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Best Things To Do In Finger Lakes NY + Top 10 Places To Visit

Best Things To Do In Finger Lakes NY + Top 10 Places To Visit

This extensive Finger Lakes guide features the 10 best places to visit including amazing things to do in each individual region of the Finger Lakes.

Western Upstate New York boasts eleven stunning lakes surrounded by numerous state parks. But did you know this area is also home to more than 125 wineries and vineyards?

It’s all about topography and geology in this region of New York because the Finger Lakes is one of the world’s premier wine regions. Our goal is to help you find the best wineries and views.

In our guide, we will show you:

  • The 10 best places to visit in the Finger Lakes
  • Best things to do in each region of the Finger Lakes
  • Useful links, tips and lists for each activity or attraction
  • Where to eat and stay in every Finger Lakes region
  • Interactive map featuring all places and best things to do
  • Important festivals and events in the Finger Lakes

Now, let’s explore fun things to do in the Finger Lakes region of NY from a local!

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Table of Contents show

Our Upstate NY Finger Lakes Experience

Before we get into the nitty gritty of our guide, why can you trust us with planning your visit to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York?

For starters, Kristen grew up in the Finger Lakes region and we also temporarily lived in the area once Mark first moved to the US in 2019.

Having traveled the US extensively, we think the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is one of the best locations to visit in America.

This area offers a myriad of gorgeous topography and a fabulous wine scene not to mention it’s one of the best places in the US to experience vibrant colors of the fall foliage.

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.

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

What Can You Expect From This Guide?

Since Kristen grew up in this region and we have spent a lot of time here (and will continue to in the future), our goal is to create the best travel guide about New York’s Finger Lakes region you can find.

We want to show you the best places to visit as well as what you can do in each city or town because this area is unique due to the amazing local farms, communities and landscapes.

So while Kristen has visited many of the places and experienced most of the things to do on this guide, Mark still has a lot to see since we lived here during the covid pandemic when attractions were closed.

Every year when we return to the Finger Lakes, we plan to check off a new place or experience in this region. This guide will be ever evolving and updated regularly.

Bookmark or save this guide so you can return to it in the future to see what else you can do in the fabulous rolling hills of Upstate New York!

New York State Finger Lakes map
The eleven Finger Lakes of New York State

Where Are The Finger Lakes In Upstate New York?

The Finger Lakes (FLX) region in upstate New York includes a set of 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 which carved deep trenches in the region. Once the glaciers retreated when earth warmed, the lakes filled with water.

These eleven lakes vary in length ranging from about 3 miles to 40 miles and create the perfect microclimate for growing grapes with rolling hills along each lakeside.

Here are the eleven Finger Lakes named in order from west to east:

  1. Conesus Lake
  2. Hemlock Lake
  3. Canadice Lake
  4. Honeoye Lake
  5. Canandaigua Lake
  6. Keuka Lake
  7. Seneca Lake
  8. Cayuga Lake
  9. Owasco Lake
  10. Skaneateles Lake
  11. Otisco Lake

Sometimes the Finger Lakes are confused with the Great Lakes which can be found nearby. The Great Lakes include Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario spreading between several states as well as Canada.

The Finger Lakes are much smaller and are only found within New York State.

Why Are The Finger Lakes Called Finger Lakes?

The nomenclature of Finger Lakes stems from a Native American legend claiming the eleven lakes were created by the Great Spirit when they blessed the land.

This legend states the Finger Lakes were filled with water after the Great Spirit’s hand left imprints on the land. Arch Merrill even wrote about this in his 1951 book called Slim Fingers Beckon.

The Iroquois were the last Indigenous culture to live in the area with two of the six Iroquois Nation’s homelands bordering the forest. Seneca and Cayuga are two largest Finger Lakes and these lakes are named for their corresponding tribes.

The names of the other nine lakes still hold their Indigenous roots and can be a bit difficult to pronounce (and spell) for many visitors new to the area!

Vineyard along Seneca Lake during a bright fall day
Vineyard with seating area in the Finger Lakes

How To Get To The Finger Lakes Region In NY

The most popular way to get to the Finger Lakes region is by plane or car and the best way to get around the Finger Lakes region is by car.

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 you are coming from further afield, you can fly into:

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

Depending on your Finger Lakes NY itinerary, you can fly into one of the regional airports and then rent a car. Or if you are driving to the Finger Lakes, you will be all set for transportation.

While there are regional buses between each major city and many of the towns or villages we list in this guide are walkable, we recommend you have a car to get around in the Finger Lakes.

Uber does not really exist outside of the larger cities in the Finger Lakes including Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca so you will need a dependable way to get around.

Remember the 11 Finger Lakes cover a very large portion of upstate New York and it may be several hours of driving between stops depending on how many places you plan to visit.

Man eating a mint chocolate chip ice cream in upstate New York
Mark enjoying a massive ice cream at a popular spot in upstate NY

What Are The Best Things To Do In The Finger Lakes?

There are so many things to do in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, we struggled deciding how many things and places to include in this comprehensive guide.

This region of New York State is a year-round destination with both indoor and outdoor activities no matter the season. Many of these locations in the Finger Lakes hold special events throughout the year as well.

Here are some of the best things you can do in the Finger Lakes region of New York State:

  1. Sip wine along any of the wine trails
  2. Take the kids to one of the popular museums
  3. Indulge at many delicious restaurants
  4. Shop at a farmers market to support a local farm
  5. Enjoy water activities on any of the 11 Finger Lakes
  6. Visit multiple New York State Parks
  7. Check out the craft brewery scene
  8. Experience the gorgeous fall foliage
  9. Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter
  10. Hike in the Finger Lakes National Forest

Keep in mind this small list only scratches the surface and this was a consideration when creating this guide for you.

How This Finger Lakes Guide Is Structured

In order to make this guide easy to understand, we broke up the entire Finger Lakes region into 10 smaller areas. We then listed the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes followed by the fun things to do in each section.

By organizing the information this way, you will be able to decide which regions you want to visit because each pocket of the Finger Lakes offers different activities and attractions.

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 or lakes of interest. Here are the 10 best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region:

  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

While Ithaca can be 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 region 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 as a city thanks to the Erie Canal. It also played a large role in the Underground Railroad era 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’s one of the major cities in the area.

But with such an eclectic mix of activities, you will have a hard time figuring out what you should do when you visit this upstate New York city.

Cultural And Historical Things To Do In Rochester, NY

If you are looking to soak up some of Rochester’s culture, you have several options in the area ranging from hiking trails to museum. This is a great city to learn about history of the Finger Lakes.

Fun Things To Do In Rochester, NY With Kids

Rochester even offers many fun 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 offical website for info.

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

Other Places To Visit Near Rochester In The Finger Lakes

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

Where To Eat And Drink In Rochester, NY

You can’t mention food in Rochester, New York without mentioning the garbage plate. If you have never heard of it, a garbage plate is 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.

Here are the best restaurants in Rochester, NY:

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

Plate of food at the Dinosaur BBQ one of the best places to visit in the finger lakes
Plate of delicious food from the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Here are the best breweries in Rochester, NY:

Rochester is proud of its craft brewery scene and there is certainly no shortage of places to try when you are in town.

Rochester, NY Hotels

Planning to stay a night in Rochester because there is so much to do? Here are the best hotels in Rochester:

2. Canandaigua, New York

Row of houses along the Canandaigua pier in the finger lakes
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 in addition to beautiful residential neighborhoods and lakeside cottages.

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

Why Visit Canandaigua New York?

You should visit Canandaigua to experience its charming downtown filled with local art galleries and boutique shops. For those who love the outdoors, you are 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 even 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

Wineries And Where To Eat In Canandaigua

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

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

Canandaigua Hotels

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

3. Geneseo, Mount Morris And Dansville, NY

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

We clumped Geneseo, Mount Morris and Dansville together in this guide because even though these are three small individual towns, each one offers something unique.

While this area is a little bit off the beaten path, this is our favorite section in the Finger Lakes for a few reasons. However, many of the things we are going to share below are not located directly in these towns, but nearby.

Why Visit Geneseo, Mount Morris And Dansville In New York?

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.

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

Mount Morris and Dansville are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts or history buffs and offer a few delicious restaurant options scattered throughout the area.

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

Best Things To Do Near Geneseo, Mount Morris And Dansville, NY

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

Interested in Letchworth? Don’t miss our complete guide to visiting Letchworth State Park including things to do and a list of popular hiking trails.

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

Where To Eat Near Letchworth State Park

Hotels Near Letchworth State Park

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

4. Sodus Point, NY

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

Sodus Point is well known for inspiring celebrities and numerous boaters. In this town located along the shores of Lake Ontario, you can find everything from craft yachts to sail boats as well as kayaks and canoes.

The waters of Sodus Point were called the ‘Land of Silver Water’ by the Iroquois. Sodus Point has been appreciate for centuries and once you visit for the first time, it is easy to see why.

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.

Why Visit Sodus Point In New York?

The village of Sodus Point booms in the summer when visitors swarm the quaint lakeside cottages to experience watersports and finally get some relaxation.

Sodus Point has been a summer destination for decades making it a prime place 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 right on a peninsula where Sodus Bay meets Lake Ontario and 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 Eat In Sodus Point

If you are 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:

Hotels Near Sodus Point, NY:

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 the cleanest Finger Lake, Skaneateles.

But not only is the lake the highlight of this eastern section because it’s the extremely picturesque classic New England town of Skaneateles that attractions visitors.

After a day at Skaneateles Lake, drive back to Syracuse to catch a game in the JMA Wireless Dome (originally the Carrier Dome) or head towards Auburn to visit the many 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 can experience beautiful old homes and well known historical sites.

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

Best Things To Do In Skaneateles, NY

The town of Skaneateles is home to the cleanest Finger Lake which has drawn visitors for decades. The waterfront in this area is home to crystalline lake views and designated swimming areas.

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

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 are 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:

6. Cayuga Lake

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

Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes as it stretches 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 so many 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.

Why Visit Cayuga Lake In New York?

Cayuga Lake is unique because it is 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 experience 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 all popular activities. Here are the best things to do along Cayuga Lake:

Interested in Taughannock Falls? Don’t miss our guide to visiting Taughannock Falls State Park featuring the waterfall overlook and Gorge Trail.

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:

Cayuga Lake Hotels

If you are 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 accomodations for Cayuga Lake:

7. Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake red harbor house
Red Seneca Lake Pier house

Seneca Lake is one of the most popular and best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region of New York state because it is the biggest as well as deepest lake in the area.

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.

Why Visit Seneca Lake In New York?

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 gorgeous Geneva at the northern tip and ending with the popular village of Watkins Glen at the southern tip.

Here are some of the best things to do on Seneca Lake:

  • Belhurst Castle – Hotel, restaurant, winery and spa all in one
  • Seneca Harbor Park – Scenic vista at the southern end of the lake
  • Seneca Lake Wine Trail – One of the best wine trails in the Finger Lakes
  • Watkins Glen International – Automobile race track nicknamed ‘the Glen’
  • Watkins Glen State Park – A stunning Gorge Trail with 19 waterfalls
  • Village of Watkins Glen – Village along the southern end of the lake

Interested in Seneca Lake? You might like to read our Seneca Lake travel guides featuring the Gorge Trail hike at Watkins Glen State Park or the 20 best things to do in the village of Watkins Glen.

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 are 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:

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. This lake features shallow water which makes for very comfortable swimming in the summer, but it can become extremely busy with visitors.

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

Why Visit Keuka Lake In New York?

You should visit Keuka Lake because it is home to Penn Yan in the very northern tip and Hammondsport, where wine making in the Finger Lakes region all began, at the very southern tip.

We like Keuka lake because it is a great place for swimming, picnics, hiking trails, fishing and of course, the popular Keuka Lake Outlet Trail.

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

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

Keuka Lake Hotels

A night spent a long Keuka lake will be extremely rewarding and one of the best ways to spend your time in the Finger Lakes. Keuka offers visitors both quaint B&B’s as well as 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 small towns found along the southern edge of the Finger Lakes region. While these two towns are only about 15 miles apart, they have a small town feel and offer a lot of bang for your buck.

A visit to this region will not be forgotten due to its numerous museums, farmers markets, downtown communities and outdoor activities not to mention several delicious wineries too.

Why Visit Corning And Elmira In New York?

You should visit Corning for the extremely popular Corning Museum of Glass or Gaffer District and you should visit Elmira for its history and 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 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 history and the chance to step back in time.

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 In The Corning/Elmira Area

If you are 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 visit including restaurants and hotels:

Spending the night? Hotels in Corning are often rated better than hotels in Elmira. You could also consider 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 college town with lots of outdoor adventure and things to do.

There are four state parks in Ithaca with three featuring gorges and one with 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.

Why Visit Ithaca In New York?

A common phrase for this area is ‘Ithaca is gorges’ so if you can image 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. But if you are also a foodie, good news because Ithaca has over 50 restaurants near the Commons alone.

Best Things To Do In Ithaca, NY

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

  • Buttermilk Falls State Park – NY state park featuring a natural swimming hole
  • Cascadilla Gorge Trail – Connects Cornell Botanic Gardens with downtown Ithaca
  • Greek Peak Mountain Resort – Central New York’s largest ski resort
  • Ithaca Commons – Two-block pedestrian mall filled with upscale restaurants + shops
  • Robert H. Treman State Park – NY state park featuring Lucifer and Lower Falls

Interested in Ithaca hiking trails? Don’t miss our complete guide to Buttermilk State Park and how to hike the Gorge Trail at Robert H. Treman State Park.

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 finish the day. Ithaca has an abundance of delicious restaurants and you can not 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.

Ithaca, NY Hotels

If you want to spend a few days exploring the gorges and enjoying the vibrant downtown of this college town, here are the best hotels in Ithaca:

Here are the best hotel options in downtown Ithaca:

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

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

Finger Lakes Festivals And Events

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

Consider this a list to the best 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 individual 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.

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

Are The Finger Lakes Worth Visiting?

Yes, the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is worth visiting because there are numerous places to visit and many things to do for the entire family.

This guide is a very brief overview of everything you can do in the FLX region so as you can see, you will never be bored when visiting this area of Upstate New York.

The Finger Lakes cover a very large portion of NY and if you only visited the 10 best places we discussed in this guide once, you would have trips planned for weeks.

We recommend you spend about two to three days in each section of the Finger Lakes. Honestly, this is not enough time to see everything, but it will give you a good enough taste for the area to see if you want to return in the future.

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

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit The Finger Lakes

The best part about the Finger Lakes in upstate NY is that you can visit in all four seasons and have a completely different experience.

Here are what each of the 4 seasons will look like in the Finger Lakes region of NY:

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

We encourage you to visit several different places in the Finger Lakes during different seasons because you will never have the same visit twice.

Gorgeous sunset over Sodus Bay in the finger lakes region of NY
Sunset over Sodus Bay

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 in the Finger Lakes are highlighted in pink. We have then broken down the best things to do in each Finger Lake region by color:

  • Light Red – Best things to do
  • Maroon – Restaurant recommendations
  • Blue – Accomodation recommendations
  • Purple – Wineries
  • Yellow – Breweries
Exterioe view of the Seneca Lake Harbor Hotel and the marina
Exterior view of the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

Finger Lakes Region FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the best places to visit in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Which Of The Finger Lakes Is The Nicest?

The nicest Finger Lake is Skaneateles because it is the cleanest of the eleven lakes and the water is crystal clear. The homes along Skaneateles Lake use unfiltered drinking water.

How Many Days Do You Need For The NY Finger Lakes Region?

You would need 2-3 days for each of the 10 regions in the Finger Lakes. You could easily spend a few weeks traveling to each Finger Lake in upstate New York. Most people visit one or two regions at a time in a single trip.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit The Finger Lakes?

The best time of year to visit the Finger Lakes is in the summer or the fall. Summer is prime time for water sports and wineries while the fall brings beautiful fall foliage throughout the entire region.

More New York State Guides

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 and things to do in the Finger Lakes region helps with planning your visit to upstate New York!

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

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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