I live in the Finger Lakes now, and I always have. In Horseheads, to be exact. In the same house, actually. I’ve grown up hiking in the state parks and enjoying the various fairs and festivals that call this region home. I truly believe that what I have here is a gem. A lot of people don’t know about this little destination they call the Finger Lakes, but my goal is to spread the word even more.
I could make a much longer list of why I love this area and love living here, but instead, I’ll give you my top five.
1. Small Town Charm
I’d say probably 95% of the Finger Lakes is comprised of what most people would consider “small towns.” This isn’t a big metropolitan area at all; it’s quite the opposite. We don’t do without our fair share of chain stores and restaurants by any means, but they aren’t in our face like so much of the country. In fact, it’s common around here for someone to have to drive half an hour or more just to find the nearest mall.
Instead of big shopping centers, we have main streets, markets, and locally owned businesses. One of my favorite things is the farmer’s markets, and we have a lot of good ones. The farmer’s market in Ithaca, located very centrally in the Finger Lakes, was ranked #9 on a list of the 101 Best Farmer’s Markets in America in 2013. There are countless little towns in the region that are full of little shops and there’s a very big artisan scene here as well. Some towns that come to mind are Watkins Glen, Lodi, and Hammondsport. If shopping for quality, local, handmade items is your thing, the Finger Lakes is the perfect places for it.
2. Outdoor Activities
This has got to be my top reason I love living in the Finger Lakes. For those of you who always thought of New York as just being like New York City, there’s a vast difference between the state and the city. Come up here, and it’ll seem like a whole new world (Aladdin reference intended). We have a lot of state parks, not to mention other things to do and places to enjoy creation.
If you love bike riding, there is a 12 mile long bike trail between Watkins Glen and Pine Valley (south of Watkins). It’s not a boring trail either; sometimes it’s next to a stream, sometimes it’s in the sunshine, and sometimes you’re surrounded by lush trees and dark foliage, like being in a cool forest.
As you’re going to see often here on Play Finger Lakes, there are plenty of waterfalls here, too. A lot of them require a bit of a hike to see them, so put on your sneakers and grab your water bottle. Some of my favorite hikes that include waterfalls are at Letchworth State Park, Watkins Glen State Park, and Taughannock Falls. If hiking’s not for you, don’t worry, because some waterfalls are literally right next to the road! When I was little, one of my favorite things to do on the drive up to Watkins Glen was look out the window and see how many waterfalls I could see by the road; they’re not all small either, some of them are pretty big and very gorgeous. My two favorites by the road are Shequaga Falls and Hector Falls.
Another huge outdoor activity in the Finger Lakes involves, obviously, the lakes themselves. There is a huge boating scene here, and one of the favorite things to do for everyone here and spend a weekend at the lake. There are lots of places to rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and boats, as well as a number of boating type excursions as well. And if you don’t feel like boating, you can always go swimming too; with a number of waterfalls, state park pools, and lakes, you won’t be without options.
They don’t call people “leaf-peepers” that come to the northeast part of the country in autumn for nothing! The Finger Lakes is among these beautiful regions that burst with color when fall is here and the leaves are bright and beautiful. With our rolling hills, it’s easy to see the vast amount of trees from almost anywhere; valleys, sides of hills, or at the top of a hill itself.
The air is cool, the leaves are bright, but what else can you do? Well, New York is known for its apples, so you can go apple picking! There are lots of apple orchards throughout the Finger Lakes that not only welcome picking, but offer other apple treats such as candy apples, applesauce, and even apple cider. Most of them will be happy to show you around and show you how they create their cider goodness too, so don’t hesitate to ask.
It’s no secret that the Finger Lakes is a big wine destination; in fact, it’s the 4th in TripAdvisor’s “Top 10 U.S. Wine Destinations.” We have over 100 wineries along and between the shores of our long finger lakes, and each of them has something unique to offer.
There are official wine trails for each of the major lakes, which feature the biggest and most prominent wineries along each of them. Of course these ones are really fun to visit; but I think one of the coolest things is exploring the “little guy,” the ones that are still small and aren’t even featured on wine trail maps. I’ve mentioned before how the area is full of hidden treasures, and I think the little wineries are an excellent example of that.
Many wineries also have music nights and dancing, as well as special events all throughout the year. Chances are, if you’re in the mood for wine and want to be a part of a party or event, it won’t be hard to find one in the Finger Lakes.
For me, it would be a crime to not mention Wegmans as the best grocery store in the world. No, seriously! If you aren’t familiar with Wegmans, I encourage you to hop over to their website here, and check out where your nearest location is. If you don’t live in the general northeast area of the US, it’ll be quite a drive – but it’s worth it! 😉
Wegmans is not only a grocery store; it’s a cafe, a fish market, a tea bar, a florist, and a health food store all wrapped up in a nice brown package. This is all under one “supermarket” roof, but it’s basically the mac daddy of all grocery stores. They have a huge ethnic food section, too! I was in Illinois for college this past year, and I missed Wegmans so much. You can’t understand how much I missed it unless you’ve experienced it’s greatness for yourself. Oh, and how does this pertain to the Finger Lakes? Their flagship store and home base is found here, in Rochester, New York! I’m obsessed with Wegmans, and once you visit, you will be too.
Oh, and also, I have to mention that Wegmans has been rated the #1 grocery store in America for many, many years in a row now. It’s also one of the top companies to work for in America. How’s that for an awesome business model!