Exploring Mount Morris: History, Antiques, Food, and More!
Aside from being the gateway to Letchworth Park, the Village of Mount Morris has so much for visitors to enjoy before heading to the scenic Gorge. There’s a lot of history in Mt. Morris – Francis Bellamy, the author of The Pledge of Allegiance, was born here, as was Mary Jemison known as the “White Woman of the Genesee” and John Wesley Powell, explorer of the American West. But today’s visitor is usually interested in more than just history.
Last month our “cousins group” visited Mt. Morris for our annual overnight getaway. You may be wondering, why Mt. Morris? Well, if you’ve never been there or haven’t been in a while, you’re in for a surprise! This little town has become a hub of antique shopping, delicious eateries, and quaint small town ambience.
We stayed in the beautiful and historic Allegiance Bed & Breakfast near the center of town allowing us to walk everywhere and not have to drive. Husband-and-wife owners Steve and Glenda raised their family in the historic home before turning it into a bed and breakfast. They have beautifully and lovingly restored this 19th century gem and its extensive grounds. We had enough cousins to occupy every bedroom, each of which is unique. We arrived Friday afternoon and brought our own wine and cheese and relaxed in the parlors and morning room before heading off for dinner at Questa Lasagna, an Italian restaurant where everything is homemade. Our group was large enough to use the private dining room, with a long farmhouse-style table. The favorite dish was definitely the seafood lasagna, which was rich with fish, shrimp, and scallops in a creamy white sauce. Unbelievably, some still had room for dessert!
A little strolling after dinner, then back to the bed and breakfast to gather in the living room to hear ghost stories from the owner about reputed spirits in the house (the TV crew from Ghost Hunters did a show here, but nothing was discovered). Nevertheless, we all slept well and had no ghostly visitors.
After a delicious breakfast we headed out to explore the grounds, designed for walking and relaxing with pathways, open grassy meadows and expansive forested areas, gazebos, fountains, and charming bridges over water features.
Then it was time to head downtown for a morning of browsing at the many antiques shops that line the charming Main Street. I asked one of the owners why so many antique stores have opened here, and he said it was partly that they could get so much space at much lower rent than in Rochester, and it’s a great tourist spot as people head to Letchworth Park or visit their children at nearby SUNY Geneseo. We all found treasures to take home.
Lunchtime was a quandary (there are a lot of restaurants on Main Street): American food at Brian's USA Diner? Pub food at Charred American Bar + Grill ? Tasty wraps at Tomaso’s Trattoria? While all of these were tempting, I wanted to revisit Suzea's Gluten Free Cafe and Bakery. Don’t let the gluten free fool you—everything here is delicious and you’d never think it was healthy, too. People come from hours away to stock up on frozen goodies to take home. We enjoyed waffle BLTs, a combination of slightly sweet waffles and crunchy bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
No visit to Mt. Morris is complete without a stop at Zeppo's Ice Cream Parlour for decadent homemade ice cream that tastes like heaven. I had the pistachio, which was chock-full of sweet pistachios in a flavorful creamy base. The bright green color was a little unnerving, but it’s all part of the fun. Others ordered the popular lemon with ginger, cinnamon, and cannoli. Be sure to go early so they don’t run out of your favorite flavor! Side note: The scoops are so generous you might want to skip lunch!
After shopping and lunch some of our group headed out to Letchworth Park, just minutes away from downtown Mt. Morris. Recently named USA Today’s “Best State Park,” it's a spectacular place to visit any time of the year – but autumn is probably the most glorious time and the crowds do descend on the weekends.
If you want to get away from the crowds, I'd recommend experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime balloon ride over Letchworth and the surrounding areas. This modern-day magic carpet ride glides over the gorge, waterfalls, and farmlands surrounding Letchworth. Two companies launch from here, Balloons Over Letchworth and Liberty Balloon Company. The balloons take off only in good weather, so you may need to be flexible. Book early because seats fill up, and while fall is a popular time to see the area, the weather is less predictable.
The Abbey of the Genesee
My last stop was at the beautiful Abbey of the Genesee. If you’ve ever enjoyed a loaf of Monk’s Bread and wondered where it’s made, it’s well worth the short drive from Mt. Morris to experience the beautiful and peaceful grounds of the Abbey including the glorious Church and the Book and Bread Store. The store features a selection of books and CDs about spiritual and monastic life and you’ll find Monk’s bread in flavors you probably won’t see in other stores. They also like to test out new flavors on their visitors – I was given a loaf of a new hearty wheat bread to try. So, with the “experimental” loaf, the maple-flavored bread, and CD of the Gregorian chants I bought, my car smelled (and sounded) delicious all the way home.
So, don’t wait until next summer to spend a few days or just make a day trip to Mt. Morris. There’s so much to enjoy!
Connie Herrera is the author of 60 Fun Things to Do Within 60 Miles of Rochester, 60 Great Places to Go With Kids Within 60 Miles of Rochester, and her newest book 60 Fun Things to Do When You're Retired - Within 60 Miles of Rochester. “My goal is to help people rediscover where they live and see it with new eyes. So, if you’re new to the area, I want you to be astounded at your luck in moving here. If you’re here for a visit, I hope you’ll want to come back again to do more. And, if you’ve lived here all your life, I hope you’ll be surprised at how many places you haven’t yet explored and how many you want to visit again!” You can find out more at my website: 60funthingstodo