It’s hot as hell (190 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact) inside our private, cedar barrel-shaped sauna, but out of one glass-capped end we have a full view of Lake Canandaigua in all its summertime glory. We also have the promise of our upcoming break, including a cold shower and the bliss of the lake breeze.
The sauna ritual ($75 for the first person, $45 for each additional person) is built on the theory of contrast bathing — each hot-and-cold cycle releases beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters that refresh both body and mind.
While that may be hard to prove, the allure of the 60-minute sauna experience was not.
“I feel amazing,” I tell my husband and 18-year-old daughter during our second break while lounging in an Adirondack chair and sipping cool water.
It was the first of many times I’d use that adjective over the course of three days at the Lake House on Canandaigua, a 124-room resort in the Finger Lakes region that opened in 2020 and was voted the 30th best hotel in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine in 2021.
Other things to amaze us were the pristine white- and cream-toned rooms boasting 7-foot-deep balconies, the dining, the joyful landscaping of astilbe and hollyhocks, the invigorating morning yoga and the region as a whole.
With rooms starting at $370 a night in summer, the Lake House is certainly upscale. But the American flag flying on the pier, expansive lawn with cornhole and more of those Adirondack chairs, and the friendliness of the staff (let's just say that no one was put out when my 12-year-old son managed to order a solitary orange juice from room service without me noticing) worked together to wipe out any pretentiousness that mar some resorts. You almost feel as if you’re at your own family compound.
But in reality, the Lake House is owned by the Sands family, which made its money in the wine- and beer-distribution business (hence the wine barrel-shaped sauna) and still live on the lake. The resort’s 9-acre site also features a lakefront pool, 42-slip boat dock, timber-frame events center, the Willowbrook Spa, a game room, cozy library bar and a full lineup of activities.
We head out after our sauna to explore the leafy, rural roads that circle the lake, then return to the resort for dinner at the Rose Tavern, which offers more of the same stunning view. Standouts include the beyond-tender black Angus beef tenderloin ($45) and King Trumpet Mushrooms ($24) served with slow-cooked fennel, fermented black bean and leeks.
Dinner the next night is at the Sand Bar, which bumps up against the white oak boardwalk lining the lakefront. The salt-baked beets ($15) served with ricotta cream, citrus and candied pecans do not disappoint. Nor does the lobster risotto ($28), which called to me with its zucchini pesto, Parmesan and Meyer lemon.
But it’s the small things — like the custom globe lights throughout, reception desk carved from a willow tree and elevators that smell like lavender — that create a vibe of friendly luxury.
The only thing left wanting was more time. I would have liked to ride a bike down Main Street to explore the town of Canandaigua, kayak on the lake, sip a Manhattan in the cozy library or just read a book while savoring the view. I can also very much imagine returning in the winter to experience the coziness of a hot sauna overlooking a frozen lake.
One final observation: I’ve stayed in more than a dozen hotels in the last two years, and this is the first time housekeeping made an appearance. There was even turn-down service topped off by a plate of made-in-house chocolates.