A Family-Friendly Long Weekend in Watkins Glen

Maybe you’ve heard about the Finger Lakes before and you want to bring your family, but you’ve heard so much that you don’t know where to begin! Or perhaps you’re a local or native, looking for new things to see and experience. Well, we’ve put together a multi-day itinerary, full of some of our favorite family-friendly things to see and experience! Here is our take on three days… but remember, this is just the beginning and just meant to serve as an inspiration. There is so much to do here!

Schooner Excursions sailing - photo credit, Stu Gallagher PhotographyFRIDAY

Plan to arrive in town late afternoon so that you can enjoy a relaxing, sunset sail aboard the Schooner True Love (Seneca Harbor Pier, Watkins Glen, NY 14891). This is the perfect way to welcome the weekend in Watkins Glen – a lovely sail through the sapphire waters of Seneca Lake aboard a 1926 John Alden Malabar VII Schooner. Schooner True Love has sailed the Caribbean waters of St. Thomas since the 1950s and was featured in the 1956 movie “High Society” with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra. Today, it docks right at the Seneca Harbor Pier and offers morning, midday, mid-afternoon, and sunset sails.

After your sail, head two blocks south of the waterfront for dinner at Nickel’s Pit BBQ (205-207 North Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891), an authentic American BBQ restaurant with an Upstate NY edge, housed in the historic Watkins Glen fire department building. Their menu is locally sourced and everything is homemade.

Famous Brands - use this one from 2018 on via Jim GuildYou’ll want to walk off that filling dinner, so why not stroll through downtown Watkins Glen afterwards? Snag some great deals at Famous Brands, a family-owned outlet store or browse an antique shop or two to see what treasures you can dig up from yesteryear. You can enjoy an opening at the Frankin Street Gallery, shop for souvenirs at Village Memorabilia, or even go thrifting at Wags to Riches. If you’re hungry for dessert, our ice cream shops can’t be beat!


Rainbow Falls Credit Marie FreiNow that you’re rested and recharged, enjoy a hearty breakfast at any one of our area diners or cafes including The Harvest Café, Blue Ribbon Diner, Classic Chefs, or Curly’s Family Restaurant before a day of adventure! Then, lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and hit the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park (Main Entrance: 1009 North Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891). Begin at the new Visitor Center where you can meet park staff, learn more about the area, and get some ideas on the best ways to experience the gorge… and beyond!

After your hike, you’ll want to refuel. Grab some sandwiches, salad, or soup at Glen Mountain Market (200 North Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891). Here you’ll find a plethora of amazingly tasty local eats and drinks. A fully functioning deli, café, and bakery, they are sure to please anyone’s unique tastes. Feel free to ask for lunch to go and enjoy a picnic outside or talk the short two-block walk to the waterfront!

sunset view creameryAfter lunch, head to Sunset View Creamery (4970 County Road 14, Odessa, NY 14869) for some cheese tasting and a farm tour! Sunset View Creamery is located on a century farm located outside of Odessa, New York, 15 minutes South of Watkins Glen. A Farmstead/ Artisan Cheese Production Facility that is operated, along with the farm, by the 4th and 5th generation of Hoffmans. All the milk that is used to make their cheese comes from their own Holstein herd. The Creamery went into production in April of 2004 with the goal to promote not only their own dairy, but also other Local Producers. They are also avid supporters of local business and Pride of New York Products. You can also check out another creamery on the west side of Seneca Lake. Shtayburne Farm (2909 Chase Road, Rock Stream, NY 14878) produces a wide range of farmstead cheeses of seemingly every flavor and style! Their farm store is cozy and also boasts an array of local goods and products.

IMSA 2016 Credit Watkins Glen International
Image: Watkins Glen International

Take your pick of activities the rest of the day… you can chase waterfalls, explore our local parks, visit a museum or gallery, or even take your car around the renowned road course at Watkins Glen International. Head back to your hotel, cabin, or bed and breakfast, for some quiet time and the chance to freshen up before dinner.

When you’ve worked up your appetite, make the short drive up the east side of Seneca Lake for dinner at local favorite, the Stonecat Café (5315 State Route 414, Hector, NY

Stonecat dinner IMG_9444 courtesy Travels With Darley
Stonecat Cafe – Image: Darley Newman, Travels with Darley

14841). The 2018 season marks the Stonecat’s 20th year of operation!  Their dishes are created with passion and love and served in a comfortable and approachable atmosphere, which is maintained by a professional community of hosts and servers. Their chefs continue to create and evolve the regional cuisine of the Finger Lakes, using local ingredients and global culinary influences.


As your trip winds down, you can take Sunday to relax, beginning with an unhurried breakfast or brunch at Berta’s Café in Burdett (3825 Main Street, Burdett, NY 14818). You know this kind of place – the hidden gem that is the local favorite! Berta’s serves up breakfast and lunch only, all dishes prepared from scratch. A bit off the beaten path, but worth the trip!

Swimming at Clute ParkThen, head back toward the lake and enjoy a peaceful day at Clute Park (155 South Clute Park Drive, Watkins Glen, NY 14891) Located directly on the southern shore of Seneca Lake, Clute Park offers 35 acres of recreation and lakefront bliss within walking distance of downtown Watkins Glen. If you’re traveling with kids they’ll love the playground, skate park, swimming area, and plenty of space to run and play. Mom and Dad can unwind at picnic tables or unfurl a blanket to take your relaxation to the max! Pack a picnic lunch or some snacks and feel your stress melt away on the shores of beautiful Seneca Lake.

Head back to your hotel, cabin, or bed and breakfast to flip through photos, pack up, and get ready to head home in the morning – feeling better than ever and thinking about your next adventure back. After all, no trip is ever the same to Watkins Glen and Schuyler County… where there is something special around every turn!


The Glen Motor Inn: Living History

Perched on the hillside overlooking Seneca Lake, just outside the village of Watkins Glen, is a quaint, unassuming motel. Driving by you’ll see low-slung buildings, including a glass-fronted check-in area, flanked by hotel wings, and that view – it’s incredible. What you won’t see is the story behind the buildings and it’s an incredible story, indeed.

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Racing history is rich in Watkins Glen


Watkins Glen’s racing heritage is no secret. But the stories that aren’t so widely known these days are the stories about the people who have been a part of the very fabric that is our storied racing history. Families like the Argetsingers, the Brubakers, and the Franzeses. These families are more than people, they are more than stories. They are history. We must continue to tell their stories, lest we forget…

One such story is that of the Franzese family, who first came to Watkins Glen in the late nineteenth century. In 1895, Nicholas Franzese left Italy to pursue the American Dream. He, his wife Nicolina, and their children settled on the land that today is the Glen Motor Inn.

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A postcard from yesteryear

Nicholas and Nicolina’s son Joseph, the second youngest of 12 children, and his wife, Helen had been married only two weeks when they rented their bedroom out to travelers for 50 cents a night in 1937. Two years later they built two small lodging cabins offering overnight lodging. By 1947, Joseph and Helen had expanded the lodging facilities to twelve rooms and added a gas station. Over the next few years the gas station transitioned to a coffee and souvenir shop, and eventually became a full service restaurant.


Photo 1964 or 1965. From left to right: Vic Franzese, Joseph J. Franzese, Happy Rockefeller, Helen Franzese, NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and Patrick Franzese

When the green flag fell over the U.S. Grand Prix on October 2, 1948, the race brought people from around the world to Watkins Glen. Joseph and Helen soon became internationally famous hosts to celebrities from the world of entertainment, politics, sports, and high society. Many of the auto racing drivers and their teams stayed at the Inn, and they continue to do so today.


A pictorial history of the Glen Motor Inn and its intimate relationship with racing can be enjoyed in the lobby, where autographed photos of the past champions, famous persons, and personal friends are on display.


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Paul Newman and Helen Franzese

Victor Franzese, current Innkeeper, was a spectator at the very first race in 1948 at the age of 8 and has been passionate about racing ever since. He even competed in vintage and historical events at Watkins Glen International. Victor, his wife Linda, daughter Nancy, and grandson Joseph continue to offer warm hospitality to vacation travelers and race fans alike. “We are committed to this land, our family, and this community,” shared Victor. “My grandfather chose this land, my father began this business, and my family and I want to continue the tradition.”

Today’s Glen Motor Inn


Driving past the Glen Motor Inn today, you might not realize the stories and the incredibly rich history behind these humble buildings. The motel rooms are clean and simple, but – that view! Each room has a lakefront balcony to take full advantage of those gorgeous Seneca Lake sunrises. Plus, there’s the pool that overlooks the lake, the proverbial cherry on top. Their rates are incredibly affordable, even during peak season, making this the ideal place for the budget-conscious traveler.


The dining room at the Montage Italian Grill

Even if you’re not staying at the Glen Motor Inn, you can still experience a bit of the Franzese story and their hallmark hospitality, by dining at The Montage Italian Grill. Passing through the lobby to your table in the dining room, you’ll see that this building is wallpapered with history. Once you’ve been seated, you’ll again be taken to that amazing view. Their menu (Italian-themed of course) is full of delicious dishes. Then there’s the downstairs bar, which is reminiscent of a mid-century-styled grotto, with black and white checkered flooring (only appropriate, right?), curved doorways, black vinyl booth-style seating, and a classic bar, it oozes cool, vintage charm. The restaurant and bar will open for the 2018 season on Mother’s Day Weekend.


Whether your visit is overnight or just to dine, you will find so much more than a room and a meal at The Glen Motor Inn and Montage Italian Grill. Indeed, you will find living history and 100% Watkins Glen heritage, brought to you by a dedicated, endeavoring family. Born of immigrants, succeeding with lots of hard work and a love of what they do. We should all be so lucky as to pass through their doors. Our hats off and many thanks to you, Franzese family. You are a treasure.

5 ways to enjoy spring in Schuyler County

Spring is officially here – the calendar says so! It might still be a little brisk but days are longer, the sun is shining more often, and everyone is chomping at the bit to get out of the house. Can you say cabin fever?! We’re ready to start exploring and experiencing all that there is to see, do, and enjoy, so we decided to make a list to help guide you! Here are our 5 top ways to enjoy spring in Schuyler County:

1. Culinary World of Beer – April 7 and 8beer_1_orig

If you love craft beer, food, and Seneca Lake, this event is a no-brainer! Enjoy sampling food from around the world paired with local craft beers at each participating brewery. Participating breweries include: Seneca Lodge Craft Brewing, Seneca Lake Brewing Company, Climbing Bines Craft Ales, Gael Brewing Company, Fleur De Lis Brew Works, and War Horse Brewing Company. The event runs 10am to 6pm on April 7 and 11am to 5pm on April 8. Get details and tickets ( there’s a limited number available!) here.

2. Opening Weekend at Watkins Glen International – April 14 and 15

2016 NASCAR II Credit Watkins Glen International
Drive where the pros drive! Image: WGI

This is always a weekend that I mark on my calendar as soon as it’s announced, you know, when the snow is still flying and the C-10 is tucked safely in the garage. But speaking for myself, my husband and I put it on the calendar and literally count down the days because after Opening Weekend, the real fun begins! If you’ve never participated in this awesome event, you should add it to your Finger Lakes bucket list. Even if you’re not “into” racing, getting your chance to take three laps around the very same course that racing icons such as Sir Jackie Stewart and Mario Andretti have driven is exhilarating, fun, and something you won’t soon forget! It’s just $25 and proceeds benefit the RACE Foundation. This year’s proceeds will fund the purchase of a new wheelchair for one of The Glen’s biggest fans, Ryan Berwick. Learn more about Ryan here.

3. Get a great deal on a Spring Stay at Single Island Shores

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Stunning views from the front porch of your cottage at Single Island Shores

If you are looking to get away to the Finger Lakes this spring, but don’t want to break the bank, be sure to check out Single Island Shores fantastic spring pricing! They are offering 20% off their standard rates from April 1 to May 11. You won’t find these exclusive prices on any outside booking site, so be sure to contact Single Island Shores directly: 607-210-2655 or visit: www.singleislandshores.com. Oh, and the savings don’t stop there! If you mention this blog post when you call and book, you’ll receive an additional 5% off when you book ANY reservation by April 15th!

4. Waterfalls are best in the spring

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Havana Glen Park, village of Montour Falls

As anyone who has visited area waterfalls knows, waterflow can vary widely, depending upon what time of year you visit. Spring is one of the best times because snow melt and spring precipitation all but guarantee that area waterfalls will be especially beautiful. As the warmth and heat of summer hits, some may slow to a trickle, so getting out and about now is the best way to see the best sights. View some of our top waterfall suggestions here.

5. Opening day at area ice cream shops

Anyone who knows Watkins Glen, knows we have a different ice cream shop for every night of the week (well, not quite, but close enough!) so opening day is a big deal around here! Be sure to swing by our favorite spots for a delicious treat…

Ben and Jerry's
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
  • Ben and Jerry’s will open on April 10, which also happens to be Free Cone Day – say what?! That’s an embarrassment of riches if ever ther was one! Their iconic flavors and famous decor aren’t to be missed… and be sure to snap a selfie with their awesome ice cream mobile, parked outside!
  • The Colonial Pottery & Creamery is open already (afternoons only for now) and their homemade ice cream flavors are incredible (try the Biscoff – so good!!!) and they are also vegan-friendly, so be sure to check out their wide selection. Relax in their sunroom or on a front porch rocking chair.
  • Great Escape & Everything Ice Cream opens March 23 and we cannot wait for their dozens of hard ice cream flavors, gelato, novelties, and delicious custards. Plus, they have a great selection of vegan and sugar free options, too! The vintage vibe in their shop transports you back in time with black and white checkered floor tiles and Coke memorabilia.
  • The Glen Dairy Bar opened on March 16 – early bird gets the worm! Their incredible (huge!) sundaes are not to be missed, plus they have the usual suspects of soft and hard ice creams, milkshakes, flurries, and delicious deli sandwiches!

So, are you ready to get out and about yet? This list is just a start… how are you planning to enjoy your spring in Schuyler County and the Finger Lakes? If you need some more inspiration, head on over to our Instagram and check out the beautiful views and things to do!

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Spring is waiting for you!


7 Sweet Ways to Experience Schuyler County

It’s easy to settle into a “mid-winter slump” at this time of year. But we say, no way, we’re not accepting that! It might be cold, it might be snowy, you might even be over winter at this point, but that doesn’t matter – there is still so much to see, do, and experience here and we should all get out and enjoy it! So, with that stubbornness (er, we mean, determination) in mind (and the fact that Valentine’s Day is around the corner), we’ve come up with 7 Sweet Ways to Experience Schuyler County… which sweet activity will you do first?!

  1. celsius-for-web11Sample ice wine at local wineries. Ice wines are a specialty of cool climate wine regions. To make a traditional ice wine, grapes are left on the vine to freeze, then they are harvested and pressed while frozen, creating a wine that is fabulously sweet and rich. The perfect after dinner drink! Here are a few to try: Celsius from Atwater Estate Vineyards (hint: they just released their 2014!), Riesling Ice Wine from Castel Grisch Winery, and Vidal Blanc Ice Wine from Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.
  2. Try some delicious local ice cream. It’s never too cold for ice cream, right?! The great news is, the Colonial Creamery is still open and still churning their delectable homemade ice cream. Find them on Facebook to see what flavors they have available. Conveniently located in downtown Watkins Glen, they have a few flavors left and one they’re gone, they’ll close until the weather warms. Get yours before it’s gone! Looking for a birthday treat? The Great Escape is still making ice cream cakes, even though their retail shop is closed. Just give them a call and leave a message at 607-535-7354 or email dogwood2669@gmail.com.
  3. Have dessert first at one of our local restaurants or cafes. GRAFT wine + cider bar serves up something different every night from pots de crème to a pie of the day or perhaps even a tart.401 Espresso No matter what you choose, one thing is for certain – you will never be disappointed! 401 Espresso for their specialty confections including raspberry filled croissants with chocolate glaze, cherry puffs with chocolate glaze, and the ultra-impressive milk chocolate mousse domes – this is the place to satisfy your sweet tooth with a truly unique and handmade dessert. You have to see it to believe it!
  4. Enjoy a romantic, snowy hike in the Finger Lakes National Forest. Winter is a wonderful time to visit and if it happens to be snowing, you’ll feel like you stepped into a snow globe. Whether you like to cross country ski or snow shoe, with enough snow on the ground, you’ll be beyond happy with the miles of trails available to you in the Finger Lakes National Forest. If there isn’t enough snow for those winter activities, you can lace up your hiking boots and still enjoy the trails.finger lakes distilling
  5. Savor a specialty liqueur at Finger Lakes Distilling. We especially love the cherry and raspberry, but they also have maplejack and cassis flavors. Oh, and did we mention that they even have sweet cocktail recipes (and many others!) on their website? How great is that?!
  6. Unwind with a little pampering at Simply Your Best in Odessa. They offer massage, facials, manicures, and pedicures. We especially love the sound of their Therapeutic Pedicure: all the benefits of their Simply Pretty Pedicure plus a simply your bestwarm soak infused with essential oils and hot stones. Follow with a refreshing cooling mask and hot towels. Completed with a 10 minute massage. Where do we sign up?!
  7. Top it all off with a special bouquet or gift from one of our local flower shops: Flower Divas or Stillman’s, both in the village of Montour Falls are two great options. Flower Divas located on West Main Street offers custom arrangements, plus they have a selection of gifts too! Perfect for that birthday, stillmansanniversary, or “just because” moment. Stillman’s on Route 14 has expanded and beyond their custom florals and other gifts, they now boast Walnut Creek brand specialty grocery items and so much more. You will fall in love with both of these local shops – service with a smile!

So there you have it, seven reasons to get out and enjoy, even though it’s midwinter! What other “sweet” activities would you add to this list?

7 Reasons to Visit this Winter

Winter in the Finger Lakes is so different than visiting at any other time of year. Then again, each season here is different and for that reason, it seems you never have the same experience twice, no matter how many times you visit.

If you’re aching to escape or perhaps you’re a local, looking for new things to do, look no further! Watkins Glen and Schuyler County are where it’s at for winter fun! From cozy wine and food pairing experiences to festive indoor/outdoor events, to setting a vision for your new year, we’ve compiled 7 top reasons to visit this winter.

January 6th – Visions Workshop at Quintus Gallery – Dream Big for 2018Quintus Gallery.jpg

How many of us make resolutions, only to see them languish in the days and weeks after the 1st? Do you ever feel stuck, unclear as to how to start, pulled in a number of directions that has you stressed and overwhelmed? Do you want to set a vision for your year in a beautiful location and stunning locale? If so, this is the opportunity for you!

Join New Perspectives Coaching for a Vision Workshop on January 6, 2018. This workshop is based on a holistic model of engagement: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. The take away is a vision box designed to anchor continued forward movement. The location is the incredible lakefront space at Quintus Gallery. If you’re traveling and want to make a wonderful weekend of it (why not?!) – you can stay right next door at the beautiful, new Watkins Brewery Vacation Rentals.

January and February – Barnstormer Winery Food and Wine Pairing Experience

Barnstormer Winery is  offering unique food and wine tasting experiences on select Mondays in January, February, and March. Set in their comfortable and rustic barn, these evenings will include dedicated staff to guide you through the evening. These friendly staffers will also provide fun and detailed information on the food, wine, and Finger Lakes region. Each month will feature a local chef expertly pairing small plates with a flight of 4 pre-selected wines. Space is limited so reserve your spot today!

January 19th and 20th – Winterfest at Rooster Fish Brewing23722474_1543469149080549_2664007081841098604_n.jpg

This event was so popular in 2017, that they’ve made it two nights in 2018! They’ve also introduced VIP Tickets with awesome perks including dinner at Nickel’s Pit BBQ, preferred entry, access to a private lounge, butler service, and two drink tickets. Sounds good to us! Live music, local food and vendors, heated tents and firepits to warm you, plus plenty of entertainment and fun. Tickets are limited so you’ll want to get yours as soon as possible – CLICK HERE to get yours today!

PS: It gets better! Rooster Fish’s sister property, Nickel’s Pit BBQ recently announced that they’re going to stay open ALL WINTER for those diehard barbeque lovers. So, be sure to check them out when you’re in Watkins Glen. Tacos, brunch, and so many neat menu items – we can taste the Carolina Sauce already!

February 1st – Ice Bar at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotelice bar.jpg

Step into a winter wonderland on the edge of Seneca Lake this February! Over 25,000 pounds of ice carved into beautiful sculptures, martini luges, bars, and even a throne or two! Plus Finger Lakes wine, beer, and restaurant tastings, and a great DJ! Tickets are $30 each and while Friday and Saturday are already sold-out, there are still tickets left for Thursday, February 1. This is the perfect excuse to take a little time off and check-in for the weekend!

December through March – Polar Passports on the Seneca Lake Wine TrailPolar Passport.jpg

Visit the Trail during the best time of year: the off season! At $30 plus tax, the Polar Passport gives residents and visitors alike a convenient and affordable way to enjoy many of the wineries on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. And while many people enjoy visiting the wineries during the busy summer and autumn season, the winter season is actually the best time to visit, when owners, winemakers and vineyard managers are more likely to be in the tasting room.  

All Winter – Museums and Galleries

If you’re looking for some indoor activities, we have a number of galleries and museums that look forward to welcoming you! Pick your favorites based upon your interests or try to hit them all!

Brick Tavern Museum


The Brick Tavern Museum is housed in an incredible, historic building, erected in 1828. It is the oldest brick structure in the county and fittingly, a natural home for the Schuyler County Historical Society. Their exhibits rotate periodically but may include clothing, children’s toys, fibers and fabrics, artifacts of all types, veteran-focused exhibits, and industries of Schuyler County. Admission is free!

Located in downtown Watkins Glen, Franklin Street Art Gallery and Gift Shop offers art in a variety of mediums by local artists – from watercolors to jewelry to pottery and ceramics to photography. In addition, they offer a variety of classes and workshops taught by local artists.

If you’re looking to extend your visit, be sure to check out these other great museums – all within a 30 minute drive of Watkins Glen:

Corning Museum of Glass


The Corning Museum of Glass, dedicated to the art, history, and science of glass. If glass sounds boring to you, think again! Take in live glass blowing shows, do a “make your own” workshop, explore the museum, hit their fabulous gift shop… this could be a day-long excursion!

The Rockwell Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum of American art located in Corning. Frommer’s describes it as “one of the best-designed small museums in the Northeast”. Visitors to The Rockwell experience Art About America – the people, land, and ideas that shape America through the eyes of American artists

Located high atop Harris Hill in Big Flats (near Elmira), the National Soaring Museum is an aviation museum working to preserve the history of motorless flight. Their impressive collection is spread amidst a beautiful facility and includes military displays, gliders, and more.

Glenn Curtiss Museum



Located in Hammondsport at the southern tip of Keuka Lake, the Glenn Curtiss Museum contains a priceless collection relating to early aviation and local history. The museum also features a 75-seat theater, large open area for special events and a museum store. In addition to seeing the museum displays and exhibits, visitors are welcome to visit the Restoration Shop, talk with volunteer craftsman and watch them work on historic aircraft.

All Winter – Hiking and Cross-Country Skiing

With a plethora of trails to fit all skill and adventure levels, if the first flurry sends you running for your hiking boots or skis, be sure to check out these great trails:

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Photo: Liz Fraboni


Finger Lakes National Forest – over 16,000 acres to explore, you’ll find great trails and serenity – the perfect combination for a snowy escape!

Sugar Hill State Forest – over 9,000 acres with trails perfect for snowmobiling, hiking, or cross-country skiing. Overnight in one of their lean-tos for the ultimate winter camping experience.

Watkins Glen State Park Rim Trail – great for hiking, this trail skirts the gorge and is dog-friendly.Pier House in winter.jpg

We hope these suggestions have gotten you excited about the idea of coming to see us this winter! But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to see and do than we could ever list here. So, feel free to explore our website, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration, or give us a call for trip planning assistance: 800-607-4552. Happy Trails!

Small Business Saturday – be part of something amazing!

We’ve all heard of Black Friday – but not enough of us know about Small Business ShopSmall_SocialPost_TownSaturday. As an official Small Business Saturday Community Champion, we feel it is more important than ever to spread the word about the exciting things that are happening on Small Business Saturday.

According to the American Independent Business Alliance, 48% of each purchase at a local independent business was recirculated locally. Through the multiplier effect, the impact of shopping locally snowballs. Maybe this means a business owner can…

  • Put a child through dance or martial arts class (at another local business)
  • Hire more people (creating jobs and infusing more money into the local economy)
  • Provide health insurance to employees (providing better quality of life and improving the local community)

If you don’t think your purchases make that big of a difference, CLICK HERE to read our “Behind the Business” stories. It’s truly incredible to realize the power we have to  change our communities!

Feeling inspired? Good! Here’s how you can join the movement. We boiled it down and made a list of how you can make a difference in 3 easy ways:

1. Take the pledge to #ShopSmall this holiday season

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Take the pledge!

Small Business Saturday is awesome and we love it, but that’s just one day. So that’s why we are urging our friends and family to Shop Small and patronize locally owned and operated shops and businesses all season long. Will you join us by taking the pledge to #ShopSmall this holiday season?

CLICK HERE to take the pledge!

2. Get out there and shop on Small Business Saturday – November 25

SHOP SMALL, SHOP LOCAL: We’ve pulled together over 30 of our local businesses and on Small Business Saturday, shoppers will enjoy special sales, discounts, and promotions at those participating businesses.

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Sue and Joe Silhan, Selah Yoga & Music

CLICK HERE to download the list of promotions being offered that day! You can either print this on your own OR pick one up at any of the participating shops listed. Happy shopping!

FREE GIFT WRAPPING: There will also be free gift wrapping stations set up in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, and Hector throughout the day. Locations include Finger Lakes Distilling, the Schuyler County Historical Society Brick Tavern Museum, and the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce!

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTEST: Post a photo or status using the hashtag #shopsmallwgacc on any social media platform on November 25 to show us how you are shopping small and be entered to win a basket of goodies from local businesses. The more businesses you shop at, the more chances you have to win!

CLICK HERE for complete details of the social media contest.

3. Keep shopping throughout the season!

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Margie Hoy, Millport Landing

12 DAYS OF SHOPPING SMALL: The benefits don’t end at closing time on November 25th! The following 12 days, shoppers can pick up a 12 Days of Shopping Small Passport at any participating business. Then, simply make a purchase at one of those businesses and receive a stamp on your passport. At the end of the 12 days, bring your passport to the Visitor Center to be entered to win a basket of goodies from local businesses. The more purchases you make, the more chances you have to win!

No matter how you get involved, getting involved is what counts! Every dollar spent locally has an incredible impact and like ripples on a pond, those effects continue, business by business, village by village, community by community. Join the movement and shop small this holiday season. We’ll see you out there!


5 places to enjoy fall foliage in Schuyler County

Fall in the Finger Lakes is nothing short of incredible. The air is scented with ripening grapes. The trees awash in orange, gold,  and crimson. Crisp, cool nights are perfect for enjoying the stars and moon (which in our humble opinion, are at their most beautiful this time of year). Bright sunny days call for family hikes, scenic drives, and exploring.

Feeling inspired? Us too! So, we compiled a list; a few of our favorite places to enjoy this magical time of year. No matter what you do or where you go, we hope at least part of your autumn is spent making memories and experiencing the beauty of Schuyler County and the Finger Lakes.

Finger Lakes National ForestPond in Finger Lakes National Forest.jpg

Finger Lakes National Forest is a wonderful regional gem, hiding in plain sight! We say that because it’s over 16,000 acres, yet many aren’t familiar with just how wonderful it is. The diversity of hiking experiences available is fantastic. Trails skirt gorges and creeks, through dense woodland and open pastures, affording many unique opportunities to put down your phone, unplug, and truly immerse yourself in nature. Begin your visit at the Hector Ranger Station (5218 Route 414, Hector, NY 14841) where you can get expert advice, pick up some maps, and even a souvenir or two!

Sugar Hill State Forestsugar-hill-fire-tower.jpg

Sugar Hill State Forest is located west of the village of Watkins Glen. The scenic drive will take you over rolling hills and give you a chance to spot some beautiful sights from the comfort of your car. As you pass over quaint back roads, you’ll be taken into the midst of the forest, a mixture of evergreens and hardwoods. Notice the trail heads along the way – denoted by small dirt parking areas and  signs. Each is just as beautiful as the next. Home to the Sugar Hill Recreation Area, referred to by locals as simply, “Sugar Hill” you’ll find over 9,000 acres to explore. Sugar Hill boasts the Six Nation Trail System, the Finger Lakes Trail, and 5 lean-tos (perfect for a comfortable overnight). If you don’t mind heights, climb the flights of steps to the landing of the fire tower (one of only a handful still in existence in New York State). Get your camera ready, you’ll definitely want to capture the view!

You can find trail maps and additional information on the DEC website – CLICK HERE.

Watkins Glen State ParkWatkins Glen State Park October 2017

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Watkins Glen State Park. In fact, it was just voted one of the Best NY Attractions in a USA Today 10Best Contest, beating out world-famous tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and even Niagara Falls! The Gorge Trail remains open as of the writing of this blog (10/17/17) but at this time of year, things can change quickly and the Gorge Trail typically closes for the season when the weather begins cooling. In the meantime, the changing leaves, rushing water, and incredible rock formations make for quite a sight. Get here while you can!

Catharine Valley Trail

This year round recreation trail winds through the glacier-carved valley south of Seneca Lake. Its compact stone trail offers easy passage for walking and biking. It also accommodates cross-country skiing and snowshoeing once the snow starts to fall. But for now, it’s a truly beautiful place to take in the sights of the changing season. You can pick up the trail in several locations throughout the villages of Watkins Glen and Montour Falls. Want to download a map? CLICK HERE

Seneca Lake Wine TrailGrapes at CLR 2 in September.jpg

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail is home to award-winning wineries and amazing experiences – that’s no surprise. But the drive around the wine trail is amazing, too! You’ll drive past roadside waterfalls (Hector Falls on the east side of Seneca, for example) and stunning vineyard vistas (such as those available on the southwest and southeast shores). You can picnic at Seneca Harbor Park in Watkins Glen or any one of a number of the wineries. Many have inviting picnic table and decks, perfect for impromptu (or planned!) picnics.

Hint: have someone else drive you so that you can keep your eyes on the scenery. There are a number of reliable, friendly transportation experts in our area.

Ready to plan your trip?

We are always eager to help with expert advice and suggestions. Give us a call at 800-607-4552 or visit our helpful website: www.watkinsglenchamber.com and start planning your fall getaway today!

PS: You can also browse our other fall blog post, for more fall experiences to enjoy!

Get your Thrills and Chills in the southern Finger Lakes this fall!

thrills and chills logo

Thrills and Chills is ten weeks of awesome! It features a gathering of the best fall foliage, harvest, Halloween events, and other activities happening in the Southern Finger Lakes. So you can spend less time searching and more time having fun!

Apples abound at Reisinger’s Apple Country


With four categories of events from family-friendly to more ghostly adventures and everything fall-themed in between, there is an experience for everyone to enjoy! These categories include Scream Worthy, FLX Foliage Fanatics, FLX Harvest, and Family Fun and Entertainment.

Just a few of the events and experiences you’ll find amidst Thrills and Chills includes:

Want more to love about the fall? Try these fall experiences and these things to do in cooler weather.

To Replace Swimmingpool_WaterActivities
Underwater pumpkin carving

Look for the Thrills and Chills rack card throughout the region and specifically at the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center or the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (214 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen). You can also view the complete collection of events and experiences online at www.thrillsandchillsflx.com

Thrills and Chills is offered by the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce, Corning and the Southern Finger Lakes, and the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce.


5 Fresh Ideas from the Finger Lakes

It’s hard to believe, but August is here! We are seeing the back to school commercials on TV and keep wondering, what’s the rush?! There is plenty of summer left to enjoy! So, for our August blog post, we thought we’d give you some travel inspiration by listing 5 experiences that you can enjoy in the coming month or so.

Have you waited to book your getaway and are worried that things are booked up already? It’s never too late! Lots of our lodging partners still have accommodations available for the month of August.WGACC Logo.jpg

CLICK HERE to browse accommodations (hover over the “Stay” menu on our homepage) and let us know if we can help. We’re only a phone call away: 800-607-4552.

You can also find things to do, where to eat, an events calendar, a digital version of our travel guide, and much more on our website. Now, onto the good stuff!

#1. Make your own gin at Finger Lakes Distilling’s OriGINal Gin Workshop

This workshop is designed specifically for groups of 1-8 people to create their own blend of gin, distill it, and receive 40 bottles (375 mL) of their own masterful creation! This program is great for friends or families, corporate retreats, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or even a solo venture. Whether you’re a gin connoisseur or a botanical novice, the OriGINal Gin Workshop is fun, educational, and rewarding for everyone.Finger Lakes Distilling

Finger Lakes Distilling welcomes you to create a unique gin blend that’s just perfect for your taste. You will have a hand in every single step of the process, from botanical selection all the way down to applying the labels to the bottles yourself.

Click here to learn more.

#2. Take a hot air balloon over Seneca Lake

Whether you take off from Clute Park, right in the heart of Watkins Glen, or a location outside of town, your views will be unmatched when you soar above the trees.

Liberty Balloon getting ready to lift off at a local winery.

A hot air balloon ride is a bucket list for many enthusiastic travelers and there is truly no better way to take in the sights of the Finger Lakes!

Liberty Balloon Company and Southern Tier Ballon Tours both offer hot air balloon flights in our area. Ballons take off in the early morning (just after sunrise) or late evening (a couple of hours before sunset) to take advantage of light wind and fair weather. Contact either of our friendly partners to learn more today!

Click here to visit Liberty Balloon Company.

Click here to visit Southern Tier Ballon Tours.

#3. Go kayaking on Seneca Lake and her surrounding waterways

There is nothing quite like gliding through the water in a kayak. These boats are light, easy to paddle, and stable! Summit to Stream adventures right here on the waterfront in Watkins Glen offers kayak rentals, guided fishing excursions, and much more.

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Image: Summit to Stream

Their Facebook page is full of beautiful photos and provides a great overview of the many things you’ll see from the comfort of your kayak.

Owner Mark Moskal is an experienced guide and he can give you some lessons and tips on how to make the most of your paddle!

Click here to learn more.

#4. Hop aboard The Remedy for an eco-history tour

Take a cruise on this custom built Oldport 26 Launch, REMEDY.  They offer Eco Tours, History Tours, Custom Winery, Brewery, Distillery Tours and Sightseeing Cruises.

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Image: Schooner Excursions

The Finger Lakes Region is filled with an abundance of wildlife and local history.  M/V REMEDY is a great new platform to see some of the beautiful indigenous species of wildlife in the area as well as hear about our local history.  Cruise down the old Chemung Canal, which cuts right through the Catharine Marsh. You may see wild birds such as eagles, herons, and much more!

Click here to learn more.

#5. Speed into September

Fall comes alive in Watkins Glen with INDYCAR, the Vintage Grand Prix, and the Grand Prix Festival!Grand Prix Festival with cars Credit Angela Lisuzzo.jpg

INDYCAR rolls into town August 31 through September 3, where the top teams from the Indy Car Series will look to take the checkered flag at the headline event on Sunday, September 3 at famed Watkins Glen International.

Click here to learn more!

Watkins Glen is called the Home of American Road Racing because our village streets played host to the first Post-World War II Road Race in the world!_MG_1350-2-2

Held in September each year, the Grand Prix Festival is a downtown street festival (marking its 24th year in 2017) that celebrates this incredible history. Vintage cars arrive from across the country and in fact, across the world, to participate in the slate of events – the crowning jewel of which is the historic re-enactment of the road race. The festival isn’t just for race fans though, it features vendors of all kinds, delicious food, and plenty of entertainment for guest of all ages and interests. This event takes place Friday, September 8, 2017. Come and check it out!

Click here for more information

As always, thanks for reading! We hope you found some new and exciting things to do to start your trip planning. Or, maybe you were reminded of a classic favorite or two. Either way, let us know how we can help. Give us a call: 800-607-4552, visit our website, and be sure to stop by (214 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen) when you arrive. We have a great Visitor Center chockful of brochures, maps, and area information, with travel experts standing by to assist. Hope to see you soon!

Looking for more travel inspiration? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Sunset over Seneca Lake.jpg


5 travel hacks for visiting Watkins Glen & Schuyler County

Are you wondering how to make the most of your visit to Watkins Glen and Schuyler County? Whether you’re looking to avoid crowds, save money, or find out of the way locations, these 5 travel hacks will help you make the most of your next visit.

  1. Visit attractions on days other than Saturday and Sunday

This might sound like it’s easier said than done, but trust us, it’s worth it! Many tourism attractions experience peak visitation on weekends. If you’re looking to beat the crowds, visiting on a weekday can often be a solution in and of itself. But beyond that, consider visiting outdoor locations in the early morning or late afternoon on a weekday.Watkins Glen State Park Cavern Cascade

Watkins Glen State Park, for example, is open from sunrise to sunset. You can hit the Gorge Trail in the early morning and swing by a local diner after for a delicious, hearty breakfast. You will avoid the busier times of day (and beat the heat, too!).

As for wineries and breweries, try Mondays or Tuesdays. You’ll be guaranteed more personalized attention with fewer people coming in and out of the tasting rooms.

  1. Check Trip Advisor

Wondering about that accommodation before you book it? Curious to know where the best places are to eat? Learn from those who have been there before and check out the listings on Trip Advisor for the top-rated places to stay, play, eat, drink… and experience all that the Finger Lakes has to offer!

Did you know… that Watkins Glen State Park was named on the Top Trending Trip Advisor Attractions in 2016? It’s a popular, world-renowned place!

  1. Follow social media

Many attractions (including hotels) will post features, last minute deals, and special announcements to their social media channels long before (or if) those items ever hit their websites. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be a great source for deals and experiences that you might not have found otherwise.

  1. Make your first stop a local Visitor Center

Local Visitor Centers offer area information, expert travel advice, and insider tips – all in one spot. Instead of having to spend hours poring over websites, make a quick stop at a Visitor Center and you can have all of your questions answered, gather helpful brochures and maps, and learn about the latest happenings, from a local expert.SONY DSC

Here in Watkins Glen, the Official Schuyler County Visitor Center can be found at 214 N. Franklin Street. We are staffed by local residents who are in the know on all there is to see and do in Schuyler County – and beyond. Want to chat with our experts before you arrive? Give us a call: 800-607-4552.

  1. Add local/municipal parks to your list of stops

Local parks are often beautiful (and very budget-friendly) places to visit. Here are just a couple of ideas…Swimming at Clute Park

Clute Park in Watkins Glen offers seasonal swimming, picnicking, playgrounds, and ballfields, all at a beautiful, lakefront setting. The only fee is $5 for parking. How can you beat that?!

Smith Park in the town of Hector offers camping and picnicking facilities, a boat launch, swimming beach, pavilions, and showers.  Over 2300 feet of lake frontage provides an expansive lakeside beach! Swimming is available from late June through Labor Day each year. Parking is free! There is a mere $5 fee to launch your boat and camping fees are additional.

Havana Glen Park is located at the southern end of the village of Montour Falls. Enjoy ball fields, playgrounds, camping, and a beautiful sEagle Cliff Fallshort hike to the incredible Eagle Cliff Falls. The park also provides birding, with over 100 species having been documented here. There is just a $2 fee for parking. Camping is additional.

For more ideas, visit the Parks, Swimming, and Boat Launch pages of our website.

This is truly only the tip of the iceberg, and travel, like all things, is an ever-changing experience.

For additional trip planning and activity ideas including where to stay, play, drink, dine, and explore, visit our website: www.watkinsglenchamber.com. Or, we’re just a phone call away: 800-607-4552.