The easiest place to plein air paint on the American side of the falls is at the Visitor Center. If you want to get above the Falls a bit there is an overlook platform that allows for a more "bird's eye" view. We found it to be too crowded and distracting however and preferred the spot near the railings with a more level vantage point to the Falls.
It costs $10 to park at The Visitor Center all day and it isn't too far to haul your gear for painting. There are bathrooms and places to eat nearby as well as shade trees in the park right above the Falls.
If you have a lot of time you could elect to go into Canada and paint the Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side. Remember to take your passport however as you cannot make it over there without it!.
We found a nice State Park called Golden Hills State Park at 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, NY 14012. This is a quiet and beautiful park. The park has a disc Golf course next to the lake, just in case you are into Disc Golf. The park was almost empty when I visited in late September 2017 with beautiful wildflowers blooming everywhere. We were delighted to see Monarch butterflies feeding on the flowers there - if you look closely at the photo you can see a large Monarch. Bathrooms available at this spot as well as shaded picnic tables right next to Lake Ontario.
We spoke to the clerk at our hotel in Canandaigua and asked for suggestions on where to paint around Lake Canandaigua. He told us of a place that had a good overlook of the Lake that is south of town. We eventually found it – I will share it here to save you time. It is called the South Bristol Scenic Overlook on the West Side of Canandaigua Lake on Route 12 – This is a beautiful painting spot but there are no bathrooms, so be forewarned. There are some restaurants just a few miles south of here for food and comforts. The day we visited this spot it was overcast so the photo doesn't do it justice. Here it is:
A couple of Art Gallery owners told us that the local Finger Lakes Wineries are good places to paint on private property. Be sure to ask the owners' permission before setting up your gear however. We ran out of time and good weather to give this a try. If you find good places to paint please contact me and let me know and I will add your suggestions to this page.
We stopped at Seneca Falls which is at the northern end of Seneca Lake and right on the famous Erie Canal. There is a river walkway and Visitors Center right on the canal. Barges are moored on the bank of the Canal (one can take a barge cruise) and an old Woolen Mill was right across the canal from where we set up to paint. Seneca Falls is the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. Interesting spot! There are a number of possibilities for painting subjects here. There are bathrooms in the Visitor Center and we found lots of nice people walking around the area. Here is the view from the Visitors Center area and the painting I did looking across the Canal:
Lake Alma, New York - Enter the Adirondacks Mountains on 166N near the town of Rockwood, NY. We turned onto highway 10 and painted at the roadside by a small lake called Lake Alma. I was surrounded by tall trees of every fall color and as the afternoon sun dropped in the sky, the crimson colors of the leaves became a purple fuchsia. It was probably the most colorful scene I have ever painted. There was parking on the side of the road opposite the lake. It's necessary to climb through brush for about 20 feet to get away from the side of the road. A No Trespassing sign is posted on a tree, so I set up at the edge of the property and there were no problems. Look for a big white sign that says Lake Alma off to the right near the edge of the lake.
Site visited and painted by: Cynthia Riorden
See Cynthia's art at: www.zhibit.org/cynthiariordanfineart.html