Don’t get me wrong, if you know me, you know I love wine tasting. However on my recent trip to the Finger Lakes, I discovered there’s a lot more to do in the region than just sample their wine. That wine, by the way, happens to be some of the best I’ve had in the United States. So while it’s well worth a trip to New York’s Finger Lakes region to give that wine a try, there are more than a few reasons to stay a bit longer than you may think. Not only are there picturesque towns along the lakes, but there are adventures to be had, many more than I expected. So here are 8 things to do in the Finger Lakes besides wine tasting.
Sail on Seneca Lake
After my recent schooner experience on the J&E Riggin, you could say I’m a bit obsessed with sailing. When I discovered we’d be doing some on Seneca Lake, I was thrilled. We hopped on True Love for a two hour ride and it was the most relaxed I’d been since my last schooner trip; there’s just something about being on the water. The True Love has an interesting history, as it was featured in the movie High Society, which starred Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. Bing Crosby serenades Grace Kelly with the song “True Love,” while on board, and we got to sit exactly where they were for a picture. We spent the rest of our time on board taking in the scenes with local wine in hand, I had a delicious rosé from nearby Atwater Estate Vineyards, which we visited later that day. It was the ideal way to spend the first day of autumn.
Hike at Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen is unlike anywhere else I’ve hiked in New York, or the rest of the Northeast for that matter. I have wanted to visit for years, and I’m happy to say it lived up to my expectations. The gorge is beautiful; it has 200-foot cliffs and there are 19 waterfalls within the park. For non-hikers, it’s easy enough to do, since a lot of the park is made up of stairs. In many ways, it reminded me of Johnston Canyon in Banff, Canada. It definitely felt far away from home. Hopefully, I can make it back here again soon to do some more hiking along the trails.
Glide in the Soaring Capital of the USA
Part of what I love most about travel is its ability to remove me from my comfort zone. Instead of being afraid, I force myself into situations I wouldn’t normally do. Take soaring for instance. Never in my life would I have imagined myself getting into an engine-less, two passenger glider, but when I arrived at Harris Hills Soaring Corporation, I decided to just do it. While I would have expected myself to be nervous, I wasn’t and instead I was high on adrenaline. It was exhilarating and surprisingly peaceful to float along. The total flight time was about twenty-five minutes, and it was much more enjoyable than any other flight I have ever been on.
Enjoy Some Art
The museums in this area are some of the best I’ve been to in awhile. Our first stop was the Arnot Art Museum, which is housed in the former home of John Arnot, which was built in 1833. It first opened as an art gallery in 1913. While all of the art is impressive, I found myself most drawn to the current exhibition 3 Americans. It features the artwork of Inga Kimberly Brown, David Higgins, and Jack Radetsky, and it will be up until the end of January. I also loved The Rockwell Museum in Corning, which is a Smithsonian Affiliate. There’s a large collection of Native American art, as well as art by American artists. During our visit, we were lucky enough to meet the Ladd brothers who were installing 40 For 40, a collection of the museum’s works that they curated for The Rockwell’s anniversary. This installation is up until mid-January, and I’d recommend checking it out.
Kayak the Chemung River
Kayaking is something I never get to do as often as I’d like, so I was happy to find some great kayaking conditions on the Chemung River. Unfortunately, there’s been a bit of a drought in the region, so the river was lower than usual, but we still found areas that were great for kayaking. We spent about two hours on a kayak tour with STKT, Southern Tier Kayak Tours, and it was a beautiful day to be out on the water. We were able to take in wildlife, as well as enjoy each others company while easily paddling down the river.
Embrace Your Inner Mark Twain
I had no idea, but Mark Twain has strong ties to the Finger Lake region of New York. In this building, which originally sat on his family’s property at Quarry Farm in the Chemung River Valley, Mark Twain penned major portions of many of his famous works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi. Since 1952, the study has be located 0n the campus of Elmira College. It’s amazing to enter a place that was of such importance in Twain’s life. Nearby, you can also visit his grave of him.
Make Glass at Corning Glass Museum
I’ve never had much of an interest in glass or glass making, and while I had heard it was interesting, I didn’t think it would ever appeal to me. That is until I visited the Corning Museum of Glass. Not only is it amazing to watch the creations being made, but there are so many beautiful artistic pieces throughout the museum. There’s even a chance to create a piece of your own, and this was probably my favorite part, as I love hands-on activities. It was a lot harder, and hotter, than I expected it to be, but I’m pretty proud of my flower creation.
Drink Up at a Brewery or Distillery
This may be cheating a bit, but it is a great option if you’re starting to get a little full from wine. The breweries and distilleries in the area are fantastic, so they are perfect for a break from wine tasting. We visited The Brewery of Broken Dreams first and it became a quick favorite, as I liked almost every beer they served up. I also enjoyed the tastings at Grist Iron Brewing Company and Horseheads Brewing Company; both had the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever sampled. As for distilleries, we made our way to Finger Lakes Distilling and Four Flights Distilling. While I’m not one for drinking spirits straight, I did enjoy learning about the process, as well as sampling a few of the goods.
Of course, it would be silly to head to the Finger Lakes and not check out their amazing vineyards, but in case you’re looking for something a little different, and a reason or two to stay a bit longer, these are just some of the wonderful activities you can get yourself involved in. I’m already dreaming up a return trip.
I was a guest of Corning, Mark Twain Country, and Watkins Glen, however, this did not impact my experiences. As always, all opinions and views are my own.