The 17 Best Things to do in the The Finger Lakes, NY
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Best Things To Do In The Finger Lakes, NY
Just as unique as the towns surrounding them, the Finger Lakes region is home to a wide variety of things to do and views to see. The Finger Lakes are located in central New York. This area is home to some of New York’s best hiking spots and picturesque scenery – not to mention many local wineries, breweries, and restaurants.
If you’re ready to discover what makes the Finger Lakes so special, then now is the perfect time to do so. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nature enthusiast or a wine connoisseur; there’s an activity suitable for everyone.
We’ll discuss some of the best activities at the Finger Lakes to help you plan an unforgettable trip that has something for everyone in your group.
What Are The Finger Lakes Known For?
The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is known for its spectacular natural beauty, from the deep glacier-formed lakes to the lush rolling hills and breathtaking gorges. It’s not just about nature in this neck of the woods, though! Some countless activities and attractions make the journey to the region worth it.
The Finger Lakes are primarily known for their wineries and breweries, hiking trails, quaint small towns, art galleries, farmers’ markets, and festivals throughout the year. The region is home to a variety of outdoor recreational activities.
You’ll also find plenty of family-friendly attractions at the local parks and museums. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous vacation spent exploring or a laid-back weekend away — the Finger Lakes region has something for everyone!
How Many Days Do You Need in the Finger Lakes?
The Finger Lakes region of New York is a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. With its stunning views, delicious local cuisine, and a plethora of outdoor activities, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to decide how much time you’ll need for your Finger Lakes vacation!
So how many days do you need in the Finger Lakes? That really depends on what kind of vacation experience you’re looking for. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking to take advantage of the area’s natural wonders – like rolling hills and deep gorges – then three or four days might be enough. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, and more.
However, if you want a real feel for all the best things to do in the Finger Lakes – such as visits to local wineries, craft breweries, shops, and restaurants – you could certainly spend a week or more in the region. You will have more time to take in the countryside’s natural beauty while still getting a taste of the region’s cultural attractions.
Things to do in the Finger Lakes
The region is quite large, covering over 9,000 square miles! It is impossible to see it all in a day or two. There is something to do in the Finger Lakes for everyone, though. Whether you like arts and culture, history, or outdoor adventure, you’ll find plenty of activities in the area.
Explore Letchworth State Park: On the Ground or in the Air
Letchworth State Park is one of the most beautiful places in New York and is also often considered one of the most stunning state parks in the country. Offering one of the most unique experiences in the Finger Lakes, you can take a hot air balloon ride over the gorge and its waterfalls. It is an experience you won’t soon forget!
Letchworth State Park is known as the Grand Canyon of the east, with three major waterfalls, 66 miles of trails, and plenty of activities such as horseback riding, skiing, and white water rafting. Visitors can camp in the summer or stay in a winterized cabin during colder months. Snowmobiling is also popular in wintertime.
Hot-air balloon rides over Letchworth State Park offer a unique and unforgettable experience. From above, you can take in the impressive cliffs and three massive waterfalls that make this park so unique.
Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion
The Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park is a beautiful destination located in the town of Canandaigua, near the north end of Canandaigua Lake. The gardens and mansion are typically open from May to October each year, making it an ideal spot for visitors to explore during the warmer months.
The estate is quite unique with its Queen Anne Victorian-style mansion. The mansion and the surrounding formal gardens are one of a kind in the United States.
Tens of thousands of visitors come each year to stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens and experience the historic architecture. Take a guided tour or go at your own pace using the virtual audio tour. You’ll be sure to learn a thing or two!
Bristol Mountain Ski Resort
Visiting the Finger Lakes during the winter and looking for things to do? You’ll want to visit Bristol Mountain Ski Resort, near Canandaigua Lake. With 138 acres of skiable terrain and 38 slopes and trails for all skill levels, Bristol Mountain is an ideal destination to include in a weekend getaway.
The resort also features 97% of runs lit up for night skiing and a top-notch snowmaking system to ensure optimal conditions throughout the season. You’ll be able to get the most out of your time spent on Bristol Mountain.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Bristol Mountain Ski Resort offers a variety of activities and amenities to make your stay enjoyable. Ski lessons are available for those looking to improve their skills.
3 miles of cross-country skiing trails also weave around the grounds for those looking for a slower-paced activity.
Corning Museum of Glass
The Corning Museum of Glass is a must-see for any glass enthusiast or those who’d like to experience the art of glass-blowing. Located in Corning, New York, the museum showcases the history and possibilities of glass with live glass-blowing demonstrations throughout the day.
Visitors can watch master glass workers create beautiful pieces of art or even try their hand at making their own glassware with assistance from an expert.
Corning is renowned for its glass-making creativity, technology, and science, including the famous Gorilla Glass. The museum houses a wide range of pieces and historical displays reaching back through time.
After watching a demonstration or making your own piece, visitors can take a shuttle downtown to explore more of what the small town of Corning has to offer. Whether you’re an experienced artist or just curious about the world of glass-blowing, the Corning Museum of Glass is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
Bike the Keuka Outlet Trail
The Keuka Outlet Trail is a seven-mile crushed stone trail connecting the Seneca and Keuka Lakes. It is an excellent place to bike, hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski along the path and one of the more underrated things to do in the Finger Lakes.
The path is gravel and well-kept, with benches and trees providing shade and views of the waterway connecting the two lakes. The trail is relatively flat, with two beautiful waterfalls near the midway points. Ruins of old, crumbling mills add to the adventure, making it an enjoyable experience for people of all ages.
There are multiple access points along the trail. If you’re not up to biking the entire length of the trail, you can do any section that you’d like. Park between the Seneca Mill & Falls and Cascade Mill & Falls, and you’ll be closest to two popular spots along the middle of the trail.
Explore the Windmill Farm & Craft Market
The Windmill Farm & Craft Market is a unique shopping experience located in Penn Yan, New York. It opened in 1987 and now has 175 vendors selling various goods.
The market is open on Saturdays, mainly during the warmer months, from April through November. Located between Seneca and Keuka Lakes, crafters and vendors are spread over the 44-acre market with plenty of space to explore.
At the Windmill Farm & Craft Market, customers can find everything from fresh produce to handcrafted items, artwork, and collectibles.
With so much to offer at this unique market, it’s no wonder why it has become such an attraction for locals and visitors alike.
Seneca Lake Wine Trail
The 11 Finger Lakes are home to some fantastic vineyards and wineries. The Finger Lakes was named the Best Wine Region in the country by USA Today in 2018, and it’s easy to see why. Many of the lakes are home to their own wine trail, with multiple wineries and vineyards to stop and taste a wide variety of local wines.
The Seneca Lake Wine Trail is a must-visit destination for wine lovers and is the most popular Finger Lakes Wine Trail. Begin on the southern tip of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, NY. The trail is home to 25+ wineries, offering hundreds of diverse wines. During harvest season, the vineyards become a patchwork of autumn foliage, and you can enjoy events and live music most of the year.
Plan someone to be your designated driver, or hire a private tour driver. There are many great options to arrange ahead of time. Some will even plan the itinerary for you, so all you have to do is enjoy the tastings.
With so many award-winning wines to offer, it’s no wonder that the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is one of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes. Alternatively, get off the beaten path a little and enjoy a day exploring Canandaigua Lake’s wine trail or the wineries along Cayuga Lake for different experiences.
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is a stunning destination in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is consistently among the top state parks in the entire country. You’ll find 19 waterfalls and 832 steps along the gorge trail, making it a unique hiking experience through an Ice Age gorge.
The hike up 800 steps from the main entrance is worth it for the many treasures that await. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the gorge, cascading waterfalls, and lush vegetation along their journey. There are also plenty of opportunities to take pictures or just relax and enjoy nature’s beauty.
There are plenty of other activities in Watkins Glen State Park, including a large swimming pool, picnic areas, and a large campground. Whether you’re looking for an exciting hike or want to spend some time outdoors, Watkins Glen State Park has something for everyone.
Watkins Glen International Racetrack
Watkins Glen International Racetrack is a renowned car racing venue with a rich history. The track has hosted some of the most famous drivers in the world, and visitors can enjoy watching races or exploring the history at the International Motor Racing Research Center.
The Research Center houses an extensive collection of historic photographs, film, racing artifacts, and records of famous drivers. You can find the racetrack and the research center near Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen.
For a bit of auto racing history, you can drive the historic road course, where grand prix races were held. The course is on public roads and is 6.6 miles long so you can follow along with maps and historical marker road signs in your vehicle.
Indulge at Shtayburne Farm Creamery
One thing you should not miss when visiting the Finger Lakes is tasting the fresh, local food. This includes some delicious homemade cheeses and ice creams.
The Shtayburne Farm Creamery offers a unique ice cream and cheese tasting experience located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Enjoy a flight of their always-changing seasonal flavors with a view overlooking Seneca Lake.
For those looking for more than just one flavor, there are plenty of other local favorites to explore. You could create your own Finger Lakes cheese and ice cream tour!
Sample delicious homemade flavors from Sunset View Creamery, Seneca Cheese Company, Cayuga Lake Creamery, and Purity Ice Cream Co.
Each offers something special and unique, making it hard to choose just one favorite!
Women’s Rights National Historical Park
The Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY, is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of women’s rights. This park commemorates the first Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848, which was a pivotal moment in the push for equal treatment for women in the United States.
Visitors to the park can explore houses associated with some of the organizers and authors of the Declaration of Sentiments, including Elizabeth Stanton’s and May Ann M’Clintock’s past homes.
The park is open daily from dawn to dusk, and the visitor center is open daily from 9 am-5 pm. This national park site is fee-free, so admission is free! It offers field trips and guided tours for groups, allowing visitors to learn more about this important part of American history.
Whether you’re looking to take a self-guided tour or join an organized group, you’ll find plenty to explore at Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
Taughannock Falls State Park
Taughannock Falls State Park is a stunning natural wonder in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The park’s namesake waterfall is one of the highest in the area, plunging 215 feet past rocky cliffs. It is taller than Niagara Falls and easy to access via the short, flat Gorge Trail. Visitors can enjoy camping, cabins, and marina access overlooking Cayuga Lake.
The park offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure. Hikers can take the South Rim Trail for a spectacular view of the upper gorge or traverse the North Rim Trail to cross a railroad bridge and other overlooks. The gorge walls are 400 feet tall in some areas.
Taughannock Falls State Park is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts who want to experience some of nature’s most beautiful sights. The best part is that the falls are accessible year-round.
Cornell Botanic Gardens
Cornell Botanic Gardens is a tranquil and picturesque garden situated on the campus of Cornell University. Here you can explore some of Ithaca’s many beautiful waterfalls and set foot on an Ivy League campus.
This attraction spans 175 acres between the gardens and the arboretum.
The most popular spot in the Botanic Gardens is the Cascadilla Gorge Trail. Along the carefully crafted stone trail, you’ll wander upon multiple beautiful waterfalls, each with its characteristics.
The trail can get very busy on nice weekends, but exploring won’t take all day. The Cascadilla Gorge and Cornell Botanic Gardens are great places to start a day of adventuring around Ithaca and Cayuga Lake.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park has a series of beautiful waterfalls and sites just 3 miles outside of Ithaca. The park takes its name from Buttermilk Creek, which descends 500 feet in a series of cascades and rapids.
There are several relatively short trails, such as the Rim and Gorge trails. Combine them to form a great loop hike!
The park also features a swimming area at the base of the largest cascade, as well as picnic areas and playgrounds. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day out or an adventurous weekend, Buttermilk Falls State Park has something for everyone.
With its beautiful scenery and wide range of activities on offer, it’s no wonder that this state park is considered one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes.
Robert H. Treman State Park
Robert H. Treman State Park is a great natural area near Ithaca, New York, in the Finger Lakes. This park features the rugged Enfield Glen and a popular swimming and picnic area at the base of Lower Falls.
Don’t just spend your time picnicking at the lower end of the park. Tucked away towards the northern end is the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. Visitors can enjoy a short but steep loop hike to see this and other smaller falls.
The hiking at Robert H. Treman State Park is highly recommended for anyone looking for an adventure in nature. Trails wind through the forested gorge between Lucifer Falls and Enfield Falls, taking visitors past stunning sights such as waterfalls, epic gorges, and a “carved out” region of the park.
Antiquing in Skaneateles Village
Skaneateles Village is a charming destination for antique lovers. Located on the eastern side of the Finger Lakes region of New York, this quaint village offers a variety of unique antique stores and specialty shops to explore.
The Skaneateles Antique Center is a great place to start, with its wide selection of furniture, jewelry, vintage records and books, and maps. Brown Dog Boutique is another eclectic spot for antiques; however, hours are very limited.
The Finger Lakes region also offers plenty of other small towns with boutiques, handmade craft shops, antique treasure stores, and more. Skaneateles Village is a great place to wander if you’re looking for rare finds or just want to browse around some local finds.
Visit the Harriet Tubman Home NHP in Auburn
Harriet Tubman’s house in Auburn, New York, is a must-see for anyone interested in history. As the “conductor” of the underground railroad, Harriet Tubman was an escaped enslaved person who used a network to rescue many other enslaved Americans during the Civil War.
Guided tours give visitors a glimpse into Harriet Tubman’s life, values, and items related to the Underground Railroad.
Located on the northern point of Owasco Lake ( one of the smaller in the Finger Lakes), the Harriet Tubman Home is a great place to learn about her significant influence on history and the underground railroad.
The Finger Lakes region is such a special place tucked away in the middle of New York. The region is filled with a unique mix of natural beauty, adventure, and culture that you won’t find anywhere else. No matter how much or how little time you have to explore this area, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of things to do here that will absolutely leave you wanting more.
The Finger Lakes region is a great destination for anyone looking for an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, cultural activities, or just some relaxation time, the Finger Lakes has something to offer everyone. So get out and explore all this amazing New York region has to offer!
Guest Post by Samantha at PAonpause.com
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