With more than 100 wineries, beautiful lake views and a vibrant arts and culture scene, the Finger Lakes region is a much-visited destination during its high season of summer and fall.
But the area in upstate New York has plenty to do in the wintertime as well, and the lull in visitors can make for a calmer, unhurried and less crowded experience. Tourists can take their time learning about the wine (the area is renowned for its riesling) at tastings and get more face time with the winemakers themselves.
Start with a scenic drive to the east side of Seneca Lake, home to the 250-acre Wagner Vineyards (9322 NYS-414, Lodi, 607-582-6450, wagnervineyards.com), one of the largest riesling farms on the East Coast. The winery boasts a number of crisp whites, like the limited-edition Fathom 107. Also on site is the Wagner Valley Brewing Co., a microbrewery with a taproom overlooking the lake.
Bundle up and burn off all that booze with a hike through Watkins Glen State Park (1009 North Franklin St., Watkins Glen, 607-535-4511, parks.ny.gov), home to 19 waterfalls and open year-round.
In Corning’s Gaffer District (gafferdistrict.com), antique shops, restaurants, bars and boutiques abound — most in renovated period buildings. For a no-fuss lunch, head to Hand + Foot (69 W. Market St., Corning, 607-973-2547, handandfoot.co) for one of its many sandwich options, like beer-braised brisket with bacon, beer cheese and pickled shallot, washed down with a local brew.
At The Rockwell Museum (admission $11/adults, $10/ages 55 and over, FREE/ages 17 and under; 111 Cedar St., Corning, 607-937-5386, rockwellmuseum.org), the Smithsonian affiliate’s permanent exhibitions focus on the American West as well as Native American art and artifacts. For a more hands-on option, stop by the Corning Museum of Glass (admission $19.50/adults, $16.60/college students and ages 55 and over, FREE/ages 17 and under; 1 Museum Way, Corning, 607-937-5371, cmog.org), which explores glassmaking’s long history with galleries featuring both ancient and contemporary pieces, glassblowing demonstrations and glassmaking workshops (from $22).
Round out your visit with a tasting at Glenora Wine Cellars (5435 State Route 14, Dundee, 800-243-5513, glenora.com) — the oldest winery on Seneca Lake — with some 40 wines grown, fermented and bottled on-site. Then walk down the hill to Veraisons Restaurant inside the Inn at Glenora for a hearty, yet refined fine dining experience. Veraisons’ uses local, seasonally available ingredients, and is known for vegan options like lentil dal with sweet potatoes, chickpeas and pickled vegetables. Eat by the fireplace for a view of Seneca Lake and the winery’s sloping farmland.
GOOD TO KNOW
Getting there: The Finger Lakes is nearly five hours away by car from midtown. Amtrak also makes stops to nearby Syracuse and Rochester, and regional airports in the area include Rochester, Ithaca and Syracuse.
Getting around: A car is a must — attractions can be spread out, and Corning is about a 30-minute drive from the Seneca Lake area.
Where to stay: Sleep on the grounds of an operating winery at the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars (5435 State Route 14, Dundee, 800-243-5513, glenora.com), with views of the vineyards and Seneca Lake from every room. A brewery more your speed? Then check out the Inn at Grist Iron (4880 NYS-414, Burdett, 607-882-2739, gristironbrewing.com), which has an on-site brewery and pub and offers accommodations in a restored 1860s farmhouse or a modern lodge. For a convenient starting point to explore Corning’s Gaffer District, there’s the Radisson Hotel (125 Denison Pkwy. E., Corning, 607-962-5000, radisson.com). To search reduced winter rates at Finger Lakes hotels and inns, visit flxwinter.com.