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The moment you arrive in the Finger Lakes, the simplicity of the surroundings invites you to exhale. The 9,000-square-mile region around 11 glacial lakes and one Great Lake (Lake Ontario) begs you to succumb to its natural beauty with spectacular shorelines, softly rolling hills, striking gorges, and the most stunning of waterfalls. Outdoor activities for all ages can be found year-round on the waters, while the trails for hiking, biking, and skiing intertwine with the region’s wine trails. The 14-county area encompasses college towns, urban hubs, and plenty of open space.
The most efficient way to get to your Finger Lakes destination will depend on where you’re visiting. Those flying in can arrive at two international airports, Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) or Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR), or the regional airports Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH) and Elmira Corning Regional Airport (ELM). Trains run into Rochester and Syracuse, and buses are available to Elmira, Geneva, Ithaca, Rochester, and Syracuse. If you’re driving, it’s about four hours from New York City to the eastern end, while Niagara Falls is about 90 minutes to the western side. Getting around the region without a car can be a challenge, but there are buses between major cities as well as private transportation options.
Every season brings a different kind of delight. Spring comes into bloom as the temperatures rise and flowers show off their hues, especially at the Lilac Festival in Rochester, which has the continent’s largest concentration of 1,200 bushes of 500 varieties. In summer the great outdoor lifestyle takes over as the lakes become playgrounds and days are pleasant, though mornings and evenings may be chilly. Annual events include the Route 90 50-Mile Garage Sale in Cayuga, Finger Lakes Wine Festival in Watkins Glen, Elmira Street Painting Festival in Elmira, and a Sauerkraut Weekend in Phelps. Of course fall brings a new hue with the crisp weather matched with such festivals as the Naples Grape Festival, Apple Tasting Tour in Wayne County, and the Finger Lakes Beer Festival at Watkins Glen. With the colder temperatures and snow, winter sport lovers fill the ski slopes and trails, while the towns celebrate the holidays with the It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls and Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles.
The waterfalls-filled state parks in this region are plentiful — such as Watkins Glen State Park and Taughannock Falls State Park — but there’s something sweet about Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca. The water flows over the side of a valley on its way to Cayuga Lake, with a little lake at the top of the park and trails all around the rim and gorge.
Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the nation’s first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, is now part of the National Park Service’s park in Seneca Falls. The park also holds the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was the convention’s prime organizer; the M’Clintock House, where the event was planned; and the 100-foot long Waterwall at Declaration Park, inscribed with the Declaration of Sentiments.
In 1951, on the 100th anniversary of the Corning Glass Works, the company opened this collection, which now has 50,000 items spanning a 3,500-year history of glass making. The facility also has one of the world’s foremost schools of glassworking.