By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
A few reasons why folks flock to this beautiful region each year.
When early mapmakers first charted New York’s Finger Lakes region, they had no way to study the landscape from the air. Otherwise, they would have viewed a total of 11 lakes instead of the fingers of five. These long, skinny, and surprisingly deep bodies of water are commonly said to have been created by glaciers, although that theory has been disputed in some circles.
The Finger Lakes don’t rival the Great Lakes in size, but they’re certainly impressive, as is the surrounding area, with its natural beauty, historical treasures, and vineyards. We certainly had no trouble finding 13 reasons to go there. We especially enjoyed our natural surroundings, as well as the many campgrounds, hiking trails, and historical regions and museums.
1 STATE PARKS. Locating a campground isn’t a laborious task in the Finger Lakes area “” not with a dozen state parks nearby, plus all the regional and privately owned units. Here are two Web sites to facilitate your search: www.roundthebend.com/finger/fingcamp.html and www.fingerlakes.worldweb.com/WheretoStay/Campgrounds. That will whet your appetite for a visit. Campground reservations are a good idea, as this is a popular camping area.
2 MONTEZUMA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE. Located at the north end of Cayuga Lake, Montezuma Refuge is a major resting area for waterfowl and other birds migrating to and from nesting areas in northeastern Canada. Two observation towers are equipped with telescopes, enabling visitors to view the refuge’s wildlife. The 3.5-mile Wildlife Drive is a good place to discover and photograph nature. Oxbow Trail is a short, easy loop walking trail that crosses grassland. Benning Marsh is prime shorebird habitat for bird-watchers. Then there’s Tschache Pool, the best place to look for bald eagles.
3 FINGER LAKES TRAIL. The area is rich with hiking trails, including the 563-mile-long Finger Lakes Trail. But don’t worry; you need not walk the entire trail to enjoy the fabulous scenery. It’s part of the 4,600-mile-long North Country National Scenic Trail, currently a work in progress, which eventually will stretch across seven states, connecting the Catskill Mountains to the Allegheny Mountains. Check out www.northcountrytrail.org and www.fingerlakestrail.org for more information.
4 BEAVER LAKE NATURE CENTER. This preserve in Baldwinsville is a great place to pause. It’s a 500-acre park dedicated to preserving the natural environment of Central New York State. The park contains a 200-acre lake; a bog you can walk across (thanks to the boardwalk); and several hiking trails. Daily programs led by naturalists are also offered. Beaver Lake is a rest stop for many migrating birds, so keep your binoculars nearby. The visitors center is open daily, dawn to dusk.
5 WINE MAKING. Many vineyards and wineries thrive in the Finger Lakes region, most of them centered near Seneca Lake (31 wineries). Cayuga Lake has 16; Keuka Lake, eight; and Canandaigua Lake, six. Why so many? The area’s “lake effect” moderates the environment for as much as 25 miles beyond the shorelines. It doesn’t ensure perfect weather, but it does provide warmer local temperatures for grapes to thrive this far north. For more information about the vintners in the Finger Lakes region, visit www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com.
6 BRISTOL MOUNTAIN SKY RIDES. Now for a few words about this mile-long chairlift ride in Canandaigua that climbs 1,200 feet from where you started, along with several other rides that provide great views. Think of it as a good way to rest your feet after a lot of walking “” one that supplies the view without wearing out those hiking boots. Bristol Mountain offers hiking in summer, skiing in winter, and this spectacular ride in fall.
7 HARRIS HILL SOARING. Harris Hill Soaring Center in Elmira has offered public sailplane rides for more than 60 years. High-performance gliders soar silently, high above the lakes, farms, and forests. After you place your feet back on solid ground, check out the National Soaring Museum. It claims to have the nation’s most complete collection of aircraft devoted to motorless flight. Visit www.harrishillsoaring.org for more information.
8 GLENN H. CURTISS MUSEUM. In this area, air travel dates back nearly a century “” thus its claim to be “the cradle of aviation.” Glenn Curtiss began flying his kite-like plane, “June-Bug,” back in 1908. Of particular interest to RVers is the fact that he also is credited with building an early edition of today’s travel trailer. This museum in Hammondsport is dedicated to the memory of this aviator and includes a collection relating to early aviation and local history. Visit www.glenncurtissmuseum.org for more information.
9 CORNELL PLANTATIONS. Located on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca is an arboretum, botanical garden, and several other natural areas. You’ll find a variety of theme gardens, including the Robinson York State Herb Garden. Not enough? There are also miles of woodlands, wetlands, and wildflowers waiting for you. More information can be found at www.plantations.cornell.edu.
10 THE SALT MUSEUM. At this museum at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, near Syracuse, you’ll explore the actual site where a “boiling block” transformed brine into all-purpose salt. Exhibits are housed in a building constructed from parts of old salt warehouses. The displays trace the history of salt extraction in the area, once called “Salt City.” The centerpiece is the “boiling block,” with a dozen sunken kettles surrounded by cardboard-cutout men working the nine big ladles. Visit www.onondagacountyparks.com for more information.
11 CORNING MUSEUM OF GLASS. Corning has long been a glass-making town. This is the place to learn about glass: its place in art, history, culture, science, and design. After all, the museum contains more than 45,000 glass objects created during 3,500 years of glass-making. Visitors also explore the science and technology of glass at a hands-on exhibit area, and watch live glass-making demonstrations. Still, the most impressive part of the museum may be the Tower, built from 600 glass bowls! Visit www.cmog.org for hours and exhibit information.
12 ROCKWELL MUSEUM OF WESTERN ART. View both Western and American Indian art at this museum housed in the Old City Hall, also in Corning. Check out the exhibitions and educational events while you’re there. The museum is located in the historic Market Street district of Corning. For more information, visit www.stny.com/rockwellmuseum.
13 YE OLDE BARN CRAFT MALL AND THE VILLAGE COUNTRY STORE. The largest craft mall in the area, this Waterloo attraction features the work of local artisans. It’s huge, housing eight floors of handcrafted and commercial products. See everything from unusual birdhouses to rustic furniture. Participating artisans also offer live demonstrations.