The Ultimate Travel Guide for the Finger Lakes, NY

I don't pretend to fully understand lake life.

I didn't grow up visiting lakes, and my hometown of Pittsburgh is decidedly landlocked. However, from what I've gathered, lake life usually entails: pretty views, relaxing with family, drinking, and water sports (in various forms).

Well. It just so happens that I can get on board with all of that. Luckily, tucked away in the heart of the East Coast is a thriving lake region known for its food and wine. 

The Finger Lakes.

The Finger Lakes are a collection of glacial lakes located in central New York. Their name accurately describes their appearance... well, see for yourself: 

fingerlakesny

From both Pittsburgh and NYC, the Finger Lakes are around a 5 hour drive. The area is extremely spread out. Although each lake is only 2-3 miles wide, some of the larger lakes (Seneca and Cayuga) are nearly 40 miles long.  With no boats or ferries to cross the lake, getting to the other side can be an ordeal.

But.... aimlessly driving miles through the rolling hills of central NY is part of the reason you come here. 

At the tips of each lake are largest towns in the region - Ithaca, Geneva, and Watkins Glen. Everywhere else kinda feels like the middle of nowhere. Scattered throughout is endless collection of towns, breweries, restaurants, and specialty food shops.

So that's the other reason you come to the Finger Lakes - to track down these hidden gems (well... and the views).

 FLX Wienery

FLX Wienery

This guide lays out everything you need to know to have a great trip to the Finger Lakes. Seriously, we've got you covered. Enjoy! 

What is your favorite spot in the Finger Lakes? Leave it in the comments below! 

What to Do When Visiting the Finger Lakes, NY:

FLX- WHERE TO EAT:

Mac's Drive-In
Waterloo, NY
Classic drive-in diner experience. Must visit. 

Belhurst Castle
Geneva, NY
Popular "fancy" restaurant. 

FLX Table
Geneva, NY
Upscale, tasting menu restaurant. 

Geneva On The Lake
Geneva, NY
Elegant restaurant in a Gatsby-esque mansion. 

Ports Cafe
Geneva, NY
Popular bistro on the lake. 

Spotted Duck Creamery
Penn Yan, NY
This creamery makes their ice cream with duck eggs. 

Seneca Farms
Penn Yan, NY
Ice cream shop that is also one of the "top 10 fried chicken spots in america!" (Their words, not mine.)

Warfield’s Restaurant & Bakery
Clifton Springs, NY
Popular restaurant in a historic building. 

Tony R's Steak and Seafood
Corning, NY
Steakhouse in an old bank. 

 

FLX Wienery
Dundee, NY
Great spot for gourmet hot dogs and local beer/wine.

Dano's Heuriger on Seneca 
Lodi, NY
Popular Austrian restaurant. 

Moosewood 
Ithaca, NY
Vegetarian restaurant since way before vegetarian was trendy.

Stonecat Cafe
Hector, NY
One of the best restaurants in the region - where the local winemakers hangout. 

Graft wine + cider bar
Watkins Glen, NY
Thoughtful menu of light dishes, must stop for whine and cheese

Rooster Fish Brewing Pub
Watkins Glen, NY
Your standard brewpub. 

Seneca Sunrise Coffee
Watkins Glen, NY
It's a coffee shop. 

Tobey's Donut Shop
Watkins Glen, NY
Can't go wrong with a small-town donut shop. 

The Elf In The Oak
Watkins Glen, NY
Tiny spot for great breakfast sandwiches, ice cream, and a view of the lake. 

More restaurants>>

A post shared by Madeline Quigley (@burghgal) on

A post shared by Madeline Quigley (@burghgal) on

FLX- WHAT TO SEE/DO: 

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail
Watkins Glen, NY
Beautiful natural gorge - must visit! Start at the top and hike to the bottom (opposite of what most people do) to avoid a steep climb. 

Taughannock Falls State Park
Trumansburg, NY
Easy hike with several impressive waterfalls.  

Seneca Falls" The Real Bedford Falls"
Seneca Falls, NY
The town/bridge that apparently inspired It's a Wonderful Life.  

The Piggery
Ithaca, NY
Farm-to-table butcher

 

Ithaca Farmer's Market
Ithaca, NY
A world-class Farmer's Market that is open year round. 

Corning Museum of Glass
Corning, NY
Impressive museum dedicated to the art of glass (check out the Tiffany pieces!)

The Keuka Candy Emporium
Penn Yan, NY
Old-school candy shop. 

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY
If you're visiting Ithaca, it's worth your time to drive around the Cornell campus. (Check out the botanical gardens).

 Seneca falls - the "real" bedford falls

Seneca falls - the "real" bedford falls

FLX- WINE SPOTS:

Look out for Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. These are the varieties that are capable or ripening in the cool region of the Finger Lakes. 

My Dad and I co-host a wine podcast (aptly named Dad Teaches Me About Wine). Guess what? We did an entire episode on the Finger Lakes! Tune in below, or find it by searching "Dad Teaches Me About Wine" whereever you get your podcasts. 

Red Newt Cellars Winery and Bistro
Hector, NY
Has a portfolio of single vineyard Rieslings. Located near Stonecat restaurant. 

Forge Winery
Hector, NY
Under-the-radar winery. 

Lakewood Vineyards
Watkins Glen, NY
Look out for the Syrah. 

Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
Hammondsport, NY
Pioneer winery in the area.

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard
Dundee, NY
Some of the best Rieslings in the area.

Shaw Vineyard
Dundee, NY
Good Riesling, also strong Pinot Noir and Cab Franc. 

Glenora Wine Cellars
Dundee, NY
Average wines, but superb setting/restaurant. 

FLX- NOT WINE (BREWERIES, CIDER, ECT):

Two Goats Brewing
Burdett, NY
Tiny brewery perched above Seneca Lake.

Climbing Bines Hop Farm & Brewery
Penn Yan, NY
Fun brewery with great outdoor space (located near Wiemer Vineyard). 

Finger Lakes Distilling
Burdett, NY
Local distillery and tasting room with a great view of the lake. 

Ithaca Brewing
Ithaca, NY
Popular and widely distributed brewery (known for Flower Power IPA).

The Cellar d'Or
Ithaca, NY
Great spot for growlers of cider. 

 climbing bines brewery

climbing bines brewery

Where to stay in the Finger Lakes:

Big towns in the area: Watkins Glen, Corning, Geneva, Ithaca

- We usually rent a house with VRBO.
Geneva On The Lake is a beautiful luxury resort. 
- Find seclusion and charm at Inns of Aurora
- The Belhurst Castle is a popular resort in Geneva. 

 view from our house on lake seneca 

view from our house on lake seneca 

Click to read: Travel Essentials for Your Trip to the Finger Lakes

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HAPPY GALLIVANTING!