The Finger Lakes region lies within the triangle between Syracuse, Rochester, and Corning in central New York and includes the 11 lakes in that area. The Finger Lakes is a family-friendly and culture-filled region that has something for every age and interest.
The region caters primarily to those interested in outdoor activities, especially those looking to escape the city for something different and a chance to sleep under the stars. There are numerous campgrounds with accommodations ranging from traditional tent camping to cabins and cottages.
Don’t forget your hiking boots to explore the Finger Lakes State Parks.
There are also a number of cultural institutions accessible to the area, like the Rockwell Museum in Corning, the National Museum of Play in Rochester, or the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.
Looking for an amusement park? Seabreeze amusement park (and waterpark) overlooks Lake Ontario, and offers roller coasters, thrill rides, and live shows for all ages. The road trip to central New York will provide lifelong memories, and now is the perfect time to go. Here’s 10 of my favorite attractions from the Finger Lakes region:
The Corning Museum of Glass [1 Museum Way in Corning, (800) 732–6845, www.cmog.org]
Founded in 1951 by Corning Incorporated, this museum is dedicated to telling the story of glass. Glass is a versatile, ancient material and has been explored by artists, scientists, and historians for thousands of years. The rich history of glass is displayed in the Glass Collection Galleries. Your family can learn about the science and technology behind glass and recent innovation via hands-on exhibits in the Innovation Center. There, concepts behind optics, vessels, and windows can be explored. You will even have an opportunity to delve deeper into glassmaking with Make Your Own Glass sessions (for beginners) offered daily. The studio also offers year-round courses in all levels of glassmaking that range in length and level of difficulty.
Museum of the Earth [1259 Trumansburg Rd., Ithaca, (607) 273–6623, www.priweb.org]
The Paleontological Research Institution was founded in 1932 to care for collections of specimens and publish findings in paleontological research. The institute, for many years, boasted research, collections, publications, and public education. It was not until 2003 that the Museum of the Earth was established to provide the general public with a unique venue to see its artifacts. The museum encourages critical thinking about life on Earth (past and present). Your family can explore a mix of natural history displays, interactive science features, and art exhibitions. There are hands-on, visual exhibitions and community outreach. The museum’s permanent collection will take your family on a journey through history — billions of years.
Sciencenter [601 First St., Ithaca, (607) 272–0200, www.sciencenter.org]
Founded in 1983, Sciencenter is a nationally recognized museum, hosting guests not only in Ithaca but also worldwide through traveling exhibitions and outreach. This bright hand-on space is perfect for families. The museum itself was a community effort, operating from storefronts for nearly a decade and then taking volunteers an additional 10 years to expand a small permanent space to the now expanded Sciencenter in 2003. This is truly a beloved museum.
Parks, falls and gorges
There is an abundance of state parks in the Finger Lakes region, making for beautiful scenery. Each park has its own unique charm, with some offering a lake-front view while others boast gorges and waterfalls. Some waterfalls in the area can be seen from the street and for others you’ll have to make your way along a park path or hiking trail.
Buttermilk Falls State Park (105 Enfield Falls Rd., Ithaca)
Buttermilk Creek flows down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake and the falls are visible just off Route 13 south of Ithaca. Your family can swim at the base of the falls during the summer months or hike the trails — ranging from easy to moderate difficulty.
Robert H. Treman State Park (105 Enfield Falls Rd., Ithaca)
Robert H. Treman State Park is just south of Ithaca and hosts a gorge called Enfield Glen. Your family can take advantage of the hiking trails that lead to the 115 Ft Lucifer Falls.
Fillmore Glen State Park (1686 St. Rte. 38, Moravia)
Fillmore Glen State Park has dense woods that lead to a narrow gorge.
Taughannock Falls State Park (2221 Taughannock Rd., Trumansburg)
Taughannock Falls State Park’s namesake waterfall is one of the highest in the region with surrounding trails for exploration. Note that there is a balcony accessible from the upper parking lot near Route 89.
Watkins Glen State Park (Route 14, Watkins Glen)
Watkins Glen State Park has not only gorges, but also 19 different waterfalls and cascasdes. The base entrance is available off Route 14.
Fingerlakes Cheese Trail, location varies
Renowned for its wineries and natural beauty, the Finger Lakes region is also has abundance of farms and orchards. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail started in 2010 is a collaborative of small farms whose goal is to drive business and visitation to the farms and help bolster tourism in the Finger Lakes Region as an agri-tourism attraction. Your family can take a tour with the use of the trail’s map.
Museum Trail, location varies
The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance has partnered with nine museums, attractions, and historic homes to create the new Finger Lakes Museum Trail. The aim is for visitors (and residents alike) to explore the history and culture within the Finger Lakes region. The museums include institutions like the Womens Rights Museum and sites such as the home of Harriett Tubman. The museums of the Finger Lakes are entertaining and educational.
Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shnie