25 Best Things to Do in Watkins Glen, NY

Watkins Glen, NY
Mihai_Andritoiu / shutterstock.com

A small village located between Niagara Falls and New York City, Watkins Glen is the perfect place for enjoying vacations in the Finger Lakes area.

This village offers a wide variety of activities for all visitors.

Known for its beautiful landscapes and plenty of outdoor activities, it is a paradise for all hikers, bikers, and other adventurists.

Watkins Glen is especially suitable for people who love and enjoy the water, as it is all about lakes, waterfalls, brooks, and forests.

Even though it appears to be a small village at first glance, Watkins Glen offers everything a traveler could look for in a vacation.

With its lively locals and delicious foods, this must-visit village will definitely be one of your favorites.

Here are the best things to do in Watkins Glen, New York:

Go Cruising on the Lovely Seneca Lake

The waters of Seneca Lake
Liz Van Steenburgh / Shutterstock.com

As one of the state's most famous and beautiful lakes, Seneca Lake is the largest in volume and the second-longest in length in the Finger Lakes region.

Seneca covers more than 43,000 acres and has a shoreline that spreads over 75 miles.

The lake is as deep as 600 feet and looks quite beautiful.

There are numerous ways you can enjoy this lake.

However, the best place to enjoy Seneca Lake is to go on a lake cruise.

Plastic chairs on a dock overlooking Seneca Lake
JWCohen / Shutterstock.com

There are many service providers that offer rental equipment or allow visitors to launch their own boats.

The best is Captain Bill's Cruises, which is a favorite among locals as well as visitors.

Captain Bill's offers various dining options to visitors.

In addition, you can also enjoy extremely delicious lunch and afternoon snacks.

There is also the option to take a cruise on the captain's vintage 49-passenger vessel, which shows you the breathtaking views around the lake and its beautiful water.

Sailboats on Seneca Lake's marina
Denis Starostin / Shutterstock.com

Admire the Fascinating Displays at the Brick Tavern Museum

A famous federal structure that was designed in 1828, the Brick Tavern Museum is located near Seneca Lake and Watkins Glen.

The museum has beautiful exhibitions that portray the story of Schuyler County's rich past.

Its exhibitions primarily represent the history of fields such as American textiles, native artifacts, medical items, fashion items, transportation, and industries.

The Brick Tavern Museum also has its own research room, which allows genealogists to understand the past of the village in a better, easier manner.

This attraction in Watkins Glen is managed by the Schuyler County Historical Society and is definitely worth a visit if you are a history enthusiast.

Taste the Finest Wines at Castel Grisch Winery

Covering almost 40 acres of land and offering breathtaking views of Seneca Lake, the beautiful Castle Grisch Winery was established in the year 1983.

The winery offers more than 14 varieties of wine.

What makes this winery different from others in the village is its commitment to using the best quality grapes, which are always freshly plucked in time for the winemaking process.

This vineyard produces the highest quality wines, ranging from red wines to white ones.

You can also enjoy freshly produced wine in the winery's tasting room, which is open seasonally from May to December.

Apart from the wines, Castel Grisch Winery also offers excellent views from its outdoor patio.

Meet Rescued Farm Animals at Farm Sanctuary

Sheep at Farm Sanctuary
MattxDavey / Shutterstock.com

The beautiful Farm Sanctuary covers an area of over 271 acres and beautiful green pastures in New York's Finger Lakes region.

It's the perfect place for a family day out.

This organization offers refuge to more than 500 animals, most of which are either rescued or orphaned.

Wooden cabins at Farm Sanctuary
Meagan Marchant / Shutterstock.com

Farm Sanctuary also employs its own guides who help visitors and keep them entertained by telling them stories about how different pigs, turkeys, cows, and other animals came to find a home here.

The place also has a small gift shop and a tiny deck to enjoy the scenery.

Farm Sanctuary is part of a more extensive network of sanctuaries that provide shelter to domestic animals who are in need and create awareness among visitors about farm animals and their plight.

A cow in Farm Sanctuary
Meagan Marchant / Shutterstock.com

Participate in the Annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival

The one event you definitely shouldn't miss if you are in Watkins Glen is the Finger Lakes Wine Festival.

This annual festival is organized every July and hosts over 90 wine-producing companies, famous restaurants, hotels, and local vendors of a variety of items ranging from kitchenware to musical instruments.

The Finger Lakes Wine Festival is an event where you can get in touch with local artists, chefs, musicians, and other visitors from around the world and enjoy some great company.

You can also eat great food, listen to fabulous music, and sip delicious wine.

The festival also provides various learning opportunities, such as culinary classes and cooking demonstrations.

It presents the perfect opportunity to get your hands on some locally produced chocolates, candles, paintings, oils, cigars, and more.

Joining the Finger Lakes Wine Festival is an excellent way to enjoy time with friends and family while in Watkins Glen.

Grab Coffee and Pastries at Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli

Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli is the liveliest and most famous spot in Watkins for grabbing some delicious coffee, freshly made pastries, and mouth-watering cold cuts.

This must-visit cafe, deli, and bakery also serves coffee that's made free of any chemicals.

All the coffee beans used in the bakery are procured from the nearby local market.

You can also buy fresh bread and other items such as cookies, pastries, brownies, and chocolate bars.

In addition to its regular options, Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli also offers gluten-free choices.

Beyond its bakery items, you can also try their great sandwiches, wraps, salads, and other homemade fares like soups, cheese, and egg dishes.

Make Your Way to the Stunning Rainbow Falls

Cascades of Rainbow Falls
Sara Winter / Shutterstock.com

A scenic and unbelievably beautiful waterfall, Rainbow Falls is found in the Watkins Glen State Park area, at the southern end of Seneca Lake.

Along with 18 other waterfalls in the State Park area, there are trails that you can explore that lead to these falls.

People walking by Rainbow Falls
Jay Yuan / Shutterstock.com

Rainbow Falls is easily reachable and allows visitors to hike around the area.

It is situated over the largest cascade in the park, which is over 60 feet tall.

The entire scenery around Rainbow Falls is very beautiful and filled with colors.

The base of Rainbow Falls
Eduard Moldoveanu / Shutterstock.com

Have a Cup of Joe at Seneca Sunrise Coffee

Seneca Sunrise Coffee is hands down the best coffee roaster in the village of Watkins Glen.

Most of the coffee sold at this place is certified to be organic, shade-grown, and sourced from all over the world.

The coffee smells delicious and is almost enough to take away everyone's blues and negativity.

Depending on your preference, you can buy a hot or a cold brew.

In addition to their ready-to-drink coffee beverages, beans are also available for purchase, so you can brew your own coffee at home.

The beans sold at Seneca Sunrise Coffee are also available in select grocery stores around the world.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor

Located right on the southern corner of the Watkins Glen State Park area, the Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor is a unique ice cream parlor in the village.

It is a family-owned business and has been serving locals and visitors for more than 30 years.

The shop boasts more than 30 ice cream flavors, frozen treats, cakes, and other gelato products.

The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor is unique because everything they offer is made fresh once orders are received.

In addition to the regular items, the parlor also offers vegan and non-dairy variants.

This dessert shop also takes orders for customized cakes with printed photographs on top of them.

If you have a big sweet tooth, this ice cream parlor definitely deserves a spot on your Watkins Glen itinerary.

Watch a Thrilling Race at Watkins Glen International

Race cars in Watkins Glen International
Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock.com

A very famous car racetrack known for its outstanding services, Watkins Glen International is located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake.

Also known as "The Glen," the racetrack was constructed in the year 1956 and has been maintained regularly since then.

A race car during a pit stop at Watkins Glen International
Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock.com

The racetrack has hosted the Formula One United States Grand Prix for 20 consecutive years.

Apart from Formula One races, the racetrack also hosts other racing events, such as the World Sports Car Championship, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the International Motor Sports Association, and many more.

In addition to the races, it also serves as a venue for various music concerts, the most famous being the 1973 Summer Jam with the Grateful Dead.

Race cars rear at Watkins Glen International
Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock.com

Spend a Day Outdoors at Watkins Glen State Park

The 778-acre park offers exciting outdoor activities for families and friends traveling to Watkins Glen.

Not only that Watkins Glen State Park is home to the gorgeous 19 waterfalls, but it also features camping sites, picnic areas, a playground, a swimming pool, and a gift shop.

It's also popular for hiking, fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing.

It also features 3 different trails, which you can climb or go down the gorge; taking you to the 19 waterfalls along the course.

Watkins Glen State Park was opened in 1863 as a private resort until the New York State purchased it in 1906.

You can find the park at North Franklin Street.

Drop by the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce

Dropping by the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce is one of the recommended stops in your travel to Watkins Glen.

Here, you can find out more about tourist spots, restaurants, hotels, shops, bars, and many other helpful information in getting around town and its neighboring areas.

You can ask for maps, booklets, and brochures at the reception, which are all readily available for everyone visiting.

Don't forget to take a photo of the mural at the center. It's beautiful!

The Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce also operates the official Schuyler County Visitor Center on North Franklin Street.

Go Fishing with Summit to Stream Adventures

If you're up for fishing on Finger Lakes, the best people to tap with are from Summit To Stream Adventures on Seneca Harbor Drive.

It offers fly fishing and charter fishing excursions on the Finger Lakes Seneca, Cayuga, Keuka, Waneta, and Lamoka.

On Seneca Lake, you get to catch rainbow trout, lake trout, and salmon with the help of the caption.

You'll be on board a charter boat and the calming waters of the lake while catching some trout!

Summit To Stream Adventures is only a catch-and-release fishing charter although you can make arrangements if you'd like to keep the fish.

Get Pampered at Inner Peace Floats

After a long day in Watkins Glen, it would be nice to relax and disconnect from the world for an hour or two at Inner Peace Floats.

You can either get floatation therapy or a massage from one of its experienced and licensed therapies for a few hours of healing and rejuvenation.

A private space for you to relax and float for up to 90 minutes and a massage for an hour would be swell!

The spa also offers yoga classes for all skill levels.

Inner Peace Floats is located off West 4th Street.

Have a Good Read at Watkins Glen Public Library

For traveling bookworms, you can have some time off and take refuge in the reading nooks of Watkins Glen Public Library.

Established in 1870, the library keeps an eclectic selection of books for kids, teens, and adults with many genres to explore.

Choose from its wide collection of audiobooks, magazines, e-books, and lots of helpful resources for reading, research, and study.

The library also hosts many programs and events for everyone.

Watkins Glen Public Library is nestled in International Motor Racing Research Center on South Decatur Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Enjoy an Ice-Cold Beer at Grist Iron Brewing Company

Opened recently in 2015, Grist Iron Brewing Company is a popular microbrewery near Watkins Glen.

This brewery, located in the neighboring village of Burdett, produces its own range of beers and unique American-style sides with a slightly different touch.

It's a great place to visit if you're looking to make some new friends and interact with locals.

While enjoying the brewery's unique menu items, you can also refresh your mind with the help of the live music performances that take place here almost every weekend of the year.

The brewery's taproom is also worth visiting and offers delicious grub that pairs well with their beer.

Witness the Magical Hector Falls

Hector Falls
Tetyana Ohare / Shutterstock.com

Hector Falls is a majestically beautiful waterfall just five minutes away from Watkins Glen's downtown area.

This natural attraction is situated on a vast expanse of limestone and extends to Seneca Lake.

Almost 170 feet tall, the waterfall and its various cascades can be viewed from the main road itself.

Far view of Hector Falls
Richard345 / Shutterstock.com

The lower portion of Hector Falls is found on a privately owned property and can only be viewed by boat.

However, you can easily rent or join tour groups to enjoy its entire cascading effect.

The waterfall gets its water from Hector Falls Creek.

The best time to visit Hector Falls is in the spring since the water flow is reduced in the summer.

The base of Hector Falls
Scott T Slattery / Shutterstock.com

Go Horseback Riding at Painted Bar Stables

A unique attraction near Watkins Glen, Painted Bar Stables is a beautiful and well-managed stable that offers its services to visitors throughout the year.

This horseback riding facility in Burdett provides amenities for visitors to enjoy the nearby trails with their trained and well-behaved horses.

The trails around the stables are quite scenic, which makes the entire experience more enjoyable.

Depending on your preferences, you can also take lessons on horseback riding, lease horses, or board horses.

The rides are planned carefully and involve only trained horses and guides.

Painted Bar Stables is perfect for people who are looking to enjoy the area's natural scenery and go horseback riding along the trails.

If you find yourself in or around Burdett, horseback riding is an ideal adventure sport for you to try on your trip.

Head to Penn Yan for The Windmill Farm and Craft Market

The Windmill Farm and Craft Market is a huge farm and craft market that has been operating for more than 30 years.

It is a very famous tourist attraction near Watkins Glen and takes place in the village of Penn Yan.

The craft market has more than 200 sellers who sell locally produced items.

From freshly produced farm items to clothes, tattoos, vintage cars, furniture, and so much more, everything is available in this market.

The Windmill Farm and Craft Market is so interesting that you can spend an entire day here without realizing how much time has passed.

In the morning, you can enjoy breakfast or browse through some antique items that will surely enhance the beauty of your home.

Afterward, you can later enjoy lunch and even a show or a concert.

Enjoy an Awe-inspiring Sunset View at Clute Park Campground

Clute Park is a wonderful location for families and friends who want to spend time together.

Great facilities on offer at this site, including a public swimming area, playground, plenty of parking options, and volleyball courts.

There are skate parks, basketball courts, picnic tables, and horseshoes.

Clute Park is just a short walk from downtown Watkins Glen.

Its 35 acres of Family Recreational Area makes it an ideal camping location.

This campground is positioned on the bank of the beautiful lake, so you can enjoy an awe-inspiring sunset view.

There are dog-friendly facilities in place that permit pets only when kept on a leash.

Explore an Extensive Display of the Millennia-old History of Glass-making

Exterior of Corning Museum of Glass
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

The Corning Museum of Glass is a renowned establishment offering experiences with glass to hobbyists and art students alike.

This is the world's biggest museum dedicated to the artwork and design of glass objects.

The studio offers classes, workshops, residencies, and opportunities for budding artists to perfect their craft under the watchful eye of world-class experts in glassblowing.

Exhibit in Corning Museum of Glass
Aldo_Parrotta / Shutterstock.com

Studio visitors can create with glass themselves, sometimes even getting a jumpstart on producing their very own unique ideas.

Built by the Corning Glass Works in 1951, it houses over 50,000 glass pieces.

The age range goes back over 3,500 years, so this museum is sure to excite any lover of history, art, or design alike.

Colorful hanging glass figures in Corning Museum of Glass
RWHall / Shutterstock.com

Browse Watkins Glen Farmers Market

The Finger Lakes is home to a veritable cornucopia of fruits and vegetables along with farm-fresh meats and cheeses.

The best place to find these locally made products is at Watkins Glen's farmer's markets, where you can also find soap, clothing, and other artisan goods.

The market was founded in 2005 and is one of many ways people in the area can get locally-grown produce directly from the people who grow it.

The people who make this market possible are hard-working, passionate activists who are dedicated to improving public health through conscious food choices.

The Farmers Markets occurs from early afternoon to sunset in downtown Watkins Glen at Lafayette Park (corner of Decatur and 4th Streets).

This takes place from Memorial Day to the end of October.

See a Blockbuster at Glen Theatre

A haven for movie aficionados, Glen Theatre is a very cute old movie theater at 112 N Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, New York.

This entertainment space is a timeless treasure that many people from the area love to visit.

It boasts an eclectic lineup of Hollywood blockbusters and indie hits, as well as the usual “day-after” movies that are just released in conventional cinemas.

There are only two screens, but this place has got personality by the bucket load.

The concession at Glen Theatre is a little on the small side, but there are still a good variety of options to choose from.

What's really awesome about it is that tickets are significantly cheaper than what most places in this area will charge, and the snacks are about average in price.

Final Thoughts

When John D. Rockefeller was searching for quiet, green countryside to escape his busy life as one of the world’s richest and most influential men, he found his haven in Watkins Glen, New York.

Tourists travel from all over the United States to enjoy everything that this incredible region has to offer.

Some people love wine in Watkins Glen so much, they stay right where they are and make their home here.

If you're making a trip soon anywhere near New York State, you should definitely visit Watkins Glen.

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.