Eleven, long, narrow north-south oriented lakes, in central New York state, are officially termed The Finger Lakes. Also in the area, are several smaller narrow lakes and Oneida Lake, to the northeast, which is regarded as the thumb. They were formed by glacial activity which caused deep valleys. North flowing streams have created spectacular waterfalls throughout the region. The Finger Lakes formed the central part of the Iroquois homeland. Several smaller tribes moved into the area during the colonial era, seeking protection. Various sites on the abolitionist Underground Railroad escape route are noted in the region and it is the birthplace of the Women's Rights Movement.
1.Cornell Botanic Gardens
Cornell University is based in Ithaca, south of Cayuga Lake. The Cornell Botanic Gardens comprise a third of the university campus and natural areas off campus, totaling 3600 acres. The gardens on campus are cultivated and received recognition for the best college-run arboretum. Twenty diverse habitats make up the natural areas in the Gardens' portfolio, including woodlands, wetlands, wildflower preserves and lake shores. The Gardens are fertile grounds for teaching and research. Outreach programs include plant sales, guided hikes, craft workshops and exhibitions. There is something to observe each season and story-telling tours are held during the summer solstice.
124 Comstock Knoll Drive, Ithaca New York, 14850, Phone: 607-255-2400
2.Ithaca Farmers Market
This cooperative market has been in operation at the covered Pavilion market site on the waterfront of the Cayuga Inlet, since 1973. The cooperative rehabilitated the site and built a dock for access from the water. There are more than 150 active members who grow and produce the goods they sell within a 30 mile radius of the pavilion. Goods include fresh produce, prepared foods and beverages, art and crafts. Markets are held at the Pavilion on Saturdays and Sundays and Thursday evening. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, markets are held at venues in DeWitt Park and East Hill Plaza.
Steamboat Landing, 545 3rd Street, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-7109
3.Finger Lakes Cider House
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Kite and String Cider is the brand produced at the Finger Lakes Cider House. The kite symbolizes the lightness of the cider and the string its earthy connection. The award-winning ciders are aged for 6 to 12 months. The fruit is grown on the eastern slopes of the farm, overlooking Cayuga Lake. The fertile glacial soil, rich bedrock and seasonal variances in climate make the farm ideal for growing apples and peaches. Excess fruit is sold at the farm. Visitors can choose to pick their own or to buy it from the store. Lunch and small plates of eats are sold on the premises. Flights of 10-15 ciders accompany the tasting menu.
4.Cayuga Wine Trail
Known as America's first wine trail, this tourism destination offers much in the way of wining and dining. The 14 wineries have received national and international recognition for their produce, which includes cider, port, sherry and ice wines. Some wineries have experimented with making vodka, gin and other spirits. Several lakefront restaurants are dotted along the scenic drives and a limousine is on hand to transport those who wish to imbibe. Concert series, live music performances and weddings are regular events taking place on the trail. Shops, bakeries and bed and breakfast establishments make visitors want to linger.
5.Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
The glacial activity that created the Finger Lakes left extensive marshy deposits at the northern and southern ends of the system. This was an extremely important stopover point for migrating birds. Over time, the land was reclaimed by creating canals and straightening rivers. The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge seeks to redress the situation by rehabilitating the wetlands so they can serve their original purpose. Ten thousand acres was set aside between Rochester and Syracuse, north of Lake Cayuga. A wildlife drive traverses 1600 acres of wetland affording visitors opportunities to observe and photograph the birds and other wildlife.
3395 US Route 20, Seneca Falls, New York 13148, Phone: 315-568-5987
6.Three Brothers Wineries
There are three wineries, a micro brewery, four tasting rooms and a café in this complex. A tasting passport allows access to all the tasting rooms. Beverages include hand-crafted beers and wines, ciders, seltzers and sodas. Wine-slushies are also available. Each winery has a distinct character and product range. Passion Feet Wine Barn produces semi-dry to sweet wines. Bagg Dare Wine Company is the most photographed and produces sweet wine. The War Horse Brewing Company makes ales, lagers and seasonal brews They honor warriors and display photos and other memorabilia of family and friends who have served in the forces.
623 Lerch Rd, 14456 Geneva, New York, Phone 315-585-4432
7.Bristol Mountain Ski Resort
There are 138 acres of skiable terrain in this premier ski resort. The 38 slopes offer a variety of inclines for beginners to experts. The snow making machines ensure that skiing conditions are suitable from late November to early April. The resort offers lessons, adventure camps and 'stay and ski' packages. They operate a snow sports club as well as a race club and league. For dining, there are two base lodges, a mid-mountain waffle house and the Summit Grille which offers a bite to eat between ski runs. The event center at the base is used for race events. It is available for weddings and other functions.
5662 Route 64 Canandaigua, NY 14424, Phone: 585-374-6000
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8.Fox Run Vineyards
This family-run winery, overlooking Seneca Lake, has been producing estate wines since 1989. Every hour during opening time, 7 days a week, all year round, they conduct walking tours around the vineyards and winery. From April to December, the café is open, offering home-cooked meals with ingredients grown in the vegetable garden or sourced from local suppliers. In the barrel room, which was formerly a dairy barn, weekly guided dinners of food and wine pairing are held. Diners meet the chefs and wine-makers who collaborate to bring out the best of both wining and dining.
670 State Rt. 14, Penn Yan, NY 14527, Phone: 315-536-4616
9.Glenn H Curtiss Museum
The museum at the southern end of Kueka Lake celebrates the achievements of Glenn Curtis, who was primarily an aviation pioneer and a motorcycle manufacturer. He was declared the fastest man on earth in 1907. The 8 cylinder motorcycle that he used to clock 136.4 mph is one of the exhibits in the museum. There are a total of 22 original, restored and reproduction aircraft on display and 16 automobiles that were manufactured between 1900 and 1942. The first aircraft to fly in Canada and the navy's first seaplane are among the aircraft exhibited. There are also boats and bicycles at the museum, including the velocipede or boneshaker.
8419 State Route 54, Hammondsport, NY 14840, Phone: 607-569-2160
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10.Harriet Tubman Home
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Harriet Tubman lived from 1822 to 1913. She was born into slavery but escaped and returned to help rescue family members and friends. She ultimately ran 13 missions, freeing 70 enslaved people. She later became an abolitionist and political activist. During the American Civil War she fought on the side of the Union as a scout and spy. In part, due to her efforts, a further 700 slaves were freed. In 1859 she purchased her home in Auburn, New York. She assisted the suffragette movement and saw out her life in a home for the elderly that she had help establish.
11.Museum of the Earth
© Museum of the Earth
Through indoor and outdoor activities, this museum enables visitors to explore the earth and its prehistoric past. Exhibitions include skeletons of the Hyde Park Mastodon and a 44 foot Right Whale. A 500 foot mural, entitled, Rock of Ages, Sands of Time depicts the earth through all of history. Activities include unearthing fossils and exploring the old-growth forest in the 32 acre Smiths Wood. The 120 acre Cayuga Nature Center houses live animals in their natural habitats. Through outreaches such as family-friendly programs, summer camps and lecture series, the museum seeks to engage locals and tourists alike.
1420 Taughannock Blvd, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-6260
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The Sciencenter grew out of a volunteer-run science initiative run at an elementary school in Ithaca. Founded in 1983, it operated out of store fronts for a decade. Between 1993 and 2003, 3400 volunteers contributed 50000 hours towards constructing the Sciencenter's new 32000 square foot premises. In 2010, a further 8000 square foot building was added to house the center's traveling exhibits. The center attracts 100000 visitors per annum and reaches a further 1.5 million through its traveling exhibits. With topics ranging from astronomy to zoology, visitors of all ages learn through experiential activities and play.
601 1st Street, Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-272-0600
13.Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Park
As newlyweds in 1863, Frederick and Mary Thompson purchased a farmhouse on 14 acres of land, near the north end of Canandaigua Lake. It was to be their summer estate. In time, they purchased a total of 300 acres and built a 40-roomed Queen Anne-styled mansion. After her husband's death in 1899, Mary Thompson set about redesigning the gardens. She had the means to travel the world looking for ideas and incorporated these into the landscape. Nine formal gardens totaling 50 acres remain of the estate. The gardens and mansion are open from May to October each year.
151 Charlotte Street Canandaigua, NY 14424, Phone: 585-394-4922
14.The Windmill Farm & Craft Market
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When the Windmill market, between Seneca and Keuka Lakes, opened in1987, traffic was backed up for five miles with visitors wanting to see the new initiative. The market started with 64 vendors under the cover of two buildings, with 25 vendors outside. More buildings have been erected on the 44 acre site and the number of vendors, who sell a wide variety of goods, has grown to 175. The market is open on Saturdays from 08:00 to 16:30, from mid-April to mid-December, and attracts between 8000 and 10000 visitors each week. Twice a year, the Custom and Clasic Car Show is held on the site.
3900 New York 14A, Penn Yan, NY 14527
Canandaigua, the most easterly Finger Lake, means 'the chosen spot' in the Seneca language. It is 16 miles long and a mile wide, and is known for the quality of its water. There are several homes and summer cottages in Canandaigua city to the north and Naples lies south of the lake. The annual 'ring of fire' commemorates the Seneca tribal tradition of burning tobacco on the shores of the lake to celebrate the harvest. Squaw Island, one of two in the lake, was the refuge for Seneca women and children during the Sullivan Campaign of 1779.
16.Watkins Glen State Park
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The most famous of the Finger Lake state parks lies south of Seneca, the largest of the lakes. It was rated third best state park in the country in 2015. There are three trails in the park which link up with the 800 mile Finger Lakes Trail. The Gorge trail follows the Glen creek which drops 400 feet in two miles, resulting in 19 waterfalls and 200 foot cliff faces. There is plenty to do in all seasons, including hiking, fishing, hunting and cross-country skiing. There are campsites and picnic facilities for day-trippers. Pets are allowed in certain areas, on leads.
1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, Phone: 607-535-4511
17.Buttermilk Falls State Park
This park is south of Lake Cayuga and Ithaca. In 1924, Robert and Laura Treman donated 164 acres along the Buttermilk Creek to the state. More land has been acquired and the park has grown to 811 acres. The churning waters that cascade down the 10 waterfalls in the steep valley give the creek its name. Visitors can also enjoy the lakefront beach and the natural rock pools. There are several trails in the park which link up with the Finger Lakes trail. The gorge trail follows the creek and the Larch Meadows takes hikers through wetlands. Facilities include cabins, campsites, picnic areas and playgrounds.
112 E. Buttermilk Falls Rd., (Off Rt. 13 S), Ithaca, NY 14850, Phone: 607-273-5761
18.Taughannock Falls State Park
The 215 foot waterfall in this park is the highest east of the Rocky Mountains and is 33 foot higher than the Niagara Falls. The gorge and rim trails afford spectacular views of the riverine landscape and the cabins, campsites and picnic area overlook Cayuga Lake. The area was a tourist hub until 1925 when travel by rail was at its peak. Steamboats offered rides on the lake and there were several lakeside hotels. It is popular once again with the park offering summer concerts, guided tours and boat rentals. In winter, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and sledding are popular activities in the 750 acre park.
1740 Taughannock Blvd., Trumansburg, NY 14886, Phone: 607-387-6739
There are 56 acres of aquatic adventure in this waterpark, north of Canandaigua Lake. There are nine water activities, including the aptly named Twister, Tornado and Hurricane. There is a 6 foot deep wave pool, a 65 foot water slide and a 600 foot river to paddle. At each water attraction there are at least two lifeguards to ensure the safety of participants. There are also several activities on dry land, such as water balloon fights and beach volleyball. Accompanying adults and others who wish to relax can make use of the covered lounge. Refreshments are available in the Roseland Café.
250 Eastern Boulevard, Canandaigua, New York 14424, Phone: 585-396-2000
Seneca is one of the more popular of the Finger Lakes. The lake is dotted with water sport enthusiasts and the surrounding hills with vineyards. Geneva is situated at the northern end and Watkins Glen at the south, with villages and settlements on either side. The lake is 38 miles long and 3 miles across at its widest point. It is 600 foot deep. Attractions in the area include the winelands, Finger Lakes National Forest and regular farmers' markets. Legend has it that the Seneca Drums are communications from tribal spirits but science suggests that the sounds are made from gas bubbles escaping from the lake floor.
21.Women's Rights National Historical Park
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The first Women's Rights Convention was held in a Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls in 1848. An annual convention is still held in July. Three of the organizers lived in the area and houses associated with their residency are part of the park. Elizabeth Stanton's home was a large farmhouse with outbuildings, orchards and gardens, which she inherited from her father. For 20 years May Ann M'Clintock lived in a house that was used as a stopover on the Underground Railroad, the network that helped slaves to escape. The park offers field trips and guided tours for groups.
136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Phone: 315-568-0024
22.Seneca Lake Wine Trail
“Grown Here. Made Here.” is the slogan of the winelands. Wine has been made in the hills around the lake for more than a century. Thirty wineries participate in the Wine Trail, offering hundreds of diverse wines. These are made from classic European cultivars and local varieties. The highlight of the year is the harvest season, when the vineyards become a patchwork of autumn foliage and the celebrations begin in earnest. Activities include the annual pig roast, 'Bite and Flight' food and wine tastings, photography classes and a packed schedule of live music events.
2 N. Franklin St., Suite 320 • Watkins Glen, NY 14891, Phone: 877-536-2717
At 40 miles, Cayuga Lake is the longest of the glacial Finger Lakes. Ithaca is at the southernmost end and there are settlements and villages along the eastern shore. Sailing, boating and lake cruises are popular activities. There are two yacht clubs on the western shore. The lake is connected to Lake Ontario by the Erie Canal. Water levels in the lake are controlled by the Mud Lock during winter to minimize ice damage. The mudflats to the north are important as a stopover for migrating birds. Scenic drives and winery tours make this a popular destination for day-trippers.
The Ithaca Falls form a natural amphitheater, 150 feet high and 175 feet wide. Water cascades into a plunge pool which is popular with fly fishermen for the lake-run trout and salmon found there. Swimming is prohibited. In the early 19th century a diversion dam was built above the falls to channel water to several mills. Falls Creek Village sprang up but is now in ruins. The dam collapsed in 2013. The land surrounding the falls is within the city limits. The city acquired the falls from Cornell University in 2000 and additional land to the north when the owner defaulted on taxes.
25.National Women's Hall of Fame
In 1968, Shirley Hartley, retired executive secretary of the president of Eisenhower College, started the drive to establish a national women's hall of fame. She organized the Founders' Tea in the Old Armitage in Seneca Falls. The town was chosen because of its links to the birth of the Women's Rights Movement in 1848. The first 20 honorees were announced at the Inaugural Induction in 1973. To date, 275 women have been inducted for achievements in the arts, business, education, humanities, politics and science. The organization is moving from its historic downtown premises to the 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, a place rooted in the abolitionist and women's rights movements.
76 Fall Street Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Phone: 315-568-8060
25 Best Things to Do in The Finger Lakes Region, NY
- Cornell Botanic Gardens, Photo: 5second/stock.adobe.com
- Ithaca Farmers Market, Photo: bnenin/stock.adobe.com
- Finger Lakes Cider House, Photo: tomasz Zajda/stock.adobe.com
- Cayuga Wine Trail, Photo: Lee/stock.adobe.com
- Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: debramillet/stock.adobe.com
- Three Brothers Wineries, Photo: rastkobelic/stock.adobe.com
- Bristol Mountain Ski Resort, Photo: nitimongkolchai/stock.adobe.com
- Fox Run Vineyards, Photo: nnattalli/stock.adobe.com
- Glenn H Curtiss Museum, Photo: kuarmungadd/stock.adobe.com
- Harriet Tubman Home, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of the Earth, Photo: Museum of the Earth
- Sciencenter, Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
- Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Park, Photo: Monroe/stock.adobe.com
- The Windmill Farm & Craft Market, Photo: Esin Deniz/stock.adobe.com
- Canandaigua Lake, Photo: Debbi/stock.adobe.com
- Watkins Glen State Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Buttermilk Falls State Park, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Taughannock Falls State Park, Photo: jgorzynik/stock.adobe.com
- Roseland Waterpark, Photo: BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com
- Seneca Lake, Photo: alpegor/stock.adobe.com
- Women's Rights National Historical Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Seneca Lake Wine Trail, Photo: Jonathan/stock.adobe.com
- Cayuga Lake, Photo: haveseen/stock.adobe.com
- Ithaca Falls, Photo: lightphoto2/stock.adobe.com
- National Women's Hall of Fame, Photo: debramillet/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: alpegor/stock.adobe.com