Weekend Getaway to the Finger Lakes

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I recently spent three days dining on delicious food, enjoying soft pastel color sunsets over serene lakes, hiking through lush green trails and prairies. No. I wasn’t in Europe, or even the West coast. I was in Upstate NY, only 5 hours out of NYC enjoying some of what the Finger Lakes area has to offer guests who visit there.

This recent trip was a wonderful reminder of the beauty NY state holds and an even more important reminder that wonderful destinations don’t have to be so far from home.

I traveled with my girlfriend Laurie and though we enjoyed our girlfriend time away we also missed our husbands and children at almost every turn because of the many things we saw we would be able to enjoy with our kids there.

The Finger Lakes is made up of a total of 11 lakes (From east to west they are the Otisco Lake, Skaneateles Lake, Owasco Lake, Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Honeoye Lake, Canadice Lake, Hemlock Lake, and Conesus Lake), and most of the three days we were there we spent time around only one, the Canandaigua Lake in the town by the same name. Still, there was a lot we didn’t do, which brings me to my first tip: if you can plan for more than three days, do it. You won’t disappointed.

What to See and Do

Ganondagan, the former home to the Seneca Native Americans, is located in the hilltops of Victor, NY, overlooking the Western part of the lakes. When we arrived a storm had been brewing, threatening our planned hike in the area. So we went into the visitor’s center and learned from Ronnie Reitter, a descendant of Seneca Indians, about the rich history and culture of the people, as well as the significance of this wonderful place.  It’s impossible to visit the area and not stop here to learn about the areas first residents and how they were forced to disperse and leave their land.

Today, guests can watch a 30 minute video in the visitor’s center as well as admire (and purchase) handmade traditional pieces and art work. Most impressive still is the visit to the full-size 17th-century Bark Longhouse replica that stands tall and proud, and gives visitors a glimpse back in time to how the Seneca Indians lived, shared, and prospered.

This sacred place is also open for hiking with miles of trails to enjoy, including the Earth is Our Mother trail which showcases various plants used for food, medicine and many other purposes by the Seneca during their time here. The trails are easy enough for the whole family to enjoy on their own self-guided expedition.

If hiking with wine in mind is more up your speed, than ask about the many Canandaigua Wine Trail, which highlights various wineries, wine centers, restaurants, shops,  art galleries, golf courses and attractions along the Canandaigua lake. It also offers opportunities for tastings and covers about 41 miles.

Canandaigua Sailbording was our destination of choice when looking to enjoy the Canandaigua lake. From sailboarding to kayaking, to even lessons in scuba, you will find all you need for rentals, as well as lessons, plus any other water fun extras you may want. We enjoyed an hour and a half of kayaking – something I am not a pro at, but really enjoyed. Kayaking on the Canandaigua lake is a peaceful experience, especially on days when the lake isn’t crowded and the weather is sunny and calm, all of which I enjoyed. The team at the sail shop were friendly and helpful, and reassuring even to a novice such as myself.

Yoga with Tune Yoga for Sports owner, Leslee Tryczinski was one of the highlights of one of my mornings. We went to Onanda Park, which in the summer can be a bit more crowded that it was on this particular day, and we enjoyed a fabulous yoga session while the soft morning breeze kissed our skins and the early sun provided warmth. Leslee is a pro. She exudes calm and is so approachable and friendly that I immediately regretted not having her studio closer for me to take classes in. I recommend stopping in her studio for a session, or giving her a call for a group or private class – to me, it sounds like a great activity to do with friends in particular while vacationing, and a great way to start any day.

I thought Onanda Park itself was pretty special. The lakes views, the small beach, and the cabins nearby made it seem like a really fun place to spend time with the family. You can check out the various sleeping facilities in Onanda Lake, as well as rates and other information at http://www.townofcanandaigua.org/onandasleep.htm

A spa experience at Park West Hair Design and Spa was quite the surprise because in my experience, hair salons and spas don’t make good combos. But, alas, Park West delivered not only the kind of massage the relaxed me to sleep, but an awesome facial to go with it, leaving me refreshed and glowing. Both my girlfriend Laurie and I loved our massage therapists, reinforcing the ultimate girlfriend getaway must do: SPA!

A picnic in Kershaw Park along Canandaigua lake was so special, that people walking by stopped to ask us what we were celebrating. “Life!” I wanted to say, because really, you had to be there. Wegman’s is a local, high-end market that specializes in providing fresh baked goods, local produce and meats, as well as other specialized food items that help to make any meal a celebration of some kind. For us, it was really just about spending an afternoon enjoying the weather, the lakes, and the park with friends, but for you it can be something to do with family or as a romantic escape with a loved one.

As I have already pointed out, the Finger Lakes area offers plenty of room to play outside. Besides hiking and water sports, the area is a dream for cyclists. We rented bikes from RV&E Bike and Skate and were able to navigate through the streets and paths without a problem. We even made it to the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion Historic Park (we had to park our bikes outside though) and walked the beautiful grounds of this estate. The mansion is gorgeous, with a lot of original furnishings and decorative items still in place. And the gardens are vast, ranging from a Japanese garden to a Rose Garden to a green house, it was all just great to take in on a lazy afternoon.

If you are more of the athletic type, than you would enjoy the various fitness activities being hosted in the area, such as the Wine Country Ramble, a women’s only 2-day bicycle tour to benefit Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion Historic Park (September 15th and 16th, 2012).

We made a stop in the cutest, most purple-est town ever – the grape-loving town of Naples, where I discovered grape pie and purple fire hydrants. This is also the home of the Naples Grape Festival (September 29th and 30th, 2012), which I hear is very popular, drawing hundreds of visitors each year.

We also had to stop to check out the Country Road 12 Overlook, which overlooks the Canandaigua Lake from a higher distance, giving you access to a breathtaking view of the overall area. A wonderful spot for pictures, picnics, or romantic kisses.

We ended our fabulous weekend at a cooking class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center. If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know that I love to cook with chefs and professional kitchens are my favorite places to hang out in. But for my friend Laurie, this whole experience was a bit intimidating at first. However, in time and with the guidance of her friend (me) and the awesome chef at hand, we were both able to put together quite a lovely dish, which we got to combine with everyone else’s dishes and enjoy a delicious meal, along with some great local wine choices.

My chicken dish!

I have to say, I was so incredibly impressed with all the area has to offer, and what I experienced was but a fraction of what visitors can do in the Finger Lakes.

Where We Stayed

We had a pretty nice room at the Homewood Suites in Victor, NY. I will say that the immediate area didn’t seem like much, but a short drive further into town and you start to see the quaint houses and small town feel that I found so precious. The room itself had more than we two need and enough to fit a family of 5 comfortably. The two-bedroom suite, also had a full size kitchenette equipped with all the things you would need to prep a meal. Each room had a bathroom, one room had two double beds, another a king size bed, and the living room had a pull out sofa. Everything we did and every where we went was but a short drive away. It was very easy to access all the attractions and restaurants, and it was nice to have such a comfortable space to come back to.

I have yet to share the yummy food finds along the way, so stay tuned for that post in my Good Eats section.

How We Got There

I want to thank General Motors Northeast for providing us with this suh-weet ride for our girlfriends’ getaway. The Equinox is a deluxe ride, that was nice on the budget. I filled the gas tank once when I got to the Finger Lakes area, and again when I got back home (272 miles one way – no filling up in between!). Can you believe it? Plus, it was super comfy and spacious. The leather seats are enough to spoil a girl, I have to say, and the sturdy ride was fun to handle on the road – even as after we decided to come home in the middle of the night cause we missed our husbands and kids (I know, suckers!).

Also, many more thank yous to the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection and our lovely friend and guide AJ Shear who just knows how to treat a lady right (he organized our itinerary and just knew we would want chocolate and a spa treatment back to back)!

Feel free to connect with the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection (@VisitFingerLake on Twitter) for more information and travel ideas for the area. It’s one more reason to love New York!

Also, if you missed my tweets and Instagram (tisk, tisk!), Geneva, NY (@GenevaNYFLX on Twitter), another lovely area of the Finger Lakes which I have yet to discover personally, was kind enough to curate them all on Storify! Check out Road Trip to The Finger Lakes!

Thank you to Visit Finger Lakes and their partners for such a fun visit and their hospitality!

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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