A Tonic for the Soul
by Bob Fisher
it is the free-flowing topography of this cohesive and integrated
travel destination that defines the Finger Lakes. Among the rolling
hills, lakes, streams, and tranquil natural spaces you will experience
a genuine lifestyle that emphasizes geographic and human generosity.
Landscape does indeed shape culture — it is a collective and
multi-dimensional experience — and in the Finger Lakes you will
feel immersed in a culture of of good will and vision.
This also is a landscape punctuated
by human habitation that has not run amok, has not given in to urban
excess, that has preserved a sensible way of life. If living on the
frenetic side is getting you down, may I recommend the solace of the
Finger Lakes? It's closer than you think — the peace of mind
and simple pleasures in particular — and you will find that
in the Finger Lakes, you will ease your way into a part of you that
you may have forgotten.
from the Clamouring Crowd
There are actually 11 Finger Lakes,
12 if you include Oneida Lake, what, where I come from, we would call
a “shirt-tail cousin.” Oneida Lake is rather shallow and
just looks different. It happens in families.
Anyway, the 11 Finger Lakes are:
• Otisco •
Skaneateles • Owasco • Cayuga • Seneca •
Keuka • Canandaigua • Honeoye • Canadice •
Hemlock • Coneses
Go ahead. Google them. See what
The Finger Lakes are glacially-formed
lakes, carved out of the land by one of those great lumbering but
relentless glaciers from way back when. The lakes are long and thin,
and graceful — like the fingers of a ballerina. If you choose
to include Oneida Lake just northeast of Syracuse, it would be the
thumb. And these are deep lakes! Each of them is more than 400 feet
deep, which is deeper than the “great” Lake Ontario.
The area is a history lesson in
itself and has many fascinating and socially important stories to
tell; layer upon layer. The Finger Lakes area was essentially the
first western frontier before the big push began to extend a new nation
much further across the continent. The western half of the region
was part of the “Phelps
and Gorham Purchase” of 1790 — the largest
land purchase in the world at the time and a highly significant event
in the movement to settlement westward. This “pre-emptive”
land deal between private individuals and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
is also a very interesting historical case study in nation-building
and, in particular, the impact it had on the lives and rights of indigenous
And because history and culture
are shaped by landscape, the Finger Lakes was “a natural,”
rich in agricultural and soft industrial potential, as well as a vigorous
(and at the same time peaceful) natural beauty that encouraged a kind
of collective introspection. The latter spawned an equally vigorous
commitment to social progress. This is especially evident in the arts
industry that the Finger Lakes has engendered.
But this bucolic destination is
not a fool's paradise; it is also an Eden for the mind. Although your
senses will be fully engaged wherever you go — and you will
experience a real lifestyle alternative — you will also find
yourself immersed intellectually in the place. There is much environmental
innocence and purity to the Finger Lakes region, but it is also an
American travel destination in which self-determination and the struggle
to achieve it are inherent in the landscape and the history that landscape
As you discover the Finger Lakes,
you will also discover (or re-discover) such historical names, facts,
and events as the following:
- As the names of the lakes suggest,
the area is the traditional homeland of the Iroquois nation for
whom the region was especially generous in it's natural resources.
Already an advanced civilization in the 17th century, they fell
victim to European war parties and missionaries whose purpose was
to convert and defeat them. However, the Great
Peace Treaty of 1794 which was signed here between
the United States of America and the tribes of Indians called the
Six Nations, established Indian lands and brought peace.
- This is a region of significant geological
importance and beauty. In Letchworth State Park, for example, you
will find unique rock formations and winding deep valleys formed
during the Devonian Period. Especially impressive are the “hanging
valleys” which are tributaries that drop suddenly and steeply
into the lakes.
- The Finger Lakes is one of
the birthplaces of modern aviation.
- It one of the most important auto racing
venues in the U.S. (Watkins Glen). The park is also a to-die-for
- Here you will find one of the oldest, interconnected
transportation systems of canals and locks in the U.S. (the Erie
and Caygua-Seneca Waterway).
- This is an area rich in all the arts. Landscape,
its resultant lifestyle, and an avant-garde way of thinking bred
in the bone have a lot to do with that.
- Here you can explore a rich architectural
travel destination in which, for example, you will find one of the
finest and best preserved Victorian-era Queen Anne mansions and
gardens in the U.S. (The 50-acre Sonnenberg Historic Home and Gardens)
- The Finger Lakes is home to
the first wine industry in this country (We sometimes forget that
westward migration was initiated and took hold not all that far,
in today's terms, from the eastern seaboard.)
- Other agritourism opportunities that include
family-oriented farm stays are available here.
- You can enjoy a Finger Lakes Golf Trail
of premier golf facilities. Furthermore, you can customize your
own golfing holiday in which for the non-golfing partner or spouse
there is much to do close by. No golf widows or widowers here.
- There is a similar wine trail for oenophiles
(There are almost 100 wineries in the Finger Lakes.)
- The Finger Lakes also has an antique hunter's
trail of 30 professional dealers and over 30 shops.
- As Roy and
Bob will attest to, you can also follow a gourmet trail in the Finger
- Mark Twain chose to retire
here. (“Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen
all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell &
I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.”)
- The important railroad centres
established here were also the principal means and ways to the West.
- The Seneca
Falls Convention took place here; the first women's
rights convention held in the United States. It is the birthplace
of the Women's Suffrage Movement in the U.S., a great leap forward
that also encompassed other social reform movements. And of course,
no visit to the area would be complete without paying homage to
Susan B. Anthony who lived here, fought for women's rights here
and is now recognized as a world pioneer in the women's movement.
- The Finger Lakes was home to Frederick
Douglass. An adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during
the Civil War, he fought for constitutional amendments that guaranteed
voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks. He was a powerful
voice for human rights and is celebrated for his contributions to
the struggle against racial injustice.
- The area was the birthplace
of the Mormon Church and contains many related historic sites.
- The Finger Lakes has many premier
educational institutions such as Cornell University, which by the
way has one of the top-rated travel and hospitality programs in
- This is the location where
a young country began to shift from an economy based on independently-owned
farms to a much more diversified manufacturing-based society. This
is known as “The
- One of the first movements
known as “Great Awakenings” occurred here; when dynamic
social change challenged established religious views which were
seen as being unable to answer the burning questions of contemporary
life. One important side effect was the development of reform societies
including the abolitionist movement in which Frederick Douglass
A Lateral Destination
Meaningful travel is a process not an event.
When you travel in the Finger Lakes, you do not always proceed in
a linear fashion from A to B to C and so forth. Instead, you will
find that in this relatively small and compact area, you will tend
to meander, pause, experience, and reflect. This is a multi-layered
destination. A “draft” itinerary however is always a good
idea. We wouldn't want you wandering aimlessly. Just be prepared to
go with the flow.
A Special Finger Lakes
The Art of Glass:
Images From the Corning Museum of Glass
view these images click here.
and Bob's Finger Lakes Heritage and Natural Resources Road Tours
When we arrived in the Finger Lakes,
we went our separate ways.
Now don't worry; there were no harsh
words, no falling out. It's just that to even begin to “cover”
this diverse and “layered” destination, we felt it best
to spread ourselves as thinly as possible — so to speak —
and just get out there and do it. Well, that strategic plan proved
effective except that the more we “got into it,” the more
there was to discover, and the more we wanted to explore. Our respective
families were lucky we came home at all.
That being said, here is where
each of us went and what we did. Put the two itineraries together
(the planning is a really fun part of travelling) and you have a good
week or more of Finger Lakes Fun. And, believe us when we tell you
that you will want to stay longer. So bid your friends and
family goodbye and get thee to the Finger Lakes — but leave
a forwarding email address.
Where Bob Went
The village of Victor.
Lunch at Mickey Finn’s Restaurant, 14 Railroad Avenue
State Historic Site
This important site celebrates one of the
six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and is a very interesting
lesson in their democratic practices and principles. Peter Jemison
is a direct descendent of Mary Jemison and a spokesperson for
the Seneca Nation.
Click here to listen to Peter's brief commentary.
Homestead and Carriage Museum, 295 North Main St.,
Historic Downtown Canandaigua and its Lakefront.
and return on County Rd #12 for Monica’s
Pies and Arbor
Hill Winery; Rt. 64 by Bristol Mountain and Historic
Bloomfield; Historic Routes 5 & 20 back to Canandaigua.
Check into the Canandaigua
Inn on the Lake, 770 South Main St., Canandaigua
Dinner at Casa
de Pasta, Bemis St., Canandaigua
Breakfast at Polimeni’s Restaurant,
26 Lakeshore Dr., Canandaigua
Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
Depart for Hammondsport.
Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. This museum is dedicated to
its namesake, Glenn H. Curtiss, the “Father of Naval Aviation.”
His exploits on early motorcycles, dirigibles, and airplanes thrilled
the world. View historical aircraft, engines and an unequaled collection
of Curtiss antique motorcycles.
Traff Doherty is the
Director of the Curtiss Museum and an aviation historian in his
own right. Click
here to listen to his comments on the museum and aviation history
in the Finger Lakes.
And if you are an aviation buff
or want more information on the Hammondsport Seaplane Homecoming,
will want to listen to Art Wilder, pilot and hands-on aviation
For a glimpse inside the Curtiss Museum, click
here. (This video opens in QuickTime.)
The Seaplane Homecoming on Keuka Lake in
Hammondsport was a specially scheduled
The Finger Lakes website to see when the event
is scheduled next. This exciting event featured the flight of a
reproduction 1911 A-1, the Navy's first aircraft. Visiting seaplanes
of many types were at the Hammondsport lakefront on Keuka Lake.
Valley Wine Company, Hammondsport. The first bonded
winery in the U.S., it was established in 1860. Listed on the National
Register of Historic Places, the winery retains the original integrity
of an old-world winery with caves carved deep into the valley’s
Dinner at Snug
Harbor Restaurant, a quiet dinner on the shores of
Keuka Lake. Established in 1890, this historic restaurant is ideally
located for viewing beautiful scenery — a feast for the eyes,
especially when there is a full moon over the lake — as well
as a feast for the palate.
Check into the Halcyon
Place Bed and Breakfast. This Historic Greek Revival
house offers peace, tranquility, and gracious hospitality to the
discerning traveler. Situated among open fields with a beautiful
vista of the surrounding hills, this landmark home is a truly relaxing
oasis located about 20 minutes southeast of Keuka Lake in Campbell.
Depart for the drive to Corning.
Museum of Glass. Discover the art, history and science
of glass at this world-famous museum. Explore the inventions and
technology that changed the way we make, use, and even think about
glass. Watch dynamic, live glass-blowing demonstrations and see
skilled craftspeople transform molten glass into beautiful
pieces of art as well as Steuben gaffers creating world-famous Steuben
crystal. You can even make your own glass souvenir.
Yvette Sternbank, Communications
Officer at the Corning Museum of Glass, talks about this one-of-a-kind
here to hear her comments.
Lunch at the Glass Market Café inside
the Corning Museum of Glass.
Depart Corning and drive to Mount
Morris. Visit Letchworth
State Park and the William
Pryor Letchworth Museum. Known as the “Grand
Canyon of the East,” Letchworth is one of the region’s
crown jewels and spans 14,000 acres along the Genesee River with
stunning scenery, deep gorges, and dramatic overlooks. It is rich
in history with a restored Seneca Indian Council House, grave of
Mary Jemison (“White Woman of the Genesee”),
Genesee Valley Canal, and more. The museum
shows a love and respect for the North American Indian and safe
preservation of everything relating to the aboriginal occupation
of western New York and history of the Genesee Valley.
John Thomas is of Native-American
heritage and an interpreter in Letchworth State Park. In
this commentary he speaks about the importance of the park and
also tells the story of Mary Jemison.
Breakfast on Park Avenue
Avenue is one of the city’s most popular streets
for shopping, dining, or just people-watching.)
where art comes to life in the studio, on the walls, and in your
hands. Explore seemingly endless corridors displaying the works
of talented artists and craftspeople. Also explore the Elizabeth
Collection, an impressive, world-class gallery of paintings, photography,
three-dimensional and kinetic art. You can also watch resident artists
at work and even chat with them about their current masterpieces.
a permanent, urban art trail connecting arts centers, shops, cafés,
and public spaces located within the Neighborhood of the Arts. ArtWalk
is an interactive, outdoor museum where you will find fun works
of art everywhere you look: from large sculptures and light poles
with mosaic tiles to fanciful places to sit and decorated pavement
under your feet.
Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.
George Eastman’s mansion home is a National Historic Landmark
and the gardens another delight. The museum holds galleries of photographic
art and fascinating exhibits of cameras and other photography-related
Food Market (Pittsford Plaza store) This “grocery
store” is one of Rochester's top tourist attractions; and
when you get there, you'll easily see why.” 3195 Monroe Avenue,
Tour one of the best children’s museums
in America — Strong
Museum/National Toy Hall of Fame, One Manhattan Square,
Dinner at a location of your choice. See
Where Roy Went
Check into a cabin at Hickory
Hill Family Camping Resort and tour the Finger
Lakes Wellness Center & Health Spa. This camping
resort offers RV sites, cabins, deluxe cottages, and brand new lodges.
In addition, Finger Lakes Wellness Center & Health Spa offers
a complete list of spa services for the ultimate in “roughing
Then stretch your legs after a long day’s
ride with a hike along the Finger Lakes Trail with Mark Moskal from
to Stream Adventures.
Enjoy a relaxing “Wine on the Water
Cruise” on Keuka Lake with several stops along the way as
local guide Dave Durkee tells you about the great hunting, fishing
and hiking in the area.
Dinner at The Waterfront
(docking the boat and walking in). Address: 12664 West Lake Road,
Hammondsport, NY, 14840; Phone: 607.868.3455
Breakfast at Perkins
Restaurant in Horseheads
Leave Horseheads and travel to Owego/Apalachin.
View the Susquehanna
River paddlers as they arrive at Hickories Park for
the “Third Annual River Paddle” event. Up to 120 kayaks
and canoeists will be paddling the river from Apalachin to Owego.
Stop at the Links at Hiawatha
Landing Golf Course for a tour and a chance to drive
some golf balls. This course is reminiscent of the legendary circuits
of Great Britain and the authentic links style layout is evident
in its rolling hills, wind-swept sand bunkers, and ornamental grasses.
You can also have a light lunch at the golf course, if desired.
Experience a “Hiawatha Island Tour”
led by the Waterman
Conservation & Education Center, and hike Hiawatha
Island — the largest island (110 acres) in the Susquehanna
David Woodburn and Ralph Walker, avid river
fishermen, will meet you at the dock and take you to experience
fishing on the Susquehanna River. Walleye, small mouth bass and
tiger muskies up to 40 pounds have made this area their home, and
catfish are also bountiful. With bait and tackle shops conveniently
located throughout Tioga County, the fishing here attracts visitors
from around the world.
Subsequent to his trip to the Finger
Lakes , Roy interviewed one of his new-found fishing buddies,
Dave Woodburn, on Talking Travel. Click
here to listen to a couple of good ol' boys talk about their three-hour
adventure on the Susquehanna River.
Enjoy dinner at the Cellar
Restaurant, located on Riverow in the heart of the
Marketplace District of Owego. Dining areas can be
intimate or opened up to accommodate as many as 75 people with delicious
meals prepared by the chef/owner. The outdoor patio at the Cellar
offers a close-up view of the river’s edge as well as the
nature that surrounds it.
Stop by the Tioga
Trails Café to hear the “Susquehanna River
Band” for a few minutes.
Then check into the Owego
Treadway Inn on the banks of the Susquehanna River.
The Treadway Inn’s landmark of a lighthouse shows the way
to the only remaining Treadway Inn in existence!
Sleep in late and then enjoy the infamous
Grand Sunday Brunch Buffet at the Owego Treadway Inn!
Head to Frontier Days at Crocker
Creek Buffalo Farm in Endicott. Ride a wagon through
a herd of live buffalo. See how the Native Americans, Mountain Man,
and the 49ers lived as they depended on the buffalo for survival.
Black powder shooting demos, a Wild West show, etc. Even try a bison
burger if you’d like.
Travel to Watkins
Glen State Park. Experience the most famous state park
in the Finger Lakes region, with a well-deserved reputation for
leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen's stream
descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs and generating 19 waterfalls
along its course.
Visit Seneca Harbor Park to see the boats
Lake, walk the pier and break wall, and check out the
Seneca Lake cruises: Captain Bill’s and the
Malabar X schooner.
Check into Seneca
Springs Resort, a freshly renovated farmhouse dating
from the 1800s. Relax on the veranda on old-fashioned, comfortable
rocking chairs and genuine wicker furniture. Comfortable, old-fashioned
rooms will lull you to sleep while the remodeled and luxurious,
private bathrooms will keep you pampered in a modern way!
State Route 414, Hector.
Dinner at the Wildflower
Café / Crooked Rooster Brew Pub. Enjoy the French-styled
cuisine of the Café or the Tex-Mex of the brew pub...and,
of course, taste the locally brewed beer. 223 301 N. Franklin St.,
Hike the Finger
Lakes National Forest, the only national forest in
New York State, and a wonder of nature offering hiking, cross-country
skiing, mountain bike riding, horse trails, camping fishing, hunting,
berry picking and bird watching within the 16,176 acres it encompasses.
5218 State Rt. 414, Hector.
Travel to Cortland
County and Syracuse.
Lunch at Dinosaur
Bar-B-Que. Enjoy the best ribs north of Memphis at
the Dinosaur. Rub elbows with bikers and businessmen at this “Genuine
Honky Tonk Rib Joint.” Follow your nose…it’s a
real Syracuse landmark.
Relax and explore Armory
Square in Downtown Syracuse, the city’s chic
quarter, with plenty of great restaurants, taverns and boutiques.
Other General Websites
for Planning your Finger Lakes Tour
Lakes Tourism Alliance
Lakes Connection (Ontario County)
of the Finger Lakes
Rochester Visitors Association
County Chamber of Commerce
County Chamber of Commerce
Convention & Visitors Bureau (Onondaga County)