Family Weekend in Corning, New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country
The last time I traveled to the Finger Lakes was on a foodie road trip with my girlfriends. It was the dead of winter and we drove through a blizzard most of the time. But I have been to the Finger Lakes before, and have enjoyed my experiences there and when the weather is not so cold, it can be a lovely place to enjoy the outdoors and all the different areas have to offer.
This time around, I wanted to experience the area during the fall with my family. The colors come alive sooner up North than they do closer to the city, and I just couldn’t resist checking it out.
We left New Jersey pretty early, avoiding any possible weekend traffic and arrived 3.5 hours later to Corning, NY. Our first stop was in downtown Corning, also known as the Gaffer District. It’s a vibrant downtown full of shops, restaurants, and lots of things to do. The autumn colors gave everything a glow and we delighted in seeing so any people out and about enjoying their day as we lunched on the chilli and sandwiches from Old World Cafe, a Victorian-style ice cream parlor that serves warm lunch items as well.
We strolled over to The Rockwell Museum, which I soon found out is not named after Norman Rockwell, but in honor of two local business owners, Bob and Hertha Rockwell, who donated their collection of American art and provided a space open to celebrating American artists.
My children were greeted and welcomed right away with an invitation to explore the museum through their participation in a scavenger hunt, a genius idea in my opinion. The museum is very much connected to the community, opening its doors to offer art education programs and often showcasing student exhibitions.
The highlight for my children was the visit to The Corning Museum of Glass. The first time I visited, I thought the museum was really interesting and fun. I thought my boys would like it too, but I never expected that they would be as fascinated with the museum as they were. “This is the best place you have ever taken me to, mommy!” exclaimed my little boy after we had exited the glass blowing show they host every day, several times a day.
I watched as my kids admired the glass blower in total awe and their pure excitement as they blew their own glass later on. I have to admit, I teared up a little. We spent a good chunk of our day at the museum, which is something you can expect to do as well. There are tons to see and fun activities to do. Plus, the shop alone is enough to keep you busy for a while! I love the glass pumpkins they have on display and for sale during the fall, but truthfully, no matter when you go, the amount of creativity and artistry displayed in that museum is awe-inspiring.
Another fun museum is the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Have you ever heard of him? Neither had we, which is bizarre considering Curtiss was a pioneer who influenced and helped shape the transportation industry. He initially made his money by building engines for cars, then boats and plane. He was the first American to hold a U.S. pilot’s license and his ability to convince the Navy to invest in aircrafts – which his company built – has him recognized as the Father of Naval. I learned this and more by watching the short film in the museum and was amazed at how much this man had accomplished in his very short life.
The museum itself is a collection of antique cars, motorcycles, planes, and boats, many designed by Curtiss himself. This is definitely another place that you want to allot some time for.
There were some pretty great places to eat in and around Corning. I am not surprised, as finding good food around the Finger Lakes has been something I have always been fortunate in.
We had a great dinning experience at the Market Street Brewing Company, also in the Gaffer District. It is has a pub in the front of the restaurant and more dining space towards the back and outside for those wanting a more family friendly, mellow scene. We sat outside to enjoy the weather while we still can. The food was good, the service was friendly, the beer was cold and refreshing, and the atmosphere was happy and comfortable. We really liked this place and have marked it as a favorite for next time.
Pappardelle a la Vodka with shrimp
PEI Mussels steamed with while wine, tomato broth, thyme, butter, and garlic.
Hot stuffed banana peppers with three cheese and infused in garlic oil.
Another favorite spot we discovered was the Red Newt Cellars Bistro. I found the menu to be creative, original, and interesting, not to mention delicious. I never had a pulled pork grilled cheese, yet their creative grilled cheese sandwiches is one of their specialities, which on their own are pretty great, but when paired with one of their wines, they are even better. Ask to try the food and wine pairings they offer. They serve several tastes, one of them being grilled cheese of course, and pair them with their award-winning wines. If the weather allows for it, sit outside and enjoy everything – the food, the wine, and the views. A definite must.
Pulled-pork with blueberry BBQ sauce grilled cheese sandwich.
Macaroni and cheese with Piggery garlic-pepper sausage elbow noodles with cheddar, jack and Asiago cheese.
Tasting Plate and Wine Flight includes NYS cheddar grilled cheese, spicy tomato soup, kale salad, black bean cake with a riesling-garbanzo sauce, cheese and condiment of the day. Wines include 2012 Dry Riesling, 2012 “Circle” Riesling. 2013 Gewurztraminer, and 2012 Cabernet Franc.
Two other fun places we tried and enjoyed were Luna Mezza, which is a Mediterranean inspired restaurant in the lovely town of Hammondsport and Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor, also in Hammondsport, which we tried for breakfast while sitting outside and saying hello to the locals who passed by and stopped to admire our puppy.
For your traveling pet
Speaking of our puppy, we loved being able to travel to Corning with him. It’s not always easy to find places that will accommodate your four-legged family member. We got a lot of help from Corning Tourism, who helped to answer our questions about pet-friendly spots. I would recommend you check out their site for ideas and information on all your travel needs.
There were times when we couldn’t bring our baby along, and for that we relied on the care offered at Happy Tails Daycare and Pet Resort. Owner Elaine Walker is super sweet and our often very shy Max warmed up to her quickly. I was nervous about leaving him, but he was comfortable in his environment when we picked him up, making friends with everyone, even the cat! It’s a wonderful resource for when you want to travel to the area, but can’t always have your pet with you.
Every restaurant I mentioned above has outdoor seating to accommodate your pet – though I want to note that because ours is a small dog, he stayed in his little carry-on most of the time and hardly anyone noticed he was even there. Market Street Brewing allowed us to bring our dog, but he needed to be on the other side of the fence next to the restaurant’s outdoor seating. It’s also important to note that not every pet is comfortable in noisy, crowded spaces, so if your dog is a barker, crier, or can’t sit still, even these pet-friendly spots might find it difficult to accommodate him/her.
We took our pet hiking with us to Watkins Glen State Park, which we really enjoyed, especially on the beautiful fall day we had when we were there. It’s important to note that one of the park’s biggest attraction, the Gorge Trail, is worth the hike for the views but pets are not allowed. You can get a nice view of the Gorge from the suspended bridge accessible by a trail that is pet-friendly.
Another spot where pets are not welcomed, but is a must visit especially during the fall for pumpkin and apple picking is Reisinger’s Apple Country. Because we arrived so early in the season, there were some apple varieties that weren’t ready for picking, but we still managed to get tons of apples for snacking and pies.
What you must not miss are the fresh backed apple cider doughnuts, baked daily right on premises every day. I walked into the shop and was so overwhelmed by the delicious scent that I walked out of there with two dozen doughnuts! Oh, just typing this makes my mouth water – because of course they are all gone.
I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived to the Watkins Glen International Racetrack. What I can say is that my husband was a giddy as a little boy as he and our sons watched the cars speed by on the race track. There was a race going on, and the race track opens the bleachers for guests to come and watch some of the races. You can also camp on site and if you are feeling a little adventurous, you can even Drive the Glen!
Spend an afternoon walking along Seneca Lake from its many points of access. During the fall, the hills surrounding the lake are full of bright colors and the still of the water makes for a leisurely time outdoors.
Where we stayed
Finally, where you stay is as important as everything else. For this trip, I wanted to be in nature. We weren’t ready to go camping, but we wanted an in between experience of sorts. The Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort offers a variety of camping experiences, from tenting to RVing to staying in a cabin. We stayed in one of their larger cabin options, a lodge, and really enjoyed it. It was spacious with two bed rooms and a loft, sleeping room for 5-8 people, a kitchen, a full bathroom with running water and a flushing toilet, electricity and yes, even wi-fi.
But what I enjoyed the most were the amenities. They have a spa right on site! I woke up one morning and had a wonderful massage before starting my day and when my husband and I just wanted to sit and relax, the boys were able to walk to the nearby playground and have fun without us having to worry about them (granted they are old enough to do that).
The campsites are right next to each other, so you are close to your neighbor. We stayed in lodge number 304, which is the last on the lot, so even though we had neighbors to one side of us, we had the woods to the other, which was nice. It also wasn’t terribly crowded this time of year, so you can really enjoy the space. They also have a shop and pool, and lots of family friendly activities. If you want to go “glamping” with the kids this is a great option and its close to everything we did on this wonderful weekend in Corning, NY.