One of the places that I have continuously returned to over the years and still manage to find something new is at the Finger Lakes, NY.
It’s about a 5-hour drive from my New Jersey home, but a wonderful escape that feels a world away from my everyday life. My family has gone with me over the years, but I think on this last trip the area really managed to carve a special place in my kids’ heart, so much so that they didn’t want to leave.
What I have come to love about the destination is not just the beautiful outdoor experiences one can have there, but also the community. Whether I am spending time with a farmer working at a local orchard or winery, or with an artist in residence at the Corning Museum of Glass, that sense of pride and community that I feel every time I am there is the thing that makes us feel so welcomed, so at home, and so in love with this place.
Search through my blog and you will find the very many reasons why this destination is so special to us and why we gravitate to it so often, but for those looking to save some time, here is a list of my favorite spots from this most recent trip, both old and new.
The Finger Lakes wine country has evolved over the years becoming far more sophisticated and diverse than most people give it credit for. The region is best known for its Riesling, but I also had a chance to try a few delicious red wines and even some great locally brewed beers. Combine that with the fabulous food scene there and, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing there are a lot of outdoor activity options.
We got to visit Fulkerson Winery, which started out as a grape juice plant and now produces and bottles over 25 varieties of wine. Families will enjoy the U-Pick farm open all year round, with some of the sweetest, most juiciest peaches I have ever tasted in my life, among other delicious and seasonal treats. We even got to meet some of the family goats during our visit.
Wagner Vineyards is not only one of the oldest wineries in the region, but also a brewery of award-winning beers and a breathtaking locale for events, or just a casual dinner out with friends.
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards has been around since, well, 1852, and is a local’s favorite place of gathering. So much so, that they had to expand their entertainment space to accommodate the thousands of guests they receive regularly for drinks and fun times.
I have written so much about the food scene in the Finger Lakes that one would think I have tasted everything there is to taste there. However, every time I return I realize I haven’t even scratched the surface. A few musts is lunch at Veraisons Restaurant at the Inn at Glenora Cellars, where Chef Orlando Rodriguez celebrates local products through his flavorful and unique dishes.
Grilled corn soup
Bolgogi (beef, leaf lettuce, kimchi, ginger carrots, jasmine rice)
Or stop at the farmers market in the Gaffer District in Corning (from June to October) and meet the local farmers that help to make this such a foodie destination.
Or grab the family and the doggies and head over to Grist Iron Brewery, just make sure to come hungry! Order a beer to go with their generous portions of BBQ dishes, and sit back and enjoy the live band and the sunset over the lake.
The list of places to eat is endless. Just prepare yourself for a slower pace than what you might be used to in the bigger city. It’s the beauty of the region that forces you to slow down and enjoy.
I would think that after the many visits to the Corning Museum of Glass with my kids that they would not be as excited as the visit before, but it turns out they can’t get enough of it. They love the exhibits, and the glass shows, but most especially they really enjoy making their own glass and displaying their art around the house. The museum now has a You Design It, We Make It! program during the summer months where visitors can draw their idea and submit it to the museum. If the drawing is selected, the museum will bring it to life in glass! My kids are already thinking of ideas for next year’s submissions. Me personally, I absolutely just love their new exhibition space and never tire of touring it.
The Rockwell Museum is more than a museum with stunning collection of American art. It is also a community center and a place where artists come together with the community to make their area a more beautiful, artistic, and creative space.
It was nice going back and seeing what is new at the museum, but then also walking around town and seeing the various murals painted by local high school kids along with celebrated artists, all made possible with partnerships facilitated by the museum.
The Finger Lakes Trail spans about 1,000 miles making it one of the longest trails in New York State. It connects to other popular footpaths in the states, including North Country National Scenic Trail, the Great Eastern Trail, the Long Path and the Canadian Bruce Trail. Outdoor lovers rejoice here. In addition to miles of hiking trails, there are the waterfalls, my favorites being in Watkins Glen State Park, though it isn’t the only one to check out (see a waterfall hiking list here).
During the summer months, go on a fishing trip, take fishing lessons, or kayaking, or paddle boarding with Summit to Stream Adventures.
But if you just want to relax and enjoy the outdoors head over to any one of the many lakefront parks in the area. Grab a picnic, a loved one, or a good book and prepare for a spectacular sunset, because they really are.
Take in all the reasons why this is such a beloved place for my family and so many others who visit time and time again.
Where we stayed:
We were so happy to stay in a place that felt like coming back home each night after a full day of activities. The Gathering Hill Farm, a vacation rental and what I like to call zen palace, is such a beautiful house. Spacious and luxurious, it was really a treat. Perfect for families or a group of friends, it is centrally located to many of the places I love in the area – really close to the Grist Iron too! There is so much privacy and I most enjoyed sitting by the fire pit with a glass of wine in hand while the sun set over Seneca Lake. It was magical. But, that is, in the end, the Finger Lakes.
Publisher’s note: TBEX just announced their TBEX North America conference 2018 will take place in the Finger Lakes Wine Country from September 11-13, 2018!