Visit the Finger Lakes of upstate New York and discover the crowning glory of the region – home to diverse wildlife, scenic views and the leading wines on the east coast. It’s no surprise that the area remains a magnet for tourists and locals alike. Serene areas of natural beauty stretch between Rochester, Syracuse and Elmira-Corning, encompassing the Erie Canal, with a multitude of dynamic outdoor activities for all tastes and ages.
Because of their location, the Finger Lakes are easy to explore if you’re based in Rochester NY – so whether you’re after a day trip or a few nights away from the city, there are an array of options to keep you busy.
This is one part of the country where you most certainly can and will want to chase waterfalls. The area is filled with them, in all shapes and sizes - from small cascading waters to gigantic sheer drops from dizzying heights. It’s well worth taking advantage of the astoundingly beautiful views that are tucked away in the abundance of trails and hiking spots, especially during the spring and summer months, when you can also spot some local wildlife too.
To begin with you won’t even have to travel too far, because right on your doorstep in downtown Rochester is High Falls on the Genesee River. For more dramatic sights, set off on a short drive south of the city towards Ithaca and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Gorge trails, which start near Robert H. Treman State Park, lead directly to the immense Lucifer Falls, via the scenic environs of Enfield Glen and onto the Lower Falls. Not far away is the Buttermilk Falls State Park, where you can hike up to the heart of the gorge. Reward your hard work by taking a refreshing dip in the swimming area once you’re done.
The most stunning of all the waterfalls is Taughannock Falls. Situated in the state park of the same name and featuring a dramatic 215 ft. drop, visitors are able to scamper along the trails across the rim, or if they’re feeling spritely, take the winding route to the bottom and look up in admiration at this beautiful natural wonder.
There’s also an abundance of water sports on offer too. Whether you prefer sailboarding, rafting or kayaking, there are some premier rental and tour operators who can offer everything from handy hints and tips to beginners’ lessons and one-to-one tutorials. Bay Creek Paddling Center offer a great family friendly ‘Back to Nature’ tour where you can leisurely take a solo kayak along the river with an expert guide or take a tour with a difference and go on a 23-foot war canoe, perfect for larger families and groups, to see the stunning natural surroundings from a whole new perspective.
Channel your inner child and head over to Rochester’s very own water park, Seabreeze for a day of carefree frolicking. With two huge rollercoasters, water slides and plenty of other fun attractions, this place will surely make everyone in the family happy. Or become a human hamster and try out Fuzzyguppies, the giant floating ball that allows you to water on water.
Alternatively, if you’re more partial to dry land it’s probably best to get on your bike. Depending on your stamina, there are options to take it easy along the Riverview trail or put your foot to the pedal on the more challenging routes in the area, or join the Rochester Bicycling Club’s many group rides. It’s impossible to ignore the presence of the east coast’s biggest wine producing industries that exist in and around the area. Rolling hills and open country roads offer the ideal setting to throw on your helmet and hit the road to savour some top notch Chardonnay. Many organised tours make pit stops at the largest wineries in the region, including Glenora and Heron Hill. There’s plenty of opportunity to sightsee some of the historical landmarks or spoil yourself by picking up a bottle or two to take home with you.
One place definitely worth stopping by when you visit the Finger Lakes is the New York Wine & Culinary Center, based in the middle of the Lakes area on Canandaigua Lake pier. A foodie paradise showcasing the best local food, wine and craft beer industries in the area, this is a must-see spot. Here you can enrol in a culinary class, catch a lecture about craft beer innovations, or taste your way through the finest gastronomic offerings in the Finger Lakes at their tasting room. Finish off your visit with a leisurely dinner at the on-site restaurant.
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Written by Chantelle Symester
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About the author: ChantelleChantelle Symester
Chantelle Symester is a writer and editor based in London. When she’s not chained to her laptop working she can be found hopping on a plane to far flung places across the globe. Trips so far include adventures to Mexico, South America and North Africa and she now has her heart set on discovering the East. You can find her @csymester