Top 10 Things To Do In Finger Lakes | New York


"Dramatic Green Vistas with rolling vineyards and the lakes surrounding them, our stopover to Finger Lakes when traveling to Niagara Falls uplifted our Spirits to such an extent that everyday we’d sleep by 2am enjoying every thing we could in the 2 days we had. It was till date, the most relaxed holiday I have ever had. There was no rush. Not at all. I couldn’t imagine just a few hours away from the madness of New York was the upstate New York filled with slow and humble lifestyle we so crave back here. The food was extraordinary good as if people have taken time to prepare them with love, the wine tastings were great too. Too many vineyards, they even have a vineyard and brewery map. "

The austrian food at Dano's was finger licking good! The view of vineyards and lake was an added bonus.

We stayed at Sunset on Seneca camp during Spring and loved every bit of the weather and the ambiance and the colorfully jovial owner who guided us on the best places to eat, wine etc. The beauty of small places are people are sweet and helpful as she was, and as many we met!

Kayaking and wood for campfire was free with our cabins. The cabin easily accommodated 6 people.
The cabin also had a fridge :) 
Though washrooms were separate from the cabin, they were very neat and clean and everyday, 
the pouches of shampoo and soap and body lotion etc was replaced.
The campsite actually exceeded our expectation.
It was green all around, the owner was helpful and we felt at ease with the cabin.

I also noticed something very familiar in the regions around - they have their own ‘Interlaken’ or ‘Geneva’ in Finger Lakes. No its not unusual to have European city names in the upstate of many states in US..”

For a tourist, New York city is New York but New York is a state that consists of many cities. New York city or popularly known as NYC is one of them.

Why is Finger Lakes called "Finger Lakes"

According to native American legends, the name “Finger Lakes” came from the land that was blessed many moons ago by the Great spirit. In doing so, it placed an outstretched hand over the region leaving five finger shaped impressions. Originally, the lakes were actually formed centuries ago, in the glacial age. The glaciers gorged their way from Canada, scraping streams and creating depressions which are now lakes. In all, there are 11 lakes in the Finger Lakes region.

Finger Lakes on the map, Img Source (

From random horses on the road to the deer at night when we drove to hiking the Taughanock falls in Ithaca, this is a place that must be on your list, if you ever happen to visit Niagara! Bonus is , it comes on the way. Last I checked, there is also a Greyhound bus that goes from New York to Ithaca, but driving slow by car would be the best bet…

A complete different life in Upstate NY

My friend who lives in Troy , upstate had already enchanted us with how great life is where she lives, and I can imagine. For someone, who is currently picking Service berries / June berries after one of the food blogger she met suggested her to making marmalade, life can be very different out there!

This time, we were all together. We passed through the lush green Catskills mountains on the way on our drives and our friend suggested Catskills are also great place to come to and Saratoga Springs and Lake George and Lake Placid and the Adirondacks Mountains, I got lost in his rumble. I remember, I had seen some where online, Kaaterskills Falls hike where one can hike two levels (upper and lower) and Tinker Tubing (tubing on a wild river) in Phoenicia which has mixed reviews on trip advisor .

Kaaterskill Falls (Picture from Shutterstock)

As I came out of my dreamland, and the sight busted my bubble, here I was, which seemed to me, a land so lush green as if touched and kissed by rain and dew. Spring is a great time to come, when its slightly cold during nights and pleasant during days. When bushes don’t bow down to brown. We had picked up the right time - the Memorial Day long weekend in May.

So before I rant on my stories, let’s talk about 10 Things To Do In Finger Lakes

1) It’s the wine trail that tops the list!

In 2015, the Finger Lakes region was rated as “one of the top 10 wine destinations of the world” and undoubtedly so because there are many vineyards in the region. From fruity flavors to the Rieslings ( Finger Lakes produces 220,000 cases of Rieslings each year) to wine’s which has won awards immaculately described by wine connoisseurs when they take you on a tastings, I would say getting high comes out natural here.

 Once known as the “Black Raspberry Capital” of the world, Gene (the Pioneers of the Finger Lakes Wine Industry) as a young boy working on a family farm started working on Grapes which became the cash crop for then farmers. And thereafter there was no looking back. It’s almost impossible to find someone connected to winery that isn’t linked to one of Gene’s wine making operations. Some of the first wineries to open on Seneca Lake were Glenora Wine Cellars. Knapp is the first winery to plant and produce Cabarnet Franc Grapes. Some of the other pioneers of wine industry were Dr. Konstantin Frank(Keuka Lake) and Bill Wagner(Seneca Lake). This was the trail route we had aimed to follow initially:

However, we took a detour to Ithaca and spent a lot of time in the wining and dining on the right side and had no time left to do watkin glen + the other vineyards on the left. May be next time :)

Please be aware of the timings of the wineries. Usually they are open from 11am-5pm. Also do check with them in advance if they are having the wine tasting on that day or if they can give us a tour to the vineyards and the wine making process.

At Lamoreaux Landing, Finger Lakes

2) With Wine trails, come Water to Wine Tours :)

Not just the region offers great scenic driveway along the lake but also alternative ways to enjoy the lakes. A wine tour on a boat can be quite an outdoor experience, don’t you think? 30 years back, Captain Skip combined his passion for water with his love for wine. Traveling by boat on the Cayuga Lake can be a very relaxing experience and a typical experience with Captain Skip includes wine tasting at three different wineries, a break for lunch and plenty of time in water along with variety of entertainment and his interesting narration on the city. The owner of Sunset on Seneca told us, its a perfect gift for her daughter! We couldn’t agree more.

3) With Wine, comes Cheese!

So Finger Lakes has a Cheese Festival some time in July, this year it's on the 22nd. Muranda Cheese Company has a dedicated tasting room where cheese lovers can sample and learn about pairings. From running a Diary Farm with the world’s most highly regarded Holstein cattle for more than two decades to opening the Cheese company on their farm in 2007 that produces natural raw cheese unlike the commercially pasteurized options he has followed his passion with such dedication that starting with 3 variety of cheese, today they have 15 artisan products ranging from Colby to British Aged Cheddar to Smoked Gouda. In fact, one of Muranda’s most products was named Red Buddy because of its ability to pair with local red wine.

4) And Beer & Distilleries

There are over 75 breweries in 210 miles. The New York state is the 6th largest beer producing state and produces 860,000 barrels. Out of which 30% of the state breweries are from the Finger Lakes region where they have access to lots of fresh water, locally grown hops, malted barley and other ingredients. One of the unique craft beverage of the region is Bee Vodka produced by Montezuma’s Hidden Marsh Distillery and is made from 100% Finger Lakes Honey. Seneca Drums Gin (produced by Finger Lakes Distilling) is yet another unique drink. After we had a lot of wine samplings in the region, we tried a few breweries and there variety of Beer was great. As I have mentioned before, they also have a Beer and Wine map of the region with the markings that mentions most of them(unfortunately I lost that :( ) but there are plentiful. The whole map is marked with it.

Find some more information on Beer trail here

5) And food..

So this was the place where we had spend an entire half day at leisure literally diving in the food till the very last bit. It seemed to us like a family owned restaurant, we had arrived a little early(by 15 minutes), but they told us, we’ll have you seated and you can decide on the menu. Dano's Heuriger ,is America’s first Heuriger and is modeled on a centuries old Viennese tradition that combines Viennese Winery Restaurant concept with region’s award winning wines and the superb Viennese inspired cooking! Everything from the Appetizers to the entries to the dessert (like Mohn Tarte - A desert made of poppy seed) to the fish and the pork to the veil to even soups (we had the yummiest tomato soup on earth at this place!), you can’t go wrong with this place.

The names on the menu were unfamiliar to us and so we asked them, and we were explained. We loved this place, and it was because we enjoyed it so much, we did not go by the checklist to numerous places we had planned that day. From what I have heard, McConnell’s have the best servings of morning meals while Connie’s Diner at waterloo is known for its home style cooking. Mac’s Dive in is another place to binge in.

Agritourism, is one of the fastest growing segments of Finger Lakes, and you get a lot of Farm Fresh food in the region, making this place a foodies heaven. There are also a plenty of U-Pick Farm Fresh i.e pick your own farm.

6) And Ice-cream.

In the early 1940’s the favorite food for the sailors of the Sampson Naval Training Center was the homemade ice-cream. The Cayuga Lake creamery was voted by USA today as one of the top 50 ice-cream parlors in America. They have a lot of traditional + unique flavors such as Maple Bacon and Seneca Salt Caramel. If chocolate is your craving, the Rue Claire Lavender Farm specialized in handcrafted chocolate truffles etc.

7) Of course lakes!

Seneca Lake is the “Lake trout capital of the world” for it has the diversity of Lake Rainbow and Brown Trouts. Cayuga Lake is one of the longest of lakes and stretches nearly 40 miles. It even has its own two islands (one of which is Frontenac Point Island). The deepest of all the Finger Lakes is Seneca Lake with a maximum depth of 618 feet making it the second deepest(wholly contained) body of water in the country. One of the most photographed site in New York state is Van Cleef lake, a manmade lake created in 1915.

8) Waterfalls & Gorges

 Just a random beautiful spot on the road itself from Sunset of Seneca campsite towards Watkin Glen is the Hector Falls. It’s like you are driving and there’s this fall that comes. Supercool.

Hector Falls, Finger Lakes (Picture: Shutterstock)

Watkins Glen was another place our friend had suggested but due to less time, we had to miss this one, we’ll do it some day camping there, its just didn’t happen this time. This place has a gorge trail and is pretty popular for hiking with the tourists. The centerpiece of the is a 400-foot-deep narrow gorge cut through rock by a stream – Glen Creek – that was left hanging when glaciers of the Ice age deepened the Seneca valley, increasing the tributary stream gradient to create rapids and waterfalls wherever there were layers of hard rock.

The park features three trails – open mid-May to early November – by which one can climb or descend the gorge. The Southern Rim and Indian Trails run along the wooded rim of the gorge, while the Gorge Trail is closest to the stream and runs over, under and along the park's 19 waterfalls by way of stone bridges and more than 800 stone steps.

Yet another places to visit in the region is ITHACA. ITHACA is home to many waterfalls(about 150 within 10 square miles) and some of the important ones are Taughannock Falls(The tallest single drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains!), Robert H. Treman State Park, Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls(that has a natural pool for swimming at the base of falls) etc. We liked the hike that Taughannock Falls has, if you can walk on a little slippery water base, you’d love hiking to the base of the Taughannock Falls by the shallow riverbed. These are unusual experiences. We have heard good things about ITHACA from the locals, that it is quite a happening place.

Taughanock Falls, Ithaca

You can walk on Ithaca's Taughanock riverbed.

It is land that was once a sea. Although the ocean is hundreds of miles away today, all the rock around this area was once formed on the bottom of an ancient sea some 380 million years ago. The gorge floor is made of light grey limestone that once was lime mud made from Skeletons and Shells of algae and other marine organisms.

9) Unusual Museums 

While returning from the Finger Lakes to Troy, we made our stop at Corning Museum of Glass. Now this is a must. This is where you can create your own glass, there are plenty of interesting live exhibits and glass making and breaking demonstrations and even educational ones (we attended one with optical fibers and two on glass making). This place is dedicated to art, history and science of glass. At the ground floor, they also have a gift shop which is quite a bargain for all glass items! They have old and contemporary sections and this place requires whole day. Everything about this museum, whether its exhibits, or the guides(we tagged in with one of the in-house guides from the museum who was explaining us the evolution of glass from the historic era till now pointing us to the pieces) was fabulous.

10) Perfect for camping, boutique stays and destination weddings!

I know, I have summed up all in one but that’s necessary. This place has amazing hospitality. When we had initially booked through Sunset on Seneca online for the long weekend, we weren’t sure if the toilets would be good since there were common toilets and showers separate for boys and girls and not with the cabin. But our hesitance went away, as soon as we reached there. The owner was too generous to leave our keys in the midnight. She even got us some brochures and helped us with places to see and eat. The bathroom was squeaky clean with even the shampoos, soaps etc were provided and the wood was provided with the cabin so we enjoyed cooking the chicken one of the nights!

We slept sound on all days and woke up to the most beautiful sunrise and hiked to Seneca Lake. We were so cared for, that we felt pampered in the cabin. There are also other ways to stay in Finger Lakes. There are plenty of boutique hotels and BB’s. There are also houseboats stay provided by some such as Finger Lakes Water Adventure, Canal Side Experience(floating cottages) etc. There are also plenty of campsites in the area. There are also stays and cottages with the vineyards and even TIPI stays in the area. So its a perfect place, probably perfect for even destination weddings!

Some of the usual sightings in Finger Lakes

 I think, as places go smaller, the sights go bigger and their hearts larger! What do you say. Have you been to Finger Lakes yet?

I recently found information about Finger Lakes on Thrillist very useful on searching on what else can we do for next time in Finger Lakes.

1 comment

  1. The wine, the food, the place, the waterfalls- all look so amazing. Finger lakes seem like a place to relax and enjoy some down time. Thanks for sharing this article.


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