Where in the world is Cazenovia? Never heard of it? I hadn’t either, until serendipity stepped in…and next thing I knew I was booking a flight to New York (that’s a good story for another time).
Since being nominated in Budget Traveler’s “Coolest Small Town in America” contest, I suspect a lot more people know about Cazenovia now. Don’t worry though, Cazenovia welcomes tourists, but the essence of what makes it cool won’t change for tourism. Besides, it’s not the easiest place to get to – you have to want to go there.
Cazenovia, New York: One of America’s Coolest Small Towns
So, what makes Cazenovia, New York one of America’s coolest small towns?
To visit Cazenovia is to step back in time. Though the people and lifestyle are completely modern, the architecture and rural landscape provide a sense of time and place that I’ve found to be uncommon in the United States.
What else makes Cazenovia cool? Lake Cazenovia is pretty cool – surrounded by woods, there are fun activities year round. When the founder, John Lincklaen saw the lake and the trees he decided to build his summer home there. He’s also responsible for the historic business center and instilling a desire to preserve the history and natural beauty for the residents. Another cool feature, there are no telephone lines in the downtown area. I love that!
The original plan for the development of Cazenovia can be seen in the Albany Street Historic District. To walk down Albany Street (the main east-west thoroughfare) is to walk through the nineteenth century. Architecturally and historically significant buildings, both commercial and residential, line both sides of the street.
What I liked immediately about Cazenovia – the amazing community that has supported, what John Lincklaen, the founder of Cazenovia began in 1793. There is a sense of unity and pride in the people of Cazenovia that, along with the beautiful landscape and architecture, make it a delightful place to visit. Cazenovia may be one of the most sophisticated small towns I’ve ever visited.
I had no idea I was in one of America’s coolest small towns, but after just a few hours there, I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me was the number of things to see and do in such a small place. Impressive!
I spent two days exploring and discovering Cazenovia, and I could have easily spent a few more. Here’s what I’d recommend if you have one day, two days, or more.
Join me in exploring America’s Coolest Small Town
Built in 1835, the exterior today looks exactly the same as it did then. It’s the perfect location for a weekend in Cazenovia, smack in the middle of the historic center of town. On Saturday morning the local market is across the street and you can walk to all the cute shops. President Grover Cleveland and John D. Rockefeller were frequent guests at the Lincklaen House: location location location.
Colonial architecture and decor lend a warm and cozy ambiance to twenty-three guest rooms, all furnished with period decor.
I had a corner room, so there were lots of windows and good light. The huge colonial style four poster bed and red walls made an immediate statement. There was also a small sitting area, a comfy chair and a writing desk. My favorite feature of the room was the built in library next to the sofa. Colonial style furnishings are not usually my favorite, but in Cazenovia, they are perfectly charming.
Lincklaen House is very popular with locals. There’s casual fine dining in the main part of the hotel. The dining room is especially beautiful and perfect for a holiday meal. You can almost see the people gathered around the table in their plain clothes and bonnets from the 1700s. The period furniture and architectural details invite you to relax and enjoy another era.
For a more casual experience, walk downstairs to Seven Stone Steps. I loved the dark English pub vibe of this place and the wide variety of choices on the menu. For hotel guests, continental breakfast is served in the dining room.
Lincklaen House is at the corner of Albany St. & Lincklaen.
Now that you’ve got a place to lay your head down, get out and explore Historic Cazenovia.
What can you do in Casenovia?
Take an architecture walk down Albany Street. Seriously, the whole street screams photo-op. The Albany Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1978.
Except in winter, the Farmer’s Market is every Saturday on Albany Street in Cannon Park. It’s just across the street from the First Presbyterian Church.
I wrote about the delicious foods and colorful produce I found in the Farmer’s Market recently.
Sample fresh local cheeses, produce, bread, pottery, and sweets as you stroll through the market. People are friendly and will tell you anything you want to know about their farm and the area.
Cool wine and cider in Cazenovia
Owera Vineyards – located on 57 acres with four under vine, had their first crush in 2010. Since then, they have been going strong. The tasting room features a polished rustic style, and is very warm and inviting. The wines of Owera are made primarily from grapes grown in the Finger Lakes area of New York. Tapas and wood-fired pizzas are served and there is dining space in both the tasting room and outside when the weather permits: a welcome change from most vineyards, where food service is not the norm.
A standard tasting is three wines and premium tasting is five. I went with a friend and were were able to taste a total of 10 wines. Though the climate is too cold for strong red wines, the Cabernet Franc, a common red in New York state, gives a strong show.
I’d say the dry Riesling was both of our favorites. Coincidentally, it won a Dallas Morning News Wine Competition in 2011.
Owera Vineyards is open Wednesday thru Sunday.
Critz Farms & Harvest Moon Cidery
This was my first visit to a true agritourism farm and I was pleasantly surprised. I got lost in a corn maze (another first), drank some hard cider that tasted like champagne, and heard an excellent bluegrass band while sitting outside on crisp fall day. I’d call that a perfect day. But let me give you more details.
Critz Farms has been in business for twenty-five years and is still family-owned. In fact, the day I was there, the owners were there too, hanging out with the rest of the crowd.
The farm is located on approximately 325 acres and focuses on agriculture and entertainment with a family focus. Kids can enjoy activities like the petting zoo and cow train, while adults can sit on the patio listening to live music while sipping an award-winning cider.
I visited during fall harvest celebrations and discovered the corn maze, which is just what it sounds like, a maze cut into a field of corn. This one had a theme and you had to find each of six stations to win a prize. I rate this an adult friendly activity, or not only for kids.
Do try the hard cider made with apples harvested and pressed right there at Critz Farms. I had no idea cider could be so tasty. I always thought it was just sweet and slightly alcoholic apple juice. Wrong! I had the Rippleton Original, which was light and bubbly and somewhat like drinking champagne. It’s my new addiction. I also tried the Heritage Hops – unexpectedly dry – which I liked, but I prefer champagne. All the ciders are made with apples grown right at Critz Farms. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can get tipsy on hard cider.
Depending on the season, you can pick your own apples, pumpkins, or Christmas tree.
Critz Farms is closed from late December until mid-March. Dates vary from year to year.
In spite of being such a small place, Cazenovia has no shortage of good places to eat. All of these are on Albany Street with the exception of the Brewster Inn.
Pewter Spoon – I frequented the Pewter Spoon for breakfast, but they are also open for lunch. The menu is small and there are daily specials on the blackboard. Think breakfast pastries, a few egg dishes, and my favorite, homemade peanut butter on ciabatta bread with a cup of citrus mint green tea.
#87 Albany St.
Les Pates et les Nouilles – Asian fusion food served in a dark and cozy atmosphere. I had the tofu and shrimp spring rolls. They were a bit different, filled with spring greens mix instead of the usual crunchy greens and carrot slivers. On a Friday night, the place was packed and service was slow, but the food was good
#37 Albany St.
Seven Stone Steps is located below the street level at Lincklaen House. There is an entrance through the hotel, or come in from the street. Seven Stone Steps has a dark wood interior with church pew- like benches around the perimeter and lots of carved graffiti. The menu was huge and very affordable and included pub standards, like burgers and fish and chips.
Brewster Inn – for a fine dining experience, I would definitely recommend this place. Located on Lake Cazenovia, Brewster Inn’s wine list won best of by Wine Spectator in 2009. We had a delightful Pinot Noir from Oregon.
The menu has recently been updated, and whatever your dietary needs you’ll find something delicious: from seasonal oysters to pasta to New Zealand grass-fed rack of lamb, or a crisp green salad. Brewster Inn is also open for brunch and was recently voted one of the best places for brunch in the Syracuse area.
6 Ledyard Ave.
Discover cool history
History truly stands still at Lorenzo House. Completed in 1808, Lorenzo House was the home of the father of Cazenovia, John Lincklaen. Lincklaen was Dutch, and arrived in the central New York area on a mission for the Holland Land Company. Legend has it that he was immediately enamored of the landscape writing in his journal, “situation superb…fine land.” When I first saw Lake Cazenovia from the porch of Lorenzo House, those were exactly my thoughts! Lincklaens’ descendants lived in the house until 1968 when it was given to the state of New York. Lorenzo house hosted many important visitors, such as Grover Cleveland, then President of the United States.
We arrived at Lorenzo House early and were the first tour of the day. Our guide, Barbara Bartlett, was excellent, and no wonder, she and her mother have been involved with Lorenzo House for over twenty years! What luck to have a guide like that! Barbara personally documented every item that goes with the house. I don’t recall the exact number but it was in the thousands; furnishings, books, dinnerware, everything in the house belonged to the family.
In addition to the house, there are extensive gardens and an exhibition of carriages that will make you grateful to Henry Ford. While interesting, they don’t look very convenient.
Enjoy the abundant natural beauty of One of America’s Coolest Small Towns
Chittenango Falls – I discovered this fantastic waterfall and park by happy accident (I thought I was lost), then saw the falls and forgot about where I was. The photo below was taken from the top of the falls – as one reader commented, they are much more spectacular when seen from the viewing area at the bottom.
Chittenango Falls is a state park and the main feature is, of course, the 167-foot waterfall. The bedrock is limestone over 400 million years old. Pretty cool!
The hiking trails, observation points, and other amenities of the park were developed during the 1930s under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency; hiking, fishing, picnicking, and reveling in nature’s beauty are the main activities here. The park is open year-round but may have limited access during the winter months.
Stone Quarry Hill – a great place to walk and hike with stunning vistas of the rural landscape, not to mention quirky art. It is one of the first outdoor sculpture parks in the country.
3883 Stone Quarry Road, P.O. Box 251, Cazenovia, NY 13035
As can see I covered a lot of ground in two days. I could have easily taken four and there’s more that I’ve not even touched on.
Now, what do you think? Cool or not? Have you been to Cazenovia? Where is your favorite small town?
All material and photographs copyright Penny Sadler. All rights reserved.