, wings, and other fried snacks, but the real highlight is their selection of wines from the local wineries.
At Rheinblick German Restaurant, you can enjoy authentic German dishes and beverages elevated by the ingredients from the city’s farms.
For those craving homemade delights, Gateway Grille has a selection of satisfying comfort foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Go Swimming at Kershaw Park
Kershaw Park is the premier community park in the city, sitting next to the scenic Canandaigua Lake.
It features nine acres of verdant grounds, patches of trees, and a lakeside front that offers excellent views of the surroundings.
The most prominent attraction here is the small beach, which offers access to the lake's cool water.
You can swim in the designated area next to the beach or lay on the soft sand and relax under the sun.
On the other side, there’s a kayak launch for those who want to explore the nearby Lagoon Park and the banks of Canandaigua Lake.
But if you’re not ready to get into the waters just yet, you can stay on the many benches and gazebos installed in key sections of the park.
Go Skiing at Bristol Mountain
Upstate New York is well-known for its many skiing destinations, but Bristol Mountain ski resort takes the cake as the one with the highest vertical on this side of the US.
This winter recreation area is located far from the city proper, but it’s just an easy drive parallel to the length of Canandaigua lake.
Scattered in 160 acres of skiable area, the attraction’s many trails, slopes, chairlifts, and other facilities make it an ideal winter attraction.
There are 34 trails in total, ranging from more manageable ones ideal for beginners to ones requiring masterful steering and maneuvering.
Some of these trails are also ideal for cross-country skiing for those who like more challenging routes.
In summer, some of the chairlifts are converted into viewing platforms that let you enjoy the region's views.
The rest of the trails are also open for exploration, mountain biking, and hiking.
Make a Splash at Roseland Wake Park
Before going into Canandaigua Lake, you need to check out Roseland Wake Park, a water recreation destination for adventure seekers.
This is the first and only cable wake on this side of the US, covering an area of 56 acres.
Because of its status, it’s often visited by people from a few states over so they can experience the thrilling ride, too.
The park has training towers, a full cable system, and ramps where you can try wakeboarding.
It’s okay if you’re just a beginner, as the park offers training programs that will have you upright on the water and doing tricks in no time.
But if you’re already a professional, you’re guaranteed an exhilarating experience riding the wakes of the small lake.
If you’re not up for extreme water adventures just yet, you can head over to Roseland Waterpark, located in the same complex.
It’s got a crystal clear, zero-depth entry pool, a lazy river, and waterslides for the whole family!
Find Fresh Produce at Canandaigua Farmer's Market
For those who want to partake in the bounty of the city’s harvest, make sure to stop by Canandaigua Farmer's Market.
This gathering of around 30 farmers and vendors lasts only from June to October, the best time to pick produce.
You’ll find a great number of seasonal vegetables, premium root crops, various fruit cultivars, and even bunches of fragrant flowers.
And since they’re from local farms and gardens, these products are guaranteed fresh.
While perusing the stalls, you’ll also see locally made items like preserves, freshly baked goods, cured meats, and maple products.
Make sure to mingle with other locals and vendors to get recipe tips and make new friends during your visit!
Unwind at Richard P. Outhouse Memorial Park
Further inland is the tranquil Richard P. Outhouse Memorial Park, located on the western edges of the city proper.
Because of this setting, the attraction offers a more peaceful ambiance ideal for those who want to unwind.
There’s a wide green field for soccer or lacrosse, shelters for small gatherings, as well as walking trails that bring you to beautiful forested segments.
If you’re a senior, you can visit the fitness center and get those arms and legs moving.
For those kids, you can bring them to the well-maintained playground with various play structures.
Then there’s Sucker Brook, running along the length of the park and elevating the scenery with its babbling waters.
You’re welcome to check it out and try spotting the birds and small mammals living next to it.
Learn History at Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
From afar, the boxy and cream-colored facade of the Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum stands in contrast to the green trees trying to hide it.
This Federal-style mansion has been around since 1816 and stands in a 12-acre land.
Before it was turned over to the Granger Homestead Society, the Granger family owned the property for four generations.
But today, the homestead has been turned into a museum that showcases the carriage industry of New York, the agricultural practices of the 19th century, and furnishings from the past.
The Society also strives to keep the home alive, so you can find members baking, cooking, painting, and conducting tours of the interiors.
Outside, two barns contain around 100 antique carriages and sleighs—one of the biggest collections in the country.
It’s a fascinating sight that makes you wonder about the various modes of transport used in the early days.
Trek the Trails of Atwater Meadows Park
Unlike the other, more developed parks in Canandaigua, Atwater Meadows Park is wooded and has remained undisturbed.
The 18-acre attraction is mostly just trees, old ones and new growth, along with some pretty wildflowers that punctuate the dense greenery.
Camping is not allowed in the area to preserve the pristine state of the forest, but you’re welcome to explore the trail that leads to Canandaigua Lake.
Once you reach the end of the path, you’ll find a ramp frequently used by kayakers as a launching point.
Just watch out for poison ivy while traversing the trail.
Join the Waterfront Art Festival
At the end of July, the Canandaigua holds its most anticipated yearly event: the Waterfront Art Festival.
This is a gathering of the finest artists and masters from all over the region.
You will see booths and stalls where beautiful artworks are displayed and sold, including paintings, sculptures, glassworks, jewelry, and prints.
There will also be booths from local vendors and organizations offering their products and services.
And if you want to sample the local cuisine of Canandaigua, you will find stalls with bottles of wine, baked goods, and other edible products during the festival.
Make a Stopover at Deep Run Park
If you want a lakeside destination far from the city while still having modern amenities, then Deep Run Park is the place to be.
It sits next to Deep Run Creek, one of the tributaries of Canandaigua Lake.
While launching kayaks is not permitted here, it serves as an excellent landing spot for those who were canoeing or kayaking from the city.
Most people come here to enjoy the peaceful ambiance and the swimming beach, which has a sandy shoreline.
Discover the Wonders of Canandaigua Lake
The long and scenic Canandaigua Lake is part of the Finger Lakes, a unique geographical feature created by retreating glaciers.
It’s the fourth largest among these bodies of water and is regarded for its excellent water quality.
In fact, it’s the main source of drinking water for the people of Canandaigua as well as irrigation for the surrounding agricultural lands.
Exploring the lake is possible by using three primary modes of transport: kayaking or canoeing to areas near the city, boats for fishing and exploring the farther banks, and the
Canandaigua Lady for scenic cruises.
If you’re up for fishing, you can join a charter from Canandaigua or bring your own boat.
There are much freshwater game swimming in the depths, such as trout, large and smallmouth bass, panfish, and chain pickerel.
Have a Picnic at Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park
The primary purpose of the Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park is as a boat launch, offering access to the eponymous lake.
You’ll see three concrete boat ramps where you can easily board a water vessel and proceed to your lake adventures.
But the park also serves as a favorite outdoor destination by locals and visitors alike.
There are expansive and lush grounds, walking trails, as well as trees providing ample shading for a picnic.
However, the best section to have a nice meal with your family is in front of the small duck pond, which is located adjacent to the boat ramps.
You can also try shore fishing on the canal, as the activity is permitted in the park.
Brave the Rapids of Canandaigua Outlet
The humble Canandaigua Outlet serves as the primary outflow of Canandaigua Lake before becoming a tributary of the Erie Canal, a journey that spans 34 miles.
It passes through some of the city’s attractions, like the aforementioned Kershaw Park and Lagoon Park.
Having been used since pre-colonial times, this creek has many historical points of interest as well as attractions along its length.
But most people come here to brave the treacherous rapids in some segments.
Since the river is narrow and the currents are fast, the Canandaigua Outlet has sections classified under Class II and III.
So you need an intermediate amount of skill to pass the rapids safely.
And for those who do, get ready for some thrilling rides downriver!
There are some outfitters and touring businesses that can provide equipment and guides for your adventures in the outlet.
Try Fishing at Lagoon Park
The beautiful and undisturbed Lagoon Park sits right where the Canandaigua Outlet begins.
Spanning 34-acres, this attraction doubles as a nature preserve, so there’s a lot of restrictions on what you can do here.
But a visit is well worth it, as the pristine surroundings contain many birds and small mammal species.
Kayaking the banks is a favorite activity, and so is fishing.
But for those who don’t want to get wet, the park has bridges and boardwalks that let you cross the body of water.
These structures serve as lookouts where you can view the park without any obstructions.
As one of the gateways to the Finger Lakes region, Canandaigua promises lots of adventures both on land and on water.
So whether you like camping, swimming, skiing, and attending art festivals, the city has what you’re looking for.
Reference this list and add the top spots to your itinerary today!