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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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.
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!
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:
- Conesus Lake
- Hemlock Lake
- Canadice Lake
- Honeoye Lake
- Canandaigua Lake
- Keuka Lake
- Seneca Lake
- Cayuga Lake
- Owasco Lake
- Skaneateles Lake
- 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!
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.
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:
- Sip wine along any of the wine trails
- Take the kids to one of the popular museums
- Indulge at many delicious restaurants
- Shop at a farmers market to support a local farm
- Enjoy water activities on any of the 11 Finger Lakes
- Visit multiple New York State Parks
- Check out the craft brewery scene
- Experience the gorgeous fall foliage
- Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter
- 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:
- Geneseo and Mount Morris
- Sodus Point
- Syracuse, Auburn and Skaneateles
- Seneca Lake
- Cayuga Lake
- Keuka Lake
- Corning and Elmira
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
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.
- Frontier Field – Home of the Red Wing’s baseball team
- High Falls – Popular waterfall along the Genesee River
- ROC/ FLX Craft Beverage Trail – Wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries
- Rochester Public Market – Open since 1905 on Tues, Thurs + Sat year-round
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.
- Erie Canalway Trail – 14 miles spanning Rochester to Fairport
- George Eastman Museum – Estate of George Eastman, founder of Kodak
- Susan B. Anthony Museum – Home of the legendary American civil rights leader
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.
- Highland Park – 150 acre park best known for the Lilac Festival in May
- Strong Museum of Play – Well known interactive children’s museum
- Seneca Park Zoo – 20 acre zoo located in Rochester city center
- RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium – 65 ft domed Star theater showcasing stars and lasers
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.
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.
- Genesee Country Museum and Village – Mumford (about 24 miles from Rochester)
- Ganondagan State Historic Site – Victor (about 20 miles from Rochester)
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:
- Nick Tahou Hots – Home of the garbage plate
- Dinosaur Bar-B-Que – Barbecue chain serving Southern-style meats
- Pane Vino On The River – Italian with weekly live music
- Nosh – American fare + craft cocktails in a restored factory
- The Owl House – Vegan-friendly American plates
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!
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.
- K2 Brothers Brewing – New beers often with cornhole leagues
- Fifth Frame Brewing Co – Coffee, craft beers, burgers and biscuits
- Genesee Brew House – Brewpub with a view of the Genesee River
- Swiftwater Brewing – House-brewed beers and unique bar bites
- Three Heads Brewing – Outdoor seating and great beer
Rochester, NY Hotels
Planning to stay a night in Rochester because there is so much to do? Here are the best hotels in Rochester:
- Courtyard Rochester Downtown – Close to Strong Museum
- Dartmouth House – Popular bed & breakfast
- Inn on Broadway – Luxury boutique hotel downtown
- School 31 Lofts – Close to George Eastman House
2. Canandaigua, New York
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:
- Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion – A 19th century Victorian-style mansion with extensive gardens
- Canandaigua Wine Trail – A small but mighty wine trail along Canandaigua Lake
- CMAC – Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
- Bristol Mountain – Ski resort with a 1,200′ vertical rise
- Roseland Water Park – Largest waterpark in the Finger Lakes Region
- New York Kitchen – Cooking classes and events in town
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:
- Cheshire Farms Creamery – Food, baked goods and ice cream
- Green Front – A cozy bar with 30+ tap beers and regional wines
- Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake – Steak + seafood paired with local beers and wines
- Rheinblick German Restaurant – German fare from servers in old-world garb
- Simply Crepes – Sweet and savory fillings from breakfast to dessert
If you are looking to sample the delicious Finger Lake wine or beer, here are the best wineries and breweries in and near Canandaigua:
- Arbor Hill Grapery & Winery – Award winning wine and products in Naples
- Finger Lakes Wine Center – Located in Sonnenberg Gardens
- Hazlitt Red Cat Cellars – Home of the famous Red Cat wine in Naples
- Young Lion Brewing – Women owned and one of the larger microbreweries in NY
- Naked Dove Brewing Company – Rural microbrewery with housemade draft beers
Looking to stay a night? These are the best hotels in Canandaigua:
- Sutherland House Victorian Bed and Breakfast – Highly rated B&B
- The Bella Ella Bed & Breakfast – Charming B&B 10 minutes from the lake
3. Geneseo, Mount Morris And Dansville, NY
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.
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.
Where To Eat Near Letchworth State Park
- Glen Iris Inn – Breakfast, lunch and dinner served in a historic inn
- Brian’s USA Diner – American fare with breakfast, burgers and classics
- Mamma Mia’s – New York style pies and Italian staple
- Questa Lasagna – Fresh authentic Italian cuisine
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:
- Glen Iris Inn – Located inside Letchworth State Park
- Letchworth Farm – Charming farm in Nunda
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson – Great location in Mt. Morris
- Temple Hill Bed & Breakfast – Charming B&B in Geneseo
4. Sodus Point, NY
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.
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:
- Chimney Bluffs State Park – Park featuring unique large clay formations
- Fair Haven Beach State Park – One of the finest public lakefronts in upstate New York
- Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum – Dedicated to the lighthouse established in 1858
- Sodus Outer Lighthouse – Located at the west end of the Sodus Bay chanel
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:
- Captain Jack’s Goodtime Tavern – Airy waterfront eatery with a scenic deck
- Riley’s Bar & Grill – Lunch and dinner with food specials and live music
- The Heights Restaurant – Grill with lakefront dining and beautiful views
- The Saltbox Smokehouse – A rustic smokehouse & deli
Hotels Near Sodus Point, NY:
- The Inn at Burnap’s – Quaint Inn located near Beach Wood State Park
5. Syracuse, Auburn, Skaneateles, NY
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.
- Destiny USA – Six-story, automobile-oriented super-regional shopping center
- Rosamond Gifford Zoo – 43-acre zoo with wildlife trail and aviary
- JMA Wireless Dome – Famous sports stadium in Syracuse
- Erie Canal Museum – Exhibits and tours located in an 1850 canal building
- del Lago Casino – Located in Waterloo (about 45 miles from Syracuse)
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).
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:
- Harriet Tubman Home – Historical site where harriet Tubman lived
- CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery – Small producer who makes limited cases
- Emerson Park – A large park at the northern end of Owasco Lake
- Seward House Museum – Historic home of William Henry Seward and his family
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:
- Blue Water Grill – American grill with breakfast + sushi menus along a lakefront deck
- Doug’s Fish Fry – Generously sized fish platters by a colorful seascape mural
- Mid-Lakes Navigation – Boat cruises and rentals along Skaneateles Lake
- Mirbeau Inn & Spa Skaneateles – Spa retreat in a French manor house
- Charlie Major Nature Trail – 1.5 mile hike connecting to Skaneateles Brewery
- Lockwood Lavender Farm – Local farm with lavender products + sunflower field
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:
- Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse – Steak, classic entrees and cocktails
- Dinosaur Bar-B-Que – Same restaurant in Rochester, NY
- Francesca’s Cucina – Extensive Italian menu with garden patio
- Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Pub – Irish cuisine served in an old-world pub
- Otro Cinco – Spanish and Mexican plates with craft beers + wine
- Pastabilities – Homemade pasta dishes and Italian-American fare
Best Hotels In Syracuse:
Need more time in this Finger Lakes region? Book a night in one of these top rated Syracuse hotels:
- Aloft Syracuse Inner Harbor – Great location for sightseeing
- Embassy Suites by Hilton – Indoor heated pool + near the zoo
- Marriott Syracuse Downtown – Downtown next to theater with parking
- The Parkview – Syracuse University 0.5 miles away + airport shuttle
6. Cayuga Lake
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:
- Cayuga Lake Wine Trail – America’s first wine trail featuring wineries around the lake
- The Spa at the Inns of Aurora – Spa promoting healing and harmony in body + mind
- Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge – 10,004-acre preserve for migratory birds
- Women’s Rights National Historical Park – The story of the first Women’s Rights Convention
- Taughannock Falls State Park – Popular park with 215-foot waterfall and swimming access
Interested in Taughannock Falls? Don’t miss our guide to visiting Taughannock Falls State Park featuring the waterfall overlook and Gorge Trail.
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:
- Buttonwood Grove Winery – Wine tasting, lodging and events all in one
- Hosmer Winery – Dog friendly tasting room offering premium wines
- Long Point Winery – Beautiful location offering vegan wines
- Montezuma Winery & Hidden Marsh Distillery – Wine and honey
- Sheldrake Point Winery – Estate grown bottled table and ice wines
- Thirsty Owl Wine Company – Pet friendly winery offer great food
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:
- Fargo Bar & Grill – Classic tavern with American comfort food + darts
- Hazelnut Kitchen – Seasonal dishes + desserts crafted from local ingredients
- Little Venice Trumansburg – American and Italian menu with weekly specials
- Parker’s Grille & Tap House – Laid-back watering hole with traditional pub eats
- Wolffy’s Grill and Marina – American grill fare with beer and cocktails
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:
- Barrister’s Bed & Breakfast – Located in the historic village of Seneca Falls
- Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast – Highly rated quaint B&B
- Glass Magnolia – B&B with garden and terrace + delicious food
- Inns of Aurora – Top rated Inn with spa, farm to table restaurant and fitness center
7. Seneca Lake
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.
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:
- Fox Run Vineyards – Wine tastings with a locally sourced cafe
- Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards – Wine and cider tastings at an 1800s vineyard
- Lakewood Vineyards – Family-owned winery producing wine + mead
- Silver Springs Winery – Tasting room with classic reds + a variety of fruit wines
- Three Brothers Wineries – Offering strolls around the vineyards and tastings
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:
- Beef & Brew – Hearty British and American eats
- Nickel’s Pit BBQ – Craft beer, live music and BBQ in a historic building
- Parker’s Grille & Tap House – Laid-back traditional pub eats
- Ports Cafe – Steaks, fish and local produce with wine + beer
- Stonecutter’s Tavern at Belhurst Castle – American fare
- Thai Elephants – Thai dishes in a family-friendly setting
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:
- Geneva On The Lake – Boutique hotel with gardens + swimming pool
- Inn at Taughannock Falls – Historic Victorian house built in 1873
- Single Island Shores – One to two bedroom cottages with lake views
- Vinifera Inn – Connected to the gorgeous Belhurst Castle
- Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel – Lake views with indoor swimming pool
8. Keuka Lake
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:
- Glenn H Curtiss Museum – Transportation museum in Hammondsport
- Keuka Lake Outlet Trail – Seven miles of wooded trail bordering the Keuka outlet
- Keuka Lake State Park – 621-acre park located at the north end
- Keuka Lake Wine Trail – Some of the oldest wineries in the Finger Lakes
- The Windmill Farm & Craft Market – 175 shops filled with handcrafted items
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.
- Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery – Wine tastings at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s former home
- Hunt Country Vineyards – Farming for seven generations + making wine since 1981
- McGregor Vineyard – Half-century-old vineyards hidden on a hillside
- Keuka Spring Vineyards – Four decades of locally estate grown grapes
- Weis Vineyards – German heritage with a Finger Lakes tradition
If you need a quick bite in the middle of wine tasting, here are the best restaurants along Keuka Lake:
- Crooked Lake Ice Cream Company – A cool ice cream shop in a small town
- Maloney’s Pub – Down to earth Irish bar featuring pub grub
- Mizumi – Asian street food with upscale eatery
- Park Inn – 19th-century building hotel with restaurant
- Penn Yan Diner – Daytime diner serving meals in an old-school setting since 1925
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:
- Best Western PLUS Vineyard Inn and Suites – Hotel with gym, pool and hot tub
- Hampton Inn – Everything you need located in Penn Yan
- Los Gatos Bed & Breakfast – Highly rated option located in Penn Yan
- Moonshadow B&B – Popular accommodation located in Hammondsport
- Vinehurst Inn & Suites – 1.5 mi from Glenn H Curtiss Museum
9. Corning, Elmira NY
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:
- Corning’s Gaffer District – Downtown area filled with shops and trails
- Corning Museum of Glass – Ancient glass art and make your own glass classes
- The Rockwell Museum – The only Smithsonian Affiliate in Upstate New York
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:
- Chemung Valley History Museum – An 1800s bank with exhibits about local heritage
- Mark Twain Study – The octogonal study where Mark Twain wrote many of his novels
- National Soaring Museum – Aviation museum about the history of motorless flights
- Tanglewood Nature Center – Nature preserve featuring hiking trails
- Tioga Downs Casino & Resort – Game machines and harness racing track
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:
- Aniello’s Pizzeria – Thin crust slices, big subs + special chicken wing pies
- Hand + Foot – Convivial bistro pairing creative sandwiches with beer
- Little Boomers’ Burrito Bar – Hearty Mexican staples plus beer
- Mooney’s Sports Bar & Grill – Home of the mac and cheese
- Nine Elephants – Serving seafood and Thai
- Three Birds Restaurant – Upscale dining for inventive American eats
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:
- Hilton Garden Inn – Popular option located in Corning’s downtown
- Lodging at the Gaffer Inn – Hotel with a funky vibe in downtown Corning
- Staybridge Suites – Walking distance to Corning Museum of Glass + Gaffer District
- Tioga Downs Casino and Resort – Live music on Fri and Sat night
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
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:
- The Boatyard Grill – Diverse America fare with lake view
- The Heights – Contemporary eatery for pizza and seafood
- Maxie’s Supper Club & Oyster Bar – Southern dishes, shucked shellfish + live music
- MIX – Vibrant spot offering eclectic small plates and seasonal cocktails
- Saigon Kitchen – Pho, vermicelli + other Vietnamese favorites
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 Ale House – Signature burgers + sandwiches with rotating craft beers
- Ithaca Beer Company – Craft brewery with industrial decor + tours on weekends
- Liquid State Brewing Company – Dog friendly mid-sized brewery offering great beer
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:
- Hotel Ithaca – Located directly in the commons
- Hilton Garden Inn – Breakfast with gym, pool and hot tub
- Argos Inn Boutique – Beautiful historic building with everything you need
- William Henry Miller Inn – Beautiful B&B with garden and great food
Here are the best hotels in Southwest Ithaca for Buttermilk Falls and Robert H. Treman:
- Hampton Inn Ithaca – Indoor pool + gym close to parks
- Fairfield Inn Marriott – Simple room with good location
- Holiday Inn Ithaca – Basic hotel with a fitness center
- Rodeway Inn Ithaca – Great budget option close to the state parks
- La Tourelle Hotel & Spa – 0.8 miles from Buttermilk Falls State Park
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our Popular Finger Lakes State Park Guides
- Watkins Glen – Guide to hiking the Watkins Glen Gorge Trail to Rainbow Falls
- Village of Watkins Glen – Best things to do in the Village of Watkins Glen
- Letchworth – Amazing things to do at Letchworth State Park NY
- Stony Brook – Guide to Stony Brook State Park in Dansville, NY
- Buttermilk Falls – How to hike Buttermilk Falls Gorge Loop Trail
- Robert H Treman – Guide to hiking the Robert H. Treman Gorge to Lucifer Falls
- Taughannock Falls – How to visit the Taughannock Falls overlook
- Waterfalls – Where to find the best Finger Lakes waterfalls
More New York State Guides
- High Falls Gorge – How to hike High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid
- Lake Placid – Fun things to do in Lake Placid, New York
- Mount Marcy – Guide to hiking the highest peak in NY, Mount Marcy
- Eternal Flame Falls – Complete guide to visiting Eternal Flame Falls
- Waterfalls – The 10 must-see waterfalls in 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 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.
Mark and Kristen
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