This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read our Disclosure Policy.

A few months ago I posted a link on my Facebook page to an article published by House Beautiful titled “50 Charming American Towns You’ve Never Heard Of.” At that time, I was scheduled to attend a travel blogger conference (TBEX)  in the Finger Lakes Region. I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Niagara Falls and spend the night there, but I didn’t really expect much from Corning. Other than as the original site where Corningware was made, I knew very little about the region. But once I explored this destination, I was so happy with what I discovered that I plan on returning! Maybe even in winter next time!

glass and metal building with flags out front - Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass

The Finger Lakes region is known for its wine trail and the Watkins Glen racetrack. But if you’re not into either of those activities, should you visit? Absolutely! Here is what I found of interest.

1.  Corning Museum of Glass

If you own one of the latest cell phones, the front of it is likely made using Gorilla glass by the Corning Corporation. But glass has been used in our daily lives for several centuries. At the Corning Museum of Glass, you’ll get to see both the history and the art used in making so many beautiful pieces. Demonstrations throughout the day show visitors the strength of glass, its use in fiber optics, and the artistry of glass blowing. Don’t miss the opportunity to watch the longer demonstrations (1 1/2 hours) and to make your own glass item. Look at the cute pumpkin I made!

glass pumpkin with glass works in the background

2.  The Breweries

This map of the Finger Lakes Beer Trail shows the many craft breweries located in the Finger Lakes Region. From the wonderfully imposing Grist Iron Brewery with its great food menu and lodging, to the small friendliness of Two Goats Brewery, to New York’s first farm brewery, RoosterFish Brewing, you’ll find something for every beer preference!

flight of beers

View from Grist Iron Brewery onto Seneca Lake.

3.  The Distilleries

Want to try something a little different? Finger Lakes Distilling not only offers a variety of liquors made on site, but you can even make your own in the OriGINal Gin Workshop! I experienced a much smaller version of the workshop and was thrilled with the guidance and encouragement of both the owner and head distiller.

small bottle of gin in foreground

I made my own The Common Traveler gin!

4.  Watkins Glen State Park

Looking at photos of the waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park might lead you to believe that you’ll have to hike far to see such beauty. The good news is that while there are a lot of steps, most of the waterfalls can be seen within a fairly reasonable walk from the state park entrance by downtown Watkins Glen.

waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

5. Corning

Walk along Market Street full of art shops, boutiques and eateries. Enjoy a glass at Liquid Shoes Brewing. And if you’re hungry, I highly suggest going to Mooney’s, the self-proclaimed home of the mac and cheese! Spending just a few hours explains how Corning made the list of charming cities.

three glasses of beer

Liquid Shoes Brewing

6.  Sailing on Seneca Lake

We took a leisurely sail on Seneca Lake on the True Love schooner. The lapping water as we toured the lake lulled us into a magical state. Once underway, we drank local wine and enjoyed the serenity of the lake. This was my first time on a schooner and I understood right away why it had been featured in The Philadelphia Story and High Society in 1940 and 1956, respectively. What a unique way of seeing the Finger Lakes Region from the water!

red boat house on dock with "Seneca Lake"

7.  Watkins Glen Speedway

The Watkins Glen Speedway (known as “The Glen”) hosted our TBEX opening party and blew me away. First, our bus took a lap around the track. Various locations hosted food, local beverages, and bands. But a ride around the track in a pace car was the highlight of my visit to the speedway! Wish to experience the drive yourself? You can even drive your own car around the track.

pace car at Watkins Glen International speedway

8.  The Wine Trail

Well-known for its wine trail, I couldn’t leave wine completely out of the story. Because the three lakes form valleys that protect the region from the worst of the weather, growers are able to harvest several different kinds of grapes. The region’s specializes in Riesling, sparkling wines and ice wines but offers a few other varieties as well. I do like sweeter wines and the sparkling roses that are now fashionable were fabulous! I hope to come back and sample some ice wine during winter.

sign for Finger Lakes Distilling with building in background

In other words, I’m so glad I visited the Finger Lakes region and I’m looking forward to returning and exploring even more! I’m still traveling but more detailed posts about the places I’ve visited will be forthcoming!

Happy travels!

Annick, The Common Traveler

Visiting New York's Finger Lakes Region? There are so many things to do and see that don't involve the wine trail. Check out some favorites!