From July 19–20, 1848, a group of 300 women and 42 men came together in Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls for the first-ever women's rights convention in the U.S. They began laying the groundwork for what would lead to women's suffrage in New York in 1917, three years before the nation followed. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The Wesleyan Chapel stands at the corner of Fall and Mynderse Streets, anchoring a charming strip in a Finger Lakes town that makes for a perfect weekend getaway.
5 pm: Gould Hotel
Check into the historic Gould Hotel—which dates back to 1920, but is definitely not stuck in the past. The chic rooms, complete with a chandelier above every comfy bed, have a decidedly boutique vibe with high ceilings, purple-and-gray accents, and dark hardwood floors. After you settle in, head to the Gould’s dining room for delicious and wide-ranging fare like steak fritas and Yankee pot roast. If you want to eat like a local, try the chicken riggies. (That’s chicken rigatoni for those who don’t speak New York.)
7:30 pm: After dinner, swing by the bar to enjoy a local brew with the locals (the staff is quick with a recommendation), and check out a live music performance. (The Gould hosts them every Friday night.)
9 am: Penny’s Place
Take a quick drive (or a pleasant 30-minute stroll) over to Penny’s Place, which serves classic and kid-friendly diner fare like omelets and pancakes. TripAdvisor users have rated it one of the top places to eat in Seneca Falls.
The National Women’s Rights Historic Park isn’t a single park, but rather a collection of historic sites in Seneca Falls and the surrounding communities. The Visitor’s Center is located right in the middle of town, next to the Wesleyan Chapel. Stop by here to learn more about the various sites associated with the Park, and check out sculptor Lloyd Lillie's "The First Wave" installation, featuring life-size bronze statues of key figures at the First Women's Rights Convention.
12 pm: Lunch at Downtown Deli
This popular lunch spot is famous for its intimidatingly huge sandwiches with names like Balboa, Jersey Joe, and Drama Queen. Plan to split the whole sandwich or just order half if you’re flying solo.
It’s widely believed that Seneca Falls was the inspiration for the fictional town of Bedford Falls in the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life. This charming collection of items from and related to the film and its cast members, Richard Goodson and Karolyn Grimes, and includes international movie posters and information on Donna Reed’s peace activism during the Vietnam era.
2 pm: National Women’s Hall of Fame
Trailblazing American women from Anne Hutchinson to Oprah Winfrey and beyond are honored in this info-packed hall, reopening at 1 Canal Street in Seneca Falls in early summer 2020, where visitors can read the impressive biographies of some of the most important figures in American History. It’s inspiring stuff, and kids will love leaving a note about women who have inspired their own lives.
4 pm: Destiny USA
Syracuse is just about 45 minutes from Seneca Falls, so check out this ever-expanding fun-plex. Among its dozens of shopping, food, and entertainment options, Destiny includes fun activities like go-karts, a mirror maze, and the “amusement park for the mind,” WonderWorks, where you can lie on a bed of nails, experience hurricane-force winds, and more. Or challenge your children’s mental and physical skills at Trombi’s Tower, Destiny USA’s newest 5-stage obstacle course enclosed in transparent walls! (Ages 5-12)
9 am: After breakfast at the hotel, head out for a walk around town. The Cayuga–Seneca Canal—down the hill across from the hotel—makes for a lovely stroll, and there are benches along the way to stop and take in the scene (and snap some pictures). Across the canal, you’ll see the Seneca Knitting Mill, the future home of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Center for Great Women. To learn more about the project and renovation, head here. Right next to the mill, you’ll see what’s known by locals as Bailey Bridge, the very crossing said to have inspired the events in It’s a Wonderful Life.
11 am: Check out M'Clintock House, another part of the Women’s Rights Historic Park. This was once the home of Thomas and Mary Ann M'Clintock, a couple who was involved in virtually every reform movement of their era, including women’s suffrage and abolition. The house was even a stop on the Underground Railroad. (Call ahead before visiting; hours can be irregular.)
2 pm: When in the Finger Lakes, you need to sample wine! Head to the Thirsty Owl, part of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, just 20 minutes outside of Seneca Falls. Grab lunch at their Bistro, open daily with crowd-pleasing options like “Owl Riggies” (made with goat cheese) and ice cream from Cayuga Lake Creamery. Taking in views of beautiful Cayuga Lake will be the perfect cap to your weekend. (And don’t forget to pick up a few bottles before you head home.)
From Albany: 3 hours
From Buffalo: 2 hours
From NYC: 5 hours
From Philadelphia: 5 hours
From Cleveland: 5 hours
From Montreal: 5 hours
From Boston: 5 hours, 45 minutes
Syracuse Hancock International Airport: 1 hour
Frederick Douglass–Greater Rochester International Airport: 1 hour
Amtrak to Syracuse or Rochester