As a Finger Lakes local, I find I tend to miss the true essence of the surrounding community, passing over the things that visitors would wonder at with awe. It wasn’t until I broke into the tourism field (as well as my burgeoning adulthood), that I realized I needed to take the time to stop, look around and really explore my surroundings and make them my own. Since the region encompasses 9,000 square miles and is dotted with beautiful lakes, it makes for a visiting extravaganza!
For the winos
My plan to break out of the norm and rediscover the place I call home started with the exploration of the multitude of local wineries. With wine trails along most of the Finger Lakes, it’s hard to hit them all. It’s best to break up the trails first by lake, then by a selection of five to 10 wineries.
Most Finger Lakes wineries offer four to eight one-ounce samples for their tasting flights. It doesn’t sound like much, but beware – after visiting two to three wineries, that nectar of the gods goes straight to your head. Pacing yourself is key for these excursions. It’s not a race! One insider recommendation: Stop by the wineries midweek if you can – you will receive more personalized attention, and, sometimes, a chance to chat with the winemaker or owner.
Where do you start when there are more than 200 wineries in the Finger Lakes? Stay at one of the beautiful accommodations, and explore for a day. You’ll always have a new experience as each wine trail presents something different.
The Keuka Lake Wine Trail hosts historic wineries like Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, whose namesake brought winemaking grapes to the Finger Lakes region. Pleasant Valley Wine Company and Bully Hill Vineyards are among the other notable wineries with rich local and national historic ties. History buffs love to chat with tasting room servers at these locations.
Cayuga Lake is one of the nation’s oldest wine trails, and along with a rich history, has some world-class and award-winning wines. Seneca Lake is the most heavily populated of all the wine trails, and features a plethora of events, wines and personalities to please even the most discerning of palates.
For the historians
History doesn’t stop at the wine trails. Auburn’s historical district is home to Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, also known as “the Moses of the People.”
You may have recently seen the movie “Lincoln,” which focuses on the life and times of William Seward, whose home is in Auburn. Seward’s home is also believed to be a stop along the Underground Railroad.
Twenty minutes east of Auburn is Seneca Falls, home to the Women’s Rights Convention. Susan B. Anthony, the historic leader of ladies’ liberty, has a house there that visitors can tour.
For the nature lovers
More of a nature lover? Take time to explore the area’s countless waterfalls, gorges and hiking trails. The Finger Lakes formed from Ice Age glaciers, which carved deep ridges into the region’s topography. The Native Americans, however, believe that the Great Spirit passed his hand over the region and, in blessing it, created our 11 Finger Lakes and beautiful rolling hills and valleys.
Spring is the perfect time to get in the car to explore the region’s budding beauty. Go on a nature hike, boat and swim in the many waters or catch a glider ride at the National Soaring Museum in Elmira’s Harris Hill.
Whether you’re a local or visitor, get out there and play “tourist” for a change. Take the opportunity to explore the Finger Lakes Region with new eyes and see what wonders await you. Marcel Proust said it best: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
by Jessica Robideau, Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance