Racing and Outdoor Activities
Located at the south end of Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen is famous for giving American road racing its official rebirth after World War II. Between 1948 and ‘52 people lined the hay bale-stacked streets of the village to watch the drivers vie for first place. The original 6.6-mile Grand Prix course, which is still drivable today, includes both village streets and country roads. Eventually, due to safety issues, racing was moved to Watkins Glen International (WGI), where it continues.
Watkins Glen takes its name from a gorge that cuts through the heart of the village. Now a state park, it features approximately 19 waterfalls, plus hiking trails, camping facilities and swimming. Numerous other waterfalls dot the region.
Further, the surrounding hills afford many places for outdoor enthusiasts to hike, bike, camp and more. Among them is the Finger Lakes National Forest, the only National Forest in New York. To learn more, visit www.watkinsglenchamber.com.
Resources for race fans
• For more info and a complete WGI schedule, visit www.theglen.com.
• Learn more about the history of racing at the International Motor Racing Research Center at 610 S. Decatur Street. To learn more, see www.racingarchives.org.
• The Grand Prix Festival, scheduled for September 9, celebrates Watkins Glen’s racing heritage. Learn more at www.grandprixfestival.com.
Wineries and Dining
What makes the Finger Lakes famous besides the natural beauty of the region? Wineries! The Finger Lakes wine country is known to some as the “Napa Valley of the East,” and Watkins Glen is in the heart of it. The Seneca Lake Wine Trail features almost 40 wineries.
Seneca Lake, the deepest of the Finger Lakes, actually controls the climate on the surrounding hillsides. The lake never freezes over, and it retains the summer warmth through the colder months of the year. This creates a unique microclimate that supports local agriculture, particularly viticulture.
In addition to wineries, the region boasts several microbreweries, one of which is located right in downtown Watkins Glen. And, just six miles north of the village on Route 414 is Finger Lakes Distilling, which opened in 2008 and uses many local products, including grapes, in the production of its craft liquors.
A wide variety of dining options is available in and around Watkins Glen as well – everything from diner fare, to family style restaurants, to cafés and bistros and four-star restaurants, some with a lake view. A stretch of Route 414 north of the village was recently designated the Seneca Lake Cuisine Trail by the State of New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. The trail, which runs between Burdett and Lodi, is one of only five cuisine trails designated by legislation in the state.
Resources for foodies
• Seneca Lake Wine Trail, www.senecalakewine.com
• Rooster Fish Brewing, www.roosterfishbrewing.com
• Finger Lakes Distillery, www.fingerlakesdistilling.com
• The Finger Lakes Wine Festival will be held July 15 through 17 at WGI. Learn more at www.flwinefest.com
• Restaurant directory www.watkinsglenchamber.com/Home/Visitors/Places-to-eat/Restaurant-Directory.aspx
• Seneca Lake Cuisine Trail, www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com/cuisinetrail.aspx
Schuyler County, of which Watkins Glen is the county seat, is home to no less than four lakes. Seneca is the largest and best known, but Cayuta, Waneta and Lamoka lakes also offer ample recreation opportunities. Visitors can go fishing, swimming, sailing, take a dinner cruise or go kayaking – as part of a guided tour or independently. Watercraft rentals are available, and of course, visitors are always welcome to bring their own boats.
Resources for lake cruises, boating and fishing
• Anchor Inn and Marina, 607-535-4159, www.anchorinn-marina.com
• Glen Harbor Marina, 607-535-2751, www.glenharbormarina.com
• NYS DEC Hunting and Fishing Information, 585-226-2466, www.dec.ny.gov/62.html
• Schooner Excursions, Malabar VII, 607-535-5253 or 877-SAIL-238, www.schoonerexcursions.com
• Seneca Charters, 585-703-2420, sites.google.com/site/senecacharters
• Seneca Harbor Station & Captain Bill’s Cruises, 607-535-6101 & 607-535-4541, www.senecaharborstation.com
• Seneca Sailing Adventures, 607-742-5100, www.senecasailingadventures.com
• Summit to Stream Adventures, 607-535-2701, www.summittostream.com
compiled by Anya Harris