An ancient Native American myth says that the Finger Lakes were created when the hand of the Great Spirit touched the region in an effort to send a piece of Paradise onto earth. When you visit this area, the legend seems to make sense. Scenic beauty is one of the biggest reasons people come to the Finger Lakes, and who can blame them? The combination of luscious vineyards, steep gorges and sparkling lakes makes for breathtaking beauty around every bend in the country road and affords possibilities that other places just can’t offer. With over 9,000 square miles of lakes, land and natural wonders, plus museums, historic sites, and great shopping, dining and entertainment spots, the Finger Lakes region has something for everyone. It’s possible to spend a week or more here and do something different every day.
It’s rare to find gorges, lakes and vineyards in the same location, but the climate and geography of the Finger Lakes that support the diverse landscape also provide the perfect conditions for grape-growing. With over 100 vineyards and wineries in the area, it’s easy to see why this region produces award-winning wines. The unique climate also means that summer fun is a breeze in the Finger Lakes. It’s not uncommon to find caverns and gorges in the Western half of the country. Well, it’s also not uncommon to find them here, in Western New York State. Most people have heard of Watkins Glen, but may not realize that there are quite a few similar gorges in the region, most of which afford gorgeous and memorable hiking opportunities. Three of the best are in the Ithaca area: Taughannock Falls, Robert Treman, and Buttermilk Falls State Parks. All three offer gorge trails, picnic grounds and camp sites for an unforgettable summer experience.
When it’s time to cool off, take to the lake: there are 12 here to choose from. The unique features of each lake mean that visitors can enjoy virtually any on-water experience. Fish, swim, canoe, wind surf, snorkel, water ski, sail, kayak, rent a boat or go white-water rafting—there are opportunities for all of it here. Prefer dry land? You have options, from hiking, biking, or golfing to rock climbing, to bird watching. If you’re feeling bold, take to the skies in a hang glider or hot air balloon, or satisfy your inner thrill seeker with the ultimate stunt: a skydive. Having trouble deciding what to do first? Each county in the Finger Lakes has developed touring packages and suggested itineraries for visitors.
Of course, nature isn’t the only attraction here. There are plenty of shopping opportunities, from specialty boutiques and wine gift shops to malls and outlets. The Finger Lakes is home to an abundance of farm and open-air markets, giving it a homey, country feel. Shop for fresh foods like baguettes, cheeses and fruits, then pick up a bottle of authentic Finger Lakes wine and head to one of the regions many lakesides or overlooks for the perfect picnic. Craft fairs frequent the region, so enthusiasts of homemade gifts and antiques will be happy to find the shopping opportunities are endless. Shopping districts are unique and fun. The Gaffer District in Corning is no exception. Check out specialty shops for eclectic items you might not find elsewhere, and enjoy the cool, laid-back vibe as you explore this great location.
The Gaffer District is where you’ll find The Corning Museum of Glass, a unique place, where visitors can explore the cavernous museum of blown glass and even try their hand at glass blowing during one of the live demonstrations. This delicate art is fascinating to watch, and the end products are stunning. In fact, American Style magazine calls Corning “one of the top small town city art destinations in the U.S.”
As the day winds down relax over dinner at one of the region’s fine restaurants. Take your pick from a variety that includes gourmet restaurants, family diners, dinner cruises, casual fare, fast foods, and gourmet bistros. To make it extra special, snag a table with a view—of either the lake or the land. And when you’re ready to turn in, you’ll find that the lodging opportunities here are as diverse as everything else the area has to offer. Motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, country inns, resorts and campsites offer budget friendly options whether you prefer fluffy robes or sleeping bags. Before you visit, check out the summer special events schedule at www.fingerlakes.org. From county fairs to laser light shows, you’re bound to find an event you like. Whatever you choose, one thing’s for sure: everyone in the family will enjoy a trip to the Finger Lakes.