Adventure is possible anytime of year when you visit the picturesque Southern Finger Lakes region near Corning, New York. From unique experiences like seaplane rides and hot air ballooning to day hikes and paddling, this family-friendly destination caters to adventure seekers from mild to wild. Here’s how to spend a 3-day weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the state.
Where to Stay
The first step in any adventure is finding the perfect spot to use as a home base. If you want to spend as much time as possible outdoors, there are a variety of camping options in the area (find a comprehensive list here).
To be in the thick of things, book a room at the Inn at the Gaffer Grille. Located in the heart of Corning on historic Market Street in the Gaffer District, each room includes a cozy fireplace and luxury bed.
For a true country experience, drive about a half an hour north of Corning to Cohocton and book a stay at the Button’s Creekside Bed and Breakfast. Where, in addition to staying in an 1850 farmhouse, you are encouraged to snuggle lambs in the spring and help out on the working farm if you’d like.
Fancy a lake view? The Keuka Lakeside Inn in Hammondsport is the perfect choice. Anglers and watersports enthusiasts will love the comfortable rooms, private boat launch, and easy lake access.
Start your trip with a hearty breakfast at Donna's Restaurant on Market Street where they have a full range of tasty options like a classic plate of eggs and bacon, and homemade muffins. (Be sure to check out the unique collection of Pyrex storage dishes lining the walls, too!) After you fuel up—and say hi to Donna herself, who is often found at the diner—head over to the Erwin Wildlife Management Area for your first adventure. There are scenic trails for all skill levels of hikers and bikers from beginner-friendly gravel fire roads to rocky, rooty singletrack.
Head back to town for lunch at theHand + Foot, which is best described as a "vintage-chic eatery serving eclectic sandwiches & other bites, plus craft beer & cocktails." After lunch, take a stroll through the historic downtown, with its charming shops and the Corning Museum of Glass which is “dedicated to the art, history and science of glass.” Finish up with a walk or ride along the Corning Bikepath, a two-mile paved trail for walkers, bicyclists, and rollerbladers.
Next, for an evening you’ll never forget, book a hot air balloon ride and behold the wonders of the glacially-carved scenery of the Finger Lakes region from above. (Note: Hot air ballooning is controlled by the season and the weather, so the decision "to fly or not to fly" is made on a daily basis.)
Finish up the day with a dinner at one of the most popular microbreweries in the area: Market Street Brewing Co. and Restaurant. Ask about their seasonal beer specialties, or just go straight for one of the staples, like the Blackberry Lager (made with fresh blackberries) or Wheelhouse IPA (with four different types of hops. Also be sure to take a good look at the elaborate—and painstakingly preserved—cherry, walnut, and mahogany bar.
Start the day with a Mediterranean flair at the Aroma Coffee Art Gallery in Hammondsport, where the flavorful spice mix on their eggs is as big of a hit as the walls that are covered in colorful, unique art. Then take a short walk up the block to check out the historic Frey Opera House which now houses the Opera House Antiques.
Hammondsport has a rich aviation history, which means it’s the perfect place to charter a seaplane ride and see the unusual Y-shape of Keuka Lake from above. You can also catch a glimpse of Seneca Lake as well as the famous vineyards dotting the area. After the flight be sure to plan some time to visit the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum to learn about the local man known as the "Father of Naval Aviation."
Enjoy lunch at the Pelican’s Net Coastal Grille and Draught House, a classic crab shack serving up some of the best seafood around. You can get lobsters, scallops, and clams as well as salads and burgers. They have local craft beers and Finger Lake wines to help wash everything down.
After lunch it’s time to hit the water. If the weather is nice, try stand-up paddleboarding (SUPing) and get a core workout that’s as fun as it is good for you. If it’s too cold for swimming, renting a kayak to explore the lush shoreline or going fishing are popular alternatives. You can rent boards and boats right down the street from the Pelican’s Net at Keuka Watersports.
Follow up the watersports with a visit, tasting, and maybe even a tour of one of the area's many wineries, like Bully Hill Vineyard right in Hammondsport (it’s also a great choice for lunch overlooking the lake). There are a total of 15-20 wineries in the Keuka Lake area to choose from, including the seven along the Keuka Lake Wine Trail.
Conveniently located right off of the wine trail in Hammondsport is the Switzerland Inn, featuring stunning lake views and a waterfront deck. In continuous operation since 1894, "The Switz" is a local dinner favorite and features live music every Sunday from June through August.
For breakfast with the freshest ingredients in Corning, try The Source at Factory no. 2. Anyone looking for vegetarian, gluten-free, or dairy-free options will have plenty to choose from here. Serving breakfast and brunch, it’s a great place to start your day.
Squeeze in just a little more fun before heading home by renting a kayak or canoe—Kim’s Kayaks is close to The Source—and going out on the Chemung River. The Algonquin Indian word "Chemung" means “Big Horn” and refers to a tusk (possibly from a wooly mammoth) found along the river bank in the 1700s. There are several boat launches in the area, and the Chemung Basin River Trail covers almost 80 miles total.
If your trip falls in the winter, try cross-country skiing on the trails at McCarthy Hill State Forest instead. There are about seven miles of marked ski trails which vary in difficulty with choices for every ability. To add enough trails for a full weekend or longer day, there are even more cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities across the street at Pinnacle State Park.
If you are still in the Corning area and want to grab a quick bite before hitting the road for home, top off your trip with a pie and basket of garlic breadsticks at Atlas Brick Oven Pizzeria.
This itinerary is just one way to spend a long weekend in Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes. For even more ideas and events, request your free Experience Guide.
Written by Lisa Collard for RootsRated in partnership with Steuben County CVB.