Visit Elmira — “Mark Twain Country”

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This past weekend, I visited Elmira, NY, roughly a 2.5 hour drive from Buffalo and in close proximity to the PA border. I’d been to Elmira before, but only briefly — as passing-through stops on the Greyhound bus en route to places like York, PA and Washington, DC — so it was nice to make it a final destination of sorts, and to see what the area had to offer.

Despite the bitter cold temperatures and thick blanket of snow that enveloped the Western New York area, we hit the road to begin our trek to Elmira on Saturday just before 10 a.m. It was nothing short of a scenic drive, as the route we took (largely on 20A) was filled with snow-coated hills and trees throughout the trip.

After quick stops in Warsaw and Bath, we reached our first “destination” of sorts: Champlin Beach Park.

Located in Hammondsport, the park sits at the bottom tip of Keuka Lake, one of 11 Finger Lakes. One of my life-long goals is to reach all 11 lakes, and adding Keuka to my list puts me up to six! We didn’t stay there long – it was literally well below freezing cold out there, and the lake was covered in snow, as was the beach. But you could still tell there was a lake out there, and I’d never been to any of the Finger Lakes in the wintertime, so it was nice to change things up.

Continuing our drive, we passed through many, many more hills and also drove through Watkins Glen. It was just another part of the scenic drive; though we couldn’t stop to get a better look, I’ll always have the visual photographs in the back of my mind. Lovely.

Our next destination was the Cottage Gift Shop, located right in Elmira. This was one of the cutest little gift shops I’ve ever seen, built into an adorable cottage in someone’s backyard. Filled with all sorts of goodies from candles to chocolate to home decor (I bought some lovely paintings and a few little knick-knacks), I love places like this and I’d definitely recommend a stop if you ever pass it by.

We also visited Arnot Mall, which was a) larger than it appeared on the outside b) cool because it had a mini-golf course running through the middle of it. That’s something I’ve never seen in a mall before, but I thought it was a pretty neat use of space. Best part of the mall: a HUGE (and I mean h-u-g-e) book sale to support the local library.

A check-in at the hotel (Candlewood Suites, located in close proximity to the mall and many other stores/restaurants!) and then we were off to dinner, then to downtown Elmira for the Elmira Jackals game.

This was another new experience for me: my first ECHL hockey game. As silly as it may sound, it was on my bucket list, and it’s always nice to be able to check something off. First Arena is a lovely little rink tucked away in downtown Elmira. It’s not the biggest, it’s not the smallest, but it was a nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, the Elmira Jackals fell 7-3 to the Reading Royals, but it was nonetheless a fun night.

Sunday morning meant being able to sleep in (yay!) and then heading to Cracker Barrel for brunch. Is there anything better than Cracker Barrel? Seriously, I doubt it. Delicious food that’s pretty good for you and won’t hurt your wallet. They had the fireplace going and it was just a lovely setting overall.

After a couple more stops at the local stores, we hit the road to Woodlawn Cemetery. Now, this might sound weird — a Valentine’s Day weekend trip that takes you to a cemetery of all places? But this is special, as we were able to visit the gravesite of Mark Twain. It’s an incredible treasure that the city of Elmira has and I’m so glad that we were able to make that stop. The entire area boasts itself as “Mark Twain Country,” with all sorts of special tributes to the author, but visiting his gravesite was just a surreal experience.

For anyone who wishes to visit, here’s a note. Woodlawn Cemetery is a large parcel of land, wit the smaller Woodlawn National Cemetery in front of it. If you’re driving in on Davis Street, turn right onto Tompkins Street and you can follow the signs for Twain from there. This will ensure that you get to the right spot without any difficulty.

After that, it was time to head back to Buffalo. We actually took a simpler route home — hitting 390 North to route 5 through Batavia. Much less hilly, though also less scenic, but quicker overall.

Now we return to our daily lives, but like after any journey, we are changed, even if in just some small manner. Every trip is an experience that further enriches our lives, and this was certainly one for the books.

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