Like many other folks, I’m guilty of not spending time exploring places that are closer to home than, oh let’s say, Kyrgyzstan. I’m lucky to live not only in one of the country’s great cities, Washington, but also the Mid-Atlantic which has some of the best experiences in the country. I recently had the great opportunity to finally visit one of those areas for the first time, New York’s Finger Lakes region. Long famous for its vineyards, I learned that while, yes, the Finger Lakes do have some amazing food and wine offerings, there’s also a lot more to love about visiting. To start my storytelling about everything I enjoyed while in the Finger Lakes, here is a collection of some of my favorite photos and experiences from my far too brief visit.
It’s only if you are really into aviation that you’ll know the name Glenn Curtiss, but even if you don’t know his name you’ve benefited from his contributions to the industry. He gave the first public demonstration of the airplane, invented the seaplane and was the first to prove the commercial potential of a lighter than air machine. Basically, if you’ve been in a plane, then you have Curtiss to thank and he grew up and did much of his work the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. The flight I enjoyed was especially poignant because it took us over Keuka Lake, where the seaplane was invented. Famous for its amazing wine and food offerings, I learned that the natural beauty of the region is just as notable as those outstanding vintages.
Pleasant Valley Inn
The Finger Lakes region has been a pastoral getaway for generations, and around that continued interest a series of cozy inns and B&Bs have emerged, including the Pleasant Valley Inn. Most famous for its world-class cuisine, the Inn also features four newly remodeled rooms in what can only be called a refined and relaxing setting. Although not a B&B per se, the Inn does offer guests an incredible breakfast every day, made by the same chefs responsible for the fine dining experience in the main restaurant. Freshly made bagels, quiche, yogurt and more, everything is produced in the kitchens of the Inn and, from my experience, make the perfect start to a fun day of exploration.
Also known as America’s Most Fun Small Town, there’s no doubt that Corning is one of the main reasons why people visit the Finger Lakes region and, after only a few minutes, I could easily see why. The main street running through town is as picture perfect as could be produced in a Hollywood backlot, bursting at the seams with restaurants and cafes, shops and boutiques and artists studios, all finding inspiration in a town that has inspired so many before them. There’s also a lot to do in the town, and the museums should be at the heart of the experience. In addition to the Corning Museum of Glass, the smaller Rockwell Museum features one of the best collections of American art in the world, which is just one reason of many why they’re affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.
Corning Museum of Glass
Let’s face it, at first blush the idea of visiting a glass museum doesn’t sound all that exciting. I get it, I felt the same way until I finally visited this remarkable institution and I realized just how wrong I had been. Established in 1951 as a gift to the world by Corning Glass Works, the massive Museum of Glass would take days to fully experience, from learning about the history of glass through the ages to admiring the modern art in a newly designed gallery. Visiting is also very much a hands on experience though, and guests can get creative with glass in any number of ways, including working with a glass artist to produce their very own piece to take home. This is one of the best museums I’ve been to and I know that my first visit won’t be my last.
At the heart of the Finger Lakes experience for many are the wineries, breweries and distilleries found all around the lakes. For decades, Finger Lakes wines were produced using native grapes and, for the most part, the results were mixed. But then in the 1960s, mimicking global wine trends, vinifera grapes were introduced and the wineries in the region started producing everything from stellar Rieslings to full bodied reds. Today the results speak for themselves and with more than 140 wineries in the Finger Lakes, visitors can try as many of these vintages for themselves as they want. It’s hard to go wrong when choosing wineries to visit, but for a fun and immersive experience stop by Wagner’s on Seneca Lake.Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery produces a wide selection of amazing wines, but they also have a brewery on site that creates just as tasty ales, porters and IPAs. With a large deck overlooking the vines and lake, it’s the perfect spot to sit back and relax.
State parks don’t usually rise to the level where people outside of the region have ever heard of them, but there are a few. One of those legendary parks is Watkins Glen and when I found myself nearby while visiting the Finger Lakes region of New York, I knew I had to visit. Attracting curious visitors for more than 150 years, the unique natural beauty is at the core of that fascination. The centerpiece of the park is a 400-foot deep narrow gorge, cut through rock by a stream creating rapids and more than 19 waterfalls throughout the park. Traipsing along the trail, I was joined by hundreds of other people, all eager to be outside and enjoy the cooler weather found in the park. There’s always a sense of wonder and awe when I see a waterfall, and that was certainly the case in Watkins Glen. I don’t know what it is about them that attracts us, but the draw is undeniable. Add in the fact that you can even walk behind one of them, and it’s a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors in a region of New York famous for its natural beauty.