Sonnenberg Gardens, in the City of Canandaigua, is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age.
Like the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, Sonnenberg was a summer home for Frederick, the founder of First National Bank (now City Bank) and his wife, Mary, who grew up in Canandaigua and whose father was Governor of New York State.
I found it fascinating that Mary and her traveling party had tickets to sail home to the United States on the RMS Titanic April 14, 1912. She changed her plans and decided to stay in Europe a bit longer.
Getting Around Sonnenberg Gardens
Once you’ve parked and come through admissions, the park is free to explore. You could either view the map as a literal step-by-step guide or wander aimlessly and see what you can discover on your own.
The main roads through the 50-acre property are paved and easily walkable. Some of the places you can explore, like the Tea Garden and the Rock Garden, are accessed by windy, uneven footpaths.
There are also trams available that can take you anywhere in the park, but are especially useful getting from the entrance to the mansion and back. The drivers are excited to share details and stories as you drive along.
Inside Sonnenberg Gardens Mansion
You can explore two of the three floors in the mansion. Unlike other historic homes where most of the space is roped off, you are pretty free to explore every detail up close.
The Sonnenberg Gardens
There is a bedroom porch on the second floor that offers a perfect view of the gardens below.
Blue & White Garden
Japanese Garden & Tea House
The glass conservatory is an example of Lord & Burnham’s extraordinary work. Their portfolio includes the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, where they were contracted by Frederick Law Olmsted during the development of Cazenovia and South Parks.
Finger Lakes Wine Center
The 1911 stained glass Tiffany-style window was crafted by the Pike Stained Glass Studio in Rochester, NY. William Pike, founded the company in Rochester in 1908, after working for Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York City.
Enjoy a wine tasting, for a small fee, in their tasting cellar located near the parking lot. Learn more
More Information about Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion
Open May 1 – October 31
Located in the City of Canandaigua, 30 miles / 35 minutes from Rochester. View Map
Check their website for current admission fee. Admission includes entrance into the gardens, greenhouse, and mansion.
Rochester became a global center for flower and tree nurseries in the mid-1800s, fostering our identity as The Flower City.
Rather than an escape, I prefer to think of these as transcending places that encourage us to transcend space, time, and state of mind.
Canandaigua Lake is home to the smallest island, one of only two islands in the Finger Lakes. You can drive around the entire lake in 60 minutes.
What is your favorite spot at Sonnenberg Gardens?
Share with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!