Why You Should Travel to New York's Finger Lakes This Fall

Think unique wine and Instagram-worthy foliage.

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Fall is the perfect time to travel to upstate New York—apple picking, stunning foliage, beautiful weather— and arguably the best, and often under-rated, place to visit? The Finger Lakes. Defined by the 11 finger-shaped lakes that run north to south, the area is one of the best wine regions in the United States, according to Rebecca Maffei, director of Tioga County Tourism in the Finger Lakes region.

“The deep lakes, carved out by glaciers during the last ice age, create a tempered micro-climate on their slopes that discourages early frosts, provides good drainage, sun, and cool breezes. This has allowed for a variety of grapes to flourish and Finger Lakes wineries to become diverse, producing old World wine from Vitis vinifera—with each winery creating distinctive wine with unique characteristics,” she says.

“In addition to well-recognized types of wine, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Finger Lakes counts over 200 Riesling brands. Many wineries produce ice wine, a hand-crafted dessert wine made from frozen grapes.”

And if wine isn’t your thing, there are so many other amazing things to do in the region, from watching the fall foliage to eating some incredible, farm-to-table food. Read on for the very best of the Finger Lakes.

Where to Stay

Inns Of Aurora

Quaint and quirky, yet completely luxurious, the Inns of Aurora consist of four massive homes, each with its own distinct personality. Guests overlook the gorgeous Cayuga lake, have access to exceptional food at the dining room, and can even enjoy a restorative yoga class at the wellness center. Innkeeper service, freshly-baked scones every morning, and a sense of community make this an incredible experience for all guests, no matter what they’ve come for.

Geneva On The Lake

With 10 acres, 29 luxury accommodations, and a 70-foot pool and boathouse,  this grand resort epitomizes classic elegance. Located right in the bustling village of Geneva, Geneva On The Lake boasts refined touches like terracotta roofs, cathedral ceilings, views of the expansive garden, and grand antique columns.

Where to Eat

H.J. Stead Company

Located on Geneva’s center hub Linden Street, H.J. Stead Company mixes local ingredients with  global flare. Chef Samantha Buyskes grew up in South Africa, so a touch of spice is evident in every dish at the eatery—her turmeric grain bowl is a favorite.

F.L.X. Table

“Farm-to-table is not a trend in the Finger Lakes; it’s a way of life that extends back hundreds of years,” says Maffei—and that’s seen in every dish served out at F.L.X. Table. Using local ingredients means the creation of inventive dishes so that diners never get bored, and with the menu changing constantly, you never know what you’re going to get.

Kindred Fare

Casual, rustic, and inspired by the sense of sharing a home-cooked meal with friends, Kindred Fare makes everything in-house, from the breads to the sauces. This lively and social eatery boasts some amazing foods inspired by the local heritage of the Finger Lakes, including mushroom gratin and rosemary-balsamic lamb.

Where to Drink

Hearts & Hands Wine Company

Fresh Pinot Noir and crisp rosės are the highlight of this husband-and-wife owned vineyard, which truly takes effort in finding the best regions to grow the necessary grapes required. By using Onandaga Limestone and spending a substantial amount of time on site selection, they make sure you’re getting the best of the best.

Shaw Vineyard

One of Maffei’s favorites, Shaw Vineyard is an artisanal winery that practices old world methods. “They believe in gentle processing and [are] dedicated to sustainable practices,” she says. Along with aged reds and whites, they also produce orange wine—which comes from fermenting white wine grapes with their skins on.

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard

Forget everything you thought about Rieslings being super sweet—at this vineyard, which specializes in them, the cool gravelly soils create a number of different versions, from dry to dessert. All fruit is harvested and hand-sorted, ensuring only the very best make it to each bottle.

What to Do

Ithaca Farmer’s Market

From traditional Thai cuisine to hand-made kombucha on tap, expect almost every type of treat at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. Vendors work hard to provide shoppers with the very best produce available, and shopping local means seasonal finds year round.

MacKenzie-Childs Store

These whimsical patterns had their origins in Aurora, and the hand-painted ceramics are on full display at the original store. The highlight? The Mackenzie-Childs dollhouse, where every inch of furniture has been intricately painted, and the attention to detail spans to even a tiny pillow cover.

National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House

“A trip to the Finger Lakes provides the opportunity to visit sites of critical importance to the women’s rights movement,” says Maffei. Susan B. Anthony’s original home in Rochester is one of them, which was headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when she was its president. The tour here gives little-known details of the activist’s life.

Corning Museum of Glass

“The Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics exhibit at the famed Corning Museum of Glass in the Finger Lakes region of central New York includes 50 works from artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, a leading figure in the Art Nouveau movement,” says Maffei. “Known for his iconic stained glass windows and lamps, ceramics, blown glass, and jewelry, Tiffany is lesser known for the stunning glass mosaics. But this exhibit will be the first museum exhibition focused exclusively on this aspect of his artistic work.”

Ontario Pathways

For some great hiking, head up to the Ontario Pathways, which boasts 24 miles of lush greenery and amazing fall foliage. And don’t worry—the trail is marked “easy,” so you don’t have to worry about falling.

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