Family-Friendly Day Trips in the Finger Lakes
While it's hard to tear yourself away from a day on Keuka Lake, I always recommend taking a day to explore the beauty that the Finger Lakes has to offer.
Here's my top recommendations for you and your family if you're looking to take a day trip out in Finger Lakes country!
1. Watkins Glen
This one goes without saying, and maybe you've heard of it if you're from the area. While it's famous for its racetrack, Watkins Glen is home of an incredible gorges in the Watkins Glen State Park (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/142/). The gorges were carved out thousands of years ago by glaciers and filled with water as the glaciers receded. Accessible hiking trails wind around 19 absolutely beautiful waterfalls.
Watkins Glen is about a thirty minute ride from Penn Yan, and while it's open year-round, the Gorge Trail closes in late October for the winter months. It also offers several delicious lunch and dinner restaurants- we recommend Jerlando's Restaurante and Pizza Co. if Italian is your thing!
There's an $8 entrance fee per vehicle, but for a day's worth of enjoying one of my favorite treks, it's well worth it.
If you've got very young children or older people in your group, please note that the walkways around the gorges can get slippery so please remember to exercise caution.
If you're not the hiking type, you can also pay a visit to the Watkins Glen International Racetrack! You can view a complete calendar of events here: (http://www.theglen.com/Tickets-Events/Event-Calendar.aspx).
And lastly, while you're in the area, it's worth driving by Montour Falls on your way home. Montour Falls is the town adjacent to Watkins Glen, named for its stunning waterfall that just as impressive in the winter as it is in the summer. It's located on South Genesee St., Montour Falls NY, you'll know it when you see it!
Hammondsport is located at the bottom of Keuka Lake, at the base of the "Y". It's a classic upstate New York lake town, with a sleepy main street ringed by old storefronts and historic Victorian-style houses. Right up against the lake with public water access, you're within walking distance of antique shops, boutiques, and lunching.
This is also a location where you can rent a kayak, boat, or bike.
For antiques, there's Opera House Antiques, Shethar57, Scandia House Inc., and Browsers. Adorable shops like Cinnamon Stick and Lake County Patchwork are also located right on the main street. If you need to stock up on essentials, the Hammondsport Grocery is also just a walk away from the main square.
If you've got kids with you, they'll love the Glenn H. Curtiss museum. I know what you're thinking- yeah right. Maybe you're kids are more likely to commandeer jet skis than to politely and quietly meander through a museum, agreeably reading each plaque and asking thoughtful historical questions. But really, it's not that kind of museum- very little reading involved here. In the Glenn H. Curtiss, there's old airplanes, automobiles, bicycles (anything with wheels or an engine, really) hanging from the ceiling and collision wrecks prominently featured in every room. I'm not a huge engine/mechanical/aviation fanatic, but these exhibits are really cool to see and definitely worth the visit. Glenn Curtiss is a neat part of Finger Lakes history, an inventor who is hardly well-known but who definitely deserves some attention.
If you're not museum'ed-out yet, check out the Finger Lakes Boating Museum. I've never been, so I can't attest to it's kid-friendliness, but it's apparently home to some beautiful boats.
Following up your tour of this cute town, make sure to stop for lunch or dinner at the Village Tavern Inn and Restaurant. Located central to shops, the Village Tavern makes THE BEST beer bread I've ever tasted. Seriously, I could come here just for the bread. If you've never been fortunate enough to try beer bread, it's bread made with a heavier beer that lends the dough a sweeter and decidedly buttery taste (the alcohol bakes off, of course). Absolutely to die for.
Other dining options, and favorites of my family's, are the Waterfront Restaurant and The Switzerland Inn, or the Switz for short. The Waterfront Restaurant is, true to its name, right up against the lake and you can boat to one of its docks. It's a super location for a beautiful day when you really can't pull yourself away from the lake. The Switz is another great restaurant, with an American-style menu, delicious lobster ravioli, and an unbeatable view of the sunset. It's a great atmosphere for families and also has deck seating, like the Waterfront.
Surrounding the Hammondsport area are several breweries and wineries, which is a whole 'nother post.
3. Taughannock Falls State Park
This is another state park worth a visit. It's an hour away from Penn Yan, with it's namesake waterfall plunging 215 feet from cliffs 400 feet above the gorge. I'ts the tallest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi!
There's campsites and cabins, trails for hiking in the warmer months and cross-country skiing in the winter. All trails are open usually beginning in May. There's also a swimming beach and a marina, and canoes and kayaks can be rented between the months of March and November. The park also organizes summer concerts along the lakefront of Cayuga lake. Entrance is just $8 per vehicle.
4. Corning Museum of Glass
The Corning Museum Glass is an hour drive from Penn Yan, but don't write it off yet. It's a great backup plan for a rainy day, and very engaging for kids. There's lots to look at as it has beautiful galleries and there's also glassblowing demonstrations, which I remember being fascinated by when my family went. There's also an option to make your own glass project, which is a little more expensive (depending on the project, it's 20-50 dollars), but certainly not necessary to fully experience the museum.
5. Ski at Bristol Mountain
If you're visiting during the winter, Bristol Mountain offers the highest vertical peak between the Adirondacks and the Rockies. It's very family friendly with several beginning slopes and has received great reviews for its atmosphere. Lift tickets are also reasonable. The ski season opens in December and ends in March.
Image sources: Watkins Glen photo courtesy of John Menard (Flickr), Hammondsport photo courtesy of See1,Do1,Teach1 (Flickr), Taughannock Falls State Park photo courtesy of Michael C. Rygel (Wikipedia Commons), Corning Museum of Glass photo courtesy of Chris Dlugosz, Bristol Mountain photo courtesy of Visit Finger Lakes (Wikipeda Commons)