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Canandaigua Lake is extremely clean– so clean, in fact, that its water has won competitions for the best drinking water in the whole state of New York. With nearly 36 miles of shoreline, there is plenty of space to explore throughout the area’s Wine Trail, surrounding parks, and outdoor areas.
Canandaigua Lake is not the biggest or the deepest of the Finger Lakes of New York, but it sure is a beautiful sight to see and a great destination for a getaway.
Looking for the best things to do around Canandaigua Lake? Look no further! Whether you’re spending a day, a weekend, or even longer in the area, this list is sure to provide you with plenty of activity ideas!
Where is Canandaigua Lake?
Located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, Canandaigua Lake is the westernmost of the major Finger Lakes. A few smaller “minor” Finger Lakes sit to the west. It’s the fourth largest of the eleven Finger Lakes.
Approximate Drive Times from Major Cities:
- Rochester, NY: 35 minutes
- Buffalo, NY: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Syracuse, NY: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Albany, NY: 3 hours, 30 minutes
- Cleveland, OH: 4 hours, 30 minutes
- Pittsburgh, PA: 4 hours, 45 minutes
- Philadelphia, PA: 5 hours
- New York, NY; 5 hours, 30 minutes
What is Canandaigua known for?
In addition to some of the cleanest water in all of the state, Canandaigua Lake is only one of two of the Finger Lakes to have an island in the lake.
Canandaigua’s island, recently renamed Skenoh Island in October 2021, has historical significance to the Seneca Nation. It is said that the island was once used to hide away women and children during the Sullivan Expedition of the Revolutionary War.
Skenoh Island has been shrinking, and measures have been taken to try and preserve as much of it as possible. Historically, it had been around 2 acres, but most recent measurements say that the island is only about 55 feet wide by 145 feet long at this point in time.
Small Towns to Visit
Much of the land surrounding Canandaigua is used for farming. In size, Canandaigua Lake comes in number 4 of the 11 Finger Lakes. With nearly 36 miles of shoreline, there are a few small towns along and nearby worth a visit.
The only of these three with any actual lakefront, the town of Canandaigua is also the largest of the three and is home to over 10,000 people.
Canandaigua is home to beautiful historical features, and the culinary scene places a huge emphasis on fresh farm-to-table cuisine.
In the summer, water activities are plentiful, and this is also a great spot to begin your trek around the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail. You’ll find large grocery stores, plenty of restaurants, and things to do in Canandaigua.
About 4 miles south of Canandaigua Lake on State Rte 21, you’ll find Naples. Around 2,500 people call the town of Naples home.
In addition to wine and spirit tasting, there are plenty of outdoor experiences around Naples.
A fun fact about the area: the original land was able to be purchased for $0.12 per acre, equivalent to about $3.50 in today’s market, because the extremely hilly land was thought to be just about worthless.
The smallest of the 3 towns, Bristol, is home to around 2,300 people. It is located about 9 miles west of Canandaigua Lake and is home to all of the Bristol Mountain attractions.
Things To Do Around Canandaigua Lake
There is an activity for everyone around Canandaigua Lake, from history buffs to aspiring chefs, and families to adventure seekers. Here are some of the best things to do!
Canandaigua Wine Trail
One of the most popular reasons to visit the Finger Lakes region of New York is for wine-tasting opportunities. Canandaigua Lake has its own wine trail, even though it is slightly smaller than those around a few of the other lakes. There are 6 tasting locations on the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail, each with its own personality and specialty.
- Arbor Hill Grapery & Winery
- Finger Lakes Wine Center
- Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars
- Heron Hill Tasting Room on Canandaigua Lake
- Inspire Moore Winery
- Song Hill Winery
We’d recommend beginning at the Finger Lakes Wine Center in Canandaigua, as they typically have wines and snacks from over 40 different wineries in New York. They’re typically open from the middle of May through the middle of October.
From there, head up to Song Hill, the furthest from Canandaigua Lake. Then return down the western side of the lake to stop at the other 4 locations.
Looking to book a guided tour of Canandaigua Lake wineries with transportation? Check out this Canandaigua Wine Trail Experience!
A wine trail passport can be purchased for $35 and includes tastings at each winery. This provides a 25% discount compared to purchasing tastings separately at each winery. There are also discounts included for purchasing wine. Passports can be purchased online ahead of time, and they will be mailed to you.
You must have the physical passport in hand to begin using it on the wine trail. Electronic copies and receipts are not accepted. We found that most of the wineries also had these on hand for purchase, but a few did run out of them.
If you plan your trip with enough time to spare, we’d recommend purchasing these ahead of time to make sure you get one for everyone in your group. Also, please note that only groups of up to 6 people can use them. If your group is larger, you’ll have to split up.
Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion Historic Park
This 50-acre property in the town of Canandaigua is open during the summer months, from May to October. In addition to the 40-room mansion, the property has 9 separate flower gardens.
Each of the flower gardens has a special theme, such as the Japanese flower garden, rose garden, or Italian Garden. Others have color themes, including one with only white flowers and one with only blue and white flowers.
Since Sonnenberg Gardens is a part of the New York State Parks system, there is an entry fee required to visit the grounds. Admission is $15 per adult and $3-$8 per child, depending on age. For general admission, just plan to purchase at the gate– no need to make reservations ahead of time!
Currently, the mansion and its gardens are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Granger Homestead & Carriage Museum
Gideon Granger, the longest-tenured postmaster general of the United States, lived on 12 acres of this land with his family. Granger worked as postmaster general from 1800-1813 and then moved to Canandaigua Lake.
After his death in 1822, the homestead was kept in the family for the next 4 generations. After several tragedies all within a short period of time, the home became vacant.
The Granger Homestead & Carriage Museum has now been converted into a museum, housing over 100 horse-drawn modes of transportation including carriages, sleighs, and farm equipment. The collection is quite impressive for those interested in this sort of thing or learning something new.
Boat on the Lake
Rent one or bring your own!
Either way, this is a very popular summertime activity around Canandaigua for good reason. Take in quite a different perspective of the shores from the water.
Both motorized and non-motorized boats like kayaks and canoes can be used here.
If you’d like to enjoy a motorized boat on the lake but you either don’t own one or want to tow it, check out places like Sutter’s Marina, German Brothers Marina, or Seager’s Marine Inc. They rent everything you’d need to enjoy a few days on the water.
The Canandaigua Lady
The Canandaigua Lady is a replica of the original “Lady of the Lake” steamboat used in the 1800s to take tours around Canandaigua Lake. The boat is a 65-ton double-decker paddlewheel steamboat.
Options for public cruising include lunchtime, afternoon sightseeing, and dinner cruises. The Canandaigua Lady can also be reserved for private charter events.
Its season typically runs from May to October. To ensure your tickets, plan to reserve your space in advance.
One of the only public stretches along the shores of Canandaigua Lake is in Kershaw Park. Only 1.2 miles of the 35.9 miles of the lake’s shoreline are public, so explore what you can!
The park is located right in the town of Canandaigua and does feature a beach where swimming is permitted. The beach is open for swimming typically from around Memorial Day weekend to nearly Labor Day weekend.
There is an admission fee required for entrance to the beach. Residents can access the beach for $1, while non-resident adults are charged $5, and children ages 6-18 will have a $2 fee.
Canandaigua City Pier
Next to Kershaw Park, almost an extension of Canandaigua’s Main Street, sits the historic Canandaigua City Pier.
Check out the picturesque rows of boathouses at the City Pier, a great spot to catch a beautiful early morning sunrise.
About 80 boathouses are still standing, arranged around a few small inlets to the west side of the pier. These boathouses are still functional, despite the pier being operational for over 150 years!
It’s a great place to snap a few beautiful photos in Canandaigua.
County Road 12 Overlook
Found in Carolabarb Park, this overlook offers stunning views over the entire lake. Stop for a few minutes just to enjoy the views, or plan a picnic and stay for a couple of hours.
Either option would be a totally acceptable way to take in the sights!
Find the park at 7083 Co Rd 12, on the way to Naples.
In the winter, Bristol Mountain is a beautiful ski and snowboard destination in the Finger Lakes.
There are 38 slopes and trails scattered around the mountain for downhill and cross-country skiing. Don’t forget to take in the stunning views at the 2,220 ft. summit of the mountain, while you’re there.
There is some terrain for everyone, with the spread of 32% green beginner, 55% blue intermediate, and 13% black and double black advanced.
According to the resort website, you won’t find a higher vertical between the Rockies and the Adirondacks!
In the summer, Bristol Mountain is a destination for zipline and aerial adventure tours.
A children’s course has been constructed for those as young as 4. The full-sized tours typically take around 3 hours, and the children’s adventure course pass is valid for one hour.
Advance reservations are recommended to ensure harness availability for everyone in your party.
Roseland Water Park
To cool off on a hot summer day, especially with kids, check out the old-fashioned Roseland Water Park.
There is plenty of room for everyone here in their 27,000 square-foot wave pool, 600 feet long lazy river, and multiple water slides.
An area for those under 4 feet tall includes smaller slides and water features, too, in this 56-acre park.
This isn’t a cheap day out, as adult ticket prices cost nearly $34 and children $27. Planning ahead of time by purchasing tickets online 3 or more days in advance will save $5 per ticket. The savings could definitely add up for a larger group!
Roseland Wake Park
Have you ever wanted to try your luck wakeboarding out on a lake? Well, you’re in luck!
The Roseland Wake Park, located just next to the water park, is a great place for a beginner to learn the sport of wakeboarding.
The park is set up on a cable system to pull you along the water, so there is no waiting for a boat to come back and pick you up every time you fall. The water is also smoother and a little more predictable for beginners to learn.
In addition to beginner lessons, there are also features for jumps and rails for those who are more skilled. Both lessons and equipment rentals are available.
Advance reservations are required for beginner lessons so they can make sure that you have the best experience possible!
Canandaigua Farmer’s Market
Typically, around 30 vendors set up a summer market to sell their locally grown and raised goods on Saturday mornings from June through October. You can find the market right in downtown Canandaigua on South Main Street.
During the winter months from November to May, the market runs every other Saturday.
It’s well run and hit a 20-year anniversary in 2021!
At the market, you may be able to find various fruits and vegetables, meats, baked goods, and varieties of canned products like sauces, mustards, and jams. Also, be on the lookout for local honey and maple syrup.
After wandering around the farmer’s market, head up the street to the NY Kitchen (originally called the NY Wine & Culinary Center), which aims to showcase the best of the state of New York.
Cooking Classes at NY Kitchen
The chefs at the NY Kitchen can teach even the most beginner-level culinary skills for you to create a delicious dish.
The classes use fresh, local ingredients and typically have different themes. Some have a featured menu, while others focus on a specific type of food or culinary region.
Classes must be booked in advance.
Please note: closed-toed shoes are required to take part in any of the cooking experiences here.
Deep Run Beach & Park
Over on the east side of Canandaigua Lake, you’ll find this 80-acre park for outdoor relaxation.
The best part of this park? There is a beach with free access to swim and enjoy the lake’s beautiful clear waters! There are lifeguards on duty during the day throughout the summer season.
Picnic tables and bathhouse facilities complete this park.
Deep Run Beach can be found at 4300 East Lake Road, Canandaigua, NY, on the east shore of the lake.
Grimes Glen Park
Within walking distance of Naples, you’ll find this county park that features not one, but two easily accessible waterfalls.
Parking can be found at the end of Vine Street in Naples, but it is limited. Alternatively, you are encouraged to park in the municipal parking lot on Mill Street and walk about 0.5 miles through the town to reach Grimes Glen.
At the beginning of the hike, you’ll cross a bridge and continue to walk along Grimes Creek on an out and back trail.
The first waterfall comes after about 0.5 miles and the second roughly 0.25 miles further. Both of the waterfalls are estimated to be about 60 feet tall.
In total, the hike would cover anywhere from 1.5-2.5 miles, depending on where you park.
While you’re walking along the creek, don’t forget to look up at the 200 feet tall gorge walls of Grimes Glen.
Where to Stay on Canandaigua Lake
There are plenty of options for overnight accommodations around Canandaigua Lake. Consider the size of the group you plan to travel with as one of the most important factors in your decision.
There are numerous lake houses for rent on sites like VRBO for groups of both small and larger sizes. This is a great option with a little more privacy and space!
Bed & Breakfasts are also a great option, but would most likely be easier to arrange for smaller groups. Beautiful, quaint lakeside cottages have been converted to house visitors around the lake.
As for hotel options, there are only 2 options, both located in the town of Canandaigua. The Super 8 is more budget-friendly, whereas there is a Holiday Inn Express just across the street. The Holiday Inn Express typically includes breakfast each morning.
Best Places to Eat & Drink
- NY Kitchen (Canandaigua): Local farm-to-table cuisine and the best craft beverages
- Nolans on the Lake (Canandaigua): Steak and seafood with views of the lake
- Rio Tomatlan (Canandaigua): Mexican cantina with outdoor patio
- Roots Cafe (Naples): Fresh, local cafe open for lunch and dinner
- Cheshire Farms Creamery (Canandaigua): homemade ice cream; a little pricey but large portions
- Cindy’s Pies (Naples): Flavorful grape pies, fruit pastries, and desserts
- Twisted Rail Brewing (Canandaigua): Beer, pretzels, and flatbreads with a seasonal outdoor patio
- Other Half Brewing (Bloomfield): Delicious, creative beer with rotating local food vendors
- Young Lion Brewing (Canandaigua): Tap room offering their beer, as well as seltzers, ciders, etc
- Star Cider (Canandaigua): Beautiful red barn setting with on-site Mexican kitchen
- Frequentum Brewing (Canandaigua): Small batch brewery on Main Street
**Please note: Some spots close, and other new ones are popping up all the time. This is not an all-inclusive list, but merely a starting point with a few suggestions!**
FAQ’s: Know Before You Go
Where does the name Canandaigua come from? History says that the name originates from the Seneca word “Kanandarque.” This word translates to “chosen spot.” Why wouldn’t you keep that as the town’s motto?
Can you swim in Canandaigua Lake? Yes! There are a few public locations to swim in Canandaigua Lake. Check out Deep Run Beach for free swimming opportunities or Onada Park, where you’ll have to pay a summer parking fee. Kershaw Park also offers swimming at their beach for a fee.
What is the water temperature in Canandaigua Lake? Summer water temperatures average somewhere between the mid-60s to mid-70s Fahrenheit, peaking in the middle of July, typically. The water will be more tolerable on a bright, sunny summer day!
How long does it take to drive around Canandaigua Lake? You can make it around the entire lake in about an hour, but why would you want to rush? There are so many beautiful views and little spots to stop and enjoy along the way!
Are the Finger Lakes natural or man-made? The Finger Lakes are au naturale, everyone! Geological history says that the lakes were left behind as glaciers receded and eroded the lands.
More Finger Lakes Adventures
- Watkins Glen State Park
- Finger Lakes National Forest
- Taughannock Falls State Park
- Finger Lakes Winter Getaways
Wrap Up: Is Canandaigua Lake Worth Visiting?
For those looking for a getaway more on the quiet side, Canandaigua Lake is a beautiful destination. For adult-only trips, there are plenty of beer, wine, and spirit-tasting opportunities and beautiful landscapes to explore. This would be a great family destination, as well, with adventures on the lake, swimming, and children’s activities.
Definitely look to Canandaigua Lake for a small-town getaway!
Have you visited the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York?
Which lake was your favorite to explore?