NYC residents who venture out on weekends away are likely familiar with the state’s splendors in the Hudson Valley, the Catskills or the Hamptons. A five-hour drive in a northwesterly direction from the city, however, takes you away from the more commonly frequented regions and into the pastoral Finger Lakes. Rolling, vine-covered hills and pools of crystalline fresh water dot the landscape. In the midst of it all, The Lake House on Canandaigua—a destination unlike any other nearby, with bucolic beauty and world-class amenities—is a beacon of hospitality.
The hotel sits at the top nook of Lake Canandaigua, with waterfront views from the rooms, restaurant, seasonal heated pool and year-round hot tub, lakeside bar and even the stunning timber-framed events barn (where we did yoga). The Sands family acquired the property in 1994. Bill Caleo, son of Richard Sands, formed The Brooklyn Home Company, a boutique arts-driven development cooperative that helped to open the Lake House in August 2020. They had leveled the dilapidated motor lodge originally on the grounds and began again with modern design and sustainability at the forefront. The resulting 124-room destination features interior design by Studio Tack and the Post Company—all of which is comfortable, charming and photogenic.
The library, which serves coffee in the morning and cocktails by night, draws in passersby to its ample design-forward seating and flickering fireplace. The pleasant, spacious hotel rooms—dressed in minimal, subtle colors—provide a sense of calm, especially those overlooking the lake. Ours had a balcony that enhanced the serenity.
Many of the activities, especially in the summer, involve the lake. This includes sailing and swimming, as well as kayaking and canoeing. Though we did not tour it, the spa will surely be a draw after it opens (right now, that’s slated for Memorial Day). But it’s the smaller details—water bottle-filling stations, no single-use plastic—that continue to impress. Local plants populate the gardens, while local produce is the emphasis at Rose Tavern, the culinary centerpiece of the compound. Its menu delights, as do the wines—also mostly from the area.
Canandaigua is one of the larger Finger Lakes (of which there are 11), and the town of Canandaigua has a Main Street worth exploring for its historic architecture, quaint shops and a cozy creperie. The Lake House itself acts as a doorway to the region. From the grounds, we ventured out in a hotel van to a guided hike through nearby scenic trails. Later that day, we strolled from the lobby to the adjacent fisher village of colorful cottages that seems to emerge from the lake itself. Toward the end of the day, in a 2021 BMW 540i xDrive Sedan that we’d taken for the weekend excursion, we traversed lakeside backroads that rise and fall along escarpments. We tapped into the assisted steering to enjoy the scenic drive, safely, as we made our way southeast to the village of Hammondsport for a sunset stroll and then the town of Naples for dinner at Roots Cafe.
If the Lake House existed on an island unto itself, the design and amenities would be a strong enough draw. There’s peace on the property in the winter—and all accounts lead us to believe there’s joy to be found during summer. But the region, known for its Riesling, is so undervalued. Rural sprawl yields wineries and vineyards (of which we visited Heron Hill and Bully Hill). Most of the people on-site were visiting from Rochester and Buffalo, but having done the drive ourselves, we found that it’s within reach of our home in Brooklyn—and a worthy port of call beyond the ordinary.
Hero image by David Graver