Of all the fantastic things to do in Ellicottville, the Griffis Sculpture Park was my favourite. Here's why.
Participation in the press trip that brought me to Ellicottville was part of the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conference. This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through said link, we'll be paid a small commission and we thank you for your support.
Hugging a trio of giant metallic mushrooms? It's all in a day's work when you're hanging out in Ellicottville, New York. This village of a few hundred people in western New York state is full of surprises! It's a lesson I first learned when I had a wild "anti-adventure" moment while riding on a mountain coaster. And it was reinforced when I visited the Griffis Sculpture Park, an interactive art and nature experience that is unlike anything else in the United States. It didn't take long before it wasy my favourite of all the things to do in Ellicottville and I suspect most visitors would likely agree.
Griffis Sculpture Park sits at the cross roads where modern art and whimsy meet. You'll find massive grasshoppers, mosquitoes, praying mantis, and crabs (that is a crab, above, right?) sculpted from a variety of materials. There are also sculptures of people, some true to form but others more abstract and almost distorted. There are more curious creations as well. You'll find towers and arches and a few pieces perhaps best described as blobs or shapes . It's all laid out across 450 acres of beautiful woodland.
And you know what? I REALLY loved it all. While I had a doubtful moment or two at the beginning, not entirely sure if the Park would really be my thing, it absolutely won me over.
The Griffis Sculpture Park is the legacy of Larry Griffis Jr. Griffis studied bronze casting in Rome and was inspired to create an outdoor sculpture park after visiting Hardian's Villa. Since the 1960s, the Griffis Sculpture Park has been home to 250 sculptures, mostly by Griffis but with other artists represented as well. Griffis' commitment to art extended far beyond the Sculpture Park. He also founded the Essex Art Center in Buffalo so emerging artists had a place to live, work, and showcase their creations.
While the woods were calm and quiet during my visit, the Griffis Sculpture Park has a number of special events throughout the year and things are far less sedate then. A good way to keep track of what's happening is to follow their Facebook page. Of note, every August they host a hugely popular annual festival and concert that attracts some well known musicians (like 10,000 Maniacs). In October, they have a "night lights" event which illuminates many of the sculptures in the lower section of the park with funky colors and eerie shadows. If you look carefully, you see some of the spotlights concealed near the grasshopper in the the photo above.
The park is split into two sections, separated by a short section of road. The main site, at Mill Valley Road, is where you'll find the smaller, more whimsical pieces of art including my beloved mushrooms and the jaunty insects. The Rohr Hill Road Site has rolling hills and fields and massive, larger than life, dramatic sculptures. The curious, quirky humans in the image above are easily visible from the road but my favourite, the huge silver giraffe, was at the treeline. I like to think he likes it there, with plenty of yummy leaves to munch on before disappearing into the forest.
Visiting Griffis Sculpture Park: Practical Information
Of all the cool things to do in Ellicottville, this one was definitely the most *me*. The community is well known for ski resorts in winter and outdoor adventure (like the mountain coaster!) in the off season. While the coaster was fun, the Griffis Sculpture Park was even more my speed. If you're searching for something that's just a little bit different among the things to do in Ellicottville and the surrounding area, this should be at the top of your list.
Address: 6902 Rohr Rd, East Otto, NY 14729 (close to Mill Valley Rd).
Hours of Operation: Open from May 1 to October 31, dawn to dusk.
Admission cost: $5, cash only. All payments are on the honor system - look for the yellow box in the main parking lot.
Wheelchair accessibility: Extremely limited. Paths are not groomed and terrain is varied.
Dogs welcome! (On leash, of course).
While in Ellicottville, I stayed at the Inn at Holiday Valley. My top priority for any accommodations is that I sleep well and the Inn delivered. I slept soundly and the room was dark, quiet, clean, and comfortable. When it comes to food and entertainment, Finnerty's Tap Room is a great place to start.
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