Dipping into the Finger Lakes

by Matthew Wexler
Friday Jun 29, 2012

Summer has arrived, and with that comes the much-anticipated weekend getaway, impromptu escape from the city, or if you’re type "A" - a meticulously planned expedition to some far-off place.

No matter which camp you fall into, the Finger Lakes offers an enticing array of activities for culture lovers and outdoor adventurers alike.

With Lake Ontario as its northern border, the Finger Lakes contains 11 lakes, each with its own identity and personality.

Seneca Lake, the largest of the bunch, is dotted with wineries and has frozen over only nine times since such recordkeeping began.

Natural Beauty

Honeoye Lake, the shallowest of the bunch, is perfect for water sports and a day at the beach. Hop aboard the Canandaigua Lady, a 19th century replica of a double-decked paddlewheel boat operating and enjoy the view from the water.

There is just as much to appreciate on land. Cumming Nature Center, a 900-acre nature preserve, is filled with hiking trails through woods and wetlands. For an even more zen-like experience, Quiet Meadows in Canandaigua offers a labyrinth of outdoor paths for respite and renewal. The labyrinth is based on that of the Cathedral at Chartres in France and is a welcoming destination for peaceful meditation.

Wine Not?

Finger Lakes Wine Country has not one, but four distinct wine trails, each offering a unique take on the terroir of the region.

  • Canandaiga Wine Trail - Seven wineries spanning 41 miles, as well as the New York Wine & Culinary Center, where you can take a class with topics ranging from summer entertaining to wine and food pairings.

  • Cayuga Lake Wine Trail - American’s first wine trail, dating back to 1983, includes not only an array of wineries but also several distilleries. "Bee" sure to visit Hidden Marsh Distillery, where you can sample BEE Vodka, Queen’s Flight, Maple Liqueur and other artisans’ products.

  • Keuka Wine Trail - Considered the birthplace of America’s wine industry in the 1860’s, sample Riesling and other varieties that flourish in the cool climate. Visit 6th generation Hunt Country Vineyards where you can sample their award winning Valvin Muscat.

  • Seneca Lake Wine Trail - Consisting of 32 wineries, this is the largest wine trail in New York State. Take advantage of their "Riesling to Visit" passport and for only $18, you can enjoy a flight of wines at 20 of the participating vineyards.

    Curtain Up

    The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, an inaugural season of more than 250 performances ranging from musical theatre classics to a rotating roster of new works, is reason alone to head to the 9,000-square-mile region of New York State. Here’s just a taste of what the Finger Lakes has to offer.

    The Festival, produced by Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York, runs all summer long and has been in the making since its original inception in 2007. Collaborative efforts from government partners, local business and philanthropic organizations and donors have been led by the Festival’s Producing Artistic Director Ed Sayles.

    Nestled in a town of 30,000 people, The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival is poised to further reinforce the region as a cultural destination. "I didn’t expect it to blossom so quickly," admits Sayles, "All the things I told the funders actually happened! We raised $3 million in three years. We shared this idea with the community and the response has been immense."

    The Festival’s summer schedule offers a range of Broadway favorites from "My Fair Lady" and "Cabaret" to a new work series called "The Pitch," where audiences will be the first to hear and see shows in development and also have the opportunity to offer feedback as part of the creative process. Interesting titles on the docket include "Star Child", based on the short stories of Oscar Wilde (July 5-7) and "Joni Loves Mitchell," a singer/songwriter love story (August 16-18).

    It is expected that once the Festival reaches full capacity, in will attract upwards of 150,000 visitors and generate $30 million for the region’s economy.

    Classic Comforts & Modern Cuisine

    The Finger Lakes are filled with unique lodging and dining options that draw upon the rich history of the region as well as the abundance from local farmers and food artisans.

    The Federal style Aurora Inn, built in 1833, is filled with rich fabrics, Oriental rugs, and an impressive art collection. Many of the 10 guestrooms include working fireplaces and private porches. The Aurora Foundation is responsible for the renovation of the historical property, along with Morgan House and Leffingwell House. Together, the properties stand as "crown jewels" of Aurora and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    For more contemporary accommodations, consider the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. The boutique property sits adjacent to Seneca Lake with many of the 104 rooms offering lake views and balconies. Sunrise Landing Bed & Breakfast is also in the area, offering simple yet warm furnishings and the hospitality of innkeepers Bob and Barbara Schiesser.

    There are plenty of dining options throughout the Finger Lakes, from casual caf├ęs to upscale options. Caroline, the restaurant at the Glen Iris Inn, offers everything from a picnic lunch packed in a compostable container to a gluten-free and vegan menu.

    Rosalie’s Cucina, a Tuscan eatery created by Philip Romano, offers homestyle Italian fare and allows guests to sign the walls for a charitable donation. It is estimated that the restaurant has raised upwards of $30,000.

    For a taste of regional specialties, visit Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine, housed in a 1903 farmhouse. The menu sources locally, including New York State duck, Elysian Field Farm lamb, and dairy products from Lively Run Goat Dairy and Northland Sheep Dairy, just to name a few. You can also take a wine tour with more than 60 regional selections without ever leaving your table .

    The Bucket List

    Experience! The Finger Lakes - Can’t make up your mind? Rely on this concierge service to plan a day or weekend adventure perfectly tailored just for you.

    Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center - This multidisciplinary arts center features an array of changing exhibits. Don’t miss this summer’s Super Saturated: Pigment & Pattern, a collection of 56 works by 14 contemporary artists.

    Fulkerson Winery - Tired of the tasting room? Join Steven Fulkerson for a privately guided tour through the vineyard for a more intimate look at the winemaking process. Call (607) 243-7883 to reserve.

    Corning Museum of Glass - About to undergo a $64 million renovation, the museum collection and programming pay homage to one of the most elegant forms of sculpture and craft.

    The Windmill Farm and Craft Market - Celebrating its 25th year, the market plays hosts to more than 200 local vendors, including fresh baked goods, handmade quilts, crafts and woodworking.


    Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Style and Travel Editor. More of his writing can be found at He is also a trained chef and currently writing a food memoir.


    • Anonymous, 2012-08-26 00:12:24

      Ok so I live next to two of the finger lakes. Not that great. If you really want to see wat ny is all about u need to get out of nyc n see it. There is so much more beautie then just wine. Go walk the citys n towns. There is culter all around. Also u dont need to spend much money.

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