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Spotlight: Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes is an odyssey for the senses in all seasons

Where a tale of two cities and 11 glacial lakes greet the vast Great Lake to the north, the Finger Lakes region offers unparalleled beauty at every turn. Through its natural design, the region is uniquely equipped to grow wine, and is home to dozens of stunning waterfalls and fairytale-esque parks. The Finger Lakes was also central to some of history's greatest moments in abolitionist and women's rights movements, and more recently, is the site of cultural attractions and museums not seen anywhere else in the world.

Remember to social distance and wear a mask as required by state guidelines. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions are open and available.

Three Things You Can't Miss Family Fun | LGBTQ Fun | Spend the Day | Spend the Weekend | Spend the Week | Hotels & Stays | Where to Eat | Getting There

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Three Things You Can't Miss

A rainbow seen through a waterfall at Watkins Glen State Park

Stunning Waterfalls

Full of famous falls and hidden gems, the Finger Lakes is brimming with spellbinding gorges, and in Autumn months, are surrounded by some of the most breathtaking fall foliage seen across New England. Hike to Taughannock Falls to see one of the tallest single-drop falls east of the Rockies. Or walk through the gorge underneath natural arch bridges and behind flowing cascades at Watkins Glen State Park (pictured).

Susan B. Anthony House

Equal Rights History

Throughout the Finger Lakes, a rich and storied history can be discovered, and fearless figures in equal rights movements are remembered and revered. Visit the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (pictured) in Auburn and learn about the famous abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad. Visit the birthplace of the women's rights movement at Seneca Falls, and Susan B. Anthony's House in Rochester.

A glass on wine sitting on a wooden boardwalk with views of Seneca Lake in the background

Wine Trails

Home to over 200 wineries, award-winning wines, and popular wine trails that offer exemplary wine with lakeside views along rolling hills, there's no better place to relax and unwind while you treat your tastebuds and soak up the scenery that surrounds it. Dotted between wineries you'll find historic inns, farm-to-table restaurants, and postcard-perfect towns to discover.

family fun

Strong Museum of Play - Photo by Sam Horine

The Strong National Museum of Play

The ultimate destination for all things fun, The National Museum of Play (pictured) is devoted entirely to play, housing the most comprehensive catalog of toys, dolls, and play-related objects in the world! Beloved by all generations, there's childlike fun to be found around every corner. Discover exhibitions like American Comic Book Heroes and Toys Hall of Fame, or snap a photo on the life-sized set of Sesame Street.

Hope Lake Lodge Waterpark at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Greek Peak Mountain Resort is the gift that keeps delivering, offering non-stop family fun in every season. The Greek Peak Adventure Center offers a mountain coaster, four tandem zip lines, and a high ropes course. Throughout winter, Greek Peak transforms into a large ski resort with 55 trails, snow tubing, and more. Enjoy summertime fun year-round at the on-site Cascades Indoor Waterpark (pictured).

Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass

See glass in a new light at The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG), the largest space dedicated entirely to contemporary art and design creations in glass. Tour its collection of modern works and historical glass dated as far back as 3,500 years. Learn about the glassmaking process through live demonstrations from talented glassmakers, or try your hand at glassblowing and sandblasting at a Make Your Own Glass workshop.

LGBTQ fun

Mirrored glass reflecting the rainbow flag in an urban landscape
Credit: Colour Therapy: Washington, D.C. + Budapest, Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass.

Corning

Listed as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly small cities in the U.S. in 2022, this postcard-perfect town in the southernmost part of the Finger Lakes has become a popular destination for the LGBTQ community. Every year in June, Corning Pride hosts a Pride Car Parade event and Pride Festival, with events throughout the day and a nighttime show.

spend the day

High Falls waterfall with view of Rochester buildings in the background
Credit: Image courtesy of the city of Rochester

Rochester is a city designed for every traveler, with beautiful parks, outdoor adventures, unique museums, and a great food and nightlife scene. And in the center of town--a 96-foot waterfall!

Stroll through Highland Park, Rochester's iconic 150-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape designer of New York City's Central Park. In May, the urban retreat celebrates the Rochester Lilac Festival, a springtime spectacle of more than 12,000 lilacs in full bloom.

Tour the mansion and gardens of the world's oldest photography museum at George Eastman Museum. Home to a vast archive collection of cinematic film and photography, the independent nonprofit institution holds several million objects in the fields of photography, cinema, its technology, and more.

Fuel up with pub-style fare and local brews whilst admiring incredible views of the High Falls at Genesee Brew House.

spend the weekend

Two people ride bikes on the Empire State Trail at the Corning Preserve

Saturday

Spend the day in Corning in the southern Finger Lakes. Head to the center of town and stroll along the postcard-perfect sidewalks of Market Street past antique shops, galleries, and boutiques. Grab a bite to eat at Poppleton Bakery, where you can find a menu of homemade crepes, sandwiches, and wraps. Walk behind the iconic clock tower to Centennial Park and cross the Chemung River. For those with a sweet tooth, make sure you tick off spots along the Chocolate Trail!

Head out on the water with a "Paddle the Palisades" tour along the Chemung River with Southern Tier Kayak Tours. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles as you learn about the geological history of the Chemung area.

See the beauty of all things glass at the Corning Museum of Glass. Learn about the history of glass spanning 35 centuries and see expert gaffers working with temperatures higher than 2000 degrees at a live hot glass demonstration. Make your own glass creations through workshops and shop for unique gifts for yourself or a special someone.

Watkins Glen International

Sunday

Head to the International Motor Racing Research Center and learn about the great history of car racing in Watkins Glen. After WWII, the first American road race took place here. Dubbed "the Day the Trains Stopped", rail service was suspended so that races could drive across train tracks before Watkins Glen International was built in 1956.

See the race cars up close at Watkins Glen International (pictured). Check the schedule for events or time your trip around June to see Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, or Go Bowling at The Glen in August, and Hilliard United States Vintage Grand Prix in September. You can even drive the racetrack yourself as part of the "Drive The Glen" program. 

Catch a glimpse of the stunning waterfalls and beautiful nature at Watkins Glen State Park and hike along rocks that are more than 300 million years old. Take the stone pathways of the Gorge Trail past 19 waterfalls, including the famous Rainbow Falls.

spend the week

Groups of people sitting outside at a cafe down a tree-lined street in Armory Square in Syracuse

Monday

Start your trip in Syracuse and take a tour of the industrial district's Armory Square (pictured), a popular hangout for restaurants, and nightlife. While you're in the area, stop by the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST), for hands-on exhibits and special programs. For melt-in-your-mouth, bar-b-que served among funky wall art and a weekly lineup of blues musicians, grab yourself a table at the award-winning Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant.

Navigate your way through Destiny USA, one of the largest malls in the country. A shopping center combined with an entertainment complex, you’ll find fun and adventure around every corner, including go-kart tracks, mirror mazes, and the Canyon Climb Adventure ropes course (pictured), and more.

Harriet Tubman's home

Tuesday

Head to Auburn and visit the historic home of Harriet Tubman, the courageous abolitionist leader known as the Moses of Her People who helped hundreds of enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad for eleven years. Located within the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, visitors can see the exterior of the Harriet Tubman Home, as well as the church that Tubman helped raise funds to build. Just outside of the park lies the Fort Hill Cemetery where Tubman is buried.

Take a short drive to the vibrant lakeside town of Skaneateles, and experience next-level relaxation at the Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Located on the clear blue shores of Skaneateles Lake, Skaneateles is bordered by rolling farmlands, with unique stores and restaurants with a warm and welcoming hospitality.

Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak Resort

Wednesday

Travel south-east to Cortland's Greek Peak Mountain Resort, the ultimate family destination offering year-round fun. Head to the Greek Peak Adventure Center and ride the mountain coaster through the forests, or climb through the canopy along a high-ropes course.

For those who want to go higher, glide along on a tandem zip line. In winter, Greek Peak transforms into a winter wonderland ski resort, with 55 skiing trails, six aerial lifts, two surface lifts, a beginners slope, and four terrain parks. But the snow-filled activities don't stop there. The resort also provides snowshoeing and cross country skiing rentals, and a tubing center with up to 20 lanes. Take a splash in the Cascades Indoor Waterpark at Hope Lake Lodge (pictured), for summer fun at any time.

A picture of produce at the Ithaca Farmers Market

Thursday

Head to Ithaca for spectacular waterfalls and panoramic views of lakes, wineries, and orchard farms, with a friendly and inviting community. Located at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca draws visitors with its nature trails, arts and music community, and relaxing atmosphere. Stop by the Ithaca Farmers Market on weekends and take your pick of fresh locally-grown produce and homemade meals from more than a hundred vendors.

Venture north of town to Taughannock Falls State Park and hike the trail to one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies, measuring 33 feet higher than Niagara Falls! Try an award-winning winery along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, and grab an ice cream sundae at Purity Ice Cream.

View of vineyard and seneca lake at lakewood vineyard

Friday

Follow the Seneca Lake Wine Trail from Ithaca through to Seneca Falls, and take a tasting tour of award-winning wines from 29 wineries dotted throughout the trail. Relax and unwind as you take in breathtaking lakeside views. Circling the second-largest glacial lake in the region, the trail is home to farm stores, creameries, markets, and more.

If you're not relaxed enough, stop in at North Shore Wellness Club in Geneva for a refreshing and rejuvenating spa and wellness experience.

Women's Rights Nat'l Historical Park

Saturday

Continue your exploration of groundbreaking moments in equal rights history at Seneca Falls, also known as the birthplace of the women's rights movement. Home to the first Womens’ Rights Convention in 1848, Seneca Falls was where some of its greatest leaders from Susan B. Anthony to Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the struggle for women's rights. Visit the National Women's Hall of Fame in the heart of the downtown Historic District and learn about the contributions of American women that shaped history today. The Women's Rights National Historical Park (pictured) features exhibits, an inspirational film, and restored historical buildings. 

George Eastman House- International Museum of Photography and Film-Founder of Eastman Kodak

Sunday

Take a tour of Rochester's unique museums, including The Strong National Museum of Play with the largest collection of toys and play-related objects in the world, and the George Eastman Museum, the world's oldest photography museum. Watch a chef demonstration or taste local artisan cheeses, wine, beer, and spirits at the New York Kitchen beside Canandaigua Lake.

Take in views of High Falls, a waterfall found in the middle of the city, and surround yourself in fragrant flowers with a stroll through Highland Park and the Lamberton Conservatory. Head to Radio Social for delicious Middle Eastern food, and a variety of indoor and outdoor games, including a bowling alley!

Hotels and Stays

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getting there

By Train

Amtrak stops in Syracuse and Rochester via the Empire Service Train, Maple Leaf Train, and Lake Shore Limited Train.

By Plane

There are four main airports providing the best access to the region: Canandaigua Airport (KIUA), Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC), Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR), and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) in Greater Niagara, an hour and 30-minute drive west of the Finger Lakes.

By Car

From New York City: 5.5 hours
From Albany: 3.5 hours
From Buffalo: 1 hour
From Boston: 6 hours
From Philadelphia: 5.5 hours
From Montreal: 6.5 hours

By Bus

Trailways bus lines make regular stops in the Finger Lakes with service from New York City, Albany, and more.