The locale: Sometimes called “the Dale,” the hamlet is about an hour south of Buffalo, tucked alongside Cassadaga Lake in Chautauqua County.
The scoop: The spiritualist community welcomes (for a $15-per-person gate fee) both the curious and the true believers to this quaint Victorian enclave that’s been home to mediums since the late 1800s. Lily Dale’s season runs from late June to early September, with a schedule of daily lectures, workshops and services that include clairvoyance demonstrations.
Unless you’re looking for a few days’ relaxation or want to visit several mediums, you may find that a day trip is enough. Wear comfortable shoes, because seeing it on foot is the way to go. Oh, and speaking of mediums, be prepared to pay in the neighborhood of $70 for a half-hour reading. More than 25,000 people visit each season, but the year-round population (about 275) is limited to verifiable mediums who belong to a spiritualist church. Off-season, medium visits and casual strolls through the community are allowed, minus the gate fee.
The hit list
Angel House, 2 1/2 South St., is a white clapboard guesthouse and one of the many Victorian homes that contribute to Lily Dale’s special ambiance.
Maplewood Hotel, 5 Melrose Drive, and Leolyn Inn, 2 East St., Cassadaga, are the grand dames of Lily Dale lodging. Both are old and low on modern amenities, but that’s what many find essential to a true Lily Dale experience.
Gilbert’s Cabins, 44 Dale Drive, Cassadaga, are clean, comfortable and just a mile from Lily Dale.
Lucy’s Coffeeshop, 6 Cleveland Ave. Don’t miss the scones, and if you’ve never had a lavender cookie, here’s your chance. There are also plenty of options for vegetarian eating. The owner places an emphasis on natural and additive-free cooking.
Monika’s Delites, 9 Cottage Row, is set in a pagoda. It’s another vegetarian-friendly spot with great atmosphere, service and food. Be sure to try the crème brulee.
The Healing Temple, 5 Melrose Drive, and Inspiration Stump in Leolyn Woods are considered two of the most tranquil, spiritual locations in Lily Dale. There are daily services at both sites, during which you might score a brief, random reading from a medium.
Mediums are, of course, a major draw for people hoping to gain insight or speak to deceased loved ones. You can research your options at Lilydaleassembly.org and select whomever you feel a connection with. Then, visit their home in Lily Dale and sign up on the front porch for a session.
A common theme: Check out drumming on the beach, a sweat lodge, a meditative labyrinth, ghost walks, teen programs, the beach, museum and fairy trail.
Special this season: Tibetan monks creating a sacred mandala sand painting July 1-4.
The Bargain Shoppe, 14 East St., is the go-to place for an eclectic array of reasonably priced souvenirs, crystals and more.
Crystal Cove, 21 Cleveland Ave., features orchid trim inside and out and is known for its “gorgeous crystal jewelry” and other gift items.
Lily Dale Bookstore/Souvenir Shop, 2 Melrose Park, is just what the name suggests, a great resource for materials on spiritualism, plus various mementos to commemorate your visit.