Nestled on the brink of one of three majestic falls that cascade through scenic Letchworth State Park, the Glen Iris Inn is a timeless and charming escape to nature. Travelers from all over the northeast and beyond trek to the “Grand Canyon of the East” each year, many descending in fall to experience the breathtaking fall foliage display. REG sat down with Denise Coffey, Glen Iris Inn General Manager, to gather insider tips on making the most of a trip to the Inn. She also announced BOGO winter lodgings and a sneak peek at this tranquil and truly magical season to explore the park.
“The park offers a whole different experience in the winter,” explained Denise. “It’s peaceful and picturesque. Guests will enjoy a more private stay during the off-season and snowfall in the park is a sight to behold. If we get a cold spell, the waterfalls transform into majestic ice forms and snow stays crisp and white longer, blanketing the landscape and making everything sparkle.”
The fountain outside Glen Iris Inn made national news in February of 2015 when frigid temperatures caused the waterspout to freeze into what visitors called an ‘ice volcano’ that grew more than 15 meters high. For an annual chronicle of the frozen fountain and a photojournalistic look at the park in all seasons, follow Rochester sportscaster and park enthusiast John Kucko on Facebook.
Glen Iris Inn boasts four suites and 11 guest rooms which are available between May 1st and the end of October. For those looking to explore the off-season, there are three fully furnished houses available for rent year-round. A special winter promotion runs throughout January, February and March during which time guests can enjoy a buy one night, get one night free special. Accommodating between six and eight guests, Caroline’s Cottage, Stone House and Chalet House each offer comfortable lodging, a full kitchen for meal preparation, and easy access to all that the park has to offer while being tucked in a private setting that inspires rest and rejuvenation.
Still, the most popular time to visit Glen Iris Inn is fall when every vista comes to life in a blazing display of fall colors. While the Inn is fully booked through fall of 2023, Denise says it’s never too early to make reservations for next year, or plan a day trip to enjoy this foliage season.
Here are Denise’s tips to make the most of your visit to Letchworth State Park and Glen Iris Inn:
- Make a dining reservation! Glen Iris Inn is a popular destination, especially for lunch in the fall. Many guests come seeking the season’s most popular tradition: the Turkey Dinner Special, which is served daily for lunch.
- Plan to encounter traffic entering the park once the leaves change.
- Things to do in the park:
- Hike Letchworth State Park Trail #1 which covers all three major waterfalls and starts right in front of the Inn.
- Visit the William Pryor Letchworth Museum for a fascinating look at the park’s history.
- Tour the Humphrey Nature Center to learn about local geology, wildlife and botany.
- Walk the Autism Nature Trail, the only experience of its kind in the United States. This one-mile loop is designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum but offers a unique and calming experience for visitors of all ages and abilities.
There are two dining options at Glen Iris Inn: Caroline’s Dining Room, which seats 165 guests, and Caroline’s Courtyard, which holds 50 guests. The Courtyard was recently constructed right next the waterfalls and is one of Denise’s favorite additions to an already stunning property.
Glen Iris Inn, with its glorious landscape and romantic setting, has been a popular wedding destination for decades. Pre-covid, the Inn was host to nearly 50 weddings per season. Since the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the Inn has resumed full wedding operations, which are hosted May through September and range in size from intimate gatherings of 20 people up to 250-person events. The ceremony takes place on a picturesque patio overlooking the middle waterfalls, after which guests are invited to the South Lawn Cathedral Tent for the reception.
Throughout the pandemic, however, Denise witnessed her own niece struggle to plan a wedding and she saw an opportunity to help her clients navigate new and uncertain terrain.
“We began offering micro-weddings at the Inn during the pandemic which were much smaller in size, about 50% capacity, but included essential details such as flowers, a photographer and the cake all in one package,” described Denise. “I was ordained as a wedding officiant to offer an additional service to our guests.”
Managing the Inn is far more than a job for Denise, it’s a calling; one she came to very early in life. This 36-year veteran of the Inn began her career as a server at the age of 19. In 2019, Denise was named GM and joined an elite group of only 8 other people (or couples) that have presided over the historic landmark as ‘Innkeeper’ since 1914.
Denise is among more than ten associates that have been working at Glen Iris Inn for more than 20 years. When asked what has made her career so meaningful and lengthy, her answer was simple: people.
“We have so many guests that come back every year, it’s a tradition in their family. We have couples that were married here and come back each year on their anniversary. Getting to know those guests has made my job very special,” said Denise. “I’ve been here for so long that there’s a couple whose wedding I did 30 years ago, and now their daughter is getting married at the Inn next year.”
Full circle moments like these are a testament to the extraordinary experience and exceptional, personalized service guest can expect at Glen Iris Inn. To learn more or book your stay or schedule a wedding tour at Glen Iris, visit GlenIrisInn.com/booking.