This tiny barrier island proves that smaller is better when it comes to Florida beaches. …
If you ever meet someone who suggests a quick getaway to the Finger Lakes region in New York, you might want to sit them down and explain to them it would be impossible to explore such a huge area in such a short amount of time. After all, the Finger Lakes encompasses eleven lakes and hundreds of miles of land!
Instead, you want to narrow down your visit so you’re not driving all over every day or accidentally planning visits to places at opposite ends of the region. While areas like Corning and the South Finger Lakes are popular choices, I also cannot recommend spending a weekend in the Genesee River Valley enough!
Located in the western side of the Finger Lakes region and, of course, surrounding the mighty Genesee River, this area is full of so many unique things to do that you’ll easily pack your 2-3 days. Whether it’s getting outside to see the river’s incredible natural beauty, popping into a number of historical landmarks, or eating at some of the most delicious spots, I’ve rounded up some of my best recommendations for just about any kind of trip you want to take.
Where to Go for an Outdoorsy Weekend in Genesee River Valley
Letchworth State Park
Easily the best way to enjoy the outdoors is to visit Letchworth State Park, which sits right at the heart of the Genesee River Valley and is sometimes known as the Grand Canyon of the East. Stretching along 17 miles of the river with three main waterfalls (Lower, Middle, and Upper) and over 66 miles of trails, there’s a ton to do here depending on the time of the year. You can even book a hot air balloon ride.
One of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the park is to actually stay overnight at the Glen Iris Inn, a historic property that gives you a beautiful view over the Middle Falls.
The Autism Nature Trail
While exploring Letchworth State Park, be sure to check out the Autism Nature Trail. This special one-mile loop was designed for people with autism spectrum disorder by a 17-member panel of specialists including Temple Grandin. As you walk along the trail, you’ll discover a number of sensory-oriented stations all designed to allow visitors to practice balance and motor skills as well as increase their sensory perception in a peaceful, natural environment.
If you plan your weekend in Genesee River Valley at the right time, you may just be able to explore the beautiful and privately-owned Linwood Gardens. The property is known for its Japanese and American tree peony collection, which you can see in full bloom for the Tree Peony Festival in late spring. Otherwise, the gardens are only open on specific open garden days or summer workshops.
The Little Fruit Stand at Fallbrook Farms
While you’re driving, keep an eye out for The Little Fruit Stand run by the same women-powered duo behind Fallbrook Farms! Shannon Chanler and Melissa Hughes focus on regenerative farming and creating plant-based herbal medicines. The Little Fruit Stand is their version of a general store where you can pick up all sorts of wellness products formulated by Chanler, who’s a board-certified acupuncturist and herbalist.
The shop is only open on Saturdays from May to November, so plan wisely!
Overland Morgan Horse Farm
If you’re looking for some horse riding, there’s no better spot in Genesee than Overland Morgan Horse Farm. The farm is family-owned and operated and offers guided trail rides for all levels. Their rides take you through wooded areas and offer up some beautiful hilltop views of the area. Be sure to call ahead to make reservations and know they’re cash-only for trail rides.
After you finish your ride, don’t miss their Farm Store where you can find both farm-fresh food as well as unique barn antiques, perfect for home decor. And, hey, if you find yourself a superfan after your visit, they also offer some Overland Morgan Horse Farm merchandise!
Where to Find History in Genesee River Valley
The Abbey of the Genesee
One of the most intriguing places to visit is the Abbey of Genesee, a Roman Catholic monastery where two dozen monks live and work. Given the abbey’s cloistered nature you cannot, of course, simply visit and walk around the grounds. You can, however, join the Abbey Church for liturgical or private prayer or reserve a spot in their meeting room to chat with some monks.
If you do visit, make sure you stop into their on-site store! It’s there that you can buy their world-famous Monks’ bread. They’ve been baking this bread since 1953 and make it using an old-fashioned fermentation process. This process takes up to five hours and sometimes 14 people to make!
Genesee Country Village and Museum
The Genesee Country Village and Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in American history. This living history museum is the largest of its kind in New York state and allows visitors to see what life would have been like in the 19th century. Spread over 600 acres with 68 buildings, you can easily spend a whole afternoon wandering through and seeing various costumed interpreters portraying what life would’ve looked like centuries ago. You can even join the fun for yourself, just check their website for upcoming workshops and classes.
The Shawn Dunwoody Mural in Mount Morris
Mount Morris is a little gateway village to Letchworth State Park and home to charming Main Street full of small businesses and restaurants. It’s also known as the birthplace of Francis Bellamy. Even if that name doesn’t ring a bell, his most famous piece of work does – a little diddy called “The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.”
In honor of Bellamy, artist Shawn Dunwoody created a huge mural to honor the many faces and historical figures that have made Mount Morris what it is today. Head to the corner of Main & Chapel Streets and see if you recognize any faces.
Clara Barton Chapter #1
While the Clara Barton National Historic Site is located in Maryland, where she passed away in 1912, this house is where she got her start with the American Red Cross. Back in the 1860s when she was supposed to be resting in Switzerland, Barton met Dr. Appia and was introduced to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
When she returned to the US following the Franco-Prussian War, where she assisted the Red Cross, she returned intending to build recognition for this incredible organization. While she held the first official meeting of the American Red Cross in DC on May 21, 1881, the first local society met at Barton’s country home right in the town of Dansville on August 22nd. The house acts as both a museum dedicated to Barton and the Red Cross as well as a meeting place. It’s only open Monday to Friday, so only add it to your itinerary if you’re planning a longer weekend visit!
Where to Eat in Genesee River Valley
The Borikén Restaurant
A taste of Puerto Rico in Genesee? Yes, please! The Borikén Restaurant, owned and run by Melanie Alvarez Santiago, offers up an authentic Puerto Rican menu. The name “Borikén” comes from the country’s original name in the Taino language. If you’re not sure where to start, get the chinchorro de PR, which is made up of a variety of smaller plates – great for trying multiple dishes at once.
Picnic at Hemlock Lake Park
Nothing like a nice picnic when the weather is warm! First head over to the Shoreless Acres General Store in Livonia to pick up your supplies. This fun, funky store has been around for over 30 years and should have everything you need for a nice lunch. Once you’ve stocked up, head to Hemlock Lake Park to set up shop. The park offers up both pavilions and picnic tables depending on what you’re after.
American Hotel of Lima
Cozy up with the hearty soups served up at the American Hotel of Lima. One of the co-owners, Rose Reynolds, has become famous for her daily rotating soup menu. Each day she picks six of the 200 recipes she has in rotation and makes them all fresh. Think classic recipes like split pea to more unique takes like cheeseburger chowder.
The historic hotel itself is worth visiting and even staying in as well. The current building has been around since 1840, though a hotel has sat on this spot since 1790. Rose’s family came into ownership in the 1920s, and today it’s her and her brother, Pat, managing everything. When you visit to try Rose’s soups, be sure to ask Pat about the ghostly visitors the hotel receives.
And those are just a few things to get you started in planning a fantastic weekend in Genesee River Valley. Now you can see why simply visiting the Finger Lakes region in just one weekend is impossible when there’s so much to do in just one area of the region!
If you want to see more ideas on how to spend a weekend at the Jersey Shore and what else we got up on our visit, check out our Genesee River Valley episode of Season 5’s “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”!