Best Things to Do in the Finger Lakes: 12 Must-Visit Attractions

by Emil Backup
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Are you thinking about visiting Finger Lakes soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in the Finger Lakes. These jaw-dropping sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Nestled in the heart of New York State, the Finger Lakes region offers shimmering waters, rolling vineyards, and timeless charm. This collection of eleven slender lakes, shaped much like the fingers of a hand, beckons travelers with its promise of scenic beauty and endless adventure and things to do in the Finger Lakes. From sipping world-class wines to hiking through gorges with waterfalls, the Finger Lakes captivates the senses and ignites the spirit.

For those yearning for a getaway that offers both relaxation and exhilaration, this region is a treasure trove of experiences. As each season paints the landscape with its unique palette, visitors are treated to a constantly evolving backdrop for their adventures. So, whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a wine connoisseur, or simply someone seeking a serene escape, the Finger Lakes promises memories that will last a lifetime. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the Finger Lakes.

The best things to do in the Finger Lakes right now.
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Best Places to Visit in the Finger Lakes

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Finger Lakes? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this awesome vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Finger Lakes places to visit.

Are you looking for an outdoor water excursion and excited to see some glimmering lakes? Or would you prefer a sylvan nature tripping? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Finger Lakes can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Finger Lakes that you should know about.

1. Finger Lakes World-Renowned Wineries

Looking for the best things to do in the Finger Lakes? Don’t miss this one! The region is more than just scenic vistas and shimmering waters; it’s a haven for wine enthusiasts. With a wine legacy that’s hard to rival, this area has carved a niche for itself, especially for its exquisite Rieslings.

Venture along the wine trails, and you’ll be greeted by boutique wineries and expansive vineyards. Each estate is eager to share a sip of their prized creations. The experience is elevated when you engage with local vintners, diving deep into the stories and passion behind each bottle.

Some of my favorite Finger Lake wineries include Three Brothers Winery, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, and Keuke Spring Vineyards. No matter where you decide to go, make sure it has lakefront views.

And if you’re pondering over the coolest activities in the Finger Lakes, imagine this: sipping a glass of wine, the gentle lapping of lake waters in the background, and the sun casting golden hues over the vineyards. It’s not merely about the wine but the memories, the tales, and the ambiance that make it unforgettable.

Nestled among Finger Lakes' tranquil landscapes, renowned wineries invite you to savor their exquisite vintages amid nature's splendor.
Nestled among Finger Lakes’ tranquil landscapes, renowned wineries invite you to savor their exquisite vintages amid nature’s splendor.

2. Crystal-Clear Waters of the Finger Lakes

Imagine the sun’s rays dancing on the water’s surface, the gentle breeze brushing past, and the sound of waves lapping against the boat. One of the best places to go in the Finger Lakes is, well, on the lakes themselves! Sailing and kayaking offer a unique perspective of the region. They allow you to immerse yourself in its natural beauty from the heart of its waters.

For those seeking a bit of adventure, kayaking provides an intimate experience, letting you explore hidden nooks and crannies of the lakes. Glide past lush greenery, spot local wildlife, and let the world fade away as you paddle through serene waters. If you’re more inclined towards a laid-back experience, hop aboard a sailboat. Let the wind guide you as you drift along, taking in panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.

Finger Lakes attractions aren’t just about what’s on land. The lakes themselves beckon with promises of unforgettable memories. So, when pondering what to do in the Finger Lakes, remember that some of the most magical moments await you on the water.

Discovering the best things to do in the Finger Lakes is a delightful adventure.
Discovering the best things to do in the Finger Lakes is a delightful adventure.

3. Watkins Glen State Park

A visit to the Finger Lakes wouldn’t be complete without exploring the breathtaking beauty of Watkins Glen State Park. As you step into this natural wonder, you’re greeted by a world of cascading waterfalls, deep gorges, and enchanting rock formations. It’s no wonder this park is often hailed as one of the unique things to do in the Finger Lakes.

The Gorge Trail, the park’s crown jewel, takes you on a journey through 19 waterfalls, with stone bridges and tunnels adding to the enchantment. Every twist and turn of the trail unveils a new spectacle. This makes it one of the cool things to do in the Finger Lakes. The sound of rushing water, the feel of mist on your face, and the sight of shimmering rainbows near the falls create a sensory experience like no other.

For those looking for a more relaxed experience, the park also offers picnic spots with stunning views. It’s the perfect place to unwind and soak in the beauty of nature. So, when considering the best things to do in the Finger Lakes, make sure that a visit to the Watkins Glen State Park is at the top of your list.

Exploring the best things to do in the Finger Lakes wouldn't be complete without a visit to Watkins Glen State Park.
Exploring the best things to do in the Finger Lakes wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Watkins Glen State Park.

4. Finger Lakes Museums

Dive into the region’s rich history and culture by visiting the diverse museums scattered throughout the Finger Lakes. Best places in the Finger Lakes offer a deep dive into the past and present. One standout is the Corning Museum of Glass, where you can marvel at intricate glass artworks, witness live glassblowing demonstrations, and even try your hand at creating your own masterpiece.

Another must-visit is the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, dedicated to the “Father of Naval Aviation.” Here, you’ll find a fascinating collection of early aircraft, motorcycles, and other inventions that showcase the genius of Glenn Curtiss. It’s a testament to the innovative spirit that has always been a part of the Finger Lakes region.

For car enthusiasts, the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich is a dream come true. With over 170 classic and vintage vehicles on display, it’s a journey through the golden age of American motoring. So, when pondering what to do in the Finger Lakes, the region’s museums offer a treasure trove of experiences.

Among the best things to do in the Finger Lakes, exploring its museums offers a captivating journey through art, history, and culture.

5. Spend Time at the Beaches

Imagine a sunny day, a gentle breeze, and the soft sound of waves lapping at the shore. That’s the serene experience awaiting you at the beaches of the Finger Lakes. Coolest activities in the Finger Lakes often involve the simple pleasure of laying on the sand, soaking up the sun, and taking a refreshing dip in the clear waters.

Keuka Lake State Park is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. With its well-maintained beach area, it’s the perfect spot for a family picnic or a quiet afternoon with a book. For those seeking a bit more adventure, the park also offers boat rentals, allowing you to explore the lake at your own pace.

Then there’s Seneca Lake State Park. This is where the beach meets a sprawling green space, making it ideal for both relaxation and recreation. After a swim, you can stroll through the park, play a game of volleyball, or simply enjoy the picturesque views.

So, if you’re wondering where to visit in the Finger Lakes for a tranquil beach day, know that the region’s shores are ready to welcome you with open arms.

Seneca Lake State Park: One of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes. Embrace lakeside tranquility, recreational activities, and stunning views.
Seneca Lake State Park: One of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes. Embrace lakeside tranquility, recreational activities, and stunning views.

6. Around the Lakes

The Finger Lakes region is also about the journey. One of the cool destinations to go in the Finger Lakes is on the road, winding through picturesque landscapes, charming small towns, and vineyard-covered hills. As you drive, you’ll be treated to panoramic views that change with every turn, making every moment a photo opportunity.

Start your journey on the western side of Seneca Lake, where Route 14 offers breathtaking views of the water, complemented by the backdrop of rolling hills. Along the way, quaint towns like Geneva and Watkins Glen invite you to take a break, explore their streets, and indulge in local delicacies.

On the eastern side of Cayuga Lake, Route 90 is another gem. This road takes you through historic villages and past impressive estates. It offers numerous spots to pull over and admire the view. This rive showcases the unique places in the Finger Lakes, blending nature, history, and culture into one unforgettable experience.

So, if you’re a fan of scenic drives and want to see the Finger Lakes from a different perspective, buckle up and hit the road. It’s a journey you won’t soon forget.

Discover its quaint streets, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, making it one of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes.
Discover its quaint streets, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, making it one of the best things to do in the Finger Lakes.

7. Finger Lakes Waterfalls

There’s something truly enchanting about waterfalls, and the Finger Lakes region boasts some of the most mesmerizing cascades you’ll ever lay eyes on. Finger Lakes attractions aren’t complete without mentioning these natural wonders that add a touch of magic to the landscape.

Taughannock Falls, for instance, stands tall as one of the highest single-drop waterfalls east of the Rockies. With a drop of 215 feet, it’s a sight that leaves visitors in awe. This is especially true after a heavy rain when the water roars with unmatched power. The trails leading to the falls offer varying levels of difficulty, ensuring that everyone, from casual strollers to avid hikers, can enjoy the view.

Then there’s the enchanting Shequaga Falls, located right in the heart of Montour Falls. This urban waterfall, cascading down amidst historic buildings, paints a picture so surreal it feels straight out of a fairy tale.

And let’s not forget the series of cascades at Cascadilla Gorge, a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The trail here takes you past eight major waterfalls, each with its own unique charm.

So, if you’re wondering what to do in the Finger Lakes, make sure to chase some waterfalls. They promise an experience that’s both refreshing and awe-inspiring.

Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of cascading waters
Finger Lakes Waterfalls: Nature’s Best. Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of cascading waters.

8. Try the local food

For those with a penchant for gourmet experiences, the Finger Lakes region is nothing short of a culinary paradise. Best places in the Finger Lakes often include its delightful eateries, where local ingredients meet innovative cooking techniques. From farm-to-table restaurants to bustling farmers’ markets, there’s a gastronomic journey waiting at every corner.

One can’t talk about the Finger Lakes without mentioning its artisanal cheese trails. Dairy farms in the region produce some of the finest cheeses. Tasting tours allowing you to savor varieties like creamy brie, tangy blue, and robust cheddar. Paired with a glass of local wine, it’s a match made in heaven.

Then there are the charming cafes and bakeries dotting the towns. This is where you can indulge in freshly baked pastries, pies, and bread. Don’t miss out on trying the region’s famous grape pie, a sweet treat that perfectly captures the essence of the Finger Lakes.

For a more hearty meal, numerous restaurants serve dishes inspired by the bounties of the region, from freshwater fish to organic vegetables. So, if you’re pondering where to go in the Finger Lakes, let your taste buds guide you.

Finger Lakes Culinary Delights: A gastronomic journey through farm-to-table excellence, a must for food enthusiasts exploring the region's best.
Finger Lakes Culinary Delights: A gastronomic journey through farm-to-table excellence, a must for food enthusiasts exploring the region’s best.

9. Historic Villages and Towns

The Finger Lakes region is also steeped in history. Places in the Finger Lakes often transport you back in time, with their quaint architecture and stories from yesteryears. As you wander through the streets of towns like Seneca Falls and Skaneateles, you’ll find yourself immersed in tales of the past.

Seneca Falls, for instance, is known as the birthplace of the women’s rights movement. The Women’s Rights National Historical Park here offers a deep dive into the first Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848. It’s a must-see in the Finger Lakes for history enthusiasts and those passionate about social justice.

Skaneateles, on the other hand, is a picturesque village on the shores of the lake it’s named after. Its historic district boasts well-preserved 19th-century buildings, boutique shops, and art galleries. As you stroll along, the Finger Lakes attractions in these towns offer a blend of history, culture, and scenic beauty.

So, when pondering what to do in the Finger Lakes, step back in time and explore the rich history that shaped this region.

Exploring Finger Lakes' Historic Villages and Towns: Embark on a captivating journey through time, wandering charming streets and experiencing the region's rich heritage.
Embark on a captivating journey through time, wandering charming streets and experiencing the region’s rich heritage.

10. Visit Vibrant Festivals

The Finger Lakes offers a mix of culture, entertainment, and local flair, look no further than the region’s lively festivals. Throughout the year, the lakes come alive with events celebrating everything from music and arts to food and history.

One of the coolest activities in the Finger Lakes is the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. Held in Trumansburg, this four-day event showcases over 60 bands on four stages, offering a diverse range of music genres. It’s not just about the tunes; there’s a palpable sense of community, with dance workshops, local vendors, and camping.

Another activity in the Finger Lakes is the Naples Grape Festival. Celebrating the region’s rich grape harvest, this festival is a treat for the senses. Think grape pies, wine tastings, and even a grape stomping competition!

For those keen on arts, the Corn Hill Arts Festival in Rochester is a Finger Lakes attraction not to be missed. With over 350 original artists, live music, and a fairy houses tour, it’s a delightful experience for all ages.

Make sure to check out the local festival calendar. It might just be the highlight of your trip!

Trumansburg: Discover a hidden treasure brimming with local culture and natural beauty.
Trumansburg: Unveiling Finger Lakes’ Charms. Discover a hidden treasure brimming with local culture and natural beauty.

11. Finger Lakes Trails

For those who love the thrill of the open road, one of the best places to go in the Finger Lakes is along its scenic biking trails. The region boasts a network of trails that cater to both casual cyclists and seasoned pros. It offers breathtaking views and a chance to connect with nature.

Going to the Keuka Outlet Trail is one of the best things to do in Finger Lakes and you shouldn’t miss it. Stretching for seven miles between Penn Yan and Dresden, this trail follows the old Fall Brook Railroad and the Crooked Lake Canal, taking riders past cascading waterfalls, historic remnants, and serene woodlands.

For those looking for unique places in the Finger Lakes, the Catharine Valley Trail is a gem. This 12-mile trail winds its way from Watkins Glen to Horseheads, showcasing wetlands, forests, and historical landmarks from the Chemung Canal.

After a day of biking, one of the cool things to do in the Finger Lakes is to relax at local eateries, enjoying farm-to-table delicacies and refreshing beverages. So, strap on your helmet, hop on your bike, and discover the Finger Lakes from a whole new perspective!

Watkins Glen: Finger Lakes' Natural Marvel. Explore breathtaking gorges, waterfalls, and outdoor wonders in this must-see destination.
Watkins Glen: Finger Lakes’ Natural Marvel. Explore breathtaking gorges, waterfalls, and outdoor wonders in this must-see destination.

12. Golf Courses amidst Finger Lakes Scenery

If you’re wondering what to do in the Finger Lakes that combines leisure with breathtaking views, consider teeing off at one of the region’s pristine golf courses. The Finger Lakes is a golfer’s paradise with courses that cater to both beginners and pros.

Imagine starting your morning with the sun rising over the lakes, the dew-kissed greens awaiting your first swing. Courses like the Lakeside Country Club offer panoramic vistas of the lakes, making every hole a memorable experience. It’s one of those Finger Lakes attractions that seamlessly blends sport with nature.

For those looking for unique places in the Finger Lakes to golf, the Reservoir Creek Golf Course at Naples stands out. With its challenging terrains and views of vineyards, it’s a course that promises both thrill and relaxation.

After a day on the greens, many golfers head to local taverns or bistros, making it one of the coolest activities in the Finger Lakes. So, grab your clubs and get ready to experience golf like never before, amidst the unparalleled beauty of the Finger Lakes.

Reservoir Creek Golf Course: Tee Off Amid Finger Lakes Beauty. Enjoy a round of golf surrounded by scenic vistas at Naples' premier golfing destination.
Reservoir Creek Golf Course: Tee Off Amid Finger Lakes Beauty. Enjoy a round of golf surrounded by scenic vistas at Naples’ premier golfing destination.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Best Things to Do in the Finger Lakes

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Finger Lakes? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Finger Lakes:

How many lakes are in the Finger Lakes region?

The Finger Lakes region is home to eleven long, narrow lakes carved by glaciers. These lakes—Canadice, Canandaigua, Cayuga, Conesus, Hemlock, Honeoye, Keuka, Otisco, Owasco, Seneca, and Skaneateles—offer picturesque beauty and recreational opportunities, making it a unique and captivating destination.

What are Finger Lakes known for?

The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long, narrow lakes located directly south of Lake Ontario in New York, United States. Here’s a summary of what the Finger Lakes are known for:

Geological and Geographical Features

The Finger Lakes are renowned for their unique geological formation, referred to as “finger lakes.” These are long, narrow bodies of water in overdeepened glacial valleys. Two of the lakes, Cayuga and Seneca, are among the deepest in the United States. The region is characterized by the Finger Lakes Uplands and Gorges ecoregion and the Ontario Lowlands ecoregion of the Great Lakes Lowlands.

Historical Significance

The Finger Lakes region is rich in history, being a central part of the Iroquois homeland. It has been home to various tribes, including the Seneca and Cayuga nations. During colonial times, the region was a hub for various tribes seeking protection. The area also played a significant role during the American Revolutionary War and the 19th-century reform and utopian movements.

Ecological Concerns

The region lies upon the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale, prominent natural gas reserves. There have been concerns and opposition related to fracking in the area due to potential risks of groundwater contamination. Additionally, the region has been involved in waste management, receiving trash from New York City.

Wine and Craft Beer Industry

The Finger Lakes region is New York’s largest wine-producing area, with over 400 wineries and vineyards. The unique geographical features provide a favorable environment for growing various grape varieties, contributing to the diversity of wines produced. The region is also known for its growing craft beer industry.

Educational Institutions and Notable Places

The area is home to several higher-education institutions, including Ivy League institution Cornell University. Notable places include historical buildings, state forests, and sites related to the Underground Railroad, women’s suffrage movement, and other significant historical events.

When is the best time to visit the Finger Lakes?

The Finger Lakes are stunning year-round, but many prefer the summer for lake activities and the fall for the vibrant foliage and wine harvest season.

Are there any family-friendly activities in the Finger Lakes?

Absolutely, the Finger Lakes region offers a plethora of family-friendly activities. Explore interactive museums like The Strong National Museum of Play, enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking and boating, visit petting zoos, discover charming farms, and relish local festivals. There’s something delightful for every member of the family to enjoy.

Nature's Delight. Journey through captivating landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts.
Nature’s Delight. Journey through captivating landscapes for outdoor enthusiasts.

How do I get around the Finger Lakes?

While there’s some public transportation, renting a car is the best way to explore the region at your own pace.

What is the prettiest Finger lake?

The Finger Lakes region in New York State is renowned for its beauty, and each of the 11 lakes has its own unique charm. It’s difficult to definitively say which one is the “prettiest,” as this can be subjective and depend on individual preferences. However, some of the lakes that are often highlighted for their beauty include:

  1. Seneca Lake: The largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake is known for its clear waters and beautiful surrounding vineyards.
  2. Cayuga Lake: This is the second largest of the Finger Lakes and is surrounded by wineries, waterfalls, and charming small towns.
  3. Skaneateles Lake: Known for its incredibly clear and clean water, Skaneateles Lake is often considered one of the most beautiful of the Finger Lakes. The town of Skaneateles at the northern end of the lake is also known for its picturesque charm.
  4. Canandaigua Lake: This lake is famous for its “Wine & Culinary Center” and the historic Canandaigua Lady paddlewheel steamboat. The surrounding area is filled with beautiful landscapes.
  5. Keuka Lake: Unique for its Y-shape, Keuka Lake offers stunning views and is surrounded by vineyards and small, charming towns.

Each lake has its own character and attractions, so the “prettiest” one might depend on what you’re looking for, such as water clarity, recreational opportunities, surrounding landscapes, or nearby cultural attractions.

Are Finger Lakes worth visiting?

Absolutely! The Finger Lakes region offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich history, and diverse activities, making it a must-visit destination for travelers of all interests. Whether you’re exploring the scenic trails, indulging in local wines, or simply soaking in the lakeside views, there’s no doubt that a trip to the Finger Lakes is a memorable experience.

What part of the Finger Lakes is the best?

Each part of the Finger Lakes has its unique charm, but many travelers are particularly drawn to the central region, where Seneca and Cayuga Lakes boast a high concentration of wineries, scenic vistas, and historic sites. However, the best area often depends on individual preferences, whether it’s wine tasting, hiking, or exploring quaint villages.

Concluding Thoughts on Touring the Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes region is a tapestry of natural beauty, rich history, and unforgettable experiences. From the shimmering waters of the lakes themselves to the verdant vineyards that dot the landscape, every corner of this region invites exploration and wonder. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a wine connoisseur, or someone simply looking for a serene getaway, the Finger Lakes has something special to offer. Places in the Finger Lakes are not just destinations; they’re memories waiting to be made. So pack your bags, set your itinerary, and get ready for an adventure that will linger in your heart long after you’ve returned home.

Best Things to Do in the Finger Lakes.
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