Far Western New York is certainly outside of what can be reasonably considered “the Pittsburgh region,” but at two hours and change driving time (each way), it’s a doable up-and-back, so we’re going to include this one as An Orbit Day Trip.
Lily Dale (aka Lily Dale Assembly), New York is a picturesque Victorian village that sits on tiny Lake Cassadaga, between Fredonia, Jamestown, and Chautauqua. It bills itself as “the world’s largest center for the science, philosophy, and religion of spiritualization.” While this chakra-curious blogger would be hard pressed to name a larger center for such things, at just a handful of streets, maybe a couple hundred year-round residents, it’s still a little difficult to believe Lily Dale is the largest anything. But we’ll take their word for it.
That said, the ratio of psychics-to-ne’er-do-wells is extremely high. Seemingly every other one of Lily Dale’s cottage-houses has a shingle out advertising the services of one or more registered in-house mediums (media?). Lily Dale is also home to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC).
The catalog for the June-September workshop programs is ample and either the lecturing-on or attending-of these courses, along with individual “readings” with the aforementioned mediums, seems to be what people do in Lily Dale. Instructors Michele Whitedove, Lee Two Hawks, Shadow Fox, and others with less spectacular names offer courses on subjects like Banshees, Curses, and Little People; Interdimensional Out-of-Body Travel; Orb Phenom–Orbs Are Among Us; Etheric Projection & The Human Energy Field; The Art of Using Pendulums, Dowsing Rods, Sticks & Stones; and Spoon Bending.
While The Orbit generally subscribes to a “when in Rome…” philosophy, we’re also too skeptical (and too cheap) to pay $45 (the going rate for a two-hour workshop) to get our Laugh-a-Yoga Leader Certification. Whether all this New Age stuff strikes your divining rod or seems like a bunch of hooey, Lily Dale is absolutely a lovely and magical little place to visit. The whole landscape is completely enmeshed in tall woods and seems bathed in the gauzy soft light of an Elfin dreamland. We skipped the lectures and stuck to nice walks of the town, lakefront, Forest Temple, Inspiration Stump, Fairy Trail, and pet cemetery–all recommended.
This was The Orbit‘s first trip to a legit pet cemetery, but hopefully not our last–we’re hooked! Lily Dale’s goes way back. The earliest dated stone we saw was from 1920, but I got the sense it was considerably older than that. There are hundreds of graves in the small forest clearing where the cemetery stands. The markers range from professional chiseled stones with names, dates, and epitaphs, to crumbling homemade crosses, sculptures, cast concrete, and painted rocks.
Here are some of our favorites:
Getting there: As mentioned, it’s somewhere around two-and-a-half hours drive from Pittsburgh to Lily Dale. Likely a lot faster if you can travel interdimensionally out-of-body, but we’re old-fashioned. There are numerous inns, beds and breakfast, and one old hotel on the grounds. But really, if you’re not attending the seminars, you can probably see everything you need in a few hours–it’s just not that big. There are two non-fancy/grab-and-go restaurants, one coffee shop, and one general store in the town.
Also be warned that there is a steep ($12 per person per day) gate fee to get on the grounds. My advice to the casual visitor would be to park somewhere outside the gate and see if they’ll let you walk in for free.