Maybe it’s the ‘been-there-done-that’ syndrome but whatever the reason a repeat visit to a particular vacation spot is often less impressive than the first time around when everything was new and wonderful.

However, this was not the case when I took a nostalgic trip through the Finger Lakes region in western upstate New York just a few weeks before the area’s abundant forests would be turning into a blaze of fall colours. In fact, my three-day drive trip was even more pleasurable that it was 40 years ago when I was too young to fully appreciate the region’s many assets.

Situated south of Lake Ontario, about a three hour drive from Montreal, the area is best known for its 11 glacier-carved, finger-shaped lakes.

The region is also defined by charming towns and villages, neat Amish farms, outstanding scenery, one of a kind attractions and endless options for outdoor recreation. The district is divided into 14 counties and notwithstanding each of their distinctive attributes; here are five top attractions well worth including in a Finger Lakes drive tour.


Not only is Skaneateles the eastern gateway to the Finger Lakes, it is arguably the prettiest village in the entire region. Situated on the north shore of Skaneateles Lake, this jewel of a community in Onondaga County could easily be the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting. Its historic downtown is filled with unique shops, art galleries, antique emporiums and various eating establishments. From the town dock, the Mid-Lakes Navigation Company, whose fleet includes a double-decked vintage vessel, offers a variety of narrated excursions on Skaneateles Lake.

There’s everything from one-hour sightseeing cruises to champagne dinner cruises. The village also has a roster of year-round festivals and events including a fall Oktoberfest and beginning Nov. 28th the community will launch its annual Dickens Christmas when Skaneateles will adopt a delightful Victorian England atmosphere that lasts for four weeks.


With more than 70 wineries and 10,000 acres of vineyards, the Finger Lakes region is the second largest wine producing area in the country after California. With a reputation for world-class wines, the region produces over 40 billion bottles a year. Throughout the lakes system there are five different wine trails where visitors can enjoy tours, tasting rooms and memorable meals in winery restaurants.

A service offered by several regional companies called “limo touring” allows visitors to take wine tasting tours in a chauffeured limousine eliminating any concern about drinking and driving. Not only has the area achieved a reputation for award-winning wines, a more recent focus on high quality cuisine using fresh, locally produced ingredients makes a fine pairing for Finger Lakes wining and dining.

Letchworth State Park

Widely known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” this park in Livingston County is a must-see Finger Lakes site.

As the name suggests, it contains a 17-mile-long gaping gorge with three awesome waterfalls and the mammoth Mount Morris Dam (largest of its type east of the Mississippi) where tours are given daily. There’s rafting on the gorge’s Genesee River and for a bird’s eye view of the canyon there are hot air balloon rides. A highlight of the park is the historic Glen Iris Inn that has been welcoming visitors since 1914. Overlooking the stunning Middle Falls, the inn has 16 rooms and suites but the big attraction is its Caroline’s restaurant. Here you can expect to dine on some of the Finger Lakes finest cuisine.

Seward House

Located in the town of Auburn just north of pretty Lake Owasco, the elegant Seward House is a National Historic Landmark. The Federal-style building was the former home of William H. Seward, Secretary of State to President Abe Lincoln and the man responsible for the purchase of Alaska from Russia. One of the significant features of this Cayuga County home is that unlike many museum homes every last stick of furniture, household goods and personal effects are the original belongings of the Seward family.

The house is exactly the same as it was when Seward took possession of it in 1816. The Sewards were dedicated abolitionists and visitors can view the cellar room that was a link in the Underground Railroad for slaves on the run to freedom.

New York Wine & Culinary Center

Launched in 2005, the Centre was established to showcase New York State’s dynamic food and wine industries. Located in Ontario County in the town of Canandaigua on the north shore of Canandaigua Lake, this is anything but a static attraction. Rather it’s a hands-on, state-of-the-art facility where visitors can take cooking lessons from top notch chefs or watch demonstrations led by culinary masters.

Classes of varying durations are geared to people of all ages and skill levels and there’s even a class for husband and wife teams. General tours of the place are free and paid tours include wine and beer tastings, a cheese and wine experiences or guests can simply enjoy the wines and gourmet cuisine offered in the Centre’s restaurant.

Corning Museum of Glass

Located in the southern Finger Lakes region, the Steuben County town of Corning is the home of the Corning Museum of Glass, one of New York State’s most popular attractions. Internationally renowned, it contains the most extensive collection of art glass in the world. Visitors can observe a Hot Glass Show where master glassblowers turn molten gobs of glass into splendid works of art. Catering to all ages, there are one-day and weekend workshops where people can create their own one-of-a-kind souvenir. Touring the museum’s galleries reveals a vast collection of priceless glass objects representing every country and historical period in which glass making has been practiced. In addition, from Nov. 2009 through Oct. 2010, the museum will feature a collection of 60 hand-wrought pieces by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the most famous glass artist of all time.


Information: Call 1-800-548-4386 or see
Where to stay: Geneva on the Lake, Geneva, N.Y. Situated at the northern tip of Seneca Lake and owned by the famous Stickley Furniture Company, this gracious property has a full roster of resort amenities. Check hotel and package rates at or call 1-800-3-GENEVA.

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