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20 Best Things To Do In Watkins Glen, NY For 2023

20 Best Things To Do In Watkins Glen, NY For 2023

In this extensive guide, we are going to show you the 20 best things to do in Watkins Glen, NY including the top places to visit so you can start planning the perfect trip to upstate New York today.

Watkins Glen is well known for its raceway at Watkins Glen International, but there is so much more to explore such as the gorge trail at stunning Watkins Glen State Park or visiting the downtown area in the village of Watkins Glen.

But why can you trust us when it comes to Watkins Glen?

Because Kristen grew up in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and we also temporarily lived close to Watkins Glen once Mark officially immigrated to the US in 2019.

While we no longer live in the area, Kristen’s family still lives in upstate New York so we always return to this beautiful area several times a year.

In our guide, we will show you:

  • The 20 best things to do in Watkins Glen
  • Useful links, lists and tips within each activity
  • Things to do map of Watkins Glen
  • Our own photos from Watkins Glen attractions

Now, let’s explore fun things to do near Watkins Glen from a local!

Table of Contents show

Where Is Watkins Glen?

The village of Watkins Glen is located in Schuyler County which is nestled in Upstate New York between Niagara Falls and New York City.

Watkins Glen is unique because it is situated on the southern shore of Seneca Lake and also happens to be in the heart of New York State’s gorgeous Finger Lakes region.

If you are looking for outdoor adventure, wineries, lakefront dining and water sports, Watkins Glen has you covered. There is no shortage activities when it comes to Watkins Glen tourism.

What Is So Special About Seneca Lake?

Seneca Lake is one of the eleven long and narrow lakes found in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, but there is a reason Seneca Lake stands out amongst all the rest.

Beautiful Seneca Lake is 618 feet deep making it the biggest and deepest lake compared to the other Finger Lakes. Interestingly, this depth means Seneca Lakes does not freeze in winter.

This depth also makes Seneca Lake a very popular place for trout fishing and the area hosts the National Lake Trout Derby. Seneca Lake is often considered the lake trout capital of the world.

Many people come to Watkins Glen to walk the very popular Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail or experience a race at Watkins Glen International Raceway.

But as we mentioned earlier in this guide, Watkins Glen is brimming with fun activities and things to do for the entire family.

In this guide we will cover the best things to do as well as important places to visit in and around the Watkins Glen area. But the last few items on this guide include fun day trips you should also consider.

Now, let’s explore Watkins Glen!

Tiered waterfall at Watkins Glen State Park
The beautiful Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park

1. Watkins Glen State Park

The famous Watkins Glen State Park sits on a very long but narrow bit of land surrounding Glen Creek. This creek flows directly into the southernmost tip of nearby Seneca Lake.

Watkins Glen State Park features nineteen plunging waterfalls as they flow through a natural gorge surrounded by man made stone staircases and bridges.

Why Visit Watkins Glen State Park?

The 1.5 mile Watkins Glen Gorge Trail is the highlight of the show as it leads visitors to the stunning rainbow falls. If you are planning a visit to Watkins Glen, you must stop at this state park.

You can find the entrance to Watkins Glen State Park right on Franklin Street running directly through town, but you can also walk to the entrance from several other places in the village.

Address: 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Watkins Glen State Park Google Maps Location.

Things To Do At Watkins Glen State Park

The most popular trail at Watkins Glen State Park is the Gorge trail, but there are a few other things you can do in the park:

  • Hike the lesser known North Rim or South Rim trail
  • Read about history along the Ecology path
  • Swim in the Olympic sized swimming pool
  • Enjoy a picnic in various section of the park
  • Camp at one of the 305 designated spots

Interested in Watkins Glen State Park? Don’t miss our popular post about the Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail with complete walkthrough and beautiful photos.

Two painted race cars driving at the Watkins Glen International Raceway
A painting of race cars on Watkins Glen International Raceway

2. Watkins Glen International Raceway

The streets of Watkins Glen have played a very important part in the history of American road racing.

Since 1948, Watkins Glen has continually hosted intentional automobile races with a 6.6 mile circuit that originally ran through the center of town (more on this later in our guide).

But the new course at Watkins Glen International, typically referred to as ‘the Glen‘ is about four miles from downtown. At this race track, fans can experience NASCAR, IMSA, Ferrari and US Vintage Grand Prix racing.

Address: 2790 County Route 16, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Watkins Glen International Raceway Google Maps Location.

Why Visit Watkins Glen International?

NASCAR is an extremely fast paced sport involving many cars that race around the track at a very high speed. Often these cars come within inches of one another and seconds often separate the winners and losers.

A visit to ‘the Glen’ involves watching these professional races, but you can also camp, go behind the scenes, hang out at the Jack Daniel’s club and even drive the track yourself.


International Motor Racing Research Center

If you are interested in the Glen, you might like the International Motor Racing Research Center. This free museum encourages visitors to collect, preserve and share the global history of motorsports.

You can find the International Motor Racing Research Center in the village of Watkins Glen and it’s about 5.0 miles from Watkins Glen International Raceway.

International Motor Racing Research Center Address: 610 S Decatur St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

A wine glass with views of the rolling hills in upstate New York
A glass of wine along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail

3. Drink Wine Along The Seneca Lake Wine Trail

As you drive into the village of Watkins Glen, you will notice gorgeous rolling hills and lush vineyards overflowing with grapes. Upstate NY is an ideal landscape for the cool-climate grapes which now inhabit the area.

The geology along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail allows growers in the region to produce popular vinifera grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Riesling.

Additionally, the two native grapes found in the area are Concord (red) and Niagara (white). These varieties are often used to make juice or sweet wine.

Why Visit The Seneca Lake Wine Trail?

You should visit the Seneca Lake Wine Trail because it includes a total of 27 local wineries which have been federally recognized by the Seneca Lake AVA covering 320 square miles.

Because Seneca Lake is the deepest Finger Lake and one of the deepest lakes in North America, this region also standouts in the Finger Lakes AVA of New York State.

Interested in Wine Trails? You might want to read about the Verde Valley Wine Trail in Sedona, Arizona.

Where Are The Wineries Along The Seneca Lake Wine Trail?

There are 27 amazing wineries scattered around Seneca Lake. We would recommend you start in the village of Watkins Glen and make your way around the lake as you sample various wineries.

The Seneca Lake Wine trail hosts many wine and food pairing events throughout the entire year. These weekend long events include everything from holidays, ballroom dancing and live music.

Although it’s called a trail, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is not walkable and you will need some sort of transportation. While some wineries are located close together, others will require a short drive.

>> Book a Seneca Lake Wine Tasting Tour: Start In Watkins Glen | From Geneva

Travel Tip: Uber and Lyft are not reliable forms of transportation in the village of Watkins Glen, but you could consider a wine tasting tour.

Exterior view of Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruises best thing to do in Watkins Glen
Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises

4. Seneca Lake Cruises And Water Activities

A visit to Watkins Glen isn’t complete without a cruise on the largest Finger Lake! These cruises are great because you could spend an hour or a whole afternoon depending on your itinerary.

The Best Seneca Lake Boat Cruise

Captain Bill’s is the best place to go if you want a fine dining and elegant experience on Seneca Lake. Step aboard the 270 passenger dining vessel or enjoy a delicious meal on the waterfront.

  • Seneca Legacy – Captain Bill’s 270 passenger fine dining experience
  • Seneca Spirit – An hour long informative tour of Seneca Lake
  • Seneca Harbor Station – An 1876 train station turned waterfront restaurant

What Else Can You Do On Seneca Lake?

If a cruise isn’t your thing, there are many other things you can do on Seneca Lake:

  • Seneca Sailing Adventures – A trip with Schooner True Love can sail up to 22 people as you view the historic sites along the southern tip of Seneca Lake.
Woman shopping for goods along Franklin St
Kristen shopping along Franklin Street

5. Explore Franklin Street

Franklin Street dissects the village of Watkins Glen and this is where you will find many of the restaurants, shops and hotels for the area.

As you walk Franklin Street, you will pass everything from the Glen Theater to the Seneca Cheese Company. A casual stroll down Franklin Street is one of the best things you can do in Watkins Glen.

What Can You Do On Franklin Street?

Here are a few of the best stops along Franklin Street:

  • Glen Theater
  • Famous Brands Outlet
  • Franklin Street Gallery
  • Seneca Cheese Company
  • Specc’s Chocolates and Gifts
  • Watkins Glen Wine & Spirits
  • Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce

Travel Tip: As you walk down Franklin Street, be on the lookout for checkerboard crosswalks which are meant to resemble the start and finish lines of a racetrack.

Best things to do in Watkins Glen is pick an apple from a tree at Apples and Moore
Kristen picking apples at Apples and Moore

6. Pick Your Own Apples

Watkins Glen has many local farmers who open their doors to welcome visitors in order for people to experience the beauty of Finger Lakes farming.

You can pluck your own apple from a tree at a u-pick orchard or find that perfect pumpkin from one of the local patches when fruit is in season.

We like visiting these farms because it is a great way to support to the local community and it’s a beautiful drive to many of these places.

Where Can You Pick Your Own Fruit In Watkins Glen?

If you are interested in picking your own fruit or visiting the local farms, we recommend:

  • Apples and Moore – With over 20 varieties of apples and wagons for pulling, kids will love it here
  • Hawk Meadow Farm – A unique opportunity to tour a woodland mushroom farm
  • Mangus Farm – Offering fresh picked seasonal fruit as well as homemade goods and jams
Rooster Fish Brewing on Franklin St
Rooster Fish Brewing on Franklin Street

7. Watkins Glen Craft Breweries

While the Finger Lakes region has been known for grape-growing, there is a new kid on the block which has become almost just as popular as the wineries.

Many of wineries in the area have made the decision craft their own brews and bottles which has spiraled into a very popular craft brewery scene throughout the entire Finger Lakes region.

What Are The Best Breweries In Watkins Glen?

There is nothing like sipping on an incredible IPA as you look out onto rolling hills and stunning valley of the Seneca Lake. We can tell you from experience this is an amazing way to spend a day.

Here are the best breweries near Watkins Glen:

Exterior View of Nickel's Pit BBQ
Exterior view of Nickel’s BBQ Pit

8. Support The Local Restaurants

After a long day of exploring, you will have surely worked up an appetite and the restaurants of Watkins Glen have a lot to offer to satisfy your appetite.

From quick bites in small cafes to lakefront views in fine dining establishments, you are spoiled for choice in Watkins Glen.

What Are The Best Restaurants In Watkins Glen?

You will be pleasantly surprised by the food options in Watkins Glen and we love that many of these restaurants are run by families and serve local produce.

Here are the best restaurants in and near Watkins Glen:

Keep in mind most wineries and craft breweries in the area also serve small bites or meals. We like to nibble on small meals all day if we are day drinking.

Hiking Tip: If you are starving after walking the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail, stop by Glen Mountain Market Bakery for a delicious sandwich afterwards.

Various types of local ice cream and cheese in Watkins Glen
Cheese and Ice Cream flight at Shtayburne Farm

9. Try Some Cheese And Ice Cream

Local farms and creameries in Watkins Glen offer unique artisan cheeses such as aged cheddars, mozzarella, gouda and even homemade ice cream.

If you haven’t noticed, there is a common theme throughout this guide when it comes to the local farmers because they are extremely important to the community as well as surrounding areas.

Where Are The Best Creameries In Watkins Glen?

Who doesn’t love a delicious scoop (or two) of homemade ice cream after a long day of sightseeing or hiking. A visit to one of these creameries is just what the doctor ordered.

Many of these farms have multiple generations working to produce top quality milk and cheese. Plus you can enjoy the beautiful views of Seneca Lake when you visit!

Here are the best creameries and ice cream parlors in Watkins Glen:

Eagle Cliff Falls Waterfall and small pool of water
Eagles Cliff Falls in Havana Glen Park

10. Hunt For Nearby Waterfalls

In addition to the 19 beautiful waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park, there are several more waterfalls worth visiting if you have time in your Watkins Glen itinerary.

April will be the best month of the year to visit any of these waterfalls because that is when they will be at their fullest as the snowpack melts.

However, these waterfalls are still worth visiting anytime of year especially because some are so close to the village of Watkins Glen.

Where Are The Waterfalls in Watkins Glen?

Hunting waterfalls is one of the best things you can do in Watkins Glen because this area is blessed with stunning topography.

Each distance we mention below is from the main (or lower) entrance from Watkins Glen State Park. We also have included a link with the exact location to each waterfall.

Here are the best waterfalls near the village of Watkins Glen:

Want to see even more waterfalls? Don’t miss our guide to the best waterfalls in upstate New York.

Boats docked in the Seneca Lake Harbor
Boats docked in the Seneca Lake Harbor

11. Hike In Finger Lakes National Forest

The Finger Lakes National Forest is New York State’s only national forest. There are over 30 miles of interconnecting trails that pass through woodlands, gorges, pastures and revines.

This area is managed in order to provide a diversity of forestland as well as grasslands for numerous wildlife habitats, food for livestock and quality recreation areas for visitors to enjoy.

You can find Finger Lakes National Forest positioned between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. There are numerous recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, watching and even watching for wildlife.

Many people flock to Finger Lakes National Forest in the fall when the trees and pastures are vibrant with colors. But summer is also popular for camping or horseback riding, while winter brings cross country skiers, snowmobilers, and snowshoers.

What Are The Best Hikes In Finger Lakes National Forest?

There is no shortage of trails here at Finger Lakes National Forest and it can be a great way to escape the summer crowds of Watkins Glen.

Use our link below to check out the recent comments on AllTrails and use Gaia GPS when hitting the trails.

Here are the best hiking trails in Finger Lakes National Forest:

Here are the best backpacking trails in Finger Lakes National Forest:

  • Finger Lakes Trail – The main section of this trail is 560 miles long and it connects the Catskills with the Allegheny Mountains
  • Interloken Trail – 11.3 mile point to point trail traverses the Forest from north to south. This is a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail system

Hiking Tip: The entire Finger Lakes Trail stretches 560 miles from the NY/PA border in Allegany State Park all the way to the summit of Slide Mountain in the Catskill Forest Preserve. You can hike a small section of this trail in Finger Lakes National Forest and about 48 miles of this trail winds through Schuyler Country.

Need a new hiking app? Check out the best hiking apps and receive 20% off a Gaia GPS subscription with our special link.

Cows grazing at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen
Cows grazing at the Farm Sanctuary near Watkins Glen

12. Get Close To Animals

Animals lovers this is a Watkins Glen activity for you. There are two major farms that are extremely popular with both visitors and locals.

What Is The Farm Sanctuary In Watkins Glen?

The Farm Sanctuary sits on 275 acres of green rolling hills. It is home to more than 600 rescued cows, pigs, turkeys and other farm animals.

At the Farm Sanctuary, you will learn about the animals struggle to survive as well as insight into the realities farm animals face in the modern food system.

You can book an hour-long tour of the shelter with a guide to hear about the animals individual stories and learn more about the vegan lifestyle.

If you are looking for a unique experience, you can immerse yourself in a luxurious cottage at the Farm Sanctuary as you sit on the front porch enjoying your morning coffee while the animals frolic.

What Is Painted Bar Stables In Watkins Glen?

Just a short drive from the village of Watkins Glen, Painted Bar Stables is a community orientated riding facility offering year round trail rides to the general public.

You can also take lessons, lease, board and experience various educational opportunities at Painted bar Stables. Their mission is to foster lifelong relationships between people and horses.

Each horse riding lesson is guaranteed to be a safe and secure adventure for visitors of all ages. Come here to take a trail ride through the beautiful rolling hills of the Finger Lakes region.

Jars of applesauce lined up in a row
Delicious jars of apple sauce for sale

13. Buy Fresh Produce At The Farmers Market

The Watkins Glen Farmers Market takes places in Lafayette Park on fridays from 3:00-7:00pm Memorial Day weekend through October.

This is a great place to come for bountiful fruits, veggies, farm fresh meats, cheeses, wines and so much more. All items for sale are locally grown and produced.

Address: Lafayette Park, 4th and Decatur, Watkins Glen, NY

Watkins Glen Farmers Market Google Maps Location.

You can also visit the Clute Park Market which is held in Clute Park on Wednesdays in July and August. This is another evening market, but you can find many food trucks as well as artisanal goods and crafts.

One last market to consider is the Montour Falls Farmers’ Market which is held Thursday evenings from May to October. You can find everything from honey, cheese, bread and more.

Watkins Glen Grand Prix plaque driver walk of fame
Watkins Glen Grand Prix Driver Walk of Fame

14. Drive The Historic Grand Prix Course

The village of Watkins Glen holds an important slice in racing history. On October 2nd in 1948, Watkins Glen hosted the first road race run since before World War II right on the village streets.

You can drive the original 6.6 mile circuit through the village streets which starts and ends in front of the Schuyler County Courthouse.

Here is the map for the original Grand Prix Course.

This route is celebrated with the annual Grand Prix Festival in September. During this festival, classic race cars take to the village streets and an estimated 25,000 spectators come to watch.

Views looking out over the Seneca Lake Valley from a winery
Gorgeous view of the Seneca Lake valley

15. Southern Tier Balloon Tours

There is no better way to see the beauty of New York State than from a hot air balloon. This is a unique way to capture the spectacular views of the Watkins Glen and the surrounding area.

Southern Tier Balloon Tours has two daily flights with one in the morning and one in the evening. They also fly all seven days of the week (but weather permitting).

Each balloon departs at sunrise or a few hours before sunset. Here are the current prices for a balloon flight:

  • Balloon Flight Adult – $320 / person
  • Balloon Flight Child – $260 / person
  • Private Balloon Flight – $1,000 / person
Shequaga Falls Watkins Glen best things to do in area
Shequaga Falls in Montour Falls (photo taken in October)

16. Montour Falls

Montour Falls is a small village located about 3.0 miles or a 5 minute drive from Watkins Glen. As you drive into Montour Falls, you will immediately understand why this town was givens its name.

Please note the waterfall is also often referred to as Shequaga Falls because this is a transliteration of its original Seneca name.

While the waterfall at the end of West Main Street is a highlight, there are a few more things to do in the area.

What Can You Do In Montour Falls?

If you decided to make the short drive to Montour Falls, here are a few things you can do:

  • Stop by the Brick Tavern Museum
  • Visit Havana Glen Park
  • Shop at the Montour Falls Farmers Market
  • Montour Falls Memorial Library
  • Snap a photo of Shequaga Falls
Red and Iconic Seneca Lake Harbor House
Seneca Lake Red Harbour House

17. Visit The Windmill Farm and Craft Market

The Windmill Farm and Craft Market is a very popular market that has been in business for over 35 years. It is home to over 175 indoor and outdoor shops on 44 beautiful acres in upstate NY.

At the Windmill, you can find food, fresh produce, custom cabinetry, furniture, flowers, local wines, artistry, gifts, micro brews and entertainment.

This market also offers many dining options right on site ranging from full restaurants to simple snack options. There are even six wineries, a brewery and a distillery so this is truly a one stop shop for all your needs.

The Windmill is located in nearby Penn Yan, NY about 18.0 miles from Watkins Glen on the west side of Seneca lake.

Address: 3900 NY-14A, Penn Yan, NY 14527

The Windmill Google Maps Location.

Hour of operation for the Windmill are 8:00am – 4:30pm and admission is free. But hours will vary in the off season.

Colorful pumpkins from the Corning Museum of Glass
3 colorful pumpkins from the Corning Museum of Glass

18. Experience The Corning Museum Of Class

The Corning Museum of Glass is a fun museum which can be found in Corning, New York about 21 miles southwest from Watkins Glen.

Address: 1 Museum Way, Corning, NY 14830

Corning Museum of Glass Google Maps Location.

Established in 1951, the Corning Museum of Glass was created by Corning Glass Works (now known as Corning Incorporated). This museum is a not-for-profit museum dedicated solely to glass.

The Corning Museum of Glass includes over 50,000 objects from over 3,500 years of history including everything from ancient Egyptian pharaoh to contemporary sculpture.

Glass has been interwoven in our history through art, culture, technology, science, design and even in craft. It’s an extremely versatile material that is still studied today.

You may be surprised to learn this museum welcomes about a half million visitors per year. We highly recommend you attend a hot glass demo or class to make your own glass art.

Interested in visiting this museum? Read our popular guide featuring tips on how to visit the Corning Museum of Glass.

Beautiful Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park
Middle Falls at Letchwork State park in fall

19. Explore Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park is another breathtaking state park located in the western portion of the Finger Lakes region stretching between both Livingston and Wyoming counties.

If this is your first time in upstate New York, Letchworth State Park is our top recommendation. Letchworth was voted the most stunning US State Park in 2015 and is often called ‘the Grand Canyon of the East.”

Kristen spent her childhood hiking these gorgeous trails and Letchworth has now become one of our favorite photography locations.

We have spent many hours watching beautiful sunrises and sunsets from the various scenic viewpoints in Letchworth State Park.

Some of our photos from Letchworth even feature in Gestalten’s, The Great American Road Trip (or buy on Amazon here).

What Can You Do At Letchworth State Park?

There are many fun things you can do at Letchworth State Park year-round. Having visited in all four seasons, here are the best things to do in Letchworth:

  • Photograph Letchworth’s 3 Popular Waterfalls
  • Camp at one of the 300 cabins or campgrounds
  • See The Mount Morris Dam
  • Hit one of the 28 hiking trails
  • Stop by the Humphrey Nature Center 
  • Swim At The Harvey Swimming Pool
  • Walk the Autism Nature Trail (ANT)

Interested in Letchworth State Park? Don’t miss our complete guide to Letchworth State Park with everything you need to know for your visit.

Waterfall in Ithaca, New York
Ithaca Falls in Ithaca, NY

20. Visit Nearby Ithaca

The nearby city of Ithaca is similar to the village of Watkins Glen because it sits at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, the second largest Finger Lake.

However, Ithaca is a much bigger collage town known for both Ithaca College and Cornell University. In Ithaca, you can also find stunning lakes, waterfalls, gorges, and endless hiking trails.

What State Parks Are Near Ithaca?

If you haven’t gotten your fill of beautiful NY state parks, we have good news because there are a few more state parks in this region you should visit.

What Are The best Things To Do In Ithaca?

Or if you want to explore the town, here are things you can do in Ithaca, NY:

Heading to Ithaca? Don’t miss the best places to visit in Ithaca, New York.

Person walking down Franklin Street in the village of Watkins Glen
Kristen walking down Franklin Street

Map Of The Best Things To Do In Watkins Glen, NY

Here’s a link to our interactive Google Map for the best things to do in Watkins Glen, New York.

Click or touch the map to open in a new window, zoom in and out, scroll around and familiarize yourself with the area. Alternatively, you can click any activity or place you are interested in via the left column.

You will find icons at the exact locations of all things to do in and nearby Watkins Glen mentioned in this guide including food recommendations, all 27 wineries and where to stay.

How To Get Around Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen is a small village, but you will need access to a car in order to visit many of the things we list in the guide. Keep in mind, Uber and Lyft are very limited in this area as well.

Once in the village of Watkins Glen, you can access many of the restaurants and shops by foot. You can even walk to Watkins Glen State Park.

But if you want to visit any of the wineries along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail or Watkins Glen International Raceway, you will need some form of transportation.

Please drink responsibly if you are planning to visit several of the wineries scattered around Seneca Lake.

Person walking into the entrance of the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Kristen walking into the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel with a Monarc Duffel Bag

Where To Stay In Watkins Glen

Accommodation in Watkins Glen can be expensive, but there are also a few great budget lodging options.

You can read our guide to the 8 best hotels in Watkins Glen NY on our sister site or select one of our top picks from below.

Here are the best Watkins Glen Hotels:

We have stayed at both the Budget Inn as well as the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.

While the Budget Inn is very basic, it is only about 0.5 miles from the main entrance to Watkins Glen State Park so you can walk or easily drive to the park. Be sure to grab an ice cream at the Glen Dairy Bar right next door.

The luxurious Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel offers beautiful lakeside rooms and is the quintessential lodging option in the village.

Best Time To Visit Watkins Glen

There is no wrong time to visit Watkins Glen because each season brings something completely different. The best time to visit will just come down to what you want to experience.

December to February will bring cold temperatures. Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail is closed, but you can ice skate in Clute Memorial Park or cross country ski through numerous trails.

March to May brings spring with chirping birds and beautiful flowers blooming. Many of the tasting rooms begin to open for the year and you can find unique events.

June to August is Watkins Glen busiest season. The village is filled with people and the lake is enjoyed by many wanting to cool down on NY’s deepest finger lake.

September to November is the best of them all as the beautiful rolling hills become a vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. The harvest season also brings apple, pumpkin, cherry and blueberry picking.

While we have visited in every season, we would have to say the fall is our favorite time to visit Watkins Glen. There is nothing like see the beautiful autumn leaves in upstate NY!

Entrance to Shtayburne Farm with bright pink flowers
Shtayburne Farm near the village of Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen Events

The village of Watkins Glen may look small, but it certainly packs a big punch with numerous festivals and events throughout the entire year.

  • Seneca Lake Wine & Experience Auction – February
  • The Gala, an elegant affair – March
  • Spring Brake at the Glen – April
  • Finger Lakes Wine Festival – July
  • Vintage Grand Prix Festival – September

The Finger Lakes Wine Festival is one of our favorite events. At this event, you can sample 90+ New York State wineries, indulge on delicious food and listen to live music around the 3.45-mile race course at Watkins Glen International.

You can even enjoy pace car rides which is always a great idea!

Top 10 Things To Do In Watkins Glen

If this is your first time to upstate New York, here is a summarized list of the top 10 things to do in Watkins Glen NY:

  1. Hike the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail
  2. Catch a race at Watkins Glen International Raceway
  3. Drink your way through the Seneca Lake Wine Trail
  4. Enjoy a meal at Nickel’s Pit BBQ
  5. Pick your own fruit at Apples and Moore
  6. Take a trail ride at Painted Bar Stables
  7. Have an ice cream cone at the Great Escape
  8. Try some of the delicious craft breweries
  9. Sample different kinds of local cheeses
  10. Shop at the Windmill Farm and Craft Market

Watkins Glen Photos

Here are a few additional photos so you know exactly what to do when visiting Walkins Glen:

Exterior view of Glen Theater in Watkins Glen on Franklin Street
Exterior view of the Glen Theater
Woman standing in the bay of Seneca Lake
Kristen enjoying the views from the harbor
The corner of North Franklin and Second Street
The corner of N. Franklin and Second St
Exterior view of Seneca Cheese Company
The Seneca Cheese Company (yum!)
Horseheads Brewing Company sign in Watkins Glen
Be on the lookout for paintings throughout the entire village of Watkins Glen
Woman poking her head through an ice cream sign at the Colonial Inn Creamery
Kristen taking a photo opportunity at Colonial Inn & Creamery
Sail True Love Watkins Glen
Sail True Love Cruises
World's Smallest diner in Watkins Glen
Try to find the Micro Diner on Franklin St!
Bar at the Castel Grisch Winery
The bar decorated for Halloween at Castel Grisch Winery
Exterior view of Seneca Sunrise Coffee
Exterior view of Seneca Sunruse Coffee
Things to do in Watkins Glen is visit the Farm Sanctuary
Farm Sanctuary logo
Exterior view of the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream
The painted car outside Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop
Exterioe view of Babcha's Pierogies in Watkins Glen New York
Window to Babcha’s Pierogies

FAQ’s For Things To Do In Watkins Glen, NY

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions about must see things to do in Watkins Glen, New York.

Does Watkins Glen have a downtown?

Yes, the village of Watkins Glen has a small downtown area along Franklin Street at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.

Is Watkins Glen worth visiting?

Yes, Watkins Glen is worth visiting because there is so much to do in this small village including hiking, water-sports, visiting wineries, watching NASCAR and enjoying the beautiful views.

How long is a lap at Watkins Glen International?

The short course at Watkins Glen International Raceway is 2.45 miles while the longer inner loop course is 3.4 miles.

What is one thing Watkins Glen is known for?

Watkins Glen is known for its auto racing as the villages streets held the first road race after World War II.

Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.

We hope this guide listing the best things to do in Watkins Glen helps with planning your visit to Upstate New York!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Watkins Glen or upstate New York in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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Share this article!

Joni Fritz

Monday 6th of February 2023

Your tour sure makes me want to go back! Nick and I spent a week or so near there a few decades ago and wish we'd had your guide then! I suspect the pierogi place wasn't there then, nor were many of the other sites you have been fortunate enough to visit.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Saturday 11th of February 2023

Thanks so much for reading Joni! Watkins Glen has always been a special place so we are sure you had a great time during your visit years ago. You might just have to visit again one day :)