Top 5 Reasons to Visit the Finger Lakes
Wondering where to go on your summer vacation this year? Put New York’s Finger Lakes at the top of your list! The Finger Lakes region is famous for lots of reasons – most notably its 11 deep glacial lakes, fantastic Rieslings, cascading waterfalls and historical significance. Read on for our favorite reasons to visit the Finger Lakes!
Watkins Glen State Park
Known for its natural beauty, the Watkins Glen State Park features a fantastic series of waterfalls and gorges. The centerpiece of the 778-acre park is a 400-foot-deep narrow gorge cut through rock by a stream–Glen Creek–that was left hanging when Ice Age glaciers deepened the Seneca valley.
The steep drop of Glen Creek into Seneca Valley created a powerful torrent that eroded the underlying rock, cutting further and further back towards the stream’s headwaters. The many layers of rock in this area (shale, limestone, and sandstone) eroded at different rates, leaving behind a staircase of waterfalls, cascades, plunge pools and potholes. On our Finger Lakes bike tour, you’ll have the chance to hike about 2 miles up the Glen Creek gorge, passing 19 waterfalls over 800 stone steps!
Watkins Glen is an incredible place for photography, so don’t forget your camera!
(P.S. this is just one of many waterfall-centric parks we visit on our Finger Lakes bike tour. We also visit the 215-foot Taughannock Falls, one of the highest falls east of the Rocky Mountains.)
The Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.
Held in Seneca Falls’ Wesleyan Chapel, the convention spanned two days in July. It attracted widespread attention, and paved the way for a spate of women’s rights conventions that followed.
On our cycling tour of the Finger Lakes, we ride past a statue of three women as we leave the town of Seneca Falls. This life-size bronze statue by local sculptor Ted Aub commemorates the historic moment when women’s dress reformer Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851. Since 1999, “When Anthony Met Stanton” has served as a reminder of the 50-year collaboration between these two influential women who significantly advanced women’s rights.
“When Anthony Met Stanton” is widely embraced in the town of Seneca Falls, known as the home of women’s rights. The image of the statue appears on everything from signage directing visitors to landmarks like the National Women’s Hall of Fame to brochures and souvenirs. The statue was funded and presented by the Governor’s Commission Honoring the Achievements of Women. It was unveiled and dedicated in 1999.
More than 140 wineries are spread throughout the American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the Finger Lakes, though the majority are clustered around the stunning scenery of the Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca Lakes.
The region’s laser-focused Rieslings have propelled the Finger Lakes to the world stage, but the region produces many different varieties. (The Finger Lakes is the biggest producer of wine in New York State.)
The picturesque, agriculturally-rich, sloping hillsides of the Finger Lakes are laden heavy with rolling green vineyards. The scenic Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua, and Cayuga lakes are the central focus of the region and play a major role in the area’s renown cool climate wines, especially its varietal whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. But the region is also famed for its red varieties such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, as well as other popular white varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
There are wineries and tasting rooms around every corner in the Finger Lakes! On our bike tour, we have the pleasure of visiting one of the best — the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars — for two delightful nights in a row. Our stay includes a complimentary bottle of Glenora wine, free tastings and a visit to the highly-rated Veraisons Restaurant.
Arts and Culture
Located at the south end of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is the largest town and the cultural center of the Finger Lakes region. Home to two institutions of higher learning (Ithaca College and Cornell University), this cool city has a thriving art scene, live music outdoors in the summer, and countless local restaurants. Ithaca is both a destination in itself and a memorable stopover on our Finger Lakes Bike Tour.
Downtown Ithaca features a number of local boutiques and art galleries where you can find works by area artists. The DeWitt Mall (a repurposed school building in the Collegiate Gothic style), houses the legendary Ithaca Guitar Works, IthacaMade gift shop, and the cooperatively-owned Buffalo Street Books.
You can’t miss the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, which exhibits historical life in Tompkins County. The old bank vault – a relic from the previous tenant – which now houses a local timeline.
Also inside TCHC is the Community Arts Partnership’s Artspace – one of several downtown galleries which mount new exhibits the first Friday of every month.
But not all of Ithaca’s art hangs in a gallery; there are over 150 murals within the city limits! If streetscapes are more your speed, visit ithacamurals.com for a map. You’ll find pieces tucked away in alleys, atop parking garages, and wrapped around electrical boxes.
Fantastic Finger Lakes Ice Cream and Cheese
Besides vineyards and orchards, the fertile Finger Lakes region has dairies — and dairies mean cheese and ice cream.
On our bike tour, we’ll cycle to Cayuga Lake Creamery, which serves dozens of small-batch, homemade flavors made on site with seasonal ingredients.
Taste some exceptional classics, as well as unique and seasonal offerings like Lavender, Maple Bacon, Ultimate Fudge Brownie, and the famous Seneca Salt Caramel. There are also wine flavors created with the assistance of local winemakers, plus non-dairy options, sorbets, and gluten-free confections.
Not to be upstaged by the ice cream, cheese in the Finger Lakes is so good that area dairies have come together to form the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance. The group is made up of 12 working family farms and producers, each creating their own brand of artisanal and farmstead cheeses.
Sunset View Creamery, which is only 10 minutes away from Watkins Glen, is a hyper-local cheese producer that sells 12 varieties of raw and pasteurized milk cheese, 13 varieties of cheese curd, as well as raw milk, locally sourced beef and free range eggs from humanely raised, hormone-free animals. Want to meet the farm critters yourself? Sunset View even offers Cow Cuddling (by appointment only!)
The Finger Lakes is truly a must-see vacation destination. Only a short distance from New York City, Toronto, and other surrounding cities, the Finger Lakes Region is perfect for an escape from the grind. Beautiful scenery, award-winning Finger Lakes wineries, outdoor activities and more await. Better yet, see it up-close and personal from your bike! Wilderness Voyageurs offers two scenic tours of the Finger Lakes region: A Four-Day Finger Lakes Bike Tour, and a longer, more leisurely Six-Day Finger Lakes Bike Tour.