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10 Best Places To Visit In The Finger Lakes By A Local

10 Best Places To Visit In The Finger Lakes By A Local

The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York has many unique places to visit including museums, state parks, wineries, universities and historic sites. Surrounded by eleven stunning lakes, there is no shortage of things to do in this beautiful area.

In this guide, we’re going to show you the 10 best places to visit in the NY Finger Lakes including what to do in each individual location.

Our Finger Lakes Experience

Man eating a mint chocolate chip ice cream in upstate New York
Mark enjoying a massive cone at Sharks Ice Cream in Bloomfield

Kristen is a upstate New York native growing up and attending college in western NY. We also lived in the NY Finger Lakes region when Mark first immigrated to the US in 2019. While we no longer live here, Kristen’s family still lives in upstate New York and we visit every year. Read more about us.

Written by a local, this is an extremely comprehensive guide using decades of experience and you won’t find this information anywhere else. Bookmark or save this guide so you can easily return to it in the future. We’ve included useful links as well as where to eat and stay on an interactive map you can use for your trip.

Where Are The Finger Lakes?

The Finger Lakes (FLX) region in upstate New York showcases eleven popular lakes forming a triangle between the cities of Rochester, Syracuse and the Ithaca, Corning, Elmira area.

Towards the end of the last ice age, large glaciers moved south from Canada carving deep trenches in western NY. Once the glaciers retreated when earth warmed, the lakes filled with water.

New York State Finger Lakes map
The eleven Finger Lakes of New York state surrounded by three major cities

Each Finger Lake varies in length ranging from 3 to 40 miles. The topography in this region creates the perfect microclimate for grape growing with beautiful rolling hills along each lakeside. Here are the eleven Finger Lakes named in order from west to east:

  • Conesus Lake
  • Hemlock Lake
  • Canadice Lake
  • Honeoye Lake
  • Canandaigua Lake
  • Keuka Lake
  • Seneca Lake
  • Cayuga Lake
  • Owasco Lake
  • Skaneateles Lake
  • Otisco Lake

The Finger Lakes are often confused with the Great Lakes which include Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario spreading between several states as well as Canada. It’s important to note the Finger Lakes are much smaller and can only be found within New York state.

The nomenclature of the Finger Lakes stem from an Indigenous tale. This legend claims the lakes were filled by the Great Spirit when he blessed the land leaving an imprint of his hand. Arch Merrill wrote about this in his 1951 book called Slim Fingers Beckon.

The Iroquois were the last Indigenous culture to live in the area. Seneca and Cayuga, the two largest lakes, are named for their corresponding tribes.

How To Get To The Finger Lakes

Woman sitting on bench at a finger lakes winery
Kristen enjoying the views at a winery in the Finger Lakes

The most popular way to get to the Finger Lakes is by plane or car. Depending on your Finger Lakes NY itinerary, you can fly into one of the regional airports and then rent a car. If you’re driving to the Finger Lakes, you should be all set for transportation.

Here are regional airports in the Finger Lakes area:

  • Ithaca Tompkins International Airport (ITH)
  • Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR)
  • Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC)

If youre coming from further afield, you can fly into:

  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

There are regional buses between each major city. Many of the towns or villages we list in this guide are also walkable, but we recommend you use a car to get around the Finger Lakes.

Uber doesn’t really exist outside of the larger cities in the Finger Lakes such as Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca. You’ll need a more dependable way to get around the region.

Travel Tip: The Finger Lakes cover a very large portion of western New York. It may be several hours of driving between stops depending on how many places you plan to visit so plan accordingly.

 

About This Guide

Rainbow shining near middle falls at Letchworth State Park
A rainbow alongside a waterfall in the Finger Lakes region in New York

To make this guide easier to understand, we broke up the Finger Lakes region into 10 smaller areas. We then listed the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes followed by fun things to do in each one.

By organizing the information this way, you can easily decide which regions you want to visit. Each pocket of the Finger Lakes offers unique activities and one area may be better suited to your needs.

The largest and most popular Finger Lakes are Seneca and Cayuga. These two lakes are often the stars of the show, but there are many hidden gems to uncover in this entire region.

We will start in the west of the New York Finger Lakes region and slowly make our way east including either cities, lakes or points of interest. Here are the 10 best places to visit in the Finger Lakes:

  1. Rochester
  2. Canandaigua
  3. Geneseo and Mount Morris
  4. Sodus Point
  5. Syracuse, Auburn and Skaneateles
  6. Seneca Lake
  7. Cayuga Lake
  8. Keuka Lake
  9. Corning and Elmira
  10. Ithaca

Note: Ithaca is found on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake. The city of Ithaca has a lot to offer visitors so this region will be discussed separately from the entirety of Cayuga Lake.

Without further ado, let’s explore the 10 best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region of upstate new York:

1. Rochester, New York

Bridge in downtown rochester in the finger lakes
Downtown Rochester, NY lit up at night

Rochester is a unique city in the Finger Lakes because there is something here for the entire family including art, culture, photography, outdoor adventure and history.

In the 18th century, Rochester began to flourish due to the success the Erie Canal. It also played a large role in the Underground Railroad as abolitionism was widely supported.

The city of Rochester is often linked with Eastman Kodak, the popular photography company. By the 1970’s, Kodak employed more than 50,000 people and remained the top employer in the city for years.

Best Things To Do In Rochester, NY

Rochester is one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes because it makes up one of the three major cities in the entire region.

With such an eclectic mix of activities, you will have a hard time figuring out how to spend your time. Here is a list of things we love to do in Rochester:

If you’re looking to explore Rochester’s historic culture, you have several options ranging from hiking trails to museums. This is a great city to learn about history of the Finger Lakes.

Fun Things To Do With Kids

Rochester offers many unique activities for kids. If this is your first time in Rochester, we recommend you take them to the Strong Museum.

Travel Tip: The Seneca Park Zoo often holds Zoo Brew events for those who want to help with conservation efforts while enjoying a beer and live music. Check the official website above for info.

High falls in Rochester NY lit up red at night
Red illumination on High Falls along the Genesee River

The next few options in our guide are not directly located within the Rochester limits, but they are only a short drive away from the city.

Where To Eat And Stay

You can’t mention food in Rochester, New York without mentioning the garbage plate. This is a large mash up of food and it’s best eaten after a night of drinking.

A garbage plate includes crispy potatoes, a cheeseburger or hamburger, white or red hotdogs, baked beans and macaroni salad all topped with mustard, ketchup, raw onions and hot sauce. And it’s a lot of food!

Here are the best restaurants in Rochester, NY:

Travel Tip: If this is your first time in Rochester, we recommend Dinosaur BBQ. It’s one of Mark’s favorite restaurants since moving to the US and always our go to when we are back home!

Plate of food at the Dinosaur BBQ one of the best places to visit in the finger lakes
A pulled pork sandwich meal from the Dinosaur BBQ

Rochester is proud of it’s craft brewery scene and there is no shortage of places to try when you’re in town.

Here are the best breweries in Rochester, NY:

Planning to stay a night? Here are the best hotels in Rochester:

2. Canandaigua, New York

Row of houses along the Canandaigua pier in the finger lakes
A stunning row of houses along the Canandaigua Pier

The town of Canandaigua is nestled on the gorgeous north end of Canandaigua Lake. It offers visitors a thriving downtown business area in addition to residential neighborhoods and lakeside cottages.

We like Canandaigua because the town features a bustling main street lined with impressive stately homes in the historic downtown district.

You should visit Canandaigua because its charming downtown is filled with local art galleries and boutique shops. For those who love the outdoors, you’re also close to the Bristol Mountain Ski Resort.

Another highlight of Canandaigua is the culinary scene. There are many options for fine dining, restaurants serving locally sourced foods and cooking classes.

Best Things To Do In Canandaigua, NY

Between the lake, restaurants, historic sites and the ski resort, Canandaigua will certainly keep you busy during your visit. Here are a few of the best things to do in Canandaigua:

Pavilion along Canandaigua Lake
Picturesque Pavilion in Canandaigua, NY

Where To Eat And Stay

After sightseeing in Canandaigua, you’re going to need some food. Here are the best restaurants in Canandaigua:

If you’re looking to sample delicious Finger Lake wine or beer, here are the best wineries and breweries in and near Canandaigua:

Looking to stay a night? These are the best hotels in Canandaigua:

Further Reading: How To Visit Grimes Glen Park In Naples

3. Geneseo, Mount Morris And Dansville, NY

Fall foliage along Letchworth State Park
Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park

We combined Geneseo, Mount Morris and Dansville together in this guide. These 3 small towns are located very close together, but each one offers something unique.

Geneseo is home to SUNY Geneseo. Its main street is filled with quaint local shops and restaurants.

Mount Morris and Dansville are great for outdoor enthusiasts or history buffs. These towns also showcase a few delicious restaurant options scattered throughout the area.

This section of the Finger Lakes is lesser known, but offers one of the best kept secrets of the entire Finger Lakes region you don’t often see on roundup lists.

While this area is a little bit off the beaten path, it’s our favorite region in the Finger Lakes. However, many of the activities we are going to share will require a bit of driving.

Fall foliage along the Mount Morris Dam
Mount Morris Dam in the fall season

Best Things To Do In This Western Region

Using our interactive Finger Lakes map towards the end of this guide, we show you points of interest so you can visit any of the things to do we list below. Despite this section consisting of three towns, you can easily cover a lot of ground if you plan your days efficiently.

  • Letchworth State Park – Voted best US state park in 2015
  • Mount Morris Dam – Located inside Letchworth State Park
  • Genesee Valley Greenway – 90 miles that follows the route of the Genesee Valley Canal
  • National War Plane Museum – Vintage military aircrafts from WWII + Korean War
  • Stony Brook State Park – A small yet might NY State Park we love to visit in fall
  • Swain Resort – Oldest independently run ski resort in Western NY

Further Reading: Complete Guide To Visiting Letchworth State Park

Yellow Glen Iris Inn at Letchworth in the finger lakes
The famous Glen Iris Inn at Letchworth State Park

Where To Eat And Stay

Depending on your Finger Lakes itinerary, you may want to consider staying close to one of these three towns. Here are the best Letchworth State Park hotels:

4. Sodus Point, NY

sunset at Sodus Outer Lighthouse
The gorgeous Sodus Outer Lighthouse during sunset

Located along the shores of Lake Ontario, Sodus Point continues to inspire celebrities and boaters alike. You will see everything from craft yachts to sail boats and kayaks to canoes.

Sodus Point has been treasured for centuries and when you visit for the first time, it’s easy to see why. The waters of Sodus Bay were known as the Land of Silver Water by the Iroquois.

Tradition continues today as many artists and personalities flock to the area to feel the draw of Sodus Bay making it one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region.

The village of Sodus Point peaks in the summer months when visitors swarm the quaint lakeside cottages to enjoy water sports and wineries. Sodus Point is a premier summer destination for those who live in the nearby cities of Rochester and Syracuse.

Unique sand formations at Chimney Bluffs State Park one of the most unique things to do in the finger lakes
Sand formations at Chimney Bluffs State Park

Best Things To Do In Sodus Point, NY

We like Sodus Point because of the calming waters. This village is located on a peninsula where Sodus Bay meets Lake Ontario. It offers something very different compared to the rest of the Finger Lakes region.

Here are the best things to do near Sodus Point:

Exterior view of Sodus Lighthouse Museum
Sodus Lighthouse Museum along the Bay

Where To Stay And Stay

If you’re looking for something to eat or hotel options in Sodus Point, we have you covered. Here are the best restaurants and hotels in Sodus Point:

Looking to stay the night? Here is a top rated hotel for your stay:

Further Reading: How To Hike In Chimney Bluffs State Park

5. Syracuse, Auburn, Skaneateles, NY

View of Syracuse in upstate New York
View of Syracuse, New York in the Finger Lakes

This eastern region is home to Skaneateles, the cleanest Finger Lake in the region. But the lake isn’t the only highlight. Skaneateles visitors love the extremely picturesque New England like town with it’s quaint streets and pristine lake.

After a day at Skaneateles Lake, drive back to Syracuse to catch a game in the JMA Wireless Dome or head towards Auburn to visit the numerous historical sites.

Best Things To Do In Syracuse, NY

Similar to Rochester, Syracuse is a hub for entertainment, art galleries and performance spaces. Syracuse is also home to the the Great New York State Fair in the summer.

Travel Tip: Don’t miss the world’s only upside-down traffic signal located in the Tipperary Hill neighborhood (106-14 Burnet Park Dr, Syracuse, NY 13204).

Syracuse University building lit up at night
Crouse College of Fine Arts on Syracuse University campus

Best Things To Do In Auburn, NY

Auburn is a city at the northern end of Owasco Lake filled with both tradition and history. Visitors will enjoy beautiful old homes and historical sites.

Here are the best things you can do in Auburn, NY:

Best Things To Do In Skaneateles, NY

As we mentioned earlier, the town of Skaneateles is home to the cleanest Finger Lake which has drawn visitors for decades. The waterfront showcases crystalline lake views and a designated swimming area.

In our opinion, Skaneateles is the nicest Finger Lake because the water is crystal clear. The homes along Skaneateles Lake even use unfiltered drinking water.

However, this town offers more than a beautiful lake featuring restaurants, shops, museums, art galleries as well as charming hotels and accommodation options.

If you’re looking for one of the best places to stay in the Finger Lakes, we recommend you find a quaint B&B in this area. Here you can search top rated accommodation in Skaneateles.

Here are the best things to do in Skaneateles, NY:

Chicken Salad at the Dinosaur BBQ restaurant in upstate NY
An amazing chicken salad from the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Where To Stay And Eat Near Syracuse

If you’re checking off any of these attractions in the eastern region of the Finger Lakes, here are some of the best restaurants and hotels in the Syracuse area.

Best Restaurants Near Syracuse:

Best Hotels In Syracuse:

Need more time in this Finger Lakes region? Book a night in one of these top rated Syracuse hotels:

Further Reading: What To See At Green Lakes State Park

6. Cayuga Lake

Taughannock falls in summer after a drought
Overlook at Taughannock Falls State Park

Cayuga Lake is the longest Finger Lake stretching almost 40 miles through 3 different counties from historic Seneca Falls to the college town of Ithaca. This lake is surrounded by vacation rentals, year round lake homes as well as numerous wineries and breweries.

Since there are numerous activities in this area of the Finger Lakes, we will discuss only Cayuga Lake in this section and then we will highlight Ithaca, NY later in our guide.

Cayuga Lake is unique because it’s a diverse fishery for both cold and warm water species. Fishing is extremely popular in this area, but you will need to obtain a NYS fishing license.

In addition to fishing, there are several swimming and picnic areas along the lake. You can also rent a canoe or join a Cayuga Lake cruise.

Best Things To Do At Cayuga Lake, NY

Depending on what you want to do in the Finger Lakes region, Cayuga Lake will have you covered for most popular activities. Here are the best things to do along Cayuga Lake:

Further Reading: Taughannock Falls State Park Visitor Guide

Glasses of wine for sale on a wooden shelf
Local wine for sale in the Finger Lakes region of NY State

Wineries And Where To Eat Along Cayuga Lake

The Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is one of the most popular places to visit in the Finger Lakes. Here are top rated wineries along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail:

While most wineries on our list will offer a small bites menu, you many want to go for a more substantial meal during your stay. Here are the best restaurants along Cayuga Lake:

Best Cayuga Lake Hotels

If you’re planning to stay the night or enjoy a few days along Cayuga Lake, you won’t regret it because this area has many charming bed and breakfasts. Here are the top rated accommodations for Cayuga Lake:

7. Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake red harbor house
Red Seneca Lake Pier house

Seneca Lake is one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region of New York state because it’s the biggest and deepest lake in the area. It’s no surprise this is one of the most popular spots.

This region of the Finger Lakes offers visitors picturesque rolling hills dotted with wineries, beautiful waters for sport enthusiasts and fun times at the Watkins Glen International.

Many people come to Seneca Lake to enjoy the extremely popular Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail or experience a race at Watkins Glen International Raceway.

You should visit Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen because this area offers something for everyone. From castles and local farms to stunning waterfalls and international raceways. Seneca Lake is like no other.

Fall foliage at Rainbow Falls in Watkins Glen
Rainbow Falls with fall foliage at Watkins Glen State Park

Best Things To Do At Seneca Lake

Charming towns and villages can be found along the entirety of Seneca Lake starting with Geneva at the northern tip and ending with the popular village of Watkins Glen at the southern tip.

Here are the best things to do on Seneca Lake:

Further Reading: Gorge Trail To Rainbow Falls Hike At Wakins Glen State Park

Wineries And Where To Eat Along Seneca Lake

Similar to Cayuga Lake, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is one of the most popular things to do in this Finger Lakes region. Here are top rated wineries along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail:

After hiking the stunning Watkins Glen Gorge Trail or enjoying a day on the lake, you’re going to need a great place to eat. Here are the best restaurants along Seneca Lake:

Person walking into the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
Kristen walking into the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

Seneca Lake Hotels

A night on Seneca Lake is the perfect way to end a day in the Finger Lakes and this area offers wonderful accommodation options. Here are the best hotels along Seneca Lake:

Further Reading: The 8 best hotels in Watkins Glen NY

8. Keuka Lake

View of the Seneca Lake valley in the autumn
Stunning valleys in the Finger Lakes region

Keuka Lake is the only Y shaped lake in the region. At about 100ft, this is a much more shallow lake compared to the others in the region so it’s very popular for swimming, but it can be extremely busy.

Many argue this is the most picturesque of all the Finger Lakes thanks to the panoramic views of the vineyards spread throughout the the entire region.

Keuka Lake is home to Penn Yan at the northern tip and Hammondsport at the southern tip. This is where wine making in the Finger Lakes region all began so this is not a lake you should miss.

We like Keuka lake because it’s a great place for swimming, picnics, hiking trails and fishing not to mention the incredible views.

Best Things To Do At Keuka Lake

Keuka Lake is brimming with activities for the entire family no matter your hobby. Here are some of the best things to do along Keuka Lake:

Purple grapes hanging on a vine with lush green leaves
A cluster of purple grapes on a vine in Naples

Wineries And Where To Eat Along Keuka Lake

While the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes often get all the glory when it comes to the wine trails, Keuka Lake has a wine trail we argue could certainly give these other two a run for their money.

The Keuka Lake Wine trail has some of the oldest and most well known wineries making this one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes. If you’re a lover a wine, we recommend you make a stop here.

And if you need a quick bite in the middle of wine tasting, here are the best restaurants along Keuka Lake:

Keuka Lake Hotels

A night spent along Keuka lake will be extremely rewarding and one of the best ways to spend your time in the Finger Lakes. Keuka offers visitors both lovely B&B’s and popular hotel chains. Here are the best hotels along Keuka Lake:

9. Corning, Elmira NY

Three colorful pumpkins from the corning museum of glass
3 colorful pumpkins from the Corning Museum of Glass

Corning and Elmira are two small towns found along the southern edge of the Finger Lakes region. While they are only about 15 miles apart, both have a small town feel and offer a lot of bang for your buck.

This is one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes because there are numerous museums, farmers markets, downtown communities, outdoor activities and several popular wineries.

You should visit Corning for the extremely popular Corning Museum of Glass and Gaffer District. You should visit Elmira for its history and unique museums.

Best Things To Do In Corning, NY

If this is your first time in this Finger Lakes region, we recommend you start with the Corning Museum of Glass. Be sure to check out the live glass blowing demonstrations during your visit.

Here are the best things to do in Corning:

Best Things To Do In Elmira, NY

Located south of Horseheads, Elmira is close to the Pennsylvania border. Elmira offers its visitors a chance to step back in time with various museums and popular casino for a modern day twist.

Here are the best things to do in Elmira:

Red and purple grapes for sale in the finger lakes
Purple and red grapes for sale in the Finger Lakes

Where To Eat And Stay

If you’re heading south after visiting the Finger Lakes or decide to add a night in the Corning/Elmira region into your itinerary, here are the best places to eat:

Hotels in Corning are often rated better than hotels in Elmira. You could also add a night at the Tioga Downs Casino. Here are the best hotels in Corning:

10. Ithaca

Gorge Trail waterfall at Buttermilk Falls State Park
Gorge Trail at Buttermilk Falls State Park

Last but not least, Ithaca is easily one of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes because it’s a lively college town filled with numerous things to do and outdoor adventure.

There are four state parks in Ithaca with three featuring gorges and one showcasing a marina right on the lake. After a day of hiking, you can reward yourself with a beer in one of the many craft breweries.

A common phrase for this area is Ithaca is gorges so if you can imagine a town scattered with several beautiful gorges, that’s pretty much what Ithaca looks like in upstate New York.

You should visit Ithaca if you enjoying hiking through beautiful gorges to stunning waterfalls. You should also visit if you’re a foodie because Ithaca has over 50 restaurants near the Commons alone.

Best Things To Do In Ithaca, NY

There are many fun activities and attractions so you will need more than one day in Ithaca. If you like hiking, you should plan to spend a few days exploring the trails. Here are the best things to do in Ithaca:

Further Reading: Best Places To Visit In Ithaca (with tips only a local would know)

Robert H treman Lucifer Falls best place to visit in the finger lakes
Lucifer Falls at Robert H. Treman State Park

Where To Eat And Drink In Ithaca, NY

After a day of hiking and exploring, you will need a great meal to end the day. Ithaca has an abundance of delicious restaurants and you can’t go wrong with any of the options we list below.

Here are the best restaurants In Ithaca, NY:

Here are the best breweries in Ithaca, NY:

Much like all of the other places we have included on this Finger Lakes guide, you also can find a booming craft beer scene in Ithaca.

Best Hotels In Ithaca

When we are back in the Finger Lakes, we often spend a few days in Ithaca to enjoy the hiking trails. If you want to see the best of the region, you should plan to stay overnight.

Here are the best hotel options in downtown Ithaca:

Here are the best hotels in Southwest Ithaca for Buttermilk Falls and Robert H. Treman:

NY Finger Lakes Interactive Map

Use our interactive map featuring the 10 best places to visit in the Finger Lakes to click around and discover where you want to go during your trip to upstate NY.

Each of the 10 places to visit in the Finger Lakes are highlighted in pink. We have then broken down the best things to do in each region by color:

  • Light Red – Best things to do
  • Maroon – Restaurant recommendations
  • Blue – Accommodation recommendations
  • Purple – Wineries
  • Yellow – Breweries

You can also access our map of the Finger Lakes via this link here.

Finger Lakes Events

World's Greatest grape Pie Content at Naples Grape festival
Tents and visitors at the popular Naples Grape festival

Many of the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes hold special events throughout the entire year. If you can time your Finger Lakes trip with any of these festivals, your trip will be worth it.

Consider this a short list featuring unique things to do in the Finger Lakes:

  • Rochester Lilac Festival – Early May in Highland Park in Rochester, NY
  • Naples Grape Festival – September in Naples, NY
  • Finger Lakes Wine Festival – July at Watkins Glen International
  • Great New York State Fair – Late Aug to Early Sept in Syracuse, NY
  • Dickens Christmas Celebration – December in Skaneateles, NY

Many of the wineries along each lake also offer special events and tastings. Be sure to look at official winery websites to see what is scheduled when you visit.

Travel Tip: If you like haunted history, you should check out the Haunted History Trail in the Finger Lakes featuring inns, creepy locations, tours and ghost hunts.

Best Time To Visit The Finger Lakes

Gorgeous middle falls during the fall season at Letchworth in the finger lakes
Fall foliage in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York

We love the Finger Lakes in upstate NY because this region experiences all four seasons. Each season is drastically unique and you will never have the same visit twice. Here are what the 4 seasons look like in the Finger Lakes region of NY:

  • Spring – Heavily flowing waterfalls as the snowpack is melting and flowers bloom
  • Summer – Very busy with visitors but prime time for water activities and wineries
  • Autumn – Vibrant red, orange and yellow colors illuminate the the rolling hills
  • Winter – Most gorge trails are closed but snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling is popular

We encourage you to visit several places in the Finger Lakes during different seasons because this is truly a year round destination. Don’t miss the special events held throughout the year.

If this is your first time visiting the Finger Lakes, we recommend you visit in the summer or fall season. Summer is best for water sports and wineries while the fall showcases stunning foliage throughout the entire region.

In Conclusion

Exterioe view of the Seneca Lake Harbor Hotel and the marina
Exterior view of the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

Having traveled the US extensively, we think the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is one of the best places to visit in America due to it’s gorgeous topography, fabulous wine scene and stunning fall foliage.

Are the Finger Lakes Worth it?

Yes, the Finger Lakes in upstate New York are worth visiting because there is so much to do in this beautiful region for the entire family. If you only visited the 10 best places we discussed in this guide, you could have trips planned for weeks.

So we recommend you spend about 2-3 days in each region. This isn’t enough time to see everything, but it will give you a good taste for the area to see if you want to return in the future. You could spend a few weeks traveling to each Finger Lake in upstate New York, but most people visit one or two regions at a time in a single trip.

If you’re overwhelmed with activities and don’t know where to start, here are some of our favorite places to visit:

  • Sip wine along the Seneca and Cayuga Lake wine trails
  • Take the kids to the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester
  • Indulge with a delicious meal at Dinosaur BBQ
  • Visit one of the many state parks in the region
  • Shop at a farmers market to support a local farm
  • Take a dip in any of the lakes during the summer
  • Check out the craft brewery scene in Ithaca
  • Experience the gorgeous fall foliage
  • Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter
  • Hike in the Finger Lakes National Forest
Gorgeous sunset over Sodus Bay in the finger lakes region of NY
Sunset over Sodus Bay

More From The Finger Lakes

More From New York State

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 featuring the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region helps with planning your visit to western upstate New York!

Please let us know if you have any questions about these Finger Lakes activities or planning a trip to upstate New York in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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