If you’re looking for an annual destination for happiness, the Finger Lakes is a proven winner. I live here, so I know how great this area is year-round, but it’s always good to take a look through someone else’s eyes to help me appreciate it even more. I have friends and acquaintances who travel here year after year for their annual vacations then brag to me about how fantastic their visit was AGAIN. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to tell you the story of seven couples from Canada who have been drawn back to our area year after year. And love it!
The story began several years ago when Chris Palmer, the coordinator for a group of vintage car enthusiasts from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, contacted me to see if Ontario County would be a good place to drive their ’56-’57 Chevy classic cars and spend a few days. I love classic cars, I love our area, so of course I was enthusiastic about the group coming here and helped them arrange accommodations and daytrip destinations from Canandaigua in a hub and spoke- type of vacation. Hub and spoke vacations are a great way to go, and I’ll use them as an example to explain.
The “hub” of a trip is where a traveler basically chooses as the “home base”. This group of travelers (I call them my “Canadian Classics” <smile>) chose their “hub” to be the Lafayette Motel in Canandaigua. The first reason for choosing the Lafayette was the conventional motel-style set-up. They could have their classic cars right outside their motel room doors. Just what they wanted so they could keep an eye on those beauties.
It didn’t take long for them to have other reasons for choosing the Lafayette. First, Canandaigua is a great central location, so going off for day trips from their motel was simple. In every direction of the “spokes” from their “hub”, there were attractions to visit. Second, they love hanging out around the fire pit so they can enjoy the outdoors and down time with their friends. Third, the breakfast at the motel is exceptional. And, finally, Innkeeper Debbie Casella is so hospitable she makes them feel like they are returning “home” every time they come back, whether just for the day or for a new vacation. Who wouldn’t want that kind of welcome?
Since the “Canadian Classics” return every year, they’ve now started switching up when they come so they can take full advantage of activities throughout the entire summer, not just the same week every year. As a result, they now work with me to create different itineraries. One year they planned to be here during the Pageant of Steam, another time they made sure to come while Arts in the Garden at Sonnenberg Gardens was in full swing. They’ve visited Granger Homestead (where they were allowed to take a gorgeous photo of their cars on the front lawn) and Naked Dove Brewing Company, just to name a few of their destinations.
This year’s itinerary included activities to satisfy everyone in the group. The ladies love to visit EASTVIEW Mall and eagerly await the new stores each year. Of course, a meal at Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake was just the delicious icing at the end of a fun-filled day. According to Chris, the prime rib at Nolan’s was the best he’s ever had – and he’s had a lot of prime rib!
An exciting highlight was the day trip to the NASCAR racetrack in Watkins Glen. Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch – move over! These couples took those classic Chevys out on the track and did laps, just like the professionals (but much slower, for sure!). And, sticking with the classic car theme, they never miss a Wegmans Cruisin’ Night. They’re surrounded by hundreds of people who get just as excited about “what’s under the hood” as they do.
So besides the great places to visit, the perfect motel to meet their needs, the breathtaking scenery while they’re driving around, what’s the biggest thing that brings this group back to the Finger Lakes? The hospitality. An invitation by fellow car enthusiast Mark Case, owner of Heritage Motors, whom they met at the Cruisin’ Night was an unexpected treat. Even though they had just met, Mark invited all of them back to his home to see his personal collection of classic cars. But his desire to show these visitors a good time didn’t end there. When he found out they were going to Brew and Brats for lunch, he called ahead and asked to be billed for a complimentary first round of drinks for these guests as a way of welcoming them to the area. That’s taking hospitality above and beyond!
Chris said every year they are totally blown away by the friendliness and hospitality of the people here and how much there is to see and do.
We here at Finger Lakes Visitors Connection have declared this the “Year of Happiness”, and this group’s experiences (over and over again) prove our point. This is the “region of happiness” all the time. We have four great seasons. I encourage you to visit and try out all of them. Why wouldn’t you want to go with a proven winner vacation in the Finger Lakes each year and find your Finger Lakes Happiness over and over again?