The Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in an area called the Finger Lakes region. This region is extremely charming in the summer. There is an abundance of blue lakes and waterfalls, endless fields, beautiful sunsets, famous wine tasting, trails for hiking, mountains for zip-lining, water for boating, hills for stargazing, and lovely towns for dining.
Located north to New York City, about 4.5 hours away by car, the Finger Lakes region makes a perfect summer time getaway destination and an oasis for the city dwellers. Whether it’s a trip with friends, family or significant others, the Finger Lakes region will prove its charm to you.
For my trip, I took a full week to stay at an Airbnb with some friends. We spent half of the time hanging out and working from “home,” and half of the time exploring the outdoor areas. Finding a good balance is key, and I hope you enjoy your time to the fullest at the Finger Lakes.
The Itinerary for the Finger Lakes
This is a four day itinerary, with each day dedicated to one lake’s area. While there’s the option to pack everything into four days as laid out in this itinerary, there’s also the option to stay for much longer to relax in the region.
- Day 1 – Keuka Lake Area: Boating, Hammondsport, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
- Day 2 – Cayuga Lake Area: Taughannock Falls, Ithaca, Stargaze at Mount Pleasant
- Day 3 – Seneca Lake Area: Watkins Glen State Park, Corning Museum of Glass
- Day 4 – Canandaigua Lake Area: Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures, Canandandaigua, Roseland Water Park, Sonnenberg Gardens
Day 1: Keuka Lake Area
Boating on the Keuka Lake
Head over to Keuka Water Sports, a local boat dealership located right to the south end of Keuka Lake. In the summer months, Keuka Water Sports offers a fun variety of rental boats, ranging from jetskis to paddle boating to kayaking.
Spend a few relaxing hours boating and drifting on the open lake. You have the option to stay dry, but also consider a dip in the cool water as the water is so refreshing in the summer time against the heat. We did both kayaking and paddle boarding, which allowed us to exercise and relax at the same time.
Stroll the Streets of Hammondsport
After all the physical activities, head to the nearby village of Hammondsport, also known to some as the “Coolest Small Town in America.” Lunch at Timber Stone Grill which offers a variety of delicious and healthy options. Grab a coffee and stroll the streets while exploring the lovely local shops.
Taste Wine at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
In the afternoon, enjoy a wine tasting tour at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery. The Finger Lakes region is known for producing excellent wine, particularly for world-renowned Rieslings, and Dr. Konstantin Frank has been in the forefront of winemaking in the region.
Note an advanced reservation is required for most tours. The winery is family owned and has extremely friendly staff. The tour takes you through 5 tasting stations, both indoors and outdoors through the winery’s pavilion.
The view is exceptionally beautiful, and the dry and semidry rieslings are especially delicious. In addition to the Rieslings, their Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is also amazing.
After wine tasting, go for a scenic drive as the sun sets. Dine at a local restaurant near your lodging and enjoy the summer evening.
Day 2: Cayuga Lake Area
Hike the Cayuga Lake Area
The Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes. Start the day by heading to the Taughannock Falls State Park. The Taughannock Falls cataract has an incredible drop of 215 feet, and is one of the highest east of the Rocky Mountains, making it a worthwhile destination to visit.
From the parking lot, hike about 1 mile along the Gorge Trail, which stretches along the Taughannock Creek and leads to the beautiful waterfall.
Locate a picnic spot to enjoy the tranquility while taking a lunch break. There is a number of other trails to take if you have the time to explore the area more. Check them out here.
If you have a sweet tooth, drive to the nearby Cayuga Lake Creamery, a small oasis for delicious home-made ice cream. It has a fun outdoor space for relaxing, and offers fun seasonal flavors such as Lavender, Maple Bacon, Ultimate Fudge Brownie, and the famous Seneca Salt Caramel.
Explore Ithaca and the College Town
Head south to Ithaca to explore the town. The streets are lively on summer evenings with all the restaurants and shops. For dinner, try out Mia, a local Pan-Asian restaurant offering excellent food.
Stargaze at Mount Pleasant
Summer nights at the Finger Lakes are perfect for stargazing. After dinner, after the sun sets, drive east towards Mount Pleasant and stop at the Hartung-Boothroyd Observatory.
Next to the observatory is a field that overlooks the entire landscape. Look out to the front and see flickering city lights; look up to the night sky and see the endless bright stars hanging and falling; look to the distance and you might get to see some cool flashes of lightning.
Enjoy this mesmerizing view of nature in the quiet darkness. If you plan on staying here for long, definitely consider bringing along a picnic blanket for sitting and laying down (and dress warm!)
Day 3: Seneca Lake Area
Visit Famous Waterfalls in the Seneca Lake Area
Watkins Glen State Park is perhaps the most famous destination in the Finger Lakes region. Located to the south of Seneca Lake, it offers cascading waterfalls and stunning views of the cliffs that showcase beautiful sediments of the Devonian Age.
Hike along the Gorge Trail for about 2 miles. This is a fun hike, during which you can directly walk through some waterfalls. At the end of the trail, the famous Rainbow Bridge and Falls come into site. It’s a magnicicent view that is well worth the visit.
To get more out of the trip to Watkins Glen State Park, check out the number of other hikes and activities to do here.
Admire Art at the Corning Museum of Glass
In the afternoon, visit the Corning Museum of Glass, a beautiful museum dedicated to the art and science of glass, and houses a collection of more than 50,000 glass objects.
Watch a live glass blowing performance at the theatre, and wander through the galleries that showcase more than 35 centuries of glass artistry. There are lots of beautiful pieces to admire, and the museum often has richly curated exhibits that are not to be missed.
Day 4: Canandaigua Lake Area
Explore the Canandaigua Lake Area
Jumpstart the day by booking a zip-lining tour at Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures. This area usually operates as a ski resort, but in the summer time, it offers a number of exciting adventure tours.
For my trip, we booked the Zipline Canopy Tour, which features a 7 course zipline, 4 bridges with spectacular views of the Bristol Valley, and fun off-road rides. The last zipline course is 1,600+ft long and is indeed a stunning experience.
Enjoy Delicious Crepes at Canandaigua
After the tour, drive over to the town of Canandaigua. Enjoy lunch at Simply Crepes Cafe, a quaint local cafe serving a variety of delicious crêpes, brunch foods, and refreshing drinks. It also has a lovely outdoor garden in the back for dining outside on a good day.
Adventure at Roseland Water Park
If you’re up for more physical activities, spend the afternoon at the Roseland Water Park, which features 56 acres of cool aquatic adventure. Check out the line up of attractions here, which includes plenty of raft rides, cliffs, and thrilling slides.
For an added challenge, try wakeboarding at the next door Roseland Wake Park. If you want instructors for hand-on guidance, definitely book a lesson in advance. Otherwise, enjoy the thrill of wakeboarding as the cable pulls you across the water, while challenging your body to balance on the board.
Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion
If you are looking for a more relaxing option, explore the beautiful gardens at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park. Originally created as a Victorian summer home, Sonnenberg houses collections of period architecture, garden statuary, and themed gardens.
On top of the hill is a 40-room Queen Anne-style mansion with impressive interiors.
As mentioned before, there are so many things to do in the Finger Lakes region. To add to this itinerary, check out some more bonus points below:
- Explore all the other great wineries in the region, such as Anthony Road, Bloomer Creek, Glenora and Wagner Vineyards
- Explore the Geneva Farmers market for some fresh and local produce
- Relax at a peaceful spa at luxury well-ness resort Inns of Aurora
- Vibe at the annual Rochester International Jazz Festival
- Plan a romantic getaway at The Lake House on Canandaigua
- Book a historic Seneca sailing adventure with Sail True Love
If you are looking for inspirations for a summer getaway on the East Coast, be sure to consider the Finger Lakes Region. There are just so many activities to do there that will please just about everyone, and if you live in NYC like I do, definitely add the Finger Lakes region to your bucket list of things to do this summer.