11 Best Things to Do at Finger Lakes, NY

 11 Best Things to Do at Finger Lakes, NY

With so many great things to do at Finger Lakes, it's hard to narrow down options. We're here to help!

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), there are a TON of things to do at Finger lakes so you aren’t going to be able to see all of it in one day. I would bet that you could actually spend an entire week hopping lake to lake and still not see everything!

We are going to cover what we think are the highlights and you’ll be able to choose your own adventure.

Gouged out by receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age, the Finger Lakes look like, well, fingers. Long, narrow lakes running north to south.

There are eleven lakes, Canadice, Canandaigua, Cayuga, Conesus, Hemlock, Honeoye, Keuka, Otisco, Owasco, Seneca, and Skaneateles.

It's no surprise Finger Lakes is in our Top 20 Dreamiest U.S. Road Trips.

11 Best Things to Do at Finger Lakes

Since there are so many wonderful things to do at Finger Lakes, we're going to go over a nice variety of activities and sights for you to enjoy. Starting with visiting Ithaca, New York!

1. Ithaca Falls

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Photo by Jamie Melville on Unsplash

Ithaca is most well known as being the home of Cornell University and as it’s a college town there are lots of interesting little shops and restaurants in their downtown known as “The Commons”.

While exploring Ithaca is one of the popular things to do at Finger Lakes, it's not on our list. What we’re here to see are the Ithaca Falls. Located right in the town (you can drive past) they are a massive jumble of irregular cascades and a few overhanging drops, 105 feet high and 175 feet wide.

From the parking area, you can follow the dirt path down to a small park near the creek. The path runs down to the creek bed and then continues along the gorge towards the falls.

Also in town is Triphammer Falls, this is a 55-foot cascading fall located right on the Cornell campus. The best view of the falls is from the Triphammer Foot Bridge but you can hike down to it as well.

There’s a saying here that “Ithaca is Gorges,” a play on gorgeous because of just how many gorges and waterfalls dot the landscape here, there are over 150 in a 10-mile radius!

Now we aren’t going to name all of them but there are several that are worth visiting.

Discovery Trail

If hiking and waterfalls aren’t your style, check out the Discovery Trail in Ithaca. These are eight different unique attractions around Ithaca spanning art, science, and history.

The Discovery Trail includes:

  • The hands-on science museum called the Sciencenter
  • The world-famous Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds)
  • The wild animals of the Cayuga Nature Center
  • The Cornell Botanic Gardens and arboretum
  • The amazing fossil specimens at the Museum of the Earth
  • The art collections at Cornell's Johnson Museum of Art
  • The local artifacts at the History Center
  • The timely cultural events at the Tompkins Public Library

As you can see, if you love to learn, the Discovery Trail is one of the most interesting things to do at Finger Lakes!

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Buttermilk Falls is a small state park only about 3 miles outside of Ithaca. It takes its name from Buttermilk Creek as it descends more than 500 feet in a series of cascades and rapids down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake.

There are a number of short trails here, take the Rim or Gorge trails for great views of the falls.

Robert H. Treman State Park

Another 5 minutes down the road from Buttermilk Falls, you’ll hit Robert H. Treman State Park.

Robert H. Treman State Park is yet another gem of New York, an area of wild beauty, with the rugged gorge called Enfield Glen running through it.

The Lower Falls are near the east entrance to the park at the mouth of the Glen. There is a swimming area in the pool at the base of the falls.

The 2 mile (4 mile round-trip) Gorge and Rim trails follow the gorge past 12 waterfalls.

The largest fall is the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. Here you can see a mile-and-a-half down the wooded gorge as it winds its way to the lower park.

Taughannock Falls State Park

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Photo by Jamie Melville on Unsplash

Our next stop in this waterfall-fueled adventure is Taughannock Falls State Park. You’ll have to backtrack a little through Ithaca and north along Cayuga Lake but it’s only about a 20-minute drive from Robert H. Treman State Park.

Pronounced Tuh-GA-nick, the falls’ name is believed to have derived from the Algonquian Taconic (“in the trees”).

At 215 feet high, the Taughannock Falls are the largest waterfall in New York State, beating out Niagara Falls by about 30 feet. That's why it certainly makes our list of best things to do at Finger Lakes.

If you love waterfalls, you may also want to check out our article on 13 Stunning Waterfalls in the U.S.

The Gorge and Rim trails offer spectacular views from above the falls and from below at the end of the gorge trail.
• Gorge Trail: 0.75mi along Taughannock Creek to the base of the falls
• South Rim Trail: 1.125 mi
• North Rim Trail: 1.5 mi

On the North Rim Trail, don't miss the view of Taughannock Falls from the Falls Overlook!

The east end of this park is a nice grassy stretch of Cayuga Lake that offers a great view and an opportunity to swim in the lake.

Watkins Glen State Park

From Taughannock Falls State Park, head west to the bottom of Seneca Lake. Located here is another incredible natural gorge called Watkins Glen State Park.

You can experience the dramatic landscape of Watkins Glen on the Indian Trail, South Rim Trail, or Gorge Trail. The Indian and South Rim Trails follow the forested rims of the gorge.

The best trail to go on is the Gorge Trail, which follows Glen Creek descending 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls, two of which you can walk behind!

The Gorge Trail is about 3 miles round-trip and can be steep and wet in many places. If you don’t want to do the full trip there is usually a shuttle bus that will take you from the main entrance to the upper entrance and you can walk the 1.5 miles downhill back down to the main entrance.

Watkins Glen International Racetrack

If you’re a car aficionado you probably already know that Watkins Glen has a rich history of car racing. As well as checking out the Watkins Glen International Racetrack to see what races are going on, you can also enjoy the International Motor Racing Research Center which includes an extensive collection of historic photographs, film, racing artifacts, and records of famous drivers.

Women's Rights National Historical Park

At the north end of Seneca Lake, you will find the town of Seneca Falls, home of Susan B. Anthony's fight for women's suffrage and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

The park tells the story of the first Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19-20, 1848. At the convention, women’s rights leaders put forth a Declaration of Sentiments that became the foundation for the push for equal treatment for women in the United States.

The park is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am-5pm and admission is free.

National Women's Hall of Fame

Also located in Seneca Falls is the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the nation’s oldest membership organization dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American women.

There have been 276 women inducted into the Hall.

The Hall is open 7 days a week March through Oct from 10am-4pm and Wednesday to Sunday, Nov through Feb from 10am-4pm, admission is $5.

Corning Museum of Glass

Half an hour south of Seneca Lake is the city of Corning, home to Corning, Inc. one of, if not the largest, specialty glass and ceramic manufacturers in the world. They make everything from fiber optic cables to Pyrex to TV and smartphone screens.

Because of that, this town is all about glass!

The Corning Museum of Glass is breathtaking and you'll gain a whole new perspective about the seemingly commonplace material of glass.

There’s a lot to do here, and we highly suggest making it part of your list of things to do at Finger Lakes.

You can get a glimpse of more than 3,500 years of historic glass. There are over 30 daily live glass shows from glassblowing and flameworking to glass breaking and fiber optics, demonstrations by special guest artists from around the world, and you can even make your own glass. It is also the home to the largest collection of art glass in the world.

The museum is open daily from 9am-5pm, with extended hours of 9am-8pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is $20/person.

Gaffer District

Right next to the Corning Museum of Glass, you’ll find yourself in the historic downtown area known as the Gaffer District. A gaffer is a master glassblower, so the name is quite fitting.

In this five-block area, there are more than a hundred shops, studios, galleries, and restaurants, as well as a number of unique and historic architecture. Make sure to stop for a second to explore a few of these interesting art galleries and glass shops.

That's our list of Favorite Things to Do at Finger Lakes

With that, we’ve made our way across a few of the Finger Lakes and hit some pretty interesting landmarks along the way. You can take our suggestions or make your own adventure in the Finger Lakes.  Either way, you can’t go wrong!

From Ithaca to Watkins Glen, Geneva to Penn Yan, and Hammondsport to Canandaigua; all of the little towns scattered throughout this area are quite charming. They offer quaint hospitality, beautiful scenery, history, and some very nice restaurants, wineries, and craft breweries.

What Are Your Favorite Things to Do at Finger Lakes?

If we missed something egregious, comment below! We’ll make sure it ends up in future
versions of our Adirondacks Adventure Guide!

7 Day Adirondack Travel Guide

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This ebook is a seven-day guided exploration of the Adirondacks in New York! We give you a complete rundown of all the best things to do at Fingerlakes and throughout Adirondack Park.

We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way.

11 Best Things to Do at Finger Lakes, NY

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

7 Comments

  • Having lived in the Finger Lakes region for a short period of time, your discussion only covers two of the seven lakes that make up the Finger Lakes region. All have something worthwhile to see or do when you visit the area.

    • Grew up near the finger lakes. The area was first inhabited by the Iroquois Indians and the five lakes were named after the five tribes of the Iroquois.

  • Also grew up in the Finger Lakes. Correction to your article: Seneca Falls is at the head of Cayuga Lake, not Seneca Lake. Geneva would be at the head of Seneca Lake. There are many lakes that make up the Finger Lakes, all have great things to experience. What about the wine trails?

  • I also grew up in the Finger Lakes and yes you mentioned Watkins Glenn and Corning, but leaving out Keuka, Canandaigua there are also smaller lakes that contribute to the Finger Lakes that have sights and history like Lakes Waneta & Lamoka and the tiny towns & villages around them such as Wayne, Dundee and Tyrone. Tyrone has the most amazing little store, Ray’s General Store it’s been there over 50 years, you can go in there needing the most obscure thing and sure enough Ray has it. I think my great uncle Bill bought me my first comic book there back in the 1970’s when he was the Ranger at the Boy Scout on Waneta Lake, Camp Gorton. Which if you are involved in Scouts you should definitely check out the best BSA camp around. Canandaigua has The Finger Lakes Horse Racing Track nearby. There use to be an amusement park on the north end Roseland Park. At the south end of Keuka is Hammondsport it’s is one of America’s prettiest & friendliest towns. It’s also home of the Curtiss museum, the true home of flight. Someone already mentioned the wineries and the tours, there are hundreds of wineries, you can tour one or get on a tour that does the driving for you and takes you to several and I believe all have tastings. I’m not even a wine drinker and it’s still a fascinating thing to do.
    If you are there in the spring and are a flower lover you must take the couple hour trip to Highland Park in Rochester for the Lilac Festival it’s heavenly. While in Rochester you can tour Eastman Kodak then definitely go to Nick Tahou’s for a Garbage Plate, Abbott’s Frozen Custard for dessert, check out the Genesee River.
    Going to the more western lakes you’ll find Indian reservation and Amish.
    Ok I’m done, I miss home can you tell, i live full time in my RV in Orlando, FL. In hope to one day be able to drive her home. I ❤ N.Y.

    • Thank you for this additional information; we’re headed there in a few weeks. We’re staying at Keuka State Park, so the info on the close-by town is great.

  • I also grew up in the Finger Lakes and yes you mentioned Watkins Glenn and Corning, but leaving out Keuka, Canandaigua there are also smaller lakes that contribute to the Finger Lakes that have sights and history like Lakes Waneta & Lamoka and the tiny towns & villages around them such as Wayne, Dundee and Tyrone. Tyrone has the most amazing little store, Ray’s General Store it’s been there over 50 years, you can go in there needing the most obscure thing and sure enough Ray has it. I think my great uncle Bill bought me my first comic book there back in the 1970’s when he was the Ranger at the Boy Scout on Waneta Lake, Camp Gorton. Which if you are involved in Scouts you should definitely check out the best BSA camp around. Canandaigua has The Finger Lakes Horse Racing Track nearby. There use to be an amusement park on the north end Roseland Park. At the south end of Keuka is Hammondsport it’s is one of America’s prettiest & friendliest towns. It’s also home of the Curtiss museum, the true home of flight. Someone already mentioned the wineries and the tours, there are hundreds of wineries, you can tour one or get on a tour that does the driving for you and takes you to several and I believe all have tastings. I’m not even a wine drinker and it’s still a fascinating thing to do.
    If you are there in the spring and are a flower lover you must take the couple hour trip to Highland Park in Rochester for the Lilac Festival it’s heavenly. While in Rochester you can tour Eastman Kodak then definitely go to Nick Tahou’s for a Garbage Plate, Abbott’s Frozen Custard for dessert, check out the Genesee River.
    Going to the more western lakes you’ll find Indian reservation and Amish.
    Ok I’m done, I miss home can you tell, i live full time in my RV in Orlando, FL. In hope to one day be able to drive her home. I ❤ N.Y.
    I almost forgot if you have kids, you can tell them the story of Paul Bunyon and his blue ox Babe. In short when Babe & Paul were playing Babe knocks Paul over and his hand landed in New York creating the Finger Lakes.

  • I almost forgot if you have kids, you can tell them the story of Paul Bunyon and his blue ox Babe. In short when Babe & Paul were playing Babe knocks Paul over and his hand landed in New York creating the Finger Lakes.

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