Planning to visit the most scenic area of New York, the Finger Lakes? Corning NY and the Finger Lakes offer spectacular state parks filled with waterfalls, rock gorges, and the best glass museum in the country.
Plan your trip with these 3 can’t-miss activities in the Finger Lakes. Be sure to PIN this guide to have later!
New York has so many amazing travel opportunities; New York City, Niagara, the Hudson River Valley, and all the mountain regions. Out of all of those exciting options, our favorite was by far the Finger Lakes. Read on to find out why.
Top 3 Things To Do In The Finger Lakes NY
1) Corning Museum Of Glass – Corning NY
Corning, NY is the perfect small town to use as the base camp for your Finger Lakes adventures. It is centrally located to the largest of the lakes.
The cute downtown area sits on the river with plenty of little shops and places to eat. Our favorite place to eat after adventuring was Burgers & Beer Of Corning. This no-frills place had the best burgers we have had in a long time.
Corning, NY is also the home of one of the largest and best glass museums in the world, the Corning Museum Of Glass. It is our favorite museum from all of our travels.
And we have explored a lot of museums across the country! Even better than the nation’s top museums in D.C.
Read on and you will find out why.
We liked the Corning Museum Of Glass so much that we actually spent 2 days there! It is huge.
Plus there are live glass presentations going in different areas of the museum all day long. You could almost fill an entire day with just the interesting glass demos they give.
Our favorite part of the museum was the glass blowing presentations. They have a large two-level glass blowing room where you can watch glass creations being made all day long.
They teach you about the process as they go. They also give the creations away at each performance to lucky winners.
What makes this museum so unique, is that they have glass blowing classes daily for both kids and adults. Glass blowing apprentices work with you 1:1 so it is safe and fun.
Sissy got to take 2 different classes during our visit. She made a flame-blown bead pendant necklace and a blown glass sculpture.
She loved the experience! Not many museums allow you to get into the action the way this one does. Definitely add the Corning Museum Of Glass to your trip.
2) Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is the most popular area to visit in the Finger Lakes. Why?
This scenic 2 miles boasts 11 waterfalls inside of a 200-foot tall rock gorge!
You can see why this park is so popular. In fact, it was voted in the top 3 US State Parks.
There are 11 lakes that make up the Finger Lakes Region. These finger-shaped lakes were formed through glaciers that scraped across the land.
They left behind beautiful rock canyons and impressive waterfalls. Watkins Glen is at the tip of one of the largest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake.
The most scenic part of the hike is the Gorge Trail. This trail is the one that goes through the gorge, under waterfalls, and alongside the rock pools.
The Gorge Trail is a stone and gravel path with lots of stairs. It is wet and often muddy, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes with good traction.
The Indian Trail is the trail that is along the rim of the gorge. It is less scenic but also more flat for people that have issues with stairs.
Many people choose to go out on one of the trails and return on the other one creating a 2-mile loop. There are also a couple of small offshoot trails including one with a suspension bridge over the gorge that is fun.
Watkins Glen State Park is stunning. It is a must-see when visiting the Finger Lakes region of New York.
I will honestly tell you though that the crowds can be insane. Arriving at the wrong time or hiking the trails in the wrong order can feel more like a tourist trap than an awe-inspiring nature experience.
No worries! We found a SECRET during our visit that allows you to experience the hike without all of the crowds. You can see by our photos that we had the place almost to ourselves.
Find your perfect CROWD FREE PLAN to Watkins Glen State Park here: Secrets To Avoid Crowds At Watkins Glen Falls NY
3) Letchworth State Park
Did you know there is a Grand Canyon Of The East? It is a spectacular place to visit!
Letchworth State Park is called the Grand Canyon Of The East due to its 600-foot rock cliffs. In some ways, it is even more beautiful than the Grand Canyon.
What makes Letchworth State Park so amazing is the river rushing through the canyon that creates 3 large gorgeous waterfalls: Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls.
The railroad bridge that crosses over Upper Falls makes an incredible photo backdrop. A bonus is the rainbows that often form in the mist on sunny days!
There are many great hiking opportunities in this park, some of which take you to even more waterfalls. The shortest path though to get the most bang for your buck in scenery is to park near Middle Falls.
From here you can walk up to Upper Falls on the Gorge Trail and back down to Middle Falls. You can also visit the historic Glen Iris Inn which has its own amazing views.
Next, drive over and park at Inspiration Point which is a can’t miss scenic spot.
Inspiration Point gives you views of both Upper and Middle Falls. Any place we have ever visited that has had an area called Inspiration Point has always been amazing!
Finally, park at Lower Falls. This area also has a neat little footbridge that crosses over the river before Lower Falls.
It was 100 degrees during our August visit and this plan allowed us to view the falls while minimizing our walking in the heat. This park is so beautiful!
4) Additional Ideas For Your Trip To Corning NY and The Finger Lakes
Still looking for more exciting things to see and do? Here are some other great ideas.
I) Enjoy A Scenic Wine Trail
What’s better than a scenic lake drive? Trying some amazing local wines along the way!
The most popular wine trail in the area is the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. This trail includes 29 wineries.
Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is America’s first-ever wine trail. It has 14 scenic wineries.
II) Visit The Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park
Sonnenberg Gardens offers a little bit of everything. How about a relaxing stroll through the gardens, tour the historic Victorian Mansion overlooking the lake, and enjoy a wine tasting at the Finger Lakes Wine Center?
III) Have A Little Playtime At The Strong National Museum Of Play
Traveling with kids? Or want to indulge the kid in you?
The Strong National Museum Of Play is dedicated to the world of play. From themes of Sesame Street to board games, this unique kid’s museum is full of fun.
IV) Go Chasing Waterfalls
Would you like to see even more waterfalls? There are waterfalls galore in this area and you could fill your entire trip with waterfall chasing!
Here are some great waterfalls in the Finger Lakes:
1) Robert H. Treman State Park
Robert H. Treman State Park, also known as Enfield Glen, is a gorge that features 12 waterfalls and a swimming area.
2) Taughannock Falls State Park
Taughannock Falls State Park features New York’s tallest waterfall at 215 feet. It is an easy 3/4 mile walk along the gorge with the falls as the main attraction.
3) Fillmore Glen State Park
Fillmore Glen State Park is a favorite for waterfalls, especially in the fall. This narrow tree-lined gorge walk is extra scenic when the leaves change.
The trail is steep at the beginning and then flattens out. This park has 5 beautiful waterfalls.
4) Buttermilk Falls State Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park is a swimming hole favorite. The park features 2 waterfalls with a deep pool for swimming at the bottom.
Whew! I think I have scenery overload after visiting this beautiful area.
Have you ever traveled to Corning NY or the Finger Lakes? What did you enjoy the most in this area? Please leave me a comment! I would love to hear about your experiences.
Also check out: Secrets To Avoid Crowds At Watkins Glen Falls
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Enjoy your adventure detour!
Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!