Road Trip USA: Touring and Tasting Throughout the Finger Lakes

Boardwalk perspective of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. One of NY’s Finger Lakes.

Every year on the Monday preceding May 25th, Canadians celebrate Victoria Day, a statutory holiday in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Also known as the “May long weekend” and the unofficial start of the summer.

Three day weekends–gotta love them, they are perfect for road trips.

This past May long weekend we headed to upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region. The area is made up of a series of long and narrow lakes, resembling fingers when seen from above. The area is also New Yorks largest wine-producing region. Time spent near water and wine, a perfect combination for some leisurely time.

We left early Saturday morning crossing into the U.S. from the Thousand Island Bridge. Heading south towards Syracuse, we turned west towards Lake Ontario, Sodus Bay harbour our first stop.

Lunker Lake Ontario Lake Trout

Where Ginette was introduced to the “Oh, that’s gross” gutting and filleting process.

Morning catch ready for filleting.

Big Sodus Light — Sodus Bay, NY

View of Sodus Outer Light from the bluffs

Leaving the bay, we traveled directly south to Watkins Glen, a small town at the south tip of Seneca Lake.

Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake

We had dinner at The Wildflower Cafe. Our meals; Turkey Panini and Chicken with NY Cheddar and Apples were quite good and reasonably priced. Next door the Crooked Rooster Brew Pub had live music featuring a local band. Ginette happily spent the night dancing while Gordon kept watch, sipping on the excellent local Rooster Fish Brews.

Sunday morning we toured Watkins Glen before going for a hike.

Reflections of Watkins Glen.


Watkins Glen State Park — a big surprise in a little town — the entrance to the park is located right off the main street. As soon as you set out on the path, every twist and turn which follows the water offers views of the amazing geological wonder. Don’t miss this stunning gorge. The hike is not strenuous, just take it easy along the well maintained path and enjoy the natural beauty and waterfalls.

Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen

Take the rest of the afternoon off, you deserve it, spend some time wine tasting. Surrounding the lakes, there are numerous wineries waiting to welcome you. Stop in, visit, and taste excellent examples of cool weather viticulture at its best–each winery has its own unique look both in and out from multi-million dollar establishments to small family run operations.

Red Tail Ridge

Red Tail Ridge

This chandelier can’t be easy to clean!

Magnus Ridge Winery

Magnus Ridge Winery

Tasteful tasting room — Magnus Ridge Winery

Gorgeous historic home at the Miles Wine Cellars

Our wine tasting tour lead us to Keuka Lake, another one of the Finger Lake, where we travelled south from Penn Yan. We stopped at one of our favourite spots in the region, McGregor Vineyard Winery, perched on the hill overlooking the lake–loved for its wine and casual ambiance.

Dandelions and daffodils

At the tip of Keuka Lake is Hammondsport, a small village built around the main square where you will find the pharmacy, bank, pizzeria, pub, grocery, bakery and gift shops. Located a mile north from the village, the Snug Harbor Restaurant is a great lakeside find with a delightful view, great food and friendly service.

Snug Harbor Restaurant

Hammondsport town square gazebo

Over our morning coffee at the Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor (yes, they also serve breakfast) was the perfect spot to discuss our upcoming day.

Trip adviser had great reviews for the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum–so we decided to check it out.

We’d recommend starting with the fifteen minute introductory film, as we did, introducing Glenn H. Curtiss a pioneer of early aviation. Hometown boy, Glenn started out operating a small bike shop, progressed to motorcycle designer, racer, and manufacturer, to aircraft inventions and the designer of streamlined travel trailers. The museum was well worth the visit.

On our way out we met the curator, Richard Leisenring, Jr., an avid collector himself, he had so much enthusiasm about the exhibits, “Not only does the museum focus on early aviation but also Hammondsport unique local history.”

Early Indian motorcycle

“Oh, this turquoise motorbike would be fun to ride!”- Ginette

In 1908, The June Bug flew at Hammondsport in the world’s first-pre announced public flight.

Red Curtiss America, 1914

Making our way back home, we took the scenic drive along Seneca Lake’s east side.

spring grape vines

Our last wine tasting of the day turned out as one of our most pleasant. Near Lodi, we turned off the main road, driving along a gravel road, over a little wooden bridge we reached Silver Thread Vineyard; a unique A-frame building set into the hillside. The quiet rural setting is no bus tour trap and a perfect place to sip excellent crisp dry Riesling and the outstanding Blackbird Meritage.

Shannon Brock, the vintner was the most personable and pleasant host. “It was a harsh winter, but due to our location near the lake our vines were spared frost damage.”

We love red barns, this one on the Silver Thread Vineyard property

Moving on, we wrapped up our day with a meal at the Knapp Winery and restaurant located near Cayuga Lake. Sitting on the outdoor patio we enjoyed the last of the afternoon sun and view of the vineyard. The service was excellent. We especially enjoyed the unique appetizer; fried corn on the cob in a cornmeal crust serve with lemon and dill sauce.

Fried corn in lemon and dill sauce

Fried corn in lemon and dill sauce

Touring and tasting our way throughout the Finger Lakes we happily cheered “Happy birthday Victoria!”

6 thoughts on “Road Trip USA: Touring and Tasting Throughout the Finger Lakes

  1. We love Watkins Glen! Every August our cycling team does the Finger Lakes “Tour de Cure” and we cycle 100 miles in support of diabetes. We start and finish in Watkins. Watkins is only 90 minutes from our home so we frequent the vineyards along Seneca Lake. One of my favorites is Fox Run and my wife is a Lakewood fan… Cheers!

  2. Pingback: 8 Eerily Haunted Wineries to Visit Around the United States

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