Named by Wine Enthusiast as one of the Top 10 Worldwide Wine Destination, along with numerous other accolades, the Finger Lakes wine country isn’t just growing grapes. Today, it’s growing in popularity as an affordable and beautiful wine country destination.
With more than 100 wineries, breweries and distilleries, there is plenty to keep wine aficionados happy. But, we can’t spend our whole time drinking wine (as much as we’d like to) so if you are looking for things to do in the Finger Lakes that go beyond the vines, here are our top suggestions. (Sip in more with our Finger Lakes Wine Travel Guide.)
Things to Do in the Finger Lakes…besides sipping wine
Discover the Amazing Waterfalls at Ithaca
With more than 150 waterfalls, including the gigantic Taughannock Waterfall, it’s hardly surprising that we put Ithaca at number one on our list. The
is over 25 feet taller than the Niagara Falls, however it loses out as being recognized as the largest falls in America because it has a smaller volume of water. Located on Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is an area of stupendous beauty and definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Make Your Base in Watkins Glen
Located on the southern tip of Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen is a great place to use as a base. Not only does it have a charming main street with an abundance of eating places but it’s home to the picturesque Seneca Harbor too. From the harbor you can board the schooner ‘True Love’ – which was used in the 1940s classic film, ‘A Philadelphia Story’ – and enjoy an unforgettable sunset cruise on the lake.
The area also boasts the Watkins Glen State Park with its two mile long gorge trail which winds its way from waterfall to waterfall. It truly is a magical experience.
Experience the Charm of Hammondsport
Another typical American small town, Hammondsport is located on Keuka Lake and its downtown area has plenty of shops and eateries to try. But there’s more to Hammondsport than small town charm; it’s home to the Finger Lake Boating Museum and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum with its remarkable collection of airplanes and motorcycles.
Explore the Grand Canyon of the East
The Letchworth State Park has earned a name as the ‘Grand Canyon of the East’ and it’s dominated by three extremely large and impressive falls together with at least 50 more minor waterfalls. It’s definitely an area that’s worth exploring if you have the time available.
Visit the Small Town of Corning
One of the best small towns in the area, Corning has that typical smalltown charm that characterized America in the 1950’s and ‘60s. Market Street is the place to find something to eat, with the Market Street Brewing Company offering great craft beers on draft and a delicious menu. There are also shops and boutiques galore selling everything from clothes to books, plus the town is home to the Rockwell Museum that houses a stunning collection of American Art.
Drop into the Corning Museum of Glass
You can’t leave Corning without visiting the Corning Museum of Glass. There’s plenty to enjoy including demonstrations of glass blowing and the opportunity to try this ancient art for yourself. In addition, you’ll get to see fabulous sculptures made of glass, together with optical illusion glass exhibits. However, one of the most enthralling displays is the collection of glass that dates back thousands of years and is the largest collection of its type in the world.
Take a Glider Flight over Harris Hill
If you have a sense of adventure and a head for heights, a flight in a glider from Soaring on Harris Hill will give you a sense of excitement and freedom that simply can’t be attained on the ground. Not only will you get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding countryside, but you’ll experience what must surely be one of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes.
Of course, you’ll have a pilot to take care of the flight itself, so all you have to do is sit back, relax and take in the scenery of the Chemung Valley. Each flight lasts around 20 minutes; however, be aware that flights may be restricted by unfavorable weather conditions.
Visit the National Soaring Museum
When you’re back down on Terra Firma, be sure to call into the National Soaring Museum which houses the world’s largest collection of gliders or motorless sailplanes. Some of these planes date back as far as 1890, while one of the most famous exhibits is a piece of cloth from the wing of the Kittyhawk, the plane that belonged to the legendary Wright Brothers.
Explore the History at Elmira
As Elmira is not located on any of the lakes, it’s easily overlooked by visitors to the area. However, it deserves a place in history as, for many years, it was the summer home of the famous American writer Mark Twain who married a resident of the town. It was this area that inspired many of his famous books, including ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’.
You’ll be able to visit his study, his place of rest in Woodlawn Cemetery and take a tour of Elmira on the Mark Twain trolley to admire the beautiful historic homes that abound in this town.
Try Your Luck at the Tioga Downs Casino Resort
If you need a break from nature, an afternoon or evening in the Tioga Downs Casino Resort never fails to excite. The Resort boasts both a casino and a horse racetrack and has accommodations too, enabling you to stay for as long as you like. So, if you fancy a flutter on the horses or a few spins of the Roulette wheel – Tioga Downs is the place to be.
There are so many things to do in the Finger Lakes that one trip to this area won’t be enough to take in everything that we’ve listed…and sip-in the wine country. There are of course, many things that we didn’t fit into this piece so if you thing we’ve missed anything list that should be on the list – let us know in the comments.
Make sure to check out Carpe Travel’s Finger Lakes Wine Travel Guide for more tips on where to stay, sip and things to do in the Finger Lakes.
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.