The New York Finger Lakes winter festivals & events make it the ideal destination for a holiday getaway or a mid-winter break. Staying in a vacation rental can be a great choice.
The Finger Lakes region located in Central New York produces some of the world’s finest wine. It has a picturesque landscape, unique micro-climate and dozens of charming towns. It is also a culturally vibrant, year-round vacation destination.
The “Finger Lakes” were names by early mapmakers because of the lakes’ long and narrow shape. The eleven glacial lakes and surrounding communities are rich in history.
Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake are the two of the largest Finger Lakes. They are named for the Iroquois Nation tribes who called the area their ancestral home.
During the 1800s, the Finger Lakes region was an integral part of the Underground Railroad. It was home to abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman. It was also the birthplace of America’s women’s rights movement.
Today, the New York Finger Lakes beckon visitors with laid-back lakeside villages and eclectic small towns brimming with art, dining and four-season recreation. Add in a wine trail or two, plus the New York’s Finger Lakes winter festivals & events and you have the ideal destination for a holiday getaway or a mid-winter break while staying in a vacation rental.
Here are a few of the best
New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events!
The quaint lakeside Village of Skaneateles keeps the Ghost of Christmas Past alive with “Dickens Christmas.” This is most perfect of the New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events for families or those who are in the holiday spirit.
A celebration of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” this family-friendly holiday tradition stars the holiday miscreant, Ebenezer Scrooge, and a full cast of Dickens characters performing live interactive street theater throughout the village streets. Visitors can take a free horse drawn wagon ride past decorated Victorian mansions. Afterwards they can warm up with complimentary roasted chestnuts and eggnog before joining the Dickens Singers for Christmas caroling.
One of the best New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events is the Dickens Christmas.
Dickens Christmas kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with the quirky “World’s Smallest Christmas Parade” and continues every weekend until December 23. For more information, check out their calendar of events.
2. Watch ice artisans during the Downtown Ithaca Ice Festival
Located on the edge of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is home to thousands of energetic young college students and a merry mix of artists, activists and innovators. So it makes sense that instead of complaining about dropping temperatures and wintery precipitation, Ithacans celebrate it with the Downtown Ithaca Ice Festival.
The annual three-day event is held in early December and features professional ice sculptors competing for $9,000 in prizes. Wielding picks and chainsaws, the nationally-known artisans carve awe-inspiring masterpieces from huge blocks of ice while facing elimination during “speed carving” and “carve and deliver” challenges.
The Ice Bar, made entirely of ice, will be serving up local wines, beer and hot cocoa during the festival, while the Saturday’s Chowder Cook-Off will serve up tastings of over 20 different chowders.
Performances including Cosmic Karma Fire Dance and Ithaca Tuba Christmas. Be sure to grab a selfie with the Mt. Pleasant Dog Sled Team.
The 2018 Ithaca Ice Festival opens on the Ithaca Commons on Thursday, December 6, and continues through Saturday, December 8.
3. Toast the season along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Another of the great New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events is the The Seneca Lake Wine Trail.
It offers visitors the opportunity to take in the region’s breathtaking winter beauty while enjoying some of the Finger Lakes most award-winning wines.
“Deck The Halls,” held during select weekends in November and December, celebrates the season with holiday wine and food tastings. This festive wine trail event sells out quickly, so check out the Seneca Lake Facebook Fanpage for up-to-the-minute “Deck The Halls” details.
If you miss the pre-holiday fun, chase away the mid-winter chills during the Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s Bargain Bash or Halftime & Wine Weekend, both held in early January. The Savory World of Seneca Weekend and Preferred Parings are held in February.
Can’t get enough of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail? Grab a Polar Passport, which is an inexpensive way to enjoy wine sampling at over 30 wineries from early December through the end of March.
4. Find the perfect Finger Lakes ski trail
If you are looking for some of our more active New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events, you may want to spend some time on the amazing ski trails.
The Finger Lakes Region is more temperate than the North Country or the Adirondacks. However, the area still gets enough snow to transform it into a glistening winter playground. There are also endless recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Located between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, the Finger Lakes National Forest is New York’s only National Forest. Dense woods, pastures, ravines are home to plenty of native wildlife, and thirty miles of interconnecting trails are perfect for cross county skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
There’s also several cross-country ski centers in the Finger Lakes Region.
The Cumming Community Nature Center, located between Honeoye and Canandaigua, has six miles of patrolled, wooded trails. In LeRoy, the Genesee Country Village and Museum offers ski and snowshoe rental so you can explore the authentic 19th century village on primitive, snowy paths.
Are mountains more your thing? Greak Peak in Virgil offers downhill trails and terrain parks for skiers and boarders of all skill levels, as well as tubing, a Nordic ski center and a ginormous indoor waterpark that’s open year-round. Canandaigua’s Bristol Mountain also has a wide array of downhill and Nordic activities for winter sport enthusiasts.
Also, if you needs tips for your ski trip, check out our article about how to plan and pack for your next New York ski vacation!
5. Visit Corning, “The Most Fun Small Town in America”
There isn’t just one reason the southern Finger Lakes city of Corning was voted “The Most Fun Small Town in America.” With its artsy downtown, kid-friendly museums and array of dining experiences, Corning makes fun a priority all year round.
Corning is commonly referred to as the “Crystal City” because of its world-famous glass-making tradition. It sparkles with an array of interactive events for visitors of all ages.
Corning Museum of Glass celebrates with season with Glass Wonderland, a series of holiday-themed events where visitors can make their own ornaments, shop for unique artisan gifs or attend a guest artist demonstration. On the third Thursday evening of every month, the Corning Museum hosts 2300, a free performance event combining hot glass, live music and regional fare.
The Rockwell Museum, a designated Smithsonian affiliate, is home to an impressive collection of art focused on the diverse American experience. This season, The Rockwell will unveil its new Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Gallery.
The Rockwell Museum is also host to the Gingerbread Invitational.
It provides a tasty exhibit of architectural displays constructed from cookies, candies and icing. The Gingerbread Invitational opens on November 24 is on display though the end of December.
Need more art? Take Corning’s self-guided Tiffany & Treasures Trail, which includes working artist studios as well as buildings designed by L.C. Tiffany.
Finally, head to Corning’s Gaffer District for farm-to-table food, craft beer, antiques and shopping.
6. It’s a Wonderful Life: The Real Bedford Falls
This one is probably the most popular of the New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events.
Seneca Falls is the kind of adorable small town that old-fashioned movies are made of.
In fact, Bedford Falls, the fictional setting of the film “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
The movie is said to be based on Seneca Falls, a distinction which is joyfully celebrated during the holiday season.
The annual “It’s A Wonderful Life Festival” draws fans from all over to Seneca Fall’s historic downtown, which is transformed into the “Bedford Falls.” The 2018 festival will bring together four of the stars from the 1946 movie for press appearances and autograph signing.
The Bedford Falls Station Holiday Postmark will be offered at the town’s post office, a tradition now in its 71st year. Spectators of the annual “It’s a Wonderful Run 5K” can cheer on runners dressed up as reindeer, elves and Santas.
A 90-minute train ride across Cayuga Lake on the Bedford Falls Express is a special treat for families. Seating on the Bedford Falls Express is limited. Reserve your tickets in advance.
Seneca Falls is also home to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. This park encompasses the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. Telling the story of the activists, abolitionists and reformers who championed gender equality and civil rights, the Women’s Rights National Historic Park is open throughout the winter for tours and research.
7. See the “Seneca White Deer“
The “Seneca White Deer,” are the world’s largest herd of rare white deer. They have flourished in the Finger Lakes for more than 70 years.
The herd’s home? The fenced-in confines of a former U.S. military weapons storage facility.
Starting in November, visitors can see the Seneca White Deer. They can also learn their fascinating history on the bus tours of the herd’s isolated Finger Lakes habitat.
The Seneca White Deer are a naturally occurring variation of the common brown-colored white-tailed deer. Albino deer completely lack melanin and have pink eyes. However, the Seneca White Deer lack hair pigmentation but have normal, brown eyes.
The herd used to be isolated within the fences of the former military depot. During this time, the Seneca White Deer population once swelled to around 200. However, recent estimates indicate a decreased herd size.
The 90-minute Seneca White Deer tours are part of the redevelopment of the now privately-owned facility. The tours focus on both the herd’s conservation and job creation in the area.
The tour buses will depart from the newly constructed visitors center located about 10-miles south of Geneva. Tours are scheduled to run Thursday through Sunday year-round and can be booked online.
More ways to enjoy winter in the New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events
The New York State Department of Environment Conservation free fishing days program encourages New York state residents and non-residents to try fishing by waiving license requirements on Saturday, February 17 and Sunday, February 18.
- Get a taste of the Finger Lakes
The Canandaigua Uptown Food Tour Adventure is also a guided culinary tour of nearby restaurants and specialty shops. Chat with chefs, enjoy gourmet samples and learn about the region’s history during the three-hour walking tour.
The Cornell Botanic Gardens are widely recognized for beauty, conservation and education. The gardens include a visitors center which hosts continuing education events and art exhibits. Year-round self-guided strolls or scheduled group tours are also offered by the gardens.
- On December 21, the Winter Solstice Walking Tour will be held from noon-1:30 p.m.
The Granger Homestead and Museum in Canandaigua offers horse-drawn carriage rides through the snow-covered woods of a 19th century estate. For a Valentine’s Day treat, reserve the Sweetheart Ride, which comes with a long-stem rose and chocolates.
The Finger Lakes Trail System runs over 900-miles. The system snakes east to west across Upstate New York and connects some of region’s most magical state parks. Letchworth State Park is also one of the parks. It is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. The Finger Lakes Trail is easily accessible from many areas. These areas include Ithaca, Cortland and Watkins Glen. However, the terrain can be challenging during the winter. Plan on bringing using snowshoes, poles and crampons; wicking base layers, insulated boots and hand warmers are also a must.
So there you have it, these are best of the New York Finger Lakes Winter Festivals & Events to make your stay here the best experience possible!
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