Wine, whiskey and waterfalls in the Finger Lakes

As a native New Yorker, I’m certainly aware of the Finger Lakes area, and have driven through it en route to Niagara Falls, but I have to admit I did not know much about it as a tourist destination of its own until my clients Corey and Jen decided to honeymoon there. In putting together their itinerary, I discovered all sorts of great places to stay, eat, and explore. And it sounds like they loved every minute of it! Thank you Corey and Jen for opening my eyes to a fantastic vacation destination that’s practically in my own back yard.

Ann,

Thanks for helping out with our honeymoon.  It was great!  Here’s my review of everything we did and hopefully this helps you out when other clients consider the Finger Lakes.  This area is a true gem that isn’t that well known around here.

In Canandaigua, we stayed at a quaint lakeside bed and break called Onanda by the Lake.  The owner, Linda, was a great host and made amazing breakfasts in the morning for her guests.  The rooms were immaculate and had a nice sitting room with a lake view or a garden view of the property.  Linda was very helpful with giving us ideas of what to do and where to eat. 

We arrived later in the day on Sunday and on the first night we took a dinner cruise on the Lady Canandaigua.  It’s an old Mississippi River paddle boat that use to be transportation on Canandaigua Lake.  The food was average at best but the atmosphere of the sunset cruise was really nice.  On Monday, we went wine tasting at three different vineyards; Arbor Hill Grapery, Inspire Moore , and Heron Hill Vineyard.   Arbor Hill and Inspire Moore were our favorites.  We ate lunch at the restaurant at the Inspire Moore vineyards called Roots.  Roots is an all organic restaurant that was absolutely delicious.  In the afternoon, we relaxed at Onanda Park.  Onanda Park is less than a 5 minute walk from Onanda by the Lake.  It has a swimming area and comfy Adirondack chairs to relax in.  For dinner that night we went to the New York Wine and Culinary center.  Here we were able to try wine and beer from all regions of New York.  They had tastings of white wine, red wine, dessert wine, beer, and distilled drinks.  The food was all locally grown in New York, much of the vegetables were grown at the gardens at the center.  On Tuesday, we hiked the hiking path in the woods behind Onanda by the Lake.  The path was a good walk through the woods and a ravine that was dry when we were there but might look better if it had rained more during the season.  We then went to lunch at Simply Crepes on Main Street in Canandaigua.  We had a delicious salad and then ordered the best dessert crepes that we have ever had.  Downtown Canandaigua had some nice quaint shops that we spent a few hours walking around and shopping.  After shopping, we went wine tasting at Hazlett Red Cat vineyards.  This was one of our favorite vineyards in the Finger Lakes area.  For dinner on Tuesday night we ate at MacGregor’s Grill & Tap Room.  They had a great selection of beer, hard ciders, and wine as well as amazing food.   The prices here were very reasonable for the amount of food we got. 

On Wednesday, we packed up from Onanda by the Lake and headed to Watkins Glen.  On the way there we stopped at the Belhurst Castle vineyard and walked around the castle.  The castle and the grounds are really nice looking but we weren’t fans of their wine.  There also wasn’t a tour of the castle as the rooms are used as a hotel and restaurants.   Once we arrived in Watkins Glen, we walked down the main street that was by the hotel to an old general store for nice ice cream and old fashion candy.  They also had a cool old pinball machine that was playing for a while.  After that we went to the Watkins Glen State Park and hiked the gorge and waterfall trail.  This was absolutely beautiful and would recommend this to anyone who ever visits the area.  That night we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Jerlando’s Pizza Co.   The food there was delicious and fresh.   After dinner we took a romantic walk on the Seneca Lake Boardwalk and the breakwall of the harbor during sunset.  The sunset was really nice here. 

The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel was amazing.  The beds were comfortable and the rooms were extremely nice and clean.  The people who run the hotel are all extremely nice and helpful with anything you want.  On Thursday, we took a wine tour with a private town car.  The tour was from Quality Wine Tours.  The driver was really nice and knowledgeable.   We were able to visit 7 vineyards and 1 distillery during our 6 hour tour.  We visited the Finger Lakes Distilling which had really good gin, vodka, and bourbon whiskey.  We also did wine tastings at Pompous Ass Winery, Standing Stone Vineyards, Penguin Bay, Miles Estate, JR Dill, Atwater Estate, and Red Newt Wine Cellar.  We also ate lunch at the Red Newt vineyard.  We got a cheese platter as an appetizer and fresh sandwiches for lunch.  The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel setup the wine tour and was able to give us a few free passes and other discounts to these vineyards.  The hotel had a nice restaurant that we were able to eat outside.  The food was good but the service was slow.  We also got to enjoy the pool and hot tub for an hour that night.  On Friday, we traveled to Corning to visit the Corning Museum of Glass.  We made our own glass Christmas ornaments and also made glass sculptures.  The museum was really cool and they had a great gift shop with many types of glass and glass products.  For dinner on Friday night we ate outside by the lake at Blue Pointe Grille.  The food here was delicious but the area was a big buggy.  They had live music too by the patio.  That night, we also went out for drinks at the hotel bar.  We sat by the firepit and relaxed and drank local beverages.   On Saturday, we packed up and headed home.  Our drives there and home took around 6 hours with one stop each time.

The honeymoon was great and there was lots more to do in the area that we didn’t have time to get to.  There are lots of different waterfalls and gorges to hike, the Watkins Glen motor speedway if you are into cars and racing would be a good place to visit as well.  There seemed to be a few golf courses in the area as well.  Also, from Canandaigua it is a 2 hour and 15 minute drive to Niagara Falls and a 90 minute drive to Letchworth state park (the Grand Canyon of the east).       

Corey & Jen
 

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You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)