Eleven pristine lakes spread like fingers across central New York. Native American legend has it that these lakes were left behind by the Great Spirit who blessed this land with his hands. Today, we know them as New York’s Finger Lakes. The legend is echoed in the names of these fresh water lakes: Skaneateles, Otisco, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, Honeoye, Canadice, Conesus and Hemlock.
Each lake is connected by rivers ultimately leading into Lake Ontario. The Erie Canal runs through the Finger Lakes to the north. The Cayuga Seneca Canal connects Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake to the Erie Canal in Montezuma. And beyond the major waterways, there are numerous smaller lakes, ponds and tributaries — all offering an enormous variety of water sports: fishing, swimming, boating, kayaking and more!
The region’s great outdoors is open for hiking, biking, and camping at New York’s great state parks. A camera is a bring along item to capture the spectacular scenery from “The Grand Canyon of the East” – Letchworth State Park to Watkins Glen gorges and waterfalls. The falls of Taughannock drop 400 ft. into a basin and beside Lake Ontario are the great Chimney Bluffs.
The Finger Lakes could be seen as a mix of great trails. Most well known are the area’s wine trails – these trails showcase some of the nation’s premier wineries and tastings are often not limited to just wine – beer, distilled spirits, juices and ciders can be sipped throughout the region. There’s a trail for many interests: art trails, history and museum trails, the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail, the Finger Lakes Brew Trail, the Seaway Trail, and trails along the Erie Canal. Travel between Cortland, Ithaca and Owego to explore Natural Choices – an organic and eco-friendly trail.
No touring would be complete without more tasting. Don’t miss the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua or stopping by the original home of the Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse. The foods of the Finger Lakes are legendary – grape pies, garbage plates, ice cream from Ithaca, the home of the original Sundae and fresh farm market selections are roadside and in many farm and craft markets. The largest is the Windmill Farm and Craft Market near Penn Yan.
Complementing all this natural beauty are cities and villages offering treasures of history and culture. Syracuse is home to the New York State Fair, Rochester has the Strong National Museum of Play and the George Eastman International Museum of Photography.
The smaller cities and towns of the Finger Lakes are no less spectacular. Corning showcases 3,500 years of glass making at the Museum of Glass. Elmira celebrates its ties to Mark Twain and nearby is the National Soaring Museum. Auburn is known as “history’s hometown” and has a vibrant arts scene. In Seneca Falls you can see Women’s Rights National Historic Park and understand the basis for the entrepreneurial spirit for which the Finger Lakes is known. In Hammondsport, you can visit the businesses, sites and scenery that got it named “America’s Best Small Town.” In Watkins Glen, you can visit Watkins Glen International for auto racing on it’s world famous track, or head to the park and hike among the waterfalls and gorges.
Summer, winter, spring, or fall. On the water or on the slopes. In the woods or through the vineyards, no matter what you’re looking for on your vacation, you’ll find it in the Finger Lakes.
U.S. News got the scoop from a few travel-planning experts about where to go and what to avoid during the off-season.
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