Top Family Excursions in the Finger Lakes – From a Local Mom

By Lindsay Bolton, Marketing Manager at Finger Lakes Premier Properties

As a mom of two very energetic boys (ages 3 and 6), we are always out exploring. The Finger Lakes has so much to offer, but can be a bit overwhelming if you’re the one planning out the adventures. Here are just some of my family’s favorite things to do and go-to places to create a memorable vacation in the Finger Lakes.

Enjoy the lakes!

Even before I worked for Finger Lakes Premier Properties, my husband and I rented a cottage on Honeoye Lake. Staying on the lake offers days of entertainment for the whole family, and even allows you some time to pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. Our son’s favorite thing about staying on the lake was kayaking and fishing. So be sure to pack some fishing poles for your stay along with some sand toys (even though we don’t have sandy beaches, they will still get lots of use). Many of our rentals come with non-motorized watercraft. But if you need to rent some, or want to rent a motorboat for some extra excitement on the lake, check out these vendors.

Take advantage of the provided watercraft at your rental and the most out of staying on the lake!

If you’re staying at one of our off-lake rentals, no fear! There are plenty of public beaches that offer fantastic swimming. Our favorites are Keuka Lake State Park (Keuka Lake), Kershaw Park (Canandaigua Lake) and Cayuga Lake State Park (Cayuga Lake) for their sandy beaches where my kids spend more time in the sand than in the water.

Take a hike!

The word “hike” does not always imply an uphill trek backpacking the kids. While, yes, there are some trails like this, my family steers more towards the locations where the kids are comfortable exploring on their own. Some even come with a bonus waterfall! Some of my family’s favorite trails are:

The first falls at Grimes Glen
  • Grime’s Glen in Naples (South end of Canandaigua Lake) – This starts as an easy trail, but pack your water shoes because if you want to get the full experience, you have to walk up the (very shallow) creek. There are three different waterfalls, the first two are easy to get to. If you want to get to the third there is a bit more climbing involved. Then at the end and last waterfall, there is a natural pool that you can swim in. This trail is perfect for hot summer days as a shaded alternative to staying at the lake and cooling off.
  • Taughannock Falls State Park in Ithaca (Cayuga Lake) – The paved gradual trail is great for kids of any age. This is also a great dog-friendly hike, for any size pup. During the summer months, the water may be only a trickle, which does allow you to walk up the gorge but doesn’t provide the grand view of the majestic falls at the end. Either way, after your trek you can go across the road to enjoy swimming, the playground, or have a picnic by the lake.
  • The Outlet Trail in Penn Yan (between Keuka and Seneca Lakes) – This seven-mile path goes from Keuka to Seneca Lake and is mostly very gradual. It follows the canal and offers views of waterfalls, historic buildings, and is overall a very peaceful trail. If you have older kids, this is a perfect biking trail.
  • Onanda Park (Canandaigua Lake) – This park is not as well known as some of the others but is one of my family’s go-to parks (disclosure: we also live relatively close to it). On the lakeside, there is a great park for swimming, kayaking (bring your own), and playground. Across the road, you have the choice of going up the hill (there is a parking lot up there) where you can hike some up-hill trails, or stay below to walk up along the gorge. We usually choose the later, especially on hot days. Here my boys can explore the gorge, throw rocks into small pools of water, and hunt for salamanders. If you trek up to the end there are waterfalls!
Fall visit to Taughannock Falls!

There are MANY trails to hike in the Finger Lakes, my goal is to explore some more this summer! Some others that are more of an incline and would be great with older kids include Watkins Glen State Park, Buttermilk Falls State Park, and Letchworth State Park. For a great resource on finding trails in the Finger Lakes, visit GoFingerLakes.org.

Museums… for kids!

As much as we don’t want to admit it, there is a chance of a rainy day during your vacation. But don’t fear! There is still plenty to do to keep the kids occupied, even if you didn’t pack that suitcase full of toys! Some of these museums may be a drive (an hour or more) from your rental, but they can easily turn into full-day excursions:

Hands down the Strong Museum of Play is one of the best children’s museums we’ve been to!
  • Strong Museum of Play (Rochester, NY) – My kids love this museum so much we have a season pass! It is exactly what it sounds like, a museum of toys! This destination has everything from a kid-size Wegmans (grocery store for the non-locals), an indoor carousel, train, and any kind of imaginative play you can think of. You can pack a lunch or purchase a meal (or milkshake) in their food court. Just a warning, especially for the little ones there is so much to do, you may not get through it all in just one trip.
  • Rochester Museum of Science (Rochester, NY) – I recently went here with my son’s school and am anxious to go back. This museum has some great exhibits for the future astronaut (get tickets to the planetarium), archeologist, marine biologist, or historian. There are plenty of hands-on activities and a massive climbing AdventureZone for even the most active kids. Even as parents you’re sure to leave with some extra knowledge at the end of the day.
  • Sciencenter in Ithaca (Cayuga Lake) – Ok I’ll be honest, I haven’t even hit up this museum yet. BUT, many of my mom-friends have and they rave about it. They tell me its especially great for younger kids (10 years to the just walking) with all of the hands-on exhibits. It includes marine life, an outdoor playground, and tons of experimental exhibits for your future Isaac Newtons.
  • Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY) – So the thought of taking two energetic boys to this location scares me. BUT, their marketing rep assured me there is no “you break it you buy it” policy. Also, it is pretty remarkable for the kids to watch the glass blowing demos or even the glass breaking demos. Plus, kids 17 years and under are free!

Go Pickin’!

One of the most delicious ways to spend the day is picking local seasonal fruit. My kids love it and they always oblige to being my helpers with finding the ripest pickings. In the Finger Lakes, you can find local u-pick farms for strawberries (around July), blueberries (August), cherries (June), grapes (end of August through September), Apples (October), and Pumpkins (October). After you’ve picked your heart out, take advantage of that kitchen in your rental and bake some sweet pies and treats together. Here are a couple of our favorite pickin’ spots:

Picking grapes at Jerome’s in Naples is something my boys look forward to all year!
  • Jerome’s in Naples (South end of Canandaigua) – Naples is one of the epicenters in the Finger Lakes for fresh grapes (thanks to the annual Grape Festival and the delicious Monica’s Famous Grape Pies). You will find all sorts of u-pick farm signs around this quaint town. But our go-to year after year is Jerome’s with its delicious variety and surplus of grapes.
  • Apple Barrel Orchards in Penn Yan (Keuka Lake) – I grew up picking apples at this farm, so it is a bit of a family tradition. Now located up the hill on Wager Hill Rd, the family-owned farm offers one of the best offerings of fresh fruits including apples, grapes, cherries, black raspberries, and peaches. In the fall, they also have a shop full of their own baked goods and treats, those also come highly recommended!
  • Varick Winery (Cayuga Lake) – Not only does this winery have award-winning wines, loads of fresh snacks, and fresh grape juice for the kiddos, but it also offers fresh cherries each summer. However, they tend to save the picking for their annual Cherry Festival (this year on June 29th). This festival also offers vendors, live music, and of course, wine and juice tastings.

Playgrounds and Parks

Kids love playgrounds. They are free, they are fun, and it allows you a few minutes to relax on the sidelines. My boys and I have had a few summer days that we call “playground marathons” where we pack a lunch and hit up all of their favorites. Then there are days where we’re seeking a bit more adventure and head to bigger attractions for a special day together. Here are some of their must-visit jungle gyms:

My oldest at the pirate ship playground on Outhouse Road, Canandaigua.
  • Outhouse Road in Canandaigua (Canandaigua Lake) – This playground has a pirate ship, who wouldn’t love that! It also has a walking path around the grounds, public bathrooms, pavilions, and plenty of space for the kids and pups to run. Also, Canandaigua has a HUGE variety of playgrounds between the schools and four different parks, but this is their go-to in town.
  • Keuka Lake State Park in Penn Yan (Keuka Lake) – Probably one of my favorite playgrounds because of the variety of climbing options, swings, and what we call an obstacle course of monkey bars. This is great for families with kids of all ages with the different options available. Did you see above this park also has a sandy beach and swimming? Pack a lunch and enjoy a day at this park!
  • Geneva Community Lakefront Playground in Geneva (Seneca Lake) – This playground isn’t as large as the other two, but if you’re staying near the top end of Seneca Lake, it’s a great option. Not only is the playground a blast, but there is an ice cream shop right next to it, a pier to walk out to, and the Finger Lakes Welcome Center is just a short walk down the lake with a huge I LOVE NY sign and (gasp) a new playground there too!
  • Roseland Waterpark in Canandaigua (Canandaigua Lake) – Especially for those staying at one of our off-lake homes, Roseland Waterpark is a great place for the whole family to spend a hot summer day together. My kids are still at an age (and height) where they can’t do the larger water rides. But that doesn’t stunt their excitement for this park. Between the wave pool, huge splash park, raft ride, and lazy river, we get more than our share of fun. They even have tables set up right outside the entrance so you can retrieve a packed lunch to enjoy together before returning back in for more waves.
  • Seabreeze Amusement Park in Rochester – We’re a big theme park family and try to find one when we are traveling. Seabreeze is a day trip, but well worth it. This park offers a great variety of rides for kids to adults and also includes a waterpark. It’s not a huge park, but has been providing my family with great memories since I was in a car seat myself!

This list by no means encompasses all of the possible options for your family’s Finger Lakes vacation. But as a mom who loves to travel, I always appreciate a local’s point of view. If you have some of your own recommendations post in the comments below. Perhaps I’ll add them to my bucket list too!

For more information about planning your next vacation call our reservation department at (877) 751-9011 or visit our online interactive map to find attractions across our region.

Alleviate PTSD by Exploring the Finger Lakes

June 27, 2017 | By Zak Klick

As June 27th marks the U.S. National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day, it seems fitting to highlight our region’s natural remedies for those suffering from past trauma.  While nothing is guaranteed, much research has been done associating the positive effects of exploring the outdoors to those suffering from PTSD and depression.

For example, in 2015, University of Michigan researchers surveyed Veterans before and after a multi-day wilderness recreation experience, which involved camping and hiking in groups of between six and 12 participants.

One week after the experience, veterans reported a greater than 10 percent enhancement in several measures of psychological well-being, a 9 percent increase in social functioning, and a nearly 8 percent gain in positive life viewpoint.

Since our area is rich in waterfalls and forestry, we thought it would be appropriate, on this day, to offer calming places to visit the outdoors.  Without much further ado, here are some of the best outdoor locations we, the Finger Lakes Premier Property staff, could locally advocate for planning your next outdoor adventure.

Upper, Middle + Lower Falls in Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park

The Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park is home to three of the largest and most stunning falls you’ll find along the west side of the Finger Lakes. About 25 minutes from some of our vacation rentals along Consesus Lake, this expansive park features the main attraction at the Upper and Middle Falls, with over 50 smaller cascades scattered throughout the park. With activities planned year-round from guided tours and white water rafting, to snow tubing and cross-country skiing, this attraction is ideal for an outdoor adventure any time of the year.

Watkins Glen Waterfalls via Stone Stairs

One of the most iconic waterfall destinations in the Finger Lakes is the Watkins Glen State Park, where you can walk under, over and through 19 waterfalls. As you climb over 800 steps through the park you will be completely immersed in nature with plenty of resting stops along the way to enjoy some quiet moments of solitude. Located right in downtown Watkins Glen and minutes from Seneca Lake where you can continue to enjoy a peaceful getaway in the Finger Lakes.

 

Shequaga/Montour Falls South of Watkins Glen

Just south of Watkins Glen you’ll find the Shequaga Falls in downtown Montour Falls. Find a comfortable spot at the base of the massive falls that are easily accessible for most, and enjoy the thrilling sounds of the water crashing into the basin below. If you’re looking to hike, follow the 5 mile Montour Falls Historic Trail Loop to explore more falls and lookout points.

Lucifer Falls + Lower Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park

A very popular summer swimming hole for locals is at the Lower Falls or Lucifer Falls in Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca, NY. In addition to taking a relaxing dip in the fresh water from the falls, the park’s rugged gorge called Enfield Glen continues for 9 miles of winding hiking trails past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls.

Buttermilk Falls in Buttermilk Falls State Park

Autumn scene landscape of waterfalls at Buttermilk Falls State Park

A local favorite is Buttermilk Falls State Park at the south end of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, NY. Hike the park’s Gorge and Rim Trails to take in the view of cascading Buttermilk Creek, enjoy a soaring cliff jumping adventure, and cool off in the natural-fed swimming pool at the base of Buttermilk Falls, the largest of the park’s 10 falls.

 

These are only a few of the locations in the Finger Lakes where cascading waterfalls may be able to provide soothing comfort for anyone, even those experiencing PTSD symptoms. Once again, this is a supplemental treatment for those wanting additional help and not a proven form of relief.  Those suffering from severe psychological dysfunction should contact a medical professional for assistance.

For more information about PTSD, its symptoms, support, and more, visit the website for the National Center for PTSD.