Our Favorite Things to Do in the Finger Lakes

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View of the finger lakes

When you think of visiting New York, do you immediately imagine the city’s skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, or catching a home run in Yankee Stadium?

Although these are all memorable places to visit, you can find many things to do in the Finger Lakes region. This beautiful scenery offers hiking trails, museums, art exhibits, and more.

Let’s look at seven of our favorite things to do in the Finger Lakes!

What Are the Finger Lakes?

Named after their long north-south formations, the Finger Lakes are a series of 11 long, narrow lakes in New York. Seneca Lake is the largest, with a depth of 618 feet and an area of 66.9 square miles. 

From east to west, the Finger Lakes include Conesus Lake, Hemlock Lake, Canadice Lake, Honeoye Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake, Owasco Lake, Skaneateles Lake, and Otisco Lake.

Where Are the Finger Lakes?

The Finger Lakes region of New York is south of Lake Ontario on the eastern half of the Empire State.

The 11 lakes lie between Rochester to the northwest, Ithaca to the south, and Syracuse to the northeast. 

This region is the central part of the Iroquois homeland. These tribes include the Seneca and Cayuga nations and the Tuscarora, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk peoples.

View of the finger lakes

How Big Are the Finger Lakes?

Glaciers covered this area of the country two million years ago. When the ice started receding, glacial debris remained, forming the lakes. Each lake is a different size. 

The highest in elevation is Canadice Lake at 1,096 feet, but it’s also the smallest, with less than 2 miles of surface area. As mentioned earlier, Seneca Lake is the largest.

The second largest is Cayuga Lake, which has 95 miles of shoreline and a depth of 435 feet.

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Finger Lakes?

Depending on the type of recreational activities and attractions you want to visit, you can find fun things to do in the Finger Lakes region year-round. 

May to September will offer the most comfortable and pleasant weather. But this time of year will also be the most expensive time to visit. If traveling on a budget, visit earlier in the spring or later in the fall.

7 Favorite Things to Do in the Finger Lakes

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can find many things to do in the Finger Lakes. From hiking to biking to birding, come enjoy endless opportunities to experience nature.

But you don’t have to love the trails to enjoy this part of New York. There are things to do in the Finger Lakes for all types of travelers!

1. Visit the Grand Canyon of the East

Letchworth State Park, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the East, has roaring waterfalls and 600 steep cliffs formed by the Genesee River.

It also has 66 miles of hiking trails and additional biking and horseback riding trails. 

In the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. From white water rafting to kayaking to hot air ballooning, there’s something for every nature lover at the Grand Canyon of the East.

Read More: While it doesn’t compare to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Grand Canyon of the East is still worth visiting! Learn more about this state park.

View of the Grand Canyon of the east

2. Bike or Hike the 75 Trails

Another one of the popular things to do in the Finger Lakes region is hiking or biking the 75 trails.

From Lyons in the north to Elmira in the south to Mount Morris, come explore the miles of trails to enjoy the region’s history, culture, and natural scenery. 

Walk through the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge or bike 25 miles from Rochester to Hamlin Beach State Park. You can explore a trail no matter your ability or preference.

3. Explore Watkins Glen State Park

Besides Letchworth State Park, you can find many things to do at Watkins Glen State Park near the Finger Lakes district.

Nineteen waterfalls break off of the glen’s stream. And rim trails provide spectacular views of the gorge. 

Many enjoy biking, camping, swimming, and cross-country skiing. And in 2015, Watkins Glen State Park won third place in the USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Poll for Best State Park in the United States.

View of Watkins glen state park

4. Hop Around the Five Wine Trails

A popular thing to do in the Finger Lakes is visiting the wineries. It’s the largest wine-producing region in the country east of California, with over 130 wineries. 

The five wine trails include Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, Seneca Lake Wine Trail, Keuka Lake Wine Trail, Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail, and Lake Ontario Wine Trail. 

Get a Tasting Passport and then hop around the trails enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Finger Lakes region.

5. Spend an Afternoon at the Corning Museum of Glass

According to the website, the Corning Museum of Glass is “The world’s largest space dedicated to the display of contemporary art and design in glass.” Anyone can appreciate the talent and beauty of the masterpieces here. 

Kids also love the museum because of the interactive science exhibits.

Make it a fun family outing by booking a reservation to make your own glass with the help of expert glassmakers. It’s sure to be an experience to remember.

6. Rediscover Play at the Strong National Museum of Play

Another family-friendly thing to do in the Finger Lakes is visiting the Strong National Museum of Play.

Remember your childhood at the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, where you can play Giant Tetris, Guitar Hero, classic pinball machines, and more.

Kids may love the physical challenges of the Imagination Destination exhibit with role-playing activities. Or you can relive the history of the iconic Sesame Street television series. It’s fun for the whole family.

7. Enjoy Birding at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Finally, if you enjoy hiking or biking, you can use the trail to visit the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. But you can also simply walk around exploring the diverse habitats. 

The refuge serves as a nesting, feeding, breeding, and stopover ground for all types of waterfowl and migratory birds. The 3-mile, one-way Wildlife Drive Auto Tour is a great place to start.

How Long Do I Need to Visit the Finger Lakes?

Depending on the things you want to do, plan on spending at least three to five days in the Finger Lakes. If you can swing an entire week, that’s best. 

This will allow you to have a day or two of bad weather or rest and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

If you’re only going to be in the area for a couple of days, you’ll need to choose which activities you have time for or be on the go from sun up to sun down.

Keep in Mind: You won’t believe how clear these Lakes in the US are! Click the link to see the clearest lakes to add to your bucket list

Looking for Things to Do? Finger Lakes Has Something for Everyone

You can find many things to do in the Finger Lakes for everyone.

Whether you enjoy learning something new, biking miles of trails, or sipping wine with friends, you can enjoy visiting this region in the Empire State. So make your plans to head up to the Northeast this summer!

What will you do first when you visit?

1 comment
  1. Your article about the Finger Lakes has an error. The Finger Lakes are in the Western part of the Empire State not the Eastern part. I live in Albany NY and we live in the Eastern part.
    You did pick all our favorite places to visit. We will be camping at Letchworth at the end of September. Hoping for some great fall colors.

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