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Our Weekend in The Finger Lakes, NY

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Our Weekend in The Finger Lakes, NYOur Weekend in The Finger Lakes, NY

Wineries, boating, fishing, biking, hiking, and more – here’s a recap (and a video!) from an incredible 4-day weekend in The Finger Lakes! We had such an amazing time, we plan on returning really soon, hopefully in September when the leaves are changing color.

How We Got There

Although it’s probably a 6 hour drive from my house in Long Island, I always prefer to fly. We took a direct flight to Syracuse from JFK which was only 1 hour and 12 minutes. From there we rented a car and took a very scenic 45 minute drive over to Watkins Glen, NY.

Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals

Where We Stayed

Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals

We stayed at the Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals along the south end of Seneca Lake in the heart of Watkins Glen, NY. A former abandoned Brewery Building, it’s now new construction for vacation rentals. The owners Ann and Dan were the kindest people, we adopted them as Madison’s Seneca Lake grandparents. The 3 bedroom condo we stayed in had three floors, with the kitchen and living room on the top floor with a balcony overlooking the lake. I loved watching the sun rise every morning from my balcony while enjoying my morning coffee.

What We Did

There’s so much to do in the Finger Lakes it’s hard to do it all in 4 days, but we sure packed in a lot of stuff in a short time.  Whatever downtime we had was spent on the lake, Madison loved collected sea glass, skipping rocks and walking along the pier. The rest of our weekend we were on the go, here’s a peak at our itinerary, then you can read below for more details on the highlights.



3:40 pm – landed in Syracuse airport then rented a car.

4:00 to 5:45 pm – drove to Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals in Watkins Glen.

6:00 pm – dinner just a walking distance away at Graft Wine + Cider Bar which featured local, seasonal small plates, local wine and cider. Although there’s no kid’s menu, Madison was perfectly happy enjoying the olives, radishes, artisan bread and butter. The poké special was spot on as well as the mushroom gnocchi.

After dinner we watched the sun go down over Seneca Lake.


9 am to 1pm – Corning Museum of Glass, 1 Museum Way, Corning

1pm – Lunched at a new eclectic restaurant in Corning called Hand & Foot (69 W. Market Street, Corning) really great food with the best fried pickles I’ve ever tasted. They had board games, sketch pads, crayons and stuff for the kids which Madison loved.

4:30 pm – we met Ann and Dan, the owners of Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals and enjoyed a glass of local wine on the lake.

6:30 – 8:00 pm – We drove up to the Inn at Taughannock, which is part of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trails. We sat outside and enjoyed the views, but there was a wedding happening, so our menu was limited.

8:00 pm – after dinner we stopped real quick to look at the Taughannock Falls before returning to the lake for some s’mores over the fire.


9:00 – 11:00 am – 2 hour hike at Watkins Glen State Park, 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen

11:15 am – 1:15 pm – Wine Tasting at Lakewood Vineyards

1:30 pm – lunch at FLX Wienery, their menu consists of artisanal hot dogs, gourmet hamburgers, sausages, shakes and fries.

3:15 – 4:30 pm –  cheese tasting and tour of Sunset View Creamery, part of Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. Madison milked a cow, and played with the dogs on the farm while we sampled their artisan cheese made from the milk of their own cows.

5:00 – 6:15 PM – sightseeing boat tour aboard The Remedy. If you want to experience the lake from the water, this is a must! They offer Eco Tours, History Tours, Custom Winery, Brewery, Distillery Tours and Sightseeing Cruises, You can even sail aboard American cinematic history on the vessel “True Love” featured in the 1957 classic film, “High Society”.

6:30 pm – lakeside dinner outside on the patio at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, 16 North Franklin Street,  just minutes from our rental house.


12:15 – 1:15 pm – We left Watkins Glen and worked our way back towards Syracuse. First stop was a tasting at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard, 2708 Lords Hill Road (Rt. 80), LaFayette

1:45 – 2:45 pm –  Lunch at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 246 W Willow St, Syracuse. Dinosaur’s bar-b-que is nationally acclaimed. Food and sauces are award-winning, fresh, homemade and high-quality. A Syracuse staple!

2:45 – 5:00 pm –  Explore downtown Syracuse before heading back to the airport.

Highlights of the Trip

This beautiful park and falls left us spellbound – a stop you cannot miss! An easy two mile hike for kids and adults, within those two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. It was voted the #3 State Park in the Country by USA Today readers in 2015 and is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks.

The world’s largest museum of glass is not to be missed. We had so much fin exploring glass art and artifacts, watched live glassblowing demonstrations by master artists, then we made our own glass ornament.

One of the Lakewood Vineyards is part of Seneca Lake Wine Trail (there are 35 vineyards total). With 80 acres of grapes planted with a diverse selection of wine.

Sample hard cider, wine, vodka and more, all made from apples in the gorgeous tasting room of 1911 Spirits at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards, New York’s premiere apple orchard known for producing handcrafted, small batch spirits and artisanal hard ciders. Beak and Skiff also produces regular cider and has a playground within the apple orchards for kids. Voted the Best Apple Orchard in the Country by USA Today readers.

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49 comments on “Our Weekend in The Finger Lakes, NY”

  1. Avatar photo
    Rebecca Hartman

    We just moved to this area from Raleigh, NC. We love all the finger lakes and Watkins Glen. It is really beautiful here! We feel so blessed to have moved here. So glad you enjoyed your trip. 

  2. Stumbled across this post while looking for recipes with gnocchi. 🙂 This makes me soooo happy. Seneca Lake is our favorite local getaway. I love that you enjoyed your time in out little part of the world. I have three of your SkinnyTaste cookbooks and love reading them and trying new tasty recipes.

  3. It is so nice you all enjoyed the Ginger Lakes region. We are from Queens living near Rochester…beautiful area….although we miss Jackson Hgts very much!!

  4. You were smart to fly. You just skimmed the surface of what to do in the Finger Lakes area. It’s heavenly—in the summer. 

  5. The Finger Lakes are the best! It’s my home…and I miss the area since moving to Georgia. Looks like you had a wonderful time! 🙂 Thank you for posting!

  6. What fun reading about your trip to our area…and so great that you found and enjoyed many of our favorite places – Lakewood Winery being our most favorite! Looks like the weather was perfect for you! Come again soon!

  7. We love the Finger Lakes and you managed to visit all the places we love. I hope you had Tracy as your wine steward at Lakewood he’s the best. We’ve been going for 7 years and can’t believe it’s still such and undiscovered location to vacation. 

    The Weinery is the best spot for lunch. Next time check out The Crossing Diner in Dundee for a good local diner breakfast. 

  8. I go to the Watkins Glen area at least twice a year for the races  (for work) and its beautiful. Its my favorite place I visit each year. The state park is awesome, I’m glad you got to see that. There is so much to see every time I go, can’t wait to go back! 

  9. Thank you, Gina! I am from Syracuse and visit many of the places you highlighted often. It was nice to see “us” featured for our fine dining, spirits and spectacular views!!!

  10. Don’t forget Ithaca next time! Glad you loved our area–so much food, natural beauty and culture! I agree with an earlier commentor, that Stonecat Cafe on Seneca Lake is not to be missed, as well as Hazelnut Cafe in Trumansburg, and, many places on Ithaca, Just a Taste among them!!! Lots more waterfalls to enjoy as well.

  11. Avatar photo
    Barb Warner Deane

    I was born and raised in Watkins Glen and was visiting my family cottage on Seneca Lake when this newsletter arrived in my email box. It’s such an incredible area of the state and country – it’s great that more people are beginning to appreciate it! Thanks for the wonderful descriptions. There are more than 40 wineries on Seneca Lake alone, never mind the new distilleries & breweries as well, which just added to the appeal of the natural beauty of the area – the Glen, the lakes, etc. – and, of course, the race track in Watkins Glen. Thanks for appreciating the appeal of our beautiful area. (And for all your great recipes, experiences, and newsletters).

  12. This trip is now on my list, to do EXACTLY as you did it (with the Stonecat Cafe included!). Thank you, so very much for this post and for your always wonderful recipes. 

  13. We live right outside of Rochester, NY and the Finger Lakes are in our backyard. We spent today by Keuka Lake and were at Taughannock Falls just last week. When you come back to visit, pick another lake to enjoy, they are all so amazing and there are wineries all over the place. Glad you came to visit this part of the state. I know I’m prejudiced, but I think the Finger Lakes area is the most beautiful part of New York.

  14. Gorgeous vacation-log Gina!!!  I have bookmarked this incredible journey as a future ‘must’ for our family.  The scenery is spectacular…and you combined so many interesting experiences that I must admit…I would like this to serve as a template for our own trip!  Your photographs are awe-inspiring…really!

  15. Neat to see your trip report and places to try. I like the idea of a townhouse so much as I like to do my own cooking some of the time, with your recipes of course. We used to live in that area and loved the Fingerlakes and all the small towns. Always something going on like craft shows, parks, Ithaca events with the colleges there..on and on..

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your trip and the beautiful pictures. I have always wanted to go to the Finger Lakes, but have not made it there yet. Your post has inspired me and I appreciate all the great information you provided. I live in the Hudson Valley of NY so I really should take advantage of seeing the Finger Lakes.

  17. My home town! This was so cool to see. Your pictures really captured the beauty of the lake and the gorge. If you ever go back you HAVE to go to the Stonecat Cafe….best food in the area, and just a little bit down the road from those vacation rentals.

  18. Avatar photo
    Laura Anderson

    My husband’s family lives in Cazenovia (another beautiful area) so we are frequently in the area!  We also did the Watkins Glen and Corning Glass museum visit a few years ago with our kids.  So beautiful!

  19. So glad you enjoyed your time in the Finger Lakes. This is where I grew up, and the beautiful photos of the gorge and the lake make me feel nostalgic. Thank you for sharing your experience on the blog!

  20. Avatar photo
    Janet Kendrick

    Gina – So happy you got to see and enjoy  the beauty of the Finger Lakes region of NY. We are pretty proud of our region and all it has to offer. It’s fun to look at it through the eyes (and pics) of a visitor. Thanks for your amazing recipes. I have been cooking  “skinnytaste” recipes  almost exclusively for the past 2 years ever since I joined Weight Watchers. Love ’em!

  21. You were up in my neck of the woods! Isn’t that area amazingly beautiful? Thanks for sharing your adventure and your amazing photos!

  22. We went to the Finger Lakes a few years ago – so beautiful up there, we need to go back & try the cheese trail. Did you know there is a Dinosaur BBQ in Manhattan? Same company, but a lot closer.

  23. Thanks for this post about your trip to the finger lakes! My husband and I passed through there in the winter ( we have to vacation in winter because we are farmers in Tennessee) but anyway I knew it would be a very nice summer vacation spot! So thanks for taking us there via your beautiful pictures! Love your blog, recipes and your cookbooks! 

  24. QHi Gina, Thanks so much for the beautiful travel blog! Your cookbook, SKINNYTASTE! Is my favorite cookbook!  I love the weekly postings, too! Please keep on doing what you do! Karen Otto

  25. The Finger Lakes is my home! The winters can be brutal, but you’ve perfectly outlined here why I love to live in this area. So much to see and do. And it’s beautiful! Thank you! Your newsletters are always a joy to see in my email inbox.

  26. I’m originally from upstate New York (I’m a Texas girl now), about an hour from the Corning and Watkins Glen area. I’ve been to Watkins Glen State Park more times than I can count. Seeing your pictures brought back a lot of memories, thanks for allowing me to relive my childhood. 🙂

  27. Thank you for sharing your 4 day get-away with us! I don’t think I could keep up with you folks! A friend of mind just returned from camping in that area and she said the wind always blows. She was very frighten the first night in their camper because the camper was moving side to side.
    But the next day was told that the wind blowing hard was the norm in that area!
    Enjoy the rest of your summer! We live in Vermont and we have received a lot of rain ???? .

  28. OMG! Thank you so much for sharing. The pictures are amazingly beautiful. The descriptions allowed me to feel like I was there. All I can say is WOW!! What a blessing!

  29. Thanks Gina, for sharing your family vacation with your subscribers. I read every paragraph as if I was there, beautiful pictures! I don’t get to travel much, so looking at the pictures and reading all of the activities your family did makes me feel like am living vicariously through you. Thanks and continue to be blessed.

  30. SUCH a glorious area!  we lived in the finger lakes region (skaneateles) for four years…still in our hearts!  thank you for sharing…especially these beautiful pics!  and thanks for all you do to encourage us in a healthy living lifestyle.  

  31. Great pics, my husband and I just spent 3 days at the Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen this past June. We loved the area especially the gorge at the state park which was amazing. We also visited Lakewood Winery going home with several cases of their long stemmed white and red (1 case was for friends who asked us to bring back for them, really). Loved playing with their resident pet boxer. Also, spent several hours at the Corning Museum, glass blowing demo was very interesting. Would consider making Watkins Glen a vacation week, perhaps at the place you stayed. It looks clean and airy with great views. 

    1. I love that we stopped at the same places, yes it was a great place to stay! I would stay there again!

  32. Hi Gina.  Wow!  Thank u for sharing and posting this.  I am very grateful that I have you and your posts in my life.  Your menus are very helpful and healthy for my h and I .  

  33. Your pictures are gorgeous as is the area I so love.  Family favorites we discovered are the boat ride at sunset, Mark Twain’s grave in nearby Elmira, thew Windmill in Dundee, and the chocolate wine at the Winery near where the original real road course went.

  34. Avatar photo
    Yinka Fedden

    Loved this post – smiled all the way through. Looks like you all had such a super holiday and made the most of your short break.

    Thank you so much for sharing!