Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

9 Awesome Adventures in the Southern Finger Lakes of New York

When we visited New York’s Southern Finger Lakes area last spring, we were pleasantly surprised by all the fun adventures there were in the area. We spent 5 days road tripping our way through the region and although we fit a ton into our visit, we only scratched the surface of everything the area has to offer. There are many more adventures we’d love to experience on a future visit such as sailing on Seneca Lake, hiking on numerous trails, glamping, exploring the area’s agri-tourism, and biking, just to name a few. Even though our list of things to see in the area could go on and on, here are 9 of our favorite adventures in the Southern Finger Lakes!

1. Kayaking Chemung River

Since it is a lake region, there are plenty of places to kayak in the Finger Lakes. We went kayaking on the Chemung River with Southern Tier Kayak Tours and had a fantastic afternoon. Our adventure started between the towns of Corning and Elmira, and after a brief lesson, we set off on a 6 mile paddle. As we paddled, we learned all about the river, the surrounding region and even the ecosystems and wildlife around us. Kayaking is always a must for us, and we loved every minute of this tour—it was fun and informative, plus we lucked out with amazing weather!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

2. SUP at Kueka Lake

Just like kayaking, there are ample opportunities to SUP (stand-up paddle board) in the Finger Lakes. We’ve recently become fans of SUP, so we were happy to have the opportunity to join Keuka Watersports for a paddle on Keuka Lake. This lake is shaped a bit different than the other Finger Lakes—instead of being long and narrow like the others, Keuka Lake is shaped more like a Y. The lake is 19 miles long, so we didn’t even come close to paddling the entire length, and we stayed near the Hammondsport side of the lake. We were happy we didn’t fall in because the lake was a bit chilly due to it still being spring!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

3. Take a Glider Ride and Visit the National Soaring Museum

Our first stop of the trip was the National Soaring Museum, which was a fascinating museum documenting the history of soaring, flying and glider planes. In addition to the museum, you can also sign up for a ride in a glider, and let me tell you, it’s SO MUCH FUN!! I was a bit scared to ride in a plane with no engine, but after I learned how the planes worked and we got up in the air, all my fears melted away. I was having such a great time that I even had my pilot do a nose-dive towards the ground! But don’t worry, the rides are usually super relaxing and calm…unless you ask for it to be a bit crazy!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

4. Visit Mark Twain’s Study and Gravesite

If you are a literary fan, a stop at Mark Twain’s study and gravesite makes for an interesting afternoon activity. At Elmira College, you can see the very place that Twain penned several of his famous books. The study was originally located at the family farm, but it was moved to Elmira College in 1952, so it could be toured by the public. Inside one of the buildings at the college, you will also find a Mark Twain exhibit which is home to memorabilia from Twain’s life. After you learn more about his life, a stop at Mark Twain’s gravesite is a perfect add on. Woodlawn Cemetery is only a mile or so away. At the cemetery you will find a 12 foot monument, headstones for Twain and his family and you might even see some of the many trinkets fans leave on his gravesite. It was definitely a fantastic walk through history!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

5. Tour Wineries, Breweries, Cideries, and Distilleries

The Finger Lakes region is home to more than 100 breweries, over 100 wineries and several cideries and distilleries, which makes it an excellent spot to put on your tasting hat and try sample after sample. No matter what you prefer, you are sure to find something of interest along the brewery or winery trails in the Finger Lakes. During our five day visit, we made it to four breweries, four wineries, one cidery, one distillery and one wine and cider bar serving a variety of local specialties. Some stops offer tours of the facility and every stop offered samples or tastings. A few of our favorite stops were Iron Flamingo Brewery, Pleasant Valley Wine Company, Bully Hill Vineyards, Cider Creek Hard Cider, and Graft Wine + Cider Bar. Read about all the stops we made in our detailed write up on the brewery and winery trail to learn more about some of the great options available.

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

6. Head to the Corning Museum of Glass and a Make Your Own Glass Art Workshop

I was blown away by the Corning Museum of Art, both by the exhibits and the sheer size of the museum! The museum’s collections range from contemporary glass, to glass of the Romans, to paperweights, to glass in nature, and much more. You can grab a delicious lunch at the onsite restaurant, shop in the impressive gift shop, watch art be created in front of your eyes in a live Hot Glass Demo, or play and experiment in the Innovation Center, an interactive technology and science exhibit. And, you can even create your own art in the make your own glass experience—I tried glass forming and made a flower and Micah tried his hand at glassblowing and made an ornament. With the help of our instructors, the pieces turned out great and we had so much fun making our own art!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

7. Soak up Art at the Rockwell Museum

There are several interesting museums in the Finger Lakes region and another one that we had the chance to visit was the Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY. I was pleasantly surprised with the collection at the museum which focuses on the American spirit through the eyes of American art. Located in Corning’s Old City Hall, the Rockwell Museum holds innovative events and programs for the community, such as art crawls, art classes, story time, music and margaritas, and even community paddles down the river. I would love to check out one of their special events sometime!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

8. Go Horseback Riding at Painted Bar Stables

If you feel like spending some time with adorable animals, Painted Bar Stables is the place to go! Jump in a saddle and go for a horseback ride through the beautiful nature surrounding the stable. We rode through fields, woods, rivers, and up and down some fairly steep hills. The rides can be as adventurous as you would like them to be, and the horses are all great to ride. Painted Bar Stables does a wonderful job pairing horses and riders, so no matter your comfort level, you are sure to have an enjoyable time!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York

9. Hike the Trails at Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park is a wonderful place to go for a hike. The rim trail runs into the gorge next to Glen’s Stream, and there are 19 waterfalls along the way. The hike is absolutely gorgeous—you will find yourself strolling under, over and next to one waterfall after another. This state park is definitely worth a visit if you are in the town of Watkins Glen!

Photo Essay Finger Lakes New York


What are your favorite adventures in the Southern Finger Lakes? Which ones did we miss that we should check out on our next visit?


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.

  • Les Petits Pas de Juls
    Posted at 18:31h, 25 May Reply

    Fun adventures for sure! I remember your post about the cideries and all and how you made me drool over so many beautiful pictures of food and drinks!
    As I love horseback-riding, I’d love to go on that trip and enjoyed reading about your experience there.
    Thanks for the sum-up here!
    Happy trails!
    Les Petits Pas de Juls recently posted…Weekly Photo Challenge: EvanescentMy Profile

  • Megan Indoe
    Posted at 09:57h, 27 May Reply

    I have never been to the Finger Lakes!I can’t help but think of the Office episode where Jim Carrey does a cameo and talks about the Finger Lakes, haha. All jokes aside this seems like the perfect summer outdoor getaway. I would love to check out that waterfall and go horseback riding!

  • Danik
    Posted at 10:34h, 27 May Reply

    OMG! This looks amazing. I love lakes in beautiful surroundings and I can’t believe I missed this when I do a road trip in New York State. Now I want to go back! Great post 🙂
    Danik recently posted…Six amazing day trips from BruggeMy Profile

  • Peter Korchnak
    Posted at 11:37h, 27 May Reply

    “During our five day visit, we made it to four breweries, four wineries, one cidery, one distillery and one wine and cider bar serving a variety of local specialties.”

    My kind of traveling 🙂 As a craft beer buff, I got very intrigued by the microbreweries. Iron Flamingo, noted.
    Peter Korchnak recently posted…Pint-Sized Travel: NW Portland breweriesMy Profile

  • Eric
    Posted at 12:42h, 28 May Reply

    So is it realistic to visit the Finger Lakes area for a long weekend or is it too spread apart to hit these areas? I ask because I would LOVE to see the Mark Twain stuff. But also, the glider..hell yeah! But also, the whole thing seems like a great adventure.
    The other question I had was how cold the water is? because I would like to do the SUP but I HATE freezing water!
    Eric recently posted…The Bucket List Guide to Cheap FlightsMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:58h, 07 June Reply

      You wouldn’t be able to fit all of this in on a long weekend, but you could definitely do a portion of the trip! It would make for a really great weekend! The Mark Twain sights and the National Soaring Museum where the glider rides depart from are only about 15 miles away from each other, so they could be done in a weekend for sure! The water was cold when we were there, but it was still early spring (mid-May)–it might be a good idea to give it a try closer to the end of summer when the lakes have a chance to warm up a bit. I’m not sure how warm they get, but it should be a bit warmer than what we had anyways! And thankfully, there are breweries and wineries everywhere in the area!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: The Galapagos IslandsMy Profile

  • sara
    Posted at 01:00h, 29 May Reply

    So much fun to be had when visiting Southern Finger Lakes. I would be checking out the breweries for sure. Plus having go at some glass making, something I have wanted to do for eons.
    sara recently posted…Shaken not Stirred at 40,000 feet, Emirates A380 inflight barMy Profile

  • Tamara Elliott
    Posted at 12:02h, 29 May Reply

    I LOVVVE SUP, so fun that you can do it there (and got to take advantage of great weather!). Amazing photos as always 🙂

  • Annie
    Posted at 14:32h, 29 May Reply

    I went to school at Ithaca College and LOVED going to Watkins Glen State Park! The Finger Lakes do not get enough love, I am surprised how many people don’t even know the exist. I didn’t SUP in college, but now I can’t wait to go back and give it a try on Kueka Lake 🙂

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:51h, 07 June Reply

      I know what you mean–I’m always surprised more people don’t know about the area, too! It’s such a great region and Ithaca would have been a cool spot to go to college! Hope you can head back and SUP sometime! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: The Galapagos IslandsMy Profile

  • Tami
    Posted at 16:26h, 30 May Reply

    I’d love to hike near the Watkins Glen Falls — what a beautiful setting! The glider ride also looks like it would be amazing…but perhaps a little scary, too? Our family really enjoys art, so I’m thinking we’d also visit the Rockwell Museum and Corning Museum of Glass! Great list of things to do!
    Tami recently posted…‘Berry’ Fun Blueberry Picking in TemeculaMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:43h, 07 June Reply

      Yeah, I was a bit scared to ride in the Glider, lol! Thankfully once we got up in the air I felt a lot better about it and had a blast! It was all so much fun and such a beautiful area to explore!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: The Galapagos IslandsMy Profile

  • Mags
    Posted at 19:52h, 30 May Reply

    The Finger Lakes look fabulous! I might skip out on the SUP though, the one time I tried it I ended up in some VERY cold water. You guys are more adventurous and athletic than me!

  • Heather
    Posted at 21:57h, 30 May Reply

    You pretty much just described my ideal vacation 🙂 Abundant outdoor recreation combined with touring the Wineries, Breweries, Cideries, and Distilleries sounds too perfect. And taking a Glider Ride sounds so fun! I would also love to try my hand at Glassblowing to make an ornament. Thank you for providing such a detailed guide to the Southern Finger Lakes. I hope to plan a trip in the very near future!

  • Evan
    Posted at 18:31h, 08 June Reply

    Didn’t know there was so much to do in the Finger Lakes area … thanks for clueing us in!
    Evan recently posted…My Reasons For Choosing Vacation Rentals Over HotelsMy Profile

  • Swathi
    Posted at 07:55h, 11 July Reply

    I have always loved adventures and this place has so much to offer in terms of adventure. Perfect destination for a fun seeker like me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Rahul
    Posted at 06:52h, 31 July Reply

    I am too going there (after reading this post 2 months back) hope weather too favours me. Quite excited to go, Thank you for all guide.

  • Tasmai
    Posted at 16:40h, 10 March Reply

    I’ve always wanted to do Kayaking and this seems like the perfect place to start off! Thank you so much for the recommendations Jenna. 🙂

  • Pranav
    Posted at 09:04h, 25 January Reply

    Thats cool place, yeah I don’t blame you–cold water is never very enjoyable!! It was cold when we went too–so glad we didn’t fall in, lol

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