School’s Not Out for Summer

The Seward House in Auburn showcases many historical objects and a few secret passageways.

The tourism industry in the Finger Lakes is all about the rich diversity that the region has to offer. When I was a child, my parents always insisted that, even on our family vacations, there had to be some sort of tour or education intermixed with our fun and relaxation. At tourism locations here, there is an amazing balance between education and fun.

Follow the crumbs

Recently, a vast variety of “trails” have sprouted up in
various locations throughout the 9,000-square-mile, 14-county region of the Finger Lakes. Tourism entities like chambers of commerce, convention and visitors’ bureaus and regional destination marketing organizations – such as the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance – have seen a positive response to tourism trails, and new destinations that keep visitors coming back.

Options range from wine trails, which now encompass over 150 wineries; to beer trails, offering more than 30 locations that serve up the frosty brews; and even epicurean-style trails that feature everything from honey to cheesecake to fresh-picked strawberries. Try out the Cayuga County Sweet Trail and the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail.

Take a trip “underground”

With new locations and trails popping up all over the region, it’s important to stop for a minute and reflect on the rich history that made the area what it is today.

The Finger Lakes is home to several key locations on a trail that goes much deeper into history: the Underground Railroad. The homes of Harriet Tubman and William H. Seward – who was prominently portrayed in the modern film “Lincoln” – both reside in Auburn. Tubman, also known as the “Moses of the People,” lead over 300 slaves north and into freedom.

William H. Seward’s home boasts secret passageways and concealed areas for passage along this historic trail. Vast libraries line the walls, as well as irreplaceable memorabilia from the 1800s, when Seward served as secretary of state under two presidents: Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.

Keep it “glassy” with history, food and wine

For some hands-on creativity, visit the Corning Museum of Glass to discover the history of glassmaking from its primitive forms to modern-day exhibitions. Up for a little more excitement? Watch live glass-blowing and glass-breaking demos. The museum has a “Make Your Own Glass” experience where gaffers – artisan glassblowers – will help you create your own piece of colorful glass to take home with you.

Looking for wine and history all in one stop? Bully Hill Vineyards is home to The Greyton H. Taylor Wine Museum, where visitors can learn about the origin of one of the Finger Lakes’ most-loved pastimes, while sipping on some of the region’s best wine.

Explore the history behind America’s favorite dessert, Jell-O, at the Jell-O Gallery and Historic LeRoy Museum. Learn about its history and recipes; listen to old radio advertisements from Kate Smith, Jack Benny and Lucille Ball; and make sure to stock up on pudding, too.

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The variety of tourism attractions in the Finger Lakes Region will keep you busy at every turn. Exploring the diversity of the region is what makes the area such a unique vacation destination – one that even the locals can continue to explore and learn about for years. Ongoing projects like the Finger Lakes Museum in Branchport and the Boating Museum (location to be determined) continue to keep the area fresh.

To find out more about all that is available both on and off the water of the Finger Lakes region, visit fingerlakes.org.

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In 2011, visitors to the Finger Lakes Region spent $2.7 billion, which sustained over 59,000 jobs resulting in a tax savings per Finger Lakes household of $375.


by Jessica Robideau and Cindy Kimble