Road Trip to the Finger Lakes

Best things to eat, drink and do without leaving NY


Drive four hours north and west of Manhattan and you’ll find yourself in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Named so because from the air or on a map, the lakes appear as an ancient handprint set in rocky earth by a giant, ancient deity.

Wineries, eateries, distilleries and natural beauty abound on the shores of the lakes and on the wide, open spaces of the plateaus in between. Here’s a weekend itinerary for sampling what the region has to offer.

Photo courtesy Lida Rose via Flickr/CC
Friday Evening - Arrive In Ithaca
From the George Washington Bridge, Take I-80 West to I-380 West, then I-81 North to Exit 8, then Rt. 79 West into Ithaca, turn right onto Route 13 North. Four hours without traffic.

Check in at your chosen lodging for the evening. If you’ve got a tent and a sleeping bag, I highly recommend pitching it for a night at Buttermilk Falls Campground.

If sleeping out in the woods isn’t your cup of tea, check out Esty House Guest Apartment, walking distance to The Commons, Ithaca’s downtown pedestrian mall.

There’s also numerous chain hotels catering to the local universities’ parent weekends and sporting events. Check for a full list.

Buttermilk Falls State Park 105 Enfield Falls Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850
Esty House Guest Apartment 220 Esty Street Ithaca, New York 14850

Dinner at Just a Taste
Just off the commons is a small American tapas restaurant that serves not only small portions of food, but also of the region’s wine. Selections can be made by suggested flights, or bought a la carte by the taste or glass. Sit in the back garden if there’s space.
Just a Taste Wine and Tapas Bar 116 North Aurora Street Ithaca, NY 14850-4302

Saturday - Cayuga & Seneca Lake

Breakfast at The State Diner & The Commons

At The State Diner, the fresh blueberry pancakes are divine, the waitresses are perfectly surly and the coffee flow prepares you for a day of hiking and wine drinking. Take a stroll around The Commons. There are fun vintage shops, book stores and gift shops. The historic State Theater draws an intriguing lineup of acts.
The State Diner 428 W State St Ithaca, NY 14850
The State Theater 107 W State St Ithaca, NY 14850

Lunch at Glenwood Pines

Hop in the car and head north out of town up Route 89 four miles. On your right, you’ll come upon Glenwood Pines Restaurant. Don’t let the sign fool you. (On my first visit I thought it was a strip club.) Inside, warm staff serve up hearty rib-sticking food to prepare your belly for some wine tasting. Take the Pinesburger Challenge and get your picture on their wall. All you have to do is eat four burgers in under an hour.
Glenwood Pines Restaurant 1213 Taughannock Blvd Ithaca, NY 14850-9555

Hike Taughannock Falls
Continue north on 89 and turn left into Taughannock (TAW-gah-nok) Falls State Park. The parking lot is at an overlook where you can see the falls plunge 215 feet into the gorge below. You can take a short hike up and around the falls here.
Taughannock Falls State Park 2221 Taughannock Road Trumansburg, NY 14886

Stop for Ice Cream
Another eight miles north is the Cayuga Lake Creamery. Named by USA Today as one of the country’s 50 best parlors, they use local fruit, chocolate, beer and wine in their flavors.
Cayuga Lake Creamery 8421 New York 89 Interlaken, NY 14847-9626

Taste Some Wine
Continue north on 89 along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, enjoying the view. Along the way, Sheldrake Point Winery’s Pinot Gris has the quintessential taste of powdery flowers, like the bottom of an old lady’s handbag. In a good way. Hosmer Winery makes a tasty, grapey, mouthwatering sparkling wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Cayuga Ridge Winery is housed in a beautiful old barn with vaulted ceilings and employs young wine connoisseurs to pour a flight of delightful, young, drinkable wines.
Sheldrake Point Winery 7448 County Road 153 Ovid, NY 14521
Hosmer Winery 6999 State Route 89 Ovid, New York, 14521
Cayuga Ridge Winery 6800 Rt. 89, Ovid NY 14521

Dinner at Dano's Heuriger on Seneca
Leave Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery and head south half a mile and turn right onto County Road 38. This turns into 96N. Follow 96 into Ovid and turn left onto 414 (South Main St.) Nine more miles and on the right will be Dano’s Heuriger on Senaca. Enjoy a Viennese-style meal, slowly unfolding with artisanal breads & spreads, salads, roasted and smoked meats, vegetable
dishes, homemade sausages, fresh seafood, homemade pickles and preserves as well as Viennese pastries.
Dano's Heuriger on Seneca 9564 Route 414 just south of Lodi, NY

Stay At Wine Country Cabins B&B
Reserve a room early as this popular, romantic bed & breakfast books its cabins up quick. They also have a robust website with lots of resources for things to do in the area, including alternate places to stay if they are full.
Wine Country Cabins Bed & Breakfast 8744 Lower Lake Spur Lodi, NY 14860-9654

Sunday - Seneca Lake & Keuka Lake

Take a Walk in the Woods
Finger Lakes National Forest offers 30 miles of interconnected trails through meadows, woodlands and along gorges. Try the Gorge Trail, 1.25 miles, rated easy, will take you about an hour with beautiful views. Head south on 414, turn left on County Road 2, continue 3.5 miles to Burnt Hill Road, turn right 2.5 miles, you’ll see the Gorge Pond parking area on the left.
Finger Lakes National Forest 5218 State Route 414. Hector, NY 14841

Taste Some Locally Made Spirits
After your hike, take County Road 2 back to 414 and head south 2.5 Miles to Finger Lakes Distilling to sample small batch whiskey, grappa, vodka, gin, brandy, and fruit liqueurs. The raw materials are sourced from local farmers.
Finger Lakes Distilling 4676 NYS Route 414 Burdett, NY 14818

Pick up Picnic at Olney’s
From the distillery, swing south through Watkins Glen avoiding racetrack traffic, around the tip of Seneca Lake and take 14, then 14A, then Welker Road to the shore of Keuka (Kee-OO-kah) Lake, about 20 miles total. Turn left on 54 and on the right, half a mile south, you’ll see The Olney Place on Keuka. This deli’s most popular sandwich is the Rachel, Reuben’s more
beautiful sister. For $7, a turkey, melted swiss, cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing parfait grilled on marble rye.
The Olney Place On Keuka 823 East Lake Road Penn Yan, NY 14527

Picnic & Wine Tasting

After picking up your picnic lunch, start on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail. Turn left heading back north on 54 and make the first right on Gray Road to Barrington Cellars. Sample their selection and pick out a bottle to match your sandwich. Eat out on the deck and take in the view.

Head south on 54 five more miles and stop in to help celebrate McGregor Vineyard’s 40th anniversary. Scottish tartans and local food tasting aplenty. Good wine and lots of events on their calendar.

Continue south on Dutch Street and turn right on Hyatt Hill Road. Stop in to Fall Bright Winemakers Shop for a starter kit, about $90.00.

Continue on to Ravines Wine Cellars and sample the winner of Best Dry Riesling in the World Riesling Cup. Then, buy a case to bring home to taste your friends on and say, “See, not all Riesling is sweet!”

Barrington Cellars 2794 Gray Road Penn Yan, NY, 14527
McGregor Vineyard 5503 Dutch Street Dundee, NY, 14837
Fall Bright The Winemakers Shop 10110 Hyatt Hill, Dundee, NY 14837
Ravines Wine Cellars 14630 State Route 54 Hammondsport, NY 14840

Early Dinner with Beer
Leave Ravines and continue south along 54 enjoying the view of the Y-shaped lake. In Hammondsport, The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn offers more than 100 beers that can be ordered a la carte or in flights of 4oz. samples. An old friend told me once that the best part of a wine tasting is the ice cold beer at the end. Pair your beer with a classic tavern menu selection, savor the end of a well done road trip, pop in a podcast, thank your designated driver and set the GPS for “Home.”
The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn 30 Mechanic Street Hammondsport, NY 14840

Mentioned in this article


  • Great article! I love the Finger Lakes, so its great to be reminded of all of the fun things to do there. I noticed on my most recent trip that a lot of the small dairy farms are offering tastes of their artisinal cheeses. I am looking forward to my next visit, to see how well they go with the wonderful wines of the region.

    Aug 18, 2011 at 11:52 AM

  • Tip from a local: It's Tuh-GA-nock Falls, not TAW-guh-nock. But I enthusiastically second the recommendations of Just a Taste, the Glenwood Pines, and Cayuga Lake Creamery.

    Aug 18, 2011 at 12:04 PM

  • Snooth User: notgibson
    388545 0

    You'll have to come back again, as you mentioned Seneca Lake, but didn't appear to stop at any wineries on that lake. Some of my favoites are Damiani, Standing Stone, Red Newt, on the East side and Billsboro and Herman Weimers on the west side. Also some of the best eateries on that lake, Simply Red Bistro and Ports.

    Aug 18, 2011 at 12:33 PM

  • Snooth User: red0182
    857757 4

    Finger Lakes Wine and Music fest in Geneva Saturday...

    Aug 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM

  • The New York Wine & Culinary Center on the north end of Lake Canandaigua is worth a stop on any visit to the Finger Lakes region. Make it a special evening by registering for one of the center's food and wine-focused courses. The center serves (and sells) outstanding local cheeses and other food as well.

    Aug 18, 2011 at 1:21 PM

  • Snooth User: ktquilt
    130584 26

    We love the Finger Lakes and go there from Virginia frequently. A trip should not be made without going to Dr. Frank Konstantin to taste some of their "best in the Finger Lakes" Riesling and their new Veltliner.

    Aug 18, 2011 at 2:25 PM

  • Snooth User: Rich Tomko
    Hand of Snooth
    103444 2,868

    As summer winds down, this sounds like a perfect Fall get-away. Any advice for an late October visit?

    Aug 18, 2011 at 2:28 PM

  • Snooth User: Patrick M
    917098 0

    One word- Skaneateles. It's a beautiful village with wonderful shops and top-notch restaurants. Easy driving from there to the rest of the lakes and wineries. From the village you could be at one winery in 4 minutes or less!

    Aug 18, 2011 at 5:50 PM

  • Snooth User: ktquilt
    130584 26

    Well, either dislexia set it or I had one too many glasses of Dr. Frank's riesling. It's Dr. Konstantin Frank winery I was referring toin my earlier comment.

    Aug 18, 2011 at 7:48 PM

  • @ktquilt - when i read your first commnet, I didn't even notice! ha ha must be the wine :-)
    @rtomko - book as far in advance as possible, October is leaves changing season and parents' weekends at the schools up there--a lot of the hotels book up fast.

    Aug 19, 2011 at 7:47 AM

  • another local tip: it's Q-Kah not Kee-oo-kah

    Aug 19, 2011 at 9:06 AM

  • Snooth User: Tajalli
    368008 0

    The article brough back great memories of my trip to the Finger Lakes. I agree that a trip must be made to Dr. Frank Konstantin's vineyard to try some of the best wines of the region. I would also suggest couple other vineyards that should be visited for their wines and scenic beauty, of course, if time permits: Fox Run (overlooking Seneca Lake) and Heron Hill (overlooking Keyuka Lake). A person working at the Fox Run vineyard gave us a tour of their facility and explained how their wine was made. We had lunch at the Heron Hill Winery with one of their wines. Was a great, memorable experience. Must stop by!

    Aug 19, 2011 at 11:48 AM

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