The Best Finger Lakes Activities
Are you planning a vacation to the Finger Lakes and want recommendations on things to do? Here are fun things to do on your Finger Lakes vacation.
The Finger Lakes region is a charming collection of historic towns and villages surrounding 11 finger-shaped lakes. It’s a place that offers wildflowers in the springtime, mild summers, fall foliage and a winter wonderland, making it a great place to vacation any time of year.
In addition to hiking trails, beaches, and gorges for the outdoor enthusiast to explore, it’s rich with culture, history, restaurants, shops and wine trails.
There are festivals of all kinds year round. The Finger Lakes has activities that suit everyone.
There are so many things to do in the Finger Lakes Region that it’s impossible to name them all. Below is a list of some of the Top Fun Finger Lakes things to do.
Where Are The Finger Lakes?
The Finger Lakes region is located in Upstate New York, about halfway between New York City and Niagara Falls and about four hours from Philadelphia. If you’re looking for a vacation spot that’s driving distance, it’s a great place to visit. It has a ton of options, depending on your interests.
There are 11 Finger Lakes (plus a few smaller ones that didn’t make the list), and they’re shaped like fingers, hence the name. They are:
Top Fun Finger Lakes Vacation Activities
There are plenty of things to do in The Finger Lakes region and many fun Finger Lakes events. Let’s look at some major attractions.
The Finger Lakes region is a year-round hiker’s paradise. There are several family-friendly, adventure-filled Finger Lakes activities you can do for a day or several days.
One of the best places to get outside and enjoy nature is at Watkins Glen. It’s a great place to hike and enjoy waterfalls.
There are other falls in the area too, such as Shequaga Falls and Havana Glen Park in the nearby town of Montour Falls. Both require only a short walk to enjoy the view.
Visit Cumming Nature Center in March during the Maple Sugaring Festival. Start your visit with a pancake breakfast and then follow a volunteer guide along the Pioneer Trail to learn how maple syrup is made.
Other events include the Weekend Wild Walks, Forest Bathing and Tea Ceremonies, and Orchestra in the Pines.
There’s no shortage of outdoor Finger Lakes activities to do year round. In the winter, ski or snowboard at Bristol Mountain Winter Resort. Its three dozen slopes, many of them illuminated at night, are spread across 138 acres of snow-packed wonder.
Be sure to stop at the mid-slope cafe for waffles. Kids of all ages will have a great time, but if skiing’s not their thing, then take them sledding or tobogganing.
Upstate New York is breathtaking in the Fall, and one of the best ways to see the foliage is to Ride the Comet Express chairlift to the top of Bristol Mountain Ski Resort. This peaceful 15-20 minute ride to the summit provides breathtaking views of the valley below. People of all ages come to view the changing of the leaves, and even catch a glimpse of Canandaigua Lake.
When the weather warms up in the summer you can traverse from tree to tree via swinging bridges, tight-rope walks, suspended platforms, ladders, and zip lines, with Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures.
Wine and Foodie Fun
If you don’t know where to start, it’s best to begin at a place where you can taste wine or beer from several producers, such as the New York Wine & Culinary Center, which serves wines, beers, spirits, and ciders from producers all over New York.
Or attend the Finger Lakes Wine Center in Sonnenberg which specializes in Finger Lakes wines. The Finger Lakes wineries are by far some of best producers.
From there, take a tour. Many of the wine tours circle a lake, so if you know which lake you’d like to cruise around, that’ll help decide your tour. The brewery tours don’t follow lakes, but you can map out a route or just wing it.
If you like things planned out by others, the Crush Beer and Wine Tours have a great educational-themed guided tour.
Sample over 80 wines from all over New York State at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, along with local artisans, live music, culinary classes and cooking demonstrations.
The Naples Grape Festival, during the last weekend of September, is all about the grape harvest season. It features locally-made grape foods, including a competition for the World’s Best Grape Pie, grape arts and crafts, outdoor music, and of course, wine-tasting.
The GRAFT Wine + Cider Bar is a spectacular restaurant in Watkins Glen. Another great choice is Hawk Meadow Farm, which offers a mushroom farm tour between May and September.
It’s a little-known fact that Mark Twain did much of his writing in the Finger Lakes region. It was at Elmira College where Mark Twain met and married his wife, Olivia, and spent the summers writing.
His study in Quarry Farm was moved to the college campus in 1952, and you can visit it to experience where he wrote the likes of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
During the 19th century, the Finger Lakes region was at the center of activism for women’s rights and all forms of equal rights.
Seneca Falls is home to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park and includes Wesleyan Chapel, where the first Women’s Rights Convention took place in 1848 and is the home of organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Also in Seneca Falls is the National Women’s Hall of Fame, where women throughout history are honored for their achievements and contributions in arts, sciences, education, government, humanities, philanthropy, business, and sports.
The native Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) women who lived in the Finger Lakes region, long before European settlers arrived, also played an important role in the evolution of women’s rights. You can learn about the Seneca and Haudenosaunee people and their culture at Ganondagan State Historic Site and Ganondagan’s Seneca Art & Culture Center.
More Finger Lakes Activities
As you can see, this list just scratches the surface. There are great restaurants, festivals, and theater events too.
You can’t begin to do all of the Finger Lakes activities in one visit. This will be a place you’ll visit again and again.
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