Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Finger Lakes, NY

  • Published 2022/11/17

Finger Lakes is a large region that offers exciting leisure options.

This region spreads over a triangle hugging the city peripheries of Rochester and Syracuse in the north and the duo of Elmira/Corning in the south.

It was named after a group of 11 narrow and long lakes formed by receding glaciers during the last Ice Age thousands of years ago.

These lakes, located south of Lake Ontario, line up east to west: Otisco, Cayuga, Skaneateles, Keuka, Seneca, Owasco, Canandaigua, Honeoye, Canadice, Hemlock, and Conesus.

They offer various recreational activities, such as boating, fishing, and water-based sports.

Land-based leisure pursuits are as plentiful in the region as Finger Lakes is also home to several state parks.

Moreover, the cities and towns of Upstate New York in and around this region offer a scintillating array of getaway destinations.

Here are the best things to do in Finger Lakes, New York:

Explore the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Wetland at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

vagabond54 /

Accessible via U.S. Route 20 in East Seneca Falls, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is spread over 10,000 acres across three counties: Seneca, Wayne, and Cayuga.

This wildlife refuge offers several points of interest and activities in its domain on the northern periphery of Cayuga Lake.

Hunting is permitted in some parts of the wildlife refuge, subject to special regulations during the state seasons.

Great egret on Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge's pond

KRNaturalPhoto /

At May’s Point, visitors can hunt white-tail deer or waterfowl and observe birdlife.

Numerous migrating birds rest in the wildlife refuge, making its flight lanes one of the most active in the Atlantic Flyway.

For a convenient spot to observe wildlife, proceed to the Main Pool Observation Tower of the wildlife refuge center.

The tower provides a telescope and is located near the Visitor Center, where tours and special events are hosted at certain times of the year.

Waterfowl at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Hartzell Photography /

An observation tower with a telescope is also available at the Tschache Pool, a 1,100-acre impoundment amid a dike.

Besides birds like eagles, this pool is also a habitat for muskrats.

The three interconnected paths of Esker Brook Nature Trails provide an added 1.5 miles of wildlife habitats to explore in the refuge.

Bird on a branch at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Pierre Williot /

Enjoy Boating at the Allen H. Treman State Marine Park

The Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, accessible via Taughannock Boulevard in Ithaca, is on the south end of Cayuga Lake.

This 40-mile-long lake is the longest in the Finger Lakes Region and offers boating facilities.

One of New York State’s largest inland marinas, Allan H. Treman, provides more than 400 boat slips.

The park also has a picnic area, kayak rentals, and an eight-lane boat launch ramp for visitors trailering their vessels.

The Cayuga Waterfront Trail is easily accessible from this park, providing its visitors with convenient access to the city of Ithaca.

For birdwatchers, the Cayuga Lake shoreline and the Hog Hole wetland offer great opportunities to see various species of water birds.

Turning to the western lakeshore, you have other recreational options at the Cayuga Lake State Park.

The amenities in this park near Seneca Falls include a boat launch, playgrounds, campsites, and fishing spots.

Sample Beers at Seneca Lake Brewing

Indulge in a beer tasting at Seneca Lake Brewing Company & The Beerocracy on State Route 14 in Rock Stream.

Its tap room, The Beerocracy, got its inspiration from a turn-of-the-century, traditional British pub serving specialty ales.

Seneca Lake Brewing manufactures these unique beers using traditional casks.

You can extend your visit to this brewery by staying in one of the its glamping sites overlooking the picturesque Seneca Lake.

Three pre-set glamping sites are available here: The Empire Camp, The Colonial Camp, and The Commonwealth Camp.

Camp at Sampson State Park

Seneca lake at Sampson State Park

Hank Erdmann /

Sampson State Park is located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake off New York Route 96A in Romulus.

This park spreads over 2,000 acres and provides serene views of Seneca Lake, the largest by volume and the second longest in the Finger Lakes Region.

It has 243 campsites with power and water hookups.

Cozy cabin rentals are also available in the park’s Seneca Lake Resorts.

There are also 96 boat slips and a large ramp with multiple launch sites and gas pumps.

Other park attractions include facilities for tennis, basketball, volleyball, and horseshoes, plus a sandy beach with lifeguards.

Sampson State Park is also home to the Sampson Memorial Naval & Air Force Museum, with interesting exhibits and indoor and outdoor displays.

Catch Trout at Catharine Creek

Catharine Creek is a popular destination in the Finger Lakes Region for anglers.

It’s accessible via Watkins Road in Millport.

Sports fishing in the creek is at its height during spring when schools of rainbow trout enter the waterway to spawn.

In the fall, visiting anglers target brown trout and Atlantic salmon landlocked in the creek.

Catharine Creek runs for approximately 15 miles through Schuyler and Chemung counties.

Its course proceeds into Seneca Lake, the Finger Lakes Region’s largest, and drains into Lake Ontario, contributing to the rich fishing stock of the creek.

Go for a Swing at King Ferry Golf Club

Offering a nine-hole course, the King Ferry Golf Club is a picturesque golfing destination between Auburn and Ithaca.

It’s accessible from Clearview Road off State Route 60, only two miles west of King Ferry’s village.

The club’s course is a Scottish-style link extending over 3,100 yards, with its off-fairway grounds defined by tall and wispy wild fescue.

A short round in this layout plays at par 36, with the views of Cayuga Lake providing inspiration.

King Ferry Golf Club has practice areas, including a driving range plus putting and chipping greens.

Experience Finger Lakes via the Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail

A lock at Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail

Kathleen Conklin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail allows you to explore Finger Lakes leisurely.

The trail traces a former railroad bed along the canal linking Cayuga and Seneca lakes.

You can access this trail from its off-road section on Route 96A near the Seneca Lake State Park in Fayette.

Stretching for about five miles, the trail heads east toward the village of Waterloo.

A tunnel built under Route 96A also connects to the Lakefront Trail of Seneca Lake State Park.

The Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail is generally flat and passes through a pastoral landscape along the abandoned railway corridor.

Shade trees line this corridor which is a delight to ride, run, or walk along.

Three public fishing areas along the trail provide anglers access to the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.

Enjoy a Full Play at Bonavista State Park Golf Course

Located off Country Road 132 in the town of Ovid, Bonavista State Park Golf Course offers a full 18-hole play on its short course.

It features a nine-hole layout playable twice from varying tee placements for an 18-hole total play.

Bonavista State Park Golf Course plays at par 36 over 3,164 yards for regulation play and 3,332 for the championship play.

Seneca Lake provides a mesmerizing backdrop to this layout, which has a course rating of 70.4 and a slope rating of 112.

A clubhouse with a restaurant and picnic areas are available within the area.

Buy Organic Products at the Keuka Trail Farm Market

The Keuka Trail Farm Market is a must-visit destination in the Finger Lakes region for fans of organic produce.

This market is located on Darbys Corners Road in the small “crossroads community” of Branchport.

An advocate of healthy living, the market offers natural products, including honey bee items, essential oils, and herbal tinctures.

Its shelves also offer choices of organically produced spices, coffee, and other food items.

From Keuka Trail Farm Market, several vineyards and the Keuka Lake State Park are just a short distance away, ideal for side trips.

Visit the Tasting Rooms along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Vineyard at Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Bruce Goerlitz Photo /

Take the Seneca Lake Wine Trail winding through State Route 14, with nearly 30 wine-tasting rooms.

This area around Seneca Lake abounds with wineries, with the local conditions creating the perfect environment for growing grapes.

Hence, the grape orchards on the flanks of Seneca Lake have been identified as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) and one of the foundations of the Finger Lakes wine industry.

Growing grapes along Seneca Lake Wine Trail

OneMoreLeg /

The wineries in the Seneca Lake Wine Trail produce premium cool climate wines, which you can try while enjoying the scenic views of the tasting rooms.

These tasting rooms are also popular for their seasonal events.

These special occasions include live music and holiday-themed celebrations.

Picnic tables along Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Bruce Goerlitz Photo /

Meet the Creatives of the Rochester Folk Art Guild

Rochester Folk Art Guild is an endearing artists’ community in the rural town of Middlesex.

A non-profit organization, this guild calls its home a 350-acre working farm on Upper Hill Road.

The guild maintains a craft center where its artisans make, display, and sell their works.

Pottery, folk toys, woodcraft, woven natural fibers, and clothing are some of the items available in the guild’s craft center.

Rochester Folk Art Guild also holds special events like folk music concerts and poetry readings.

Relax at Vine Valley Town Park

Drop by Vine Valley Town Park for a quiet and relaxing visit to Middlesex, east of Canandaigua Lake.

This park is located on East Lake Road and boasts a sandy beach with lifeguards on duty during summer.

It also features a gazebo, picnic tables, restrooms, and a boat launch featuring a gradually sloped concrete ramp for vessels’ easy access to the lake.

Vine Valley Town Park also features the historic Vine Valley General Store, originally built in 1890.

Snacks, sandwiches, and ice cream are available seasonally at this quaint store.

Enjoy Majestic Views at Watkins Glen State Park

Rainbow falls at Watkins Glen State Park

jgorzynik /

Visit Watkins Glen State Park via North Franklin Street in the village of Watkins Glen for spellbinding views of gorges and waterfalls.

This park is the most scenic among the state parks in Finger Lakes, featuring 19 waterfalls.

These cataracts cascade within two miles of the park, following a stream along a gorge descending some 400 feet and passing 200-foot cliff walls.

People at Watkins Glen State Park

Shinsin Photos /

Visitors can marvel at these sights from rim trails overlooking the gorge and experience the spray of water as their trek hits the park’s Cavern Cascade.

Summer tours and park amenities like an Olympic-size pool, campsites, and picnic facilities are available to visitors.

Cliffside trail at Watkins Glen State Park

Wirestock Creators /

Explore the Wilderness at Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve

Visit the Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve for an easy trek to the wilderness.

This preserve is accessible from Jones Road off State Route 21, just a short drive south of downtown Canandaigua.

Immerse yourselves in Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve’s 90-acre forests and open meadows via a one-mile loop trail.

Several lookout points are available along this trail, each with a hand-carved bench from local timber.

These vista points provide wonderful views of Canandaigua Lake and the opportunity to see the preserve’s wildlife.

Score Great Finds at the Windmill Farm & Craft Market

Welcome sign of the Windmill Farm & Craft Market


The Windmill Farm & Craft Market is a one-stop destination capturing most of the charm of the Finger Lakes Region.

This quaint market is located on State Route 14A in the town of Penn Yan, flanked by the scenic lakes of Seneca and Keuka.

Set over 44 acres of woodlands, the market is home to more than 175 indoor and outdoor shops.

It offers various products such as fresh produce, handcrafted items, artwork, and more.

In addition, Windmill Farm & Craft Market is home to six wineries, a distillery, and a brewery, plus a wide selection of restaurants and snack bars.

Final Thoughts

Various majestic attractions await Finger Lakes visitors.

The natural wonders of its 11 lakes alone offer many recreational activities.

Check out this list of the best things to do in Finger Lakes, New York, for your itinerary!

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