Usually when you plan a girls’ getaway your list of must haves is pretty simple, an attractive location, fine wine and fun activities. The Finger Lakes Region in Upper State New York easily delivers all of this and so much more.
With its proximity to both Toronto Canada and New York City, I can’t understand how this pretty little spot has not yet been overrun by city folk looking for a cool, relaxing weekend out of town. An easy drive from either city, the Finger Lakes region offers travelers plenty of options to fill in a weekend, in fact you’ll probably end up wishing you had decided to stay a spell longer. Here are our top 5 picks for any fun girls’ getaway in Finger Lakes.
1. Watkins Glen
This pretty little village at the bottom of Seneca Lake is the perfect central spot to start your Finger Lakes getaway. We loved its historic main street, the easy access to Watkins Glen State Park, and the area’s choices of accommodation options are perfectly suited for small or large group getaways.
We stayed at the Inn at Grist Iron, which is about a ten-minute drive from Watkins Glen. To our delight we discovered that the Grist Iron not only has a cute little inn, it is also home to a craft brewery, a café and a lodge. With all this fun stuff onsite you can eat, drink and be merry without the worry of who will have to be the dreaded designated driver.
The lodge offers a ton of options for any girls’ trip; you can rent out the entire upper floor with four bedrooms and a great room, a cottage suite, or just one room. The restored 1860’s Inn has a more traditional feel, with four nicely furnished rooms and luxe baths.
Accommodations at both the Lodge and the Inn include breakfast, be sure to bring your appetite! Darlene, Grist Iron’s innkeeper puts on a delicious spread, a perfect way to get ready for an active day in Finger Lakes. We loved Darlene’s Spinach and Feta Quiche, oh my, try to stop at one slice, I dare you. I can totally see why this eggy yumminess is a guest favorite. Click here for Darlene’s recipe.
Another fine Watkins Glen hotel option is the very posh Harbor Hotel, located right on Seneca Lake. This beautiful property has 104 luxury guestrooms, a patio right by the lake and a fire pit perfect for summer night socializing. Another bonus is the hotel’s proximity to the True Love Schooner, a beautiful 1926 sailing boat available for daily excursions on the lake. The True Love sets sail four times a day, and tickets range from $29 to $49 for the sunset cruise. Tip: Book the sunset cruise, it is an awesome way to spend an evening in Watkins Glen.
2. Finger Lakes: Land of Gorges and Waterfalls
So what is a gorge? The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines it as “a narrow steep-walled canyon or part of a canyon.” The Finger Lakes region is chock full of ‘em, and they truly are gorge-ous. Where you have gorges you usually have waterfalls and this region is famous for its many waterfalls scattered on both public and private land. Our favorite spot for prime waterfall and gorge scenery is Watkins Glen State Park. With its 200 hundred foot cliffs, deep gorges and 19 waterfalls, how can you not be impressed?
3. Finger Lakes has it all: Wineries, Craft Beer and Distilleries
With over 200 wineries, 75 plus microbreweries and distilleries, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance has been kind to us all and has posted several Lake Wine Trails, as well as a Beer Trail on their website, detailing locations and descriptions of the many fine wine, beer and spirit sipping spots throughout the area.
Our favs? Hmm, this is like asking us who is our favorite Games of Thrones character?! So hard to choose! But after much sampling and visiting we did discover some memorable places that we enjoyed tremendously for the quality of product, the ambiance and most of, all the passionately proud staff and owners of these very fine establishments.
Finger Lake Wineries
We loved the laboratory/essence wines and the locally sourced, delicious food at Red Newt Wine Cellars. Laboratory wines are Red Newt’s experimental wines where they have fun and take risks with different pairings of flavors and spices. For example the 2007 Gewurztraminer description is as follows: Delicate but intense orange peel, spice and floral aromas combined with flavors of ripe pear and lychee balance a palate that is rich, creamy and elegant. How can you resist not trying this brilliant series of wine?
The essence series of wine is made from 100% grape juice distilled into grape spirit at the Seneca Distillery, then brought back to Red Newt to be remixed with grape juice. A really cool deconstruction of making wine and a boozy way to drink your grapes!
The small café at Red Newt offered probably what I considered the best lunch we had during our stay in the Finger Lakes. The owner takes pride in ensuring food is locally sourced and tasty. Best bet – Grilled Cheese Sandwich stuffed with Carrot and Ginger Slaw. So weirdly delicious!
Heron Hill Winery on Keuka Lake is stunningly beautiful, we can understand why it was chosen as one of the 10 most spectacular tasting rooms in the world by Travel + Leisure. Heron Hill has everything we like in a winery: great wines, tons of events, live music and a sweet spot to eat and drink. Our favorite wine? Hands down the Hobbit Hollow Farm Dry Riesling 2013.
For more information and photos on our Girls Getaway Finger Lakes top winery tour, click here.
Finger Lakes Craft Beer
The craft beer industry is booming in Finger Lakes and the beer is impressive, very impressive. Our favorite Finger Lakes craft breweries were Keuka Brewing and Grist Iron.
What Keuka Brewery lacked in ambiance they more than made up in sheer yumminess of their beer offerings. I couldn’t get enough of the Afterburner Habanera Beer, I loved the smoky intense flavor and bite in this light ale beer. Imagine my dismay when I discovered I could not get my hands on a bottle (or twelve) to take home, they were all sold out of this hot beer.
Luckily for me, after hearing me whine for a little bit, they took pity on me and did dig out the very last bottle on the premises, earmarked for a friend. I felt no shame or guilt as I happily tucked this gem into my bag.
I’ve put this place on my ‘must-return’ list. How can a girl not love a brewery that makes offerings like Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (only available in-house), Local Mocha Stout and Fat Stack Maple Pecan Porter?
The Grist Iron Brewing Company has recently opened for business in Finger Lakes and with its newly built and gorgeous brew house, live music on Fridays and great food offerings, this place was one of our favorite stops in Finger Lakes.
What do Grist Iron Brewing and David Copperfield have in common? Being a Dickens fan myself, I was thrilled to discover what was on tap at the brewery, a literary ale masterpiece called ‘Chapter 28 Table Beer’. Apparently making beer and reading Charles Dickens novels are both skills found in Grist Iron’s brewer’s resume. While reading David Copperfield he came across a reference to Table Beer, and after much research he crafted a beer brewed with entirely U.K. ingredients, concocting a low alcohol brew with robust flavor, perfect for the dinner table, the lunch table, a picnic table or your TV table.
Finger Lakes Distillery
Finger Lakes Distilling on the east shore of Seneca Lake has the stuff I like, gin, vodka and more gin, especially the Seneca Drum Gin, yum. It is a perfect spot to take a break from the oh-so-many wineries in Finger Lakes, and to get your fixings for your girls’ lake getaway summer cocktail.
4. Kayaks, Gliders, Auto Racing and Hot Glass at Corning Museum
If you are looking for exciting things to do on your girls’ trip to the Finger Lakes you are spoiled for choice. Not only do you have lake-side fun, stunning State Parks, and lots of drinking establishments, you can also kayak down the Chemung River with Southern Tier Kayak, try your hand at gliding on Harris Hill, ride your car on one of America’s top race tracks or check out the offerings at the Corning Glass Museum. Click here for my story about all of these fun and unique Finger Lake activities.
5. Mark Twain Country
Another highlight of our trip to Finger Lakes was the Twain Country Trolley Tour in Elmira, NY to visit the gravesite of Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain. The trolley also takes you through the town showing you where Mark Twain lived and wrote.
The author of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer did much of his best writing in a pretty little octagonal study, while summering in the area with family, and the tour makes a stop at the new home of the study on the campus of Elmira College. During the summer months there is an interpreter onsite for the many visitors who make the pilgrimage to New York to pay homage to one of America’s most famous authors. We also recommend a visit to the Chemung Valley Museum in Elmira (where the trolley tour picks up) to explore their new Mark Twain exhibit, which focuses on the people and places the author knew during his time in this area.