NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, October 25, 2015, 2:03 AM
The Finger Lakes region is just an hour by plane and three to four hours by car, bus or train from New York City, making it a great destination for families and anyone else in pursuit of a fun adventure.
1. Who Put the Lakes in The Finger Lakes?
The 11 Finger Lakes — Conesus Lake, Hemlock Lake, Canadice Lake, Honeoye Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake, Skaneateles Lake and Otisco Lake — were created by the retreat of massive glaciers that covered the Northeast.
There are so many ways to enjoy a lake. There is boating, fishing, swimming, paddle boarding and jet skiing. But one of the best might just be the most relaxing. Pull up a chair, sit with a friend and enjoy the beauty of the lake as the wind passes over the cool water and the sun passes overhead until it sets behind the trees.
2. Fall Foliage
Take a leaf peeping road trip. Fall transforms the lush landscape of the region from dark green into a blanket of deep oranges, browns and reds. Follow any of the foliage routes that criss-cross the area and enjoy not only the colorful views but a dozen varieties of apples and freshly pressed apple cider. I Love New York has an up-to-date online foliage tracker.\
3. Apple Season
If you love apples, fall is the season to enjoy the great variety of apples grown in the region.
Stop at a farmer’s market alongside the road to see what is ripe. Every week another varietal comes to market as the fruit reaches its peak. At Burnap’s Farm Market (7277 Maple Ave, Sodus) near Lake Ontario, I saw baskets filled with Early Golds, Zestars and Sanzas. Ask people who live in the area what is their favorite apple and the answer might be any of a dozen varieties –Crispin, Jonagold, Ida Red, Corton, Pinata, Rhode Greening, Ben Davis, Gold Rush, Northern Spy, Cornell 702, Savoy, Honey Crisp, Ruby Frost and Snap Dragon.
4. Eat Delicious Ice Cream and Handmade Cheese
Besides vineyards and orchards, the Finger Lakes region has dairies — and dairies mean cheese and ice cream.
Two of the best are close to one another. Cayuga Lake Creamery (8421 NY-89, Interlaken) serves dozens of homemade flavors with seasonal ingredients dominating the offerings. When I visited for a tasting there were flavors as varied as coconut almond fudge, red raspberry, cherry vanilla, pina colada, P.B. and J. (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and strawberry jelly swirl). Classics like pralines and cream, butter pecan and rum raisin were the best I’ve ever tasted. And there were concoctions unique to the kitchen like No Doze, a mix of mocha ice cream with chocolate cover espresso beans, a delicious way to satisfy so many cravings-coffee, chocolate and sweet ice cream.
Muranda Cheese Company (3075 State Route 96 South, Waterloo) has won many awards, serving up cheese from the cows in the barn, which is to the right of the tasting room. The cheese ages in storage sheds watched over by owner Tom Murray. The 90 milking cows barely produce enough cheese to satisfy demand for their high quality Colby, cheddar, gouda and blue cheeses.
5. Turning Fruit into Vodka, Gin & Brandy
Craft distilleries have joined the region’s wineries as a major attraction.
A change in the law almost a decade ago allowed farmers to distill the bountiful product of their orchards into vodka, gin and brandies. Apple Country Spirits (3274 Eddy Road, Williamson) turns apples into Tree Vodka, Apple Brandy and Apple Jack. The orchard’s pears, plums and cherries are distilled into brandies as flavorful as any French eau du vie. Outside of Syracuse, Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards created 1911 Distillery (2708 Lords Hill Road, Lafayette) to produce high-quality small batch vodka and gin, as well as a half dozen craft hard ciders available to sample at the long wooden bar in the tasting room.
6. Birds Do It, Now You Do It
Fly like a bird in a long-winged glider with an experienced pilot. Circle the clouds at 3,000 feet and look down on the broad valley below before returning to land at Harris Hill Soaring (51 Soaring Hill Drive, Elmira). Then walk across the runway to the National Soaring Museum to examine a 100 years of glider technology that advanced from using light-weight wood and cloth to advanced fiberglass designs. Also in the area, for anyone who loves the history of powered flight, visit the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (339 Daniel Zenker Drive, Horseheads) and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum (8419 NY-54, Hammondsport).
7. Homemade Local Food
Eat well in cafes, roadside creameries, bakeries and B&Bs.
Vintage Gardens Bed and Breakfast (310 High St, Newark), where I was hosted at the beginning of the trip, makes breakfast with farmer’s market fresh ingredients. The golden brown, thick slab of French toast was topped with fresh peaches and blueberries. What a great way to begin the day. At Cayuga Creamery, the winner of a great many awards, the dozens of ice creams are made in house. Try pastries and freshly baked bread at Village Bakery (5 State St., Village of Pittsford) close to the Erie Canal. Or, try cider donuts at Beak & Skiff Orchard. Pick up snacks for your road trip through the Finger Lakes or stop, eat and relax. You’ll have a great time either way.
8. Spectacular Waterfalls
Water, water everywhere and in the Finger Lakes region waterfalls are as much of an attraction as the dozens of lakes. Jump in at the bottom of Pulpit Falls in Robert Treman State Park (105 Enfield Falls Road, Ithaca) and swim in the icy cold water. Or, hike down to Taughannock Falls (1740 Taughannock Blvd., Trumansburg) northwest of Ithaca and look up as the water plunges down from cliffs taller than those at Niagara Falls.
9. Winter Celebrations
Party down when the weather turns cold and snow is forecast in the Finger Lakes. The small craft breweries, hard cider mills and wineries of the region welcome winter with seasonal offerings. Some towns go all-out and disappear into a winter fantasy.
The town of Skaneateles transforms itself into a visualization of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The holiday season is embraced by the town residents who dress in 19th Century wardrobe. Some form caroling choirs. Others walk the streets greeting visitors as if they were on their way to visit have Christmas dinner with Scrooge and the Marleys.
10. High Octane Cars and Thoroughbreds Go to the Races
Come for the action, speed and excitement of Watkins Glen International (2790 County Route 16, Watkins Glen) known as “the Glen,” home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Xfinity, IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. If thoroughbreds are your passion, Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack (5857 NY-96, Farmington) hosts 160 days of racing a year as well as year-round gaming.
11. Woofstock and Wine Tasting
Come one and all and bring your pooch for a celebration of all-things-doggy at Woofstock at the Americana Vineyards (4367 East Covert Road, Interlaken) on the western shore of Cayuga Lake. Combining picnicking, wine tasting and dogs, Woofstock is a grand gathering of families and man’s best friend. Americana Vineyards has a good selection of affordable wines. Because of a good terroir, the region has a wealth of wineries. One the best ways to visit them is by following one of the well-known wine trails—Cayuga Lake Trail, Keuka Lake Trail and Seneca Lake Trail. Details about the wine trails can be found on the Finger Lakes Wine County website.
12. Canal tours
Hi-tech in their day, canals like the Erie Canal provided low-cost transportation to move raw materials and manufactured goods across the state.
Within a few decades, canals lost their primacy to railroads. But today the canals that criss-cross the region still provide important commercial transportation. Leisure travelers can take canal cruises and enjoy the scenery. Some boats offer wine tasting trips or dinner cruises.
13. Suffragettes, Women’s History, Corning Glass and Kodak Film
Great movements sometimes begin with small moments. On a spring day in 1851, Amelia Jenks Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. That meeting led to a life-long friendship and the creation of the Suffragettes, a movement that staged rallies, pressured political parties and ultimately led to the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women equal rights under the law. To celebrate that moment and those women and many others, visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame (76 Fall St.https://www.womenofthehall.org, Seneca Falls) a few blocks away. The Hall of Fame chronicles the women who have achieved greatness, living and memorialized.
Two unique museums attract large crowds to see how glass and film shaped the 20th century as much as steel and coal shaped the 19th. The Corning Museum of Glass (1 Museum Way, Corning) has live demonstrations of glass making as well as galleries devoted to the ways in which artists have transformed glass into beautiful objects, like Katherine Gray’s “Forest Glass” (2009). Photography and filmmaking are front and center at the George Eastman Museum (900 East Ave., Rochester). The museum curates exhibits of still photography, film programs and workshops in the technology of the medium.