Story and photo by Gabrielle L. Wheeler
Last week, I was chatting with a friend who confided to me that she and her husband had been seriously considering moving out of state, nearer to her brother-in-law. However, after going to visit, they decided that the location was too urban and not to their liking. They also realized that they had never really taken the time to be tourists closer to home and have decided to embark on the adventure of being local tourists. The idea makes me think of all the times I have been a local tourist and taken the time to intentionally enjoyed the area’s local treasures.
My first foray into being a local tourist was actually in high school when my younger sister and I decided to go to Watkins Glen to ride Captain Bill’s ‘Stroller IV’ around the lake, learn the history of the paintings on the cliff-sides, and do some shopping. Captain Bill’s offers sight-seeing boat tours, dinner boat tours, as well as elegant dining at the Seneca Harbor Station Restaurant. There doesn’t seem to be much information out there about the painting, but what is available appears quite controversial. Some claims state the image of the longhouses and American flag were authentically painted by Native Americans. Others say it was done more recently as a scam to add some mystery to the regional history – as though our regional history needs any fake augmentation!
Another fun way to play local tourists is to visit regional cultural locations, such as the Seneca Art and Cultural Center at Ganondagan in Victor where visitors can explore a full-size replica of a Haudenosaunee long house. Attached is also a museum with information about the Iroquois Nation, artifacts showing how the Haudenosaunee lived and what they ate, as well as the wampum belt of Hiawatha the Peacemaker.
Other fun ways to be local tourists are to explore our area’s parks and wild areas. The kids and I zipped to Watkins Glen State Park one evening recently, hoping to beat the day’s crowds and the sunset. The weather was cool in the gorge at dusk and was a welcome minivacation from everyday life by escaping into nature.
There are so many other ways to be local tourists in the Finger Lakes Region; one just has to hop into a cool lake, visit a museum, hike a waterfall, or do some shopping for local artisan products. Sometimes, though the history is amazing, the most interesting things we learn are the things we learn about ourselves that call us to linger a while.