Keuka Lake Southern Finger Lakes getaway

Corning and Southern Finger Lakes Getaway to New York Wine Country

A Corning and Southern Finger Lakes getaway leads to spectacular nature, delicious food and drink, interesting museums and history, and fun adventures in New York wine country. There is so much to see and do in the Finger Lakes region, the biggest challenge is planning your route and choosing your stops.

We’ve highlighted towns and places perfect for a 5 day itinerary in the Southern Finger Lakes. Allow a day each for Elmira, Watkins Glen and southern Seneca Lake, Hammondsport and southern Keuka Lake, and Corning, plus travel time from the Washington DC region.

Elmira, New York: Mark Twain History and a Soaring Adventure

Elmira was the summer home of Mark Twain for 20 years, and he wrote many of his most well-known works here. It has also been called the “Soaring Capital of the World.” Get a view of the beautiful countryside on your own sailplane adventure.

Chemung Valley Sailplane view over Elmira NY

Chemung Valley Sailplane view over Elmira NY

Things to Do in Elmira, New York

The Chemung Valley History Museum is the perfect starting point for your Southern Finger Lakes getaway. Learn about local history and Elmira’s most famous part-time local, Mark Twain, who spent 20 summers here. Pick up a map and visit Twain’s summer studio, modeled after a Mississippi steamboat pilot house, and now located  on the campus of Elmira College.

Chemung Valley Museum Elmira NY

Chemung Valley Museum Elmira NY

Mark Twain Studio Elmira NY

Mark Twain Studio Elmira NY

Next, pay homage to the great American writer at his family gravesite in Woodlawn Cemetery. In summer, guided trolley tours visit both sites.

Mark Twain gravesite Elmira NY

Mark Twain gravesite Elmira NY

Explore a different kind of history high atop Harris Hill, where the National Soaring Museum houses the largest collection of sailplanes in the world, dating from the 1890s to the late 20th century. You’ll get a close-up look at how sailplanes have evolved from the Wright Brother’s first flight to the sleek racing gliders of today.

National Soaring Museum Elmira NY

National Soaring Museum Elmira NY

You’ll gain an even better understanding of motorless flight when you take a sailplane ride with Harris Hill Soaring. The views as you soar above beautiful Chemung Valley are stunning.

Sailplane view Elmira NY

Sailplane view Elmira NY

Where to Eat and Stay in Elmira

Back on the ground, but high on Jerusalem Hill, the Hill Top Inn serves up tasty, traditional meals with the same view that inspired Mark Twain. If the weather is nice, get a table on the outdoor patio and watch the sun sparkles and sets on the Chemung Valley.

Hill Top Inn patio Elmira NY

Hill Top Inn patio Elmira NY

Back in town, we loved our breakfast and lunch at the Turtle Leaf Cafe. They serve fresh, healthy food and make a killer smoothie. The Holiday Inn Elmira Riverview is a convenient base for exploring the Mark Twain country. Ask for a room on the river side for the best  views.

Turtle Leaf Cafe, Elmira NY

Turtle Leaf Cafe, Elmira NY

Watkins Glen, New York: A Gorgeous Gorge and Seneca Lake

Watkins Glen is worthy of a road trip even if you only visited popular Watkins Glen State Park then headed home, but that would be silly. The town sits at the southern end of Seneca Lake, offering beautiful wineries, delicious dining, small town shopping, and beautiful country drives.

Hiking the Gorge Trail Watkins Glen SP NY

Hiking the Gorge Trail Watkins Glen State Park NY

Things to Do in Watkins Glen, New York

The easy and popular Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park extends a mile-and-a-half into the gorge, past (and sometimes behind) 21 waterfalls, along sinuous walls, and over stairways, tunnels, bridges, and walkways. The views throughout the hike are absolutely magical. The park also offers camping, fishing, biking, and more hiking trails.

Gorge Trail Watkins Glen State Park NY

Gorge Trail Watkins Glen State Park NY

Watkins Glen State Park is conveniently located in town, so it’s a short walk from the Gorge Trail to shops, restaurants, and bars. Racing fans can make a pilgrimage to Watkins Glen International, the birthplace of American road racing.

When you want a break from town, drive to nearby Sunset View Creamery in Odessa for a self-guided tour and cheese tasting at Hoffman’s Dairy, a farm managed by the 4th and 5th generation of Hoffmans. Or follow the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and visit some of the 30 wineries that surround the lake.

Sunset View Creamery Odessa NY

Sunset View Creamery Odessa NY

Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay in Watkins Glen New York

Beautiful wineries line both sides of Seneca Lake. This section of lakeside is known as the “banana belt” because longer sunlight hours on the eastern shore allows for a longer growing season than the western shore vineyards. Shale rock in the soil infuses the vines with minerality, resulting in an especially delicious Reisling and Cab Franc.

Beginning in Watkins Glen and heading up the eastern side, we sampled the wines and the views at several stops along Seneca Lake. All of the vineyards we visited offer delicious wines and lovely views of the lake. And there are many more wineries to sample on a return trip.

  • Popular Lakewood Vineyards is just outside of downtown Watkins Glen and has a range of wines from dry classics to fruity picnic wines.
  • Atwater Winery, in Burdett, has a nice tasting room and a large deck with beautiful views of Seneca Lake. The serenity is occasionally  punctuated by air guns chasing off the birds.
  • Wagner Vineyards also has a large deck with great views. Wagner has their own brewery so they are an excellent destination if you have a mix of wine and beer lovers in your group.
  • Further north in Lodi, Boundary Breaks hosts tastings indoors or you can relax outside with a glass of their delicious wine.
Atwater Vineyards deck Seneca Lake NY

Atwater Vineyards deck Seneca Lake NY

No designated driver? Book a half or full-day Seneca Lake Wine Tour with an expert guide. You’ll visit and taste at 4 or 5 wineries and leave the driving to someone else.

In town, the Wildflower Cafe and adjacent Crooked Rooster Brewpub serve a tasty menu and their own Rooster Fish Brewing craft beer in a relaxed pub setting. Our fresh salads and cold brews were perfect after a morning hike. Down the block, Nickel’s Pit BBQ is an excellent choice for a heartier meal and more of those Rooster Fish brews.

Wildflower Cafe salads Watkins Glen NY

Wildflower Cafe salads Watkins Glen NY

Nickels Pit BBQ Watkins Glen NY

Nickels Pit BBQ Watkins Glen NY

Stay at The Inn at Grist Iron in Burdett to enjoy luxurious rooms with access to a full kitchen and more of those beautiful Seneca Lake views. The Inn offers easy access to Atwater and more area wineries, and has its own on-site brewery. We enjoyed relaxing on the deck outside our room, A short stroll leads to the brewpub and a final beer to end the day.

Grist Iron Inn porch Seneca Lake NY

Grist Iron Inn porch Seneca Lake NY

Grist Iron Brewery Seneca Lake NY

Grist Iron Brewery Seneca Lake NY

Hammondsport New York: A Cool Small Town on Keuka Lake

Budget Travel readers in 2012 named Hammondsport “America’s Coolest Small Town,” and the vibe still lives up to the name. Hammondsport has a lovely downtown on the southern shore of Keuka Lake, the only Y-shaped lake in America. It’s an ideal base to tour Keuka Lake wineries and breweries, enjoy a meal by the water, and visit an excellent museum honoring an American aviation pioneer.

Downtown Hammondsport, Southern Finger Lakes getaway

Downtown Hammondsport, Southern Finger Lakes getaway

Things to Do in Hammondsport, New York

If you only have a day in Hammondsport, head to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Curtiss began his career as a builder of bicycles and motorcycles, and was named “the fastest man on earth” when he reached 136.4 MPH on his V8 powered motorcycle. In 1908 he achieved fame again when he flew the “June Bug” 5000 feet, the first pre-announced public flight in America. The Curtiss Museum houses a fascinating and beautiful collection of vintages bikes, motorcycles, planes, and other period artifacts.

Glenn H Curtiss Museum Hammondsport NY

Glenn H Curtiss Museum Hammondsport NY

After your museum visit, check out Hammondsport’s downtown and walk to lakefront to enjoy the view, take a swim, or head out on the lake. The Keuka Water Taxi is an ideal way to get out on the water. The water taxi can accommodate a relaxing sight-seeing trip with stops for swimming or a direct route to dinner at one of the lakeside restaurants.

Keuka Water Taxi Keuka Lake NY

Keuka Water Taxi Keuka Lake NY

Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay in Hammondsport New York

In town, visit Keuka Bakery Company for a delicious breakfast pastry or tater tot-centric dish. Across the street, the Timber Stone Grill serves hearty burgers and other tasty fare for lunch and dinner. The Lakeside Restaurant and Tavern, on the western side of Keuka Lake, serves excellent seafood and tavern fare indoors or on their three-level deck with nice views of the water.

Keuka Bakery Hammondsport NY

Keuka Bakery Hammondsport NY

Timber Stone Grill Hammondsport NY

Timber Stone Grill Hammondsport NY

Lakeside Restaurant Keuka Lake NY

Lakeside Restaurant Keuka Lake NY

As one of the three wine lakes, (along with Cayuga and Seneca) Keuka has 16 wineries, including some of the oldest in the area. Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars revolutionized wine making in the American East when he developed vinifera rootstock that produced quality grapes and was resistant to local pests. Today the winery continues to produce outstanding Reislings and other award-winning wines.

Dr Konstantin Frank Winery Keuka Lake NY

Dr Konstantin Frank Winery Keuka Lake NY

Further south, Heron Hill Winery offers wines in a spectacular tasting room on the hill that’s also a popular venue for weddings and special events. If it’s not too busy, ask to see the view from the tower.

Heron Hill views Keuka Lake NY

Heron Hill views Keuka Lake NY

For a more casual atmosphere, visitors flock to the back patio of Steuben Brewing Company for tasty beer sourced with local hops. The seasonal Pumpkin Ale was a hit during our visit.

Steuben Brewing flight Hammondsport NY

Steuben Brewing flight Hammondsport NY

The Best Western Plus the Hammondsport Hotel, which opened in 2016, is an excellent base for your visit to Hammondsport. Just across the street from the Curtiss Museum and close to town, it offers large, comfortable, and quiet rooms including a full breakfast.

Corning New York: Impressive Museums and a Glass Adventure

Corning, New York is best known for the Corning Museum of Glass, the largest glass museum in the world, and the centerpiece of our visit. Corning’s lovely downtown offers fun shopping, dining, and another excellent museum.

Nature Contemporary Wing Corning Museum of Glass

Nature, in the Contemporary Wing, Corning Museum of Glass

Things to Do in Corning, New York

In 2015, the Corning Museum of Glass added the modern Contemporary Art and Design Wing, displaying current works in a modern, sunlight-infused building.

Contemporary wing Corning Museum of Glass

Contemporary wing Corning Museum of Glass

The museum’s stunning collection of glass works, spanning 3500 years of history, is beautiful and engaging. Corning Museum of Glass goes beyond static displays with glass-blowing demonstrations in a large theater and the opportunity to make your own glass. We loved the process of making glass flowers, now proudly displayed at home.

Glass demonstration Corning Museum of Glass

Glass demonstration Corning Museum of Glass

Making a glass flower Corning Museum of Glass

Making a glass flower Corning Museum of Glass

It’s easy to spend several hours at the Museum of Glass, but allow time to explore Corning’s historic area and another impressive museum. Corning’s downtown Gaffer District (gaffer is another name for a glassblower) is lined with cool shops, glass galleries, restaurants, and a central park that hosts farmers markets and other events. It’s a short walk from the museum over the parklike Centerway Walking Bridge to the Gaffer District, so consider leaving your car and exploring on foot.

Gaffer District shops Corning NY

Gaffer District shops Corning NY

The Rockwell Museum, centrally located in town, houses a wonderful collection of Western American Art gifted by it’s benefactors, successful local business owners Bob and Hertha Rockwell. The Rockwell’s had a particular interest in western and Native American art and the collection includes beautiful paintings and sculptures.

Rockwell Museum Corning NY

Rockwell Museum Corning NY

Where to Eat, Drink, and Stay in Corning New York

There are many dining options in Corning’s Gaffer District so head there for meals. For breakfast, we would happily return to Poppleton Bakery for the delicious breakfast crepes and pastries. For lunch, try Slammin’ Jammin’ BBQ, which recently opened a second location in an expanded, multi-level site on the main street.

Poppleton Bakery Corning NY

Poppleton Bakery Corning NY

Slammin Jammin BBQ Corning NY

Slammin Jammin BBQ Corning NY

The Cellar offers some of the most beautiful and delicious food we have eaten, in a refined but casual atmosphere. A large selection of tapas make it easy to share, and they also offer a nice selection of full entrees. Order the charcuterie and the lettuce wraps and your meal will be off to a fabulous start.

Tapas at The Cellar Corning NY

Tapas at The Cellar in downtown Corning NY

Dinner at nearby Market Street Brewing is a popular spot for brewpub meals and craft beers in a comfortable setting. If the weather is nice, grab a table on the patio or the upstairs deck.

Market Street Brewing Company Corning NY

Market Street Brewing Company Corning NY

Like most of the Finger Lakes, Corning is a good location for exploring wineries, breweries, and an excellent distillery close to downtown. Four Fights Distilling offers their hand-crafted vodka, moonshine, and cinnamon whiskey plus delicious cocktails in a sleek tasting room. Our peach martini, the daily special, was delicious, and apple pie whiskey was in the works when we visited. Beer lovers can visit Iron Flamingo, Corning’s first brewery to bottle and distribute beers.

Four Fights Distillery Corning NY

Four Fights Distillery Corning NY

Staybridge Suites Corning is in an excellent location right next to the Corning Museum of Glass. It’s a short walk to the downtown. The Radisson Hotel Corning also has a great location right at the end of the Gaffer District.

Stay at the Hampton Inn Corning Painted Post if you’d prefer a spot away from the bustle of town with easy access to nearby wineries.

Corning and Southern Finger Lakes Getaway Tips

For residents in the Washington DC and Northern Virginia area, a Southern Finger Lakes getaway offers a road trip rich in small towns, wineries, history, and scenic beauty. New York’s Southern Finger Lakes are about a 5 hour drive from Northern Virginia, heading straight north on Route 15.

Southern Finger Lakes getaway to New York wine country

Southern Finger Lakes getaway to New York wine country

Take your time on the drive and enjoy rolling hills and farmland views; just avoid rush hour. If you want to break up the drive, you could overnight in Gettysburg and visit the battlefield. Or stop further north in Harrisburg and tour the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Here is a map of our Southern Finger Lakes road trip. In a region so large, it’s difficult to cover all the region has to offer on a short Finger Lakes getaway. If time allows, we recommend exploring the area further north, and adding a visit to Cayuga Lake or some of the smaller lakes. Do you have a Finger Lakes favorite? Please share your tips in the comments below.

Our visit was hosted by Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes.

Follow Fun in Fairfax VA on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram for more fun things to do, places to visit, dining and drink, and special events in the Northern Virginia, Washington DC region.

A Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes getaway leads to scenic beauty, delicious food and drink, history, museums, and fun in New York's wine country.

This article was published in 2016 and updated in  2018.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to “Corning and Southern Finger Lakes Getaway to New York Wine Country”

  1. WorldWideWriter September 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

    I hadn’t heard of the Finger Lakes region but it looks as if there’s loads to see and do there. I’d love to hike along the Gorge Trail with all those waterfalls.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA September 26, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

      The Gorge Trail is pretty spectacular, and the whole region is a lot of fun. Thanks for the comment!

  2. The GypsyNesters September 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    We mad this same trip last year and loved it, especially the glass museum and soaring. Another highlight was that we got to tour motorhome out on the racetrack at Watkins Glen.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA September 26, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

      Ooh, motorhome touring on the racetrack sounds like fun. Another reason for a return visit!

  3. Susan H Reddel September 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    This looks like a region that needs to be explored slowly. So much to do, see and of course eat. Lots of delicious food on this route!

    • Fun in Fairfax VA September 26, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

      And drink! We love wine and beer tasting and there are so many spots to choose from. The food options are also excellent.

  4. Irene S. Levine September 29, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    You’ve whetted my thirst for a Finger Lakes getaway!

    • Fun in Fairfax VA October 10, 2018 at 9:46 am #

      That’s good to hear Irene. The Southern Finger Lakes area is stunning; you will love it.

  5. Eric October 10, 2018 at 5:59 am #

    First time I heard about wine from NY I chuckled. However, tasting is believing and see great things coming from the Finger Lakes wineries. I think the folks in California are going to have to take notice.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA October 10, 2018 at 9:47 am #

      I know what you mean, Eric. We’re so used to thinking American wine has to come from California. But the wines being produced in the Finger Lakes region are so good. CA has competition on their hands. 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 8 Great Things To Do Near Keuka Lake • McCool Travel - October 6, 2016

    […] We (Julie at FuninFairfaxVA.com and I) were hosted by Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes as an opportunity to explore and […]

  2. Outdoor Summer Fun In and Near Northern Virginia - Fun in Fairfax VA - June 20, 2017

    […] If a road trip is more your style, we highly recommend a drive through Northern and Southern Shenandoah Valley. Architecture and nature lovers can explore Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces in the Laurel Highlands area of Western Pennsylvania. History fans should put a Gettysburg getaway on their list. And for beachy fun, flat-water kayaking, and tasty seaside food, a Delaware getaway is calling. Further afield but worth the drive are the beautiful vineyards and waterways of the Southern Finger Lakes area. […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: