When: Sept 2020
Early autumn is the perfect season to enjoy the lakes and foliage in upstate New York. The leaves are already turning deep shades of yellow, orange and red but the days are still sunny and warm with just a touch of chill in the air. A five hour drive from DC led us to the “sweater weather” destination of the Finger Lakes where we hiked, wined and swooned at the views.
Where to Stay
The Inn at Taughannock Falls
We found a room at the small inn which was conveniently located at the trailhead. We had a few issues with the reservation and room maintenance but after those were resolved, we were able to enjoy the beautiful room.
Things to Do
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park mesmerizes visitors from the start. The park features a 400 ft deep gorge cut from a left over of the ice age glaciers, Glen Creek. This gorge created 19 waterfalls that you can hike along via the Gorge Trail. There are different on and off points on this trail but the most “strenuous” is a three mile loop and can truly be completed by any level fitness.
The park is well maintained, with many steps leading to the top of the gorge and into the wooded parts of the park. Each new level seems to show off its exquisite wild essence of cascading water and rock formations.
Entrance fees are charged by the car load. We paid $8 to park in the lot all day at the front entrance but there is street parking available throughout the town. This park is not to miss when visit the area.
Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail
This well marked trail can be picked up at the parking lot on Cayuga Lake or from the Inn. We trekked up and along the 3 mile loop around the South Rim trail which hugs the massive gorge and leads you to the tallest single drop waterfall east of the Rockies. However, we must have been visiting during the dry season because the falls seemed a little dried up.
Even though the waterfall wasn’t as impressive as we were expecting, the fall foliage and views made up for it!
The Finger Lakes
Cayuga Lake is named after the native Cayuga people and the longest of the finger lakes. It’s very popular for boating and fishing with multiple public ramps. Keep an eye out of the mythical “Old Greenie” which is a mysterious sea serpent that has been sighted over the years living in the lake. Once you’re feeling hungry, stop in or pick up a delightful Italian meal or cheesy pizza from Little Venice a few minutes away in Trumansburg.
Seneca Lake is the largest and deepest of the Finger Lakes and is known as the world’s trout capital! It’s also quite famous for the “Seneca Wine Trail” which is home to over 50 wineries across the lake area. While in town, stop at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant for a cocktail and a bite to eat. It’s a little pricey but the food is great (try the French onion steak sandwich) and the views of the lake and harbor are wonderful.
Frontenac Point Vineyard
Frontenac Point has a view of Cayuga lake and delicious, cheap wines! You can sip on a $5 glass of Seyval while sitting on the outdoor patio and enjoying the breeze and sunshine.
On the Seneca Lake trail, we stopped at Barnstormer to enjoy an $8 flight of 5 wines. The winery offers lots of space outdoors to spread out and a sweet cat named Bailey who likes to sit with you to make sure you enjoy the wines.
Probably the fanciest winery on the Seneca Wine trail, this gorgeous winery has an outdoor covered patio, indoor tasting rooms and space outside for picnics galore. They also proudly feature their winery dogs in both their artwork and as greeters to the guests.
Chateau LaFayette Reneau
With vineyards right along the banks of Seneca Lake and a large outdoor patio overlooking this perfect scene, the Chateau LaFayette Reneau is a pleasant stop! The variety of wines can be enjoyed with a preset flight and a mandatory food purchase. We pigged out on the pimento dip and it was fantastic.
Two Goats Brewing
Perhaps your thirst can only be quenched with a cold beer, then you are in luck! Head over to Two Goats Brewing (conveniently located next to Chateau LaFayette Reneau) for some decent beers, including a very tasty red ale! While I didn’t see any actual goats, they do have a great menu!
It wouldn’t be a trip to upstate New York without a stop in downtown Ithaca. The town has charm to spare, it’s nice to walk around and check out the architecture and murals.
We grabbed an outside dinner at Luna Inspired Street Food. The menu is a Pangea grill of assortments so there’s something on the menu that will please all appetites!
Corning Museum of Glass
If you are a fan of Dale Chihuly, then it is imperative to make the journey to the Corning Museum of Glass, about 30 minutes south of the Finger Lakes. Mediums for art can be literally any substance on Earth and you’ll be amazed at what the artists can do with glass.
There are so many beautiful pieces here as well as an intriguing history of glass works throughout civilization and interactive exhibits on all the different types of glass usage in everyday life. You can even catch a live glass blowing demo!