Active Travel When You visit Finger Lakes, New York

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Although New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US, there is actually way more to the state than just the Big Apple. Some of our favorite areas to explore away from the city include the Finger Lakes and Adirondacks regions.

Guest writer, Brette Sember from Travel Shopper Expert, takes us upstate to the beautiful Finger Lakes region. Finger Lakes is quite popular as New York’s largest wine producing area. However, it’s the many active travel opportunities in this area that will truly quench your travel thirst.

Visit Finger Lakes on an active trip

New York’s Finger Lakes region is often cited as a great wine tasting getaway. Granted, there are fun wine trails, but there’s much more to do in the Finger Lakes for active boomers looking to explore this beautiful New York area.

People posing on an overlook in front of a waterfall.

Shop the Local Markets

The Finger Lakes is home to Mennonite and Amish families who sell baked goods, crafts, and produce throughout the region. One great place to connect with them is at The Windmill, a Saturday-only farm and craft market located between Keuka and Seneca Lakes.

It’s the perfect place to pick up some shoo-fly pie, browse quilts, and buy some sunflowers. Sample the butterflied potato chips while you’re there. World-renowned pottery and housewares can be found at the unique MacKenzie-Childs on Cayuga Lake.

Quaint small town shopping is perfect in Skaneateles, at the tip of Skaneateles Lake with lovely gift shops (including 1st National Gifts, located in an historic bank vault), and in Naples, south of Canandaigua. Be sure to stop at Monica’s Pies for a grape pie as well as the artisan shops.

Put the Pedal to the Metal at Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen is famous for its racetrack where you can catch a race (plan ahead because these sell out) or drive a race car on the track yourself at one of the racing schools. Not much compares to doing laps on a world class racetrack with your own hands on the wheel.

Water fall Hiking in Finger Lakes

People walking a pathway through a stone canyon at Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes.

My two favorite spots for hiking in the Finger Lakes are Watkins Glen State Park and Taughannock Falls in Ithaca. Both offer stunning waterfalls, many trails, and incredible gorges, perfect for an afternoon hike and a picnic. Earn bonus points for swimming at the base of the waterfall in Buttermilk Falls State Park (not quite as cold as a polar bear challenge, but close!).

Walk the Solar System at Cornell

A stone marker honoring Carl Sagan in Cornell, NY
Sagan Planet Walk

Billions and billions of years ago (ok maybe not that long ago) famous astrophysicist Carl Sagan was a professor at Cornell University and created the Sagan Planet Walk. The interactive exhibit, spread out over ¾ of a mile in Ithaca, is a scale model of the solar system.

It’s an amazing way to really understand our place in space. And it’s free!

Enjoy one of the Finger Lakes

Perhaps the best way to experience the Finger Lakes is from a pontoon boat. Rent one rent for the day to fish (walleye and bass are the sought after fish here). You’ll you need a license to put a line in). Don’t forget swimming, or tubing.

If you want someone else to do the driving, one of the best options is Captain Bill’s on Seneca Lake where you can take a one-hour cruise or a dinner cruise on the deepest Finger Lake. Another choice is a dinner cruise on Skaneateles Lake.

Go Birdwatching in Ithaca

For veteran birdwatchers and newbies Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca is a must-visit bird sanctuary with boardwalks and trails. Print out their bird checklist and see how many of the 200 species you can spot. 

Celebrate Women’s Rights

Seneca Falls (north end of Seneca Lake) is home to the National Women’s Rights Historical Park which memorializes the first women’s rights convention in 1848. There are four historical buildings (including Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home) and a visitor’s center and all are worth a visit.

While you’re in town, ask yourself if it looks familiar. Seneca Falls was the inspiration for Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Finger Lakes lodging to pamper yourself

While the Finger Lakes may be sprawling and rustic, you can definitely relax in luxury here. Belhurst Castle in Geneva offers luxury accommodations in a real castle with a world class spa. The Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles is a sumptuously appointed inn at an historic stagecoach stop.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua is one of only two public gardens in the state. This 50-acre estate complete with a gorgeous mansion you can tour offers an eclectic mix of stunning gardens.

You’ll enjoy strolling through The Japanese Garden, The Pansy Garden, The Italian Garden, The Rose Garden, The Moonlit Garden and more, as well as greenhouses and a café and gift shop. Plan to spend several hours here if you want to even see the highlights

Experience Finger Lakes Local History

Long before the Finger Lakes was a tourist attraction, it was home to the Haudenosaunee, the people of the longhouse, also known as the Iroquois. Their rich history can be explored at Ganondagan, the historical center of their culture.

On a trip to Ganondagan, visit a longhouse replica and understand the rich history of the people who loved this land. Be sure to arrive on a summer weekend if you’d like to experience the Native Dance and Music festivals.

Extend your trip in New York State

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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