Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

A Photo Essay: Finger Lakes Region of New York

We’ve been to New York several times over the years, both upstate New York and New York City, but until this year we had yet to make it to the Finger Lakes Region. I’m so glad we finally had the chance to visit this summer; I had no idea how much adventure could be packed into one region.

We visited the region with our friend Evan and in partnership with Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes tourism board. Our week was spent with a healthy balance of both outdoor and urban adventures. Some of the urban inspired adventures we experienced were visits to wineries, breweries, distilleries, fantastic restaurants, museums, Mark Twain’s study and gravesite, and we even made our own glass creations at the Corning Museum of Glass. For outdoor adventures, we went kayaking, paddle boarding, horseback riding, hiking, and soaring in a glider plane.

The entire week was filled with one amazing experience after another. The Finger Lakes area has so much to offer—there is literally something for everyone, so get ready for heaps of photos from our week of adventure!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Our first stop on our Finger Lakes road trip was the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, New York. The museum was fantastic–we learned all about the history of glider planes and how they work, and it made me want to get out and go for a ride! Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t good enough for soaring on the day of our visit, but we were crossing our fingers that we could head back for a flight later in the week!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After the museum, we made our way to Elmira College for a peek at Mark Twain’s study. Twain received the study in 1874 and it was moved from the farm house to Elmira College in 1952 so it could be toured by the public. This study is where some of Twain’s most popular stories were written, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Elmira College is also home to a Mark Twain exhibit which showcases memorabilia and photographs from his time spent in Elmira during the summers. The above photograph shows pages of Twain’s writings–I loved seeing his penmanship and scribbles all written down by hand rather than in print in a book.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

To round out our Mark Twain history, we made our way to his gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery where he was buried next to his wife and family. Visitors often leave pennies, cigars, and other trinkets at the gravesite, and there is a 12 foot tall monument nearby to honor the famous author.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After a morning full of history, we went to the Chemung River for some quality time out in nature. Our paddle with Southern Tier Kayak Tours took us several miles downriver.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

We went out on the river with Aaron, who started the kayak company with his wife Sarah. Aaron was a fantastic guide and filled our minds with stories about the region as well as interesting facts about the environment.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Dinner was at the Hill Top Inn, overlooking the Chemung Valley. The East Hill, where the restaurant is located, is the area where Mark Twain spent 22 summers writing stories in his study, which is the study that we visited earlier that morning at Elmira College. This view is said to be “The View that Inspired Mark Twain.”

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Our second morning started out with a visit to the Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY. I was pleasantly surprised with the collection at the museum–the Rockwell focuses on “the American spirit, character and values through the eyes of American artists.” The museum is located in Corning’s Old City Hall and they are always holding innovative events and programs for the community. One of my favorite exhibits was the 2016 exhibit of “Art of the Parks: Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service” which showcases art revolving around the National Parks.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After the Rockwell Museum, we made our way to the Corning Museum of Glass, and I have to say, I was blown away by the entire museum! Our first stop at the museum was to watch a glass blowing demonstration. We were mesmerized by the process–the artist was so talented that he almost made it look easy. But, we had a chance to try it ourselves later that afternoon, and I can assure you, it is not an easy task!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After the demonstration, we had a tasty lunch in the museum cafe and then made our way over to the Make Your Own Glass experience. I love learning and trying new things, so any chance I get at a “make your own” or “do it yourself” project is right up my alley. Micah made a glass ornament and I made a glass flower–it was such a fun, but difficult challenge. Thankfully, we had someone there guiding and helping us, and if I must say so myself, I think our pieces turned out pretty well!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After making our own glass, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore the museum. I could have spent days wandering around the Corning Museum of Glass; there is so much to see. From room after room of art to scientific uses of glass in the Innovation Center, the museum covered such a diverse range of exhibitions and galleries.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the new Contemporary Glass Gallery. The light in the gallery is provided mostly by skylight, so the pieces inside can change in appearence depending on the sun and lighting shining in from outside.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

The rest of our evening in Corning was spent visiting first a distillery and then a couple of breweries. Four Fights Distilling is Corning’s oldest distillery, and we had the opportunity to take a peek inside the distilling room and sample their vodka plus two types of moonshine: traditional and cinnamon.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Iron Flamingo Brewery was the next stop on our itinerary and we were able to take a peek behind the scenes here, as well.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

There were 7 beers on tap when we visited, one of which was a Sweet Potato Stout that I really ended up enjoying. The Mocha Coffee Porter and the Red Ale were two of our other favorites, as well.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Dinner was at a brewery, Market Street Brewing Co. & Restaruant, in downtown Corning. The entire downtown area of Corning has a quaint, historic feel and is filled with adorable boutique shops and fantastic restaurants.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

We all ended up picking sandwiches for dinner–I tried the IPA Chicken Sandwich and it was super delicious. I loved the crispiness of the chicken paired with the IPA Sriracha Hot Sauce. Yum! After dinner we retreated to a little cabin in the woods called the Marsh Creek Cabin, which was our accommodation for the evening.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Day three of our trip required an early wake up call for our breakfast at Sorge’s, a local staple. Egg sandwiches and create your own omelettes were ordered, and it was a delicious way to start our day before heading out on a few active adventures.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Hiking at Watkins Glen State Park was our first active pursuit of the day. We made our way along the rim trail through the gorge next to Glen’s Stream. The stream has 19 waterfalls along its path and the trail goes two miles into the gorge.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

We were a bit short on time, so we weren’t able to hike all the way to the end of the trail. I’m sure all the pit stops for photos didn’t help with our timing either, but nonetheless, the trail is spellbindingly beautiful and definitely worth a visit when you are in the area.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After the hike, we made a quick pit stop at Seneca Lake which is the largest of the Finger Lakes.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Then, it was time for our second adventure of the day: horseback riding at Painted Bar Stables!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

I haven’t been on a horse since I was a young child, so I wasn’t quite sure how this adventure would go. I’m happy to report that I had a great time and really enjoyed my horse, our guide and the trails.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Erika, the owner of the stable, and our guide for the day, took us out through a wide variety of trails. We went through rivers and both up and down some fairly steep hills; well, steep for this non experienced horseback rider at least!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After a busy morning, it was time for some gorgeous views and a lakeside lunch at the Seneca Harbor Station.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Atwater Vineyards was next on the list, and we spent some time soaking up these views over the vineyard and Seneca Lake while sipping on a variety of delicious wines.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Before another tasting, we made our way to another waterfall in Montour Falls. This waterfall, named Shequaga Falls, is located in Shequaga Falls Park–the park is right in the middle of a small neighborhood. We would have never come across the park on our own, so it was a nice treat to check out!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After another dose of nature, we did another beer tasting at Heavily Brewing, which lives by the catchy saying: “Raise your hand if you like drinking Heavily!”

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

The brewery is stationed inside an old, repurposed dairy barn. In addition to brewing their own beers, Heavily Brewing serves other local New York beers on tap, as well. They wanted to create a brewery that focuses on the local community of craft breweries, so they hand pick a variety of rotating beers to serve.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Our hotel for the evening was the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, and it was located in the perfect spot. The hotel is right on the shore of Seneca Lake and only steps from all the action in downtown Watkins Glen, which was perfect because we had dinner plans just a short walk away.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

For dinner we made our way to Graft wine + cider bar where we drank wine and cider and dined on a delicious spread of warm roasted almonds, a cheese board with fresh honeycomb, and gnocchi. Graft serves up creative and seasonal small-bites and the plates were perfect for sharing.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

I loved the atmosphere and decor of Graft and the live music made it even better. If we lived closer to this gem, I guarantee we would be regular visitors!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Day four of our visit was all about tastings–we visited three wineries and one brewery. With over 120 wineries, the Finger Lakes region is a wine country that has been gaining more and more attention over the years, and I can definitely see why! Our first stop of the day was for a tour and tasting at Pleasant Valley Wine Company.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Pleasant Valley Wine Company is one of the oldest wineries in the region and it has been voted one of the most atmospheric wineries, as well. With all the beautiful old architecture, the underground tunnels, the basement wine cellars and delicious wine, I can definitely see why this winery is listed as one of the “don’t miss wineries” in the area.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

The second winery of the day was Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. Dr. Frank played a key role in revolutionizing New York wines and helped elevate the region to world class heights.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

The last winery we visited for the day was Bully Hill Vineyards. We were planning on eating on the patio (just look at those views!), but we didn’t have the best weather so lunch was served inside instead.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

After lunch we walked over to the tasting room and wine shop for some samples and shopping. The winery boasts a colorful history and the vivid and splashy labels and artwork on the bottles are a perfect match.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Steuben Brewery Company was the last stop on our tasting tour for the day. The brewery is located on farm land near Keuka Lake and it was started in 2013–it was the perfect way to wind down the day.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Our digs for the night were at the Keuka Lakeside Inn in Hammondsport, NY, where we chilled in the lakeside gazebo before walking over to Luna Mezza Grille for dinner.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

The next morning we had the chance to get out on Keuka Lake for a little bit of SUP action with Keuka Watersports.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Keuka Lake is a bit different than all the other Finger Lakes–instead of a long, narrow shape that the other lakes have, Keuka Lake is shaped more like a Y. The lake is over 19 miles long, so we stayed near the Hammondsport side of the lake. We had a lot of fun jumping on paddle boards again, and thankfully we didn’t fall in because the water was still a little chilly!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Because we had such a gorgeous day ahead of us, we had a slight change of plans. We were supposed to head to the Glenn H. Curtis Museum to learn more about the history of aviation and then make a stop at the Bath National Cemetery, but we ended up having perfect soaring conditions so we went back to Elmira for a glider ride instead.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Even though we would have loved to check out the museum and cemetery, we were super excited that the weather cooperated for a flight. The glider ride was a surreal experience–we were all blown away by how much fun it was to soar through the air and it quickly became one of our all time favorite adventures ever!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

We were still reeling with excitement as Micah and I split off from the rest of the crew and made our way to Hornell for our final evening in New York. RailHead Brewing Company was the next stop on our itinerary.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

The brewery is located right where hundreds of trains used to sit when they stopped in Hornell. In addition to a great variety of beer, RailHead also serves stone fired pizza, which looked delicious.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

For the final tasting on our trip, we visited Cider Creek Hard Cider where we tried 8 different ciders. They pride themselves in creating 100% natural ciders and in addition to traditional ciders, they focus on creating progressive and creative ciders.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Quite a few of the ciders we tasted were certainly different than any other cider we have had before, but I have to say that I really enjoyed the creative concoctions that they came up with! When we visited the cider house was preparing for an event the next day, and we enjoyed Cider Creek so much that we wish we had time in our schedule to stay for the festivities!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

Unfortunately, time was ticking and Micah had just enough of it to take the drone out for a spin over the beautiful countryside before our final meal at Marino’s in Hornell.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

We thoroughly enjoyed our steak and fish dinners before calling it an early night. Our plans for the next morning included a wake up call at the crack of dawn and a drive all the way back to Minnesota. We were sad to leave New York again, but we couldn’t have asked for a better experience exploring the Finger Lakes region. The entire area was so beautiful and we had a fantastic time on all of our adventures throughout the week!

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Finger Lakes Photo Essay, New York

 

Special thanks to the Corning and Southern Finger Lakes tourism board for organizing and hosting us on so many amazing adventures throughout our week in New York. As always, all opinions are our own.

34 Comments
  • Nika Jane
    Posted at 19:52h, 02 August Reply

    I have a long time friend who worked at a glass company before too and it was really a difficult task, but if it’s your passion nothing to be difficult. Anyways, hiking at Watkins Glen State Park is my favourite among your journey as well as kayaking. Oh! Try to visit Ithaca too. I’ve heard it was beautiful.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 02:55h, 03 August Reply

      That’s true–some people definitely have a talent for it! And I’m sure it gets a lot easier the more you do it 🙂 Ithaca would be great to check out as well–will have to add it to the list for next time!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Finger Lakes Region of New YorkMy Profile

  • Rosemary Colaizzi
    Posted at 17:45h, 03 August Reply

    Your vast comments show that you did very little on the lakes themselves. To me, the lakes are the central focus of the FL. Sounds like you are just promoting the Elmira and Corning area and not the actual lakes. There is so much natural beauty there.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 18:07h, 03 August Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Rosemary! We focused the trip around the southern area of the Finger Lakes–we would have loved to explore more throughout the entire region, but unfortunately there is only so much you can see in a week, especially in such a large area! We agree, the lakes are a fantastic focus of the area. We would have loved to get out on the lakes more, but we were there in the spring, just a few weeks before most of the tour companies started their summer lake tours. We did get to go paddle boarding on Keuka Lake, however and that was great! In addition to the lakes there are so many other fantastic opportunities for adventure, so we were excited to get a taste of some other activities the area has to offer, as well! Hope we can head back and explore even more next time 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Finger Lakes Region of New YorkMy Profile

  • Sooska
    Posted at 14:02h, 04 August Reply

    I found your blog post via Twitter. We are leaving for the Finger Lakes area tomorrow and thanks to you I got some good ideas I haven’t seen in any guide books or web sites! Great job!

  • Lindsay Nieminen
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:51h, 06 August Reply

    What an amazing place and stunning photos!! i love the outdoor adventures!!! i haven’t been horseback riding in years but as soon as my kids are big enough, i hope to take them on kayaking and horseback riding adventures!!
    Lindsay Nieminen recently posted…10 money saving tips for your next Disneyland tripMy Profile

  • Natalie
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:22h, 06 August Reply

    What a trip! That looks like an action packed week that you had with tons of fun activities. Everything looks awesome, and I love how you combined adventure with food, beer, wine, museums, history, and culture. It definitely makes me want to do what you did 🙂

  • LeAnna Brown
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:45h, 06 August Reply

    I’ve never even heard of the finger lakes, but your right, it looks like a great time and something to be had for all. I’d be spending my days outdoors (the kayaking and hiking looks amazing!) and my evenings at the breweries!!!
    LeAnna Brown recently posted…Budget Travel meets Travel Hacking: Getting the cheapest trips possible everytimeMy Profile

  • noel
    Posted at 13:30h, 06 August Reply

    OMG, I’m a glass freak and would love to visit Corning, I loved all your photos of the exhibit and all the other sites you visited especially all the amazing landscapes and that waterfall, wow!

  • Mar Pages
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:45h, 07 August Reply

    The rest of New York doesn’t get enough credit because Manhattan usually gets all the attention, but the Finger Lakes region definitely deserves some love! It looks like the perfect outdoor getaway. Love the photo of your canoes from above!

  • Rosemary
    Twitter:
    Posted at 23:52h, 07 August Reply

    Fantastic and thorough guide. I’ve heard of the Finger Lake region, but honestly did not much about the area. Appreciate the depth go into and your stories about your fantastic week. The outdoor activities – paddling and kayaking are fun. That’s incredible, Will make sure to make time for Finger Lakes the next time I;m in New York. Cheers!

  • karla
    Twitter:
    Posted at 20:55h, 09 August Reply

    Glen Canyon and the kayaking is absolutely gorgeous. I am heading to NYC and will make sure to add this to my list.

  • Janna
    Posted at 00:47h, 11 August Reply

    lovely photos! i didnt know that new york has this side to it. the kayak down the chemung river seems relaxing! will definitely check that out if ever i visit this region.

  • Les Petits Pas de Juls
    Posted at 12:43h, 12 August Reply

    Sounds and looks like a lot of fun, a lot of great food and a lot of great beers! Bonus: all the activities around! wow!
    thanks for the sho, sure looks like you enjoyed it all fully!
    Les Petits Pas de Juls recently posted…That Tremendous, Spectacular, yet Easy Cliff HikeMy Profile

  • Samantha Carr
    Posted at 16:22h, 29 August Reply

    Great spotlight on the Southern Finger Lakes! It’s always a beautiful place to be. Between Seneca, and Keuka Lakes, one could never be bored! I suggest that next visit to Upstate NY will include Canandaigua and even Penn Yan. Canandaigua Lake is gorgeous and there are an abundance of parks and hiking trails in Ontario County. Penn Yan (located on Keuka Lake) has hundreds of wineries down Route 5 and even downtown is a must-see. If you come earlier in the summer, Upstate is known for it’s dozens of art festivals featuring local artisans, businesses, and live music.

  • Tanglewood Nature Center
    Posted at 10:01h, 09 September Reply

    You packed a ton of great activities into your stay! If you ever have the chance to come back and spend a little more time in the southern Finger Lakes, come visit Tanglewood Nature Center for miles of beautiful hiking – tons of migrating birds to see in spring and fall, snowshoeing to do in the winter, and on this warm summer mornings you can watch the fog rise and dissipate over the Chemung River and see how glaciers sculpted the valley. I know you saw how beautiful this place is from the river looking up, and from the glider looking down, but hiking the ridges and forests yourself gives you a totally different and special perspective on our FLX 🙂

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 04:04h, 16 September Reply

      We would love to check out Tanglewood Nature Center next time–we heard about it when we were kayaking and wished we had enough time to visit. Would definitely provide another great look into the area, so we will definitely add it to our list for our next visit! Thanks! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Las Vegas #TravelShare Twitter ChatMy Profile

  • Jennifer Sekella
    Posted at 05:56h, 10 September Reply

    This is such a wonderful write-up about your visit to our area! Thank you for coming to visit and for documenting it in such a beautiful and positive manner! I’ll be following your journeys from now on!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 03:58h, 16 September Reply

      Thanks, Jennifer and thanks for following along! We had such a great time exploring your area–it’s an amazing region and we hope to come back again soon!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Las Vegas #TravelShare Twitter ChatMy Profile

  • Derek Turner
    Posted at 14:19h, 28 November Reply

    After reading about your visit. It really made me miss home. Im was born and rised in Elmira. Almost everything you guys did on your trip I’ve done almost every summer. It brought up alot of memories. Im really happy you’ve enjoyed your visit. I live in Wisconsin and the people always think New York is just a city. When actually upstate New York has the most beautiful scenery. From the mountains to the finger lakes to Niagara Falls. I would also recommend visiting Newtown battlefield. It’s outside of Elmira and not far from Hill Top Inn. Elmira has a long history. The city even played a part in the civil war as a prison camp. Also there are houses in Elmira that played a part in the underground railroad. There still standing today. It’s nice knowing not everyone in the midwest only thinks of NYC when they hear Im from New York.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 23:34h, 28 November Reply

      Thanks so much–glad you enjoyed the post! That’s great to hear you do many of these when you head home, we had a blast in the area–there are so many great things to do! And I know what you mean, I feel like we hear people say the only thing in NY is NYC. We always try to share our other experiences in the state with everyone because there really is so much more to do there than the city! Thanks for the interesting info about the history around Elmira. We will definitely have to look into that more when we head back!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Ways to Stay Grateful During the Busy Traveling SeasonMy Profile

  • Ed and Jenn Coleman
    Posted at 15:35h, 12 February Reply

    What a beautiful photo journey. Love Mark Twain and I would have never guessed he was buried in upstate New York. I took my daughter to Ithaca for a college tour during the peak of fall color. I was afraid the beauty of the area would sway here to leave California. It was beautiful, but she is now a banana slug 🙂
    Ed and Jenn Coleman recently posted…Exploring The Andaman Sea – Phuket, Phi Phi and RailayMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:37h, 16 February Reply

      Thanks! I was surprised that he was buried in New York as well. I can see why you would be worried she would stay–it’s such a gorgeous area! Would love to visit in the fall sometime 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Cabin Getaway in the Adirondack MountainsMy Profile

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