8 Reasons We Should Be On Your Bucket List!

If you love to travel, you’ve probably got a list of locations around the globe you’re dying to visit. But if your “bucket list” doesn’t include a trip to the Finger Lakes, you’re missing out on a chance to experience the breathtaking beauty our region boasts. Consider our eight most compelling reasons #flx should be a “must-do” for you and you’ll be updating your #bucketlist before you can say “Riesling!”

  1. It’s affordable! A trip to the Finger Lakes is among the most affordable getaways on the market. Your budget will go far here, so instead of worry about making your money last, you can focus on making memories!
  2. We’re easy to get to! We’re within a five hour drive of 25% of the U.S. population! We’re thirty minutes from Elmira Corning Regional Airport and an hour and a fifteen minutes southeast of the Greater Rochester International Airport. Whether you arrive by train, plane, or automobile, your vacation time will go further here because you won’t spend all your time getting here!
  3. SO. MANY. WATERFALLS! You’ll be hard-pressed to find more waterfalls in one vacation than we have here in Schuyler County. With 19 alone on the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park, you will want to have your camera ready during your visit! Outside of the state park, you’ll want to hit the roadside falls including Shequaga Falls, Hector Falls, and Aunt Sarah’s Falls – all easy to find and accessible. A little hiking gets you to Excelsior Glen, Eagle Cliff Falls in Havana Glen Park, Twin Falls in Sugar Hill State Forest, plus a number of other falls throughout Finger Lakes National Forest.
  4. Heart-pumping excitement! Whether you’re a huge race fan or new to the sport, you won’t find a better place to take it in than Watkins Glen International. Pros from NASCAR and IMSA take to the circuit during the season, but don’t let them have all the fun! You can get out there too as part of the Drive the Glen program. For just $25 you can enjoy three paced laps around the famed road course in your personal vehicle – including a stop at the start/finish for a photo!
  5. Incredible scenery! From the mist and waterfalls of the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park to stunning vineyards overlooking Seneca Lake – there are views around every turn here in Watkins Glen and Schuyler County.
  6. Family-friendly fun! If you’re bringing the family, there is no shortage of activities for every age. Head out on a beautiful schooner for a sail on Seneca Lake. Book a fishing excursion with an expert outfitter. Take everyone for a picnic and swimming at Clute Park. Get up close and personal with rescued farm animals at one of the largest farm sanctuaries in the country. Everyone in your family will find a new favorite thing here.
  7. A haven for wine and food lovers! It’s no secret that the wines from Seneca Lake can stand alongside the best wines in the world. Our Rieslings are renowned, but it doesn’t stop with wine. Craft breweries and craft distilleries offer samples and sales in their tasting rooms as well, offering a chance to imbibe for every taste in your crowd.
  8. An excuse to do nothing at all! With so many of us feeling frazzled by daily life – we could all use the chance to slow down and put our feet up. Cozy up in a local bed and breakfast, sip some wine around a campfire, dangle your toes off the dock, or relax in one of our parks, we have the perfect place for you to forget about the world for a while.

Convinced yet? Visit our website and be sure to follow us on Facebook here and here to keep up with the very latest from your next unforgettable vacation.

#fingerlakes #watkinsglen #schuylercounty #tourism #wineries #breweries #craftbeer #nascar #racing #watkinsgleninternational #foodies #gourmet #foodstagram #senecalake #waterfalls #affordable #cheapflights

5 Reasons to Love Winter in the FLX

You might be under the impression that when the leaves fall off the trees and temperatures drop, we here in Watkins Glen and Schuyler County close up shop. No way! The fun is only just beginning and while we do get the occasional snowstorm, we don’t get nearly the frequent, high total snowfalls that our friends in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse get. In other words, don’t let the fear of becoming snowbound keep you from visiting! Here are just 5 (of the many) reasons you should visit this winter…

1. Small Business SaturdayMargie Hoy horizontal

Big box stores have Black Friday, online retailers have Cyber Monday, so it’s only fair that small businesses have a day all their own. Well, they do! The Saturday after Thanksgiving is dedicated to celebrating small, local businesses. This year, on Saturday, November 24, 31 businesses in the Watkins Glen area and beyond will offer great deals and discounts. To view the participating businesses in our area and their corresponding deals, visit the chamber of commerce website.

2. Unique Wine Trail Events

Photo: Seneca Lake Wine Trail

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail hosts a number of events throughout the year, but their winter events are really something to write home about! The Savory World of Seneca is up first, January 25-27. Participating wineries prepare a variety of food from various nations and often decorate their tasting rooms in the same theme. Enjoy a food and wine pairing at each stop along the way. After that, Chocolate and Wine on February 9 features delicious wines paired with a chocolate-themed dish at each participating winery. These events require tickets, which you can head to the wine trail website to purchase. If you’re a discount shopper, be sure to check out Bargain Bash (January 12-21). Unlike their other events, this week long sales event does not require tickets. Sales on everything from apparel to gift items and yes, wine! Visit the Trail website for details on their full slate of events!

3. Nickel’s Pit BBQ Taco Night

Photo: Nickel’s Pit BBQ


Did someone say tacos?! Oh yes, we did! Nickel’s Pit BBQ, known for their amazingly delicious barbecue and their fun indoor-outdoor vibe in summer doesn’t stop serving up fantastic food just because temperatures drop. In fact, one could argue that their winter menu is even better than their summer menu. Now, we would never want to have to choose, but we will say, the tacos are pretty awesome. They only offer these delicious beauties in the off-season and they have other themed evenings too. You have to be here to experience it! Head to their Facebook page to get all of the latest info on their seasonal menus.

4. Ice Bar at the Watkins Glen Harbor HotelIce Bar

Oh yes, no list of winter activities in the Finger Lakes would be complete without this epic event. From January 31 – February 2, 2019, the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel patio will be transformed into an icy, winter wonderland. Thousands of pounds of ice become martini luges, bars, and even a selfie throne. A DJ spins tunes, everyone dances around the heaters, drinks are flowing… there’s even cornhole – and we haven’t even talked about what goes on in the ballroom inside! When you get chilled, head indoors to sample local wine, beer, and food from wineries, breweries, and restaurants from around the Finger Lakes. It’s all included in your ticket! Speaking of tickets, they sell out – FAST. Last year, tickets for Saturday night sold out within  hours of going on sale and the other nights weren’t far behind. So, set your alarm for 12:01am on December 1 and get ready to hit “PURCHASE”.

5. Winter is beautiful herewinter-pier.jpg

It’s really that simple! From frozen roadside waterfalls to snowshoeing in a dense forest – whether you prefer to enjoy the view from the comfort of your car or get out and about in the great outdoors, you will find no shortage of beautiful scenery and memorable experiences. Oh, and did we mention that accommodation rates are lower this time of year? It’s true! BONUS!

So, there you have it, 5 awesome reasons to come visit this winter… how many more will you find when you get here? Well, that’s up to you!

The Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce would love to help you plan your next visit!

Looking for accommodations? Check this out.

Wondering what events are happening? Here’s an events calendar.

Prefer to browse a travel guide? We have that too.

Would you like to speak with one of our local travel experts? No problem! Just give us a call at 800-607-4552 or 607-535-4300. We’re here to help! You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for travel inspiration. And be sure to swing by our Visitor Center when you’re here (214 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen). See you soon!



Fall Bucket List

There is nothing quite like fall in the Finger Lakes. The skies seem bluer, the lakes seem clearer, and the air is crisper – it’s just a beautiful time to explore and experience the beauty (and bounty) of the region. But we know it can be overwhelming to choose an activity or direction to go, so we thought we’d help you out with a little fall bucket list! How many can you check off this autumn?

  1. Attend Glass in the Glen

glassbarge_brooklyn_03.jpgGlassmaking innovations in Corning have shaped the modern world, from the first electric light bulbs for Thomas Edison and the invention of optical fiber for telecommunications, to the glass used in modern flat screen displays. And that story all began with a voyage on New York State’s waterways. In 1868, the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company relocated to Corning, via the New York Waterways, and evolved into the company that is today known as Corning Incorporated.

GlassBarge will arrive in Watkins Glen on September 14, where it will dock at Seneca Harbor Park through September 16. This will kick off a 3-day celebration and community event known as Glass in the Glen including live hot glass demos, plus fireworks, live music, and a festival-like atmosphere with vendors and local artisans in “The Market. There is no charge to attend any portion of this great event, but seats for the live hot glass demos must be reserved in advance. Reserve your seat here: www.cmog.org/glassbargeLittle boy at Reisinger's

  1. Apple picking at Reisinger’s Apple Country

Experience earth’s bounty with a quintessential fall experience, picking your own apples at Reisinger’s Apple Country! Nearly 50 acres of orchards, fields and meadows are open to stroll through while looking for the perfect apples. And who can pass up their fresh-made cider donuts… so good! Beyond fresh donuts you’ll also find cider, popcorn, jellies, jams, and much more in their farm store.

  1. Eat a grape pie from The Great Escape

Pie-for-Cake-Page.jpgNothing says Finger Lakes fall like fresh-picked grapes! The Great Escape is well known for their homemade ice creams and treats, but did you know they also make pies? Grape pies happens to be one of their seasonal specialties, and we can’t recommend it enough!

  1. Attend the Falls Harvest Festival

Held from 12-7pm on the first Saturday in October each year in downtown Montour Falls, the Falls Harvest Festival offers entertainment, demonstrations, a scarecrow contest, inflatable bounce houses for kids, a pumpkin carving contest, and more! Concludes with fireworks over Shequaga Falls!Falls Harvest Fest 2.jpg

  1. Pick grapes at Fulkerson Winery

There is nothing like the scent of a vineyard in fall. If you’ve never experienced it, you definitely should! Head up to Fulkerson Winery on the west side of Seneca Lake, just 10 minutes from downtown Watkins Glen and you can do just that. Concords and Niagaras are popular choices, but they have several other unique varieties too! Visit their website to learn more!

  1. Make your own glass pumpkin at the Corning Museum of Glass

shop_glass_pumpkins_03Celebrate the cooler weather and shorter days in a unique and memorable way this autumn at The Corning Museum of Glass. Buy glass pumpkins, make your own glass pumpkins, or watch CMOG’s amazing glassmakers make glass pumpkins, see their Glass Holiday Feast, and enjoy fall treats in the Cafe. Our favorite takes the DIY route – try your hand at making your own glass pumpkin. Their glass artists will help you blow a pumpkin decoration or to flamework a pumpkin pendant to wear. This experience is a seasonal favorite, so you’ll want to book early.

  1. Fall Vineyard 2.jpgWarm up with some mulled wine courtesy of Atwater Estate Vineyards

Mulled wine is a quintessential fall drink here in the Finger Lakes. It typically involves a dry red wine, mulled with some spices, served warm with a cinnamon stick for garnish. Atwater Estate Vineyards makes it simple to pull this fabulous seasonal drink together with their Magical Mulled Wine Kits. These kits come with the wine, mulling spices (in a special bag so you don’t have to worry about fishing them out of your wine or finding cheesecloth to make your own), and easy to follow instructions.

Now, at seven activities, this list is just a start! How many more fall activities can you think of and experience? If you share them on social media, be sure to use #fallintheflx and #visitwatkinsglen – we may feature your photo!

9 Things You Didn’t Know About the Watkins Glen Grand Prix

Watkins Glen, New York was the site of the first post-World War II road race in America on October 2, 1948. It marked the rebirth of road racing in the United States and the birth of SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) road races. Many people know this story, but there are so many little known facts behind it. With September right (and the Grand Prix Festival as well as the Vintage Grand Prix) around the corner, there is no time like the present to share some of this incredible history.

  1. 01-Bill_Green_Lib_1948_WG_Seneca_Lodge_meeting_IMRRCIt took a lot of hard work and perseverance at the local level – and things happened quickly. Local resident Cameron Argetsinger was a long-time race enthusiast and an associate of SCCA. In April of 1948, Cameron sent a letter to Donald Brubaker, the President of the Schuyler County Chamber of Commerce, sharing his idea to bring road races to Watkins Glen. Mr. Brubaker liked the idea and in May 1948, a group of road racing enthusiasts and SCCA associates met up at the Indy 500. They discussed the idea and agreed to move it forward. (Photo above right, Grand Prix meeting at Seneca Lodge. Back row: Don Brubaker, Sr., Henry Valent, Cameron R. Argetsinger, and David Whitcomb. Front row: William F. Milliken, Jr., and Allen D. Erway, Mayor of Watkins Glen. Photo courtesy International Motor Racing Research Center)
  2. 02-Bill_Green_Lib_1948_L1_Jr_Prix_IMRRCBeyond hard work, the race itself required a lot of cooperation – and a good deal of luck! Given that the race would occur on public roads, the race organizers had to obtain a number of easements for spectator viewing areas, permits from the village and the state, approval to stop the trains (there was a busy railroad that ran directly over the proposed course), and a permit to close the roads. The 1948 race could very well be known today as the race that never happened. The organizers didn’t receive the required permit to close the road until a week before the race. Imagine playing that waiting game! (Photo above right: Stone Bridge 1948. First lap of the Jr. Prix. George Weaver in his RI Maserati is the leader, 2nd Briggs S. Cunningham in his BuMerc and 3rd

    is Frank T. Griswold, Jr. in his Alfa Romeo 2900B.)

  3. Speaking of permits and cooperation, October 2, 1948 became known as the day they stopped the trains. The race course crossed a busy railroad and the trains needed to be stopped for the duration of the race. Good old fashioned cooperation is the only way it happened. The mayor of Watkins Glen knew the train master in Corning, where the trains originated. The two of them had a conversation and worked out the details. Indeed, the trains would stop. That train master’s name was Frank Chase and history will remember him as The Man Who Stopped The Trains. Without a doubt, he played a key role in the kick off of racing in Watkins Glen and without his assistance, racing may not have made it to our village in the first place. Imagine how different things would be?
  4. 03-Bill_Green_Lib_1954_Queen_Cat_Cup_IMRRCAfter several successful years, tragedy did strike the race. In 1952, the race welcomed a huge crowd to the small town of Watkins Glen. There were an estimated 100,000+ spectators that year. Race organizers did their best to monitor the course, keeping spectators in designated viewing areas. Sadly, a young boy was killed and 12 spectators injured, when a race car left the track, striking the crowd, which had gathered in an unauthorized viewing area. This would become the end of racing through the village in Watkins Glen. In January 1953, a bill was introduced in the New York State Senate to ban racing on public roads. That bill was tied up by a local assemblyman in committee and never passed. However, following the crash, the planning committee was told that if the race went through town, it wouldn’t be insured. In the fall of 1953, the race was moved “up on the hill” (outside of town) and took to the roads near what is today known as Watkins Glen International. The roads were improved for racing and spectators were kept 25 feet back from the course. (Photo above right: Start of the 1954 Queen Catherine Cup Race. #23 Otto Linton (OSCA), #173 Russ Boss (OSCA). JimWalsh, photographer)
  5. Grand Prix downtown Watkins Glen.jpgRacing has been a part of the fabric of our history for decades, despite some speed bumps along the way. In 1956, the, a 2.3 mile circuit was built and the following year The Glen hosted its first professional race, a NASCAR Grand National Stock Car Event. Racing continued at that facility until bankruptcy forced its closure in 1981. The Glen reopened in 1984 and still welcomes visitors today. Watkins Glen International has even been named the Best NASCAR Track in the nation by USA Today readers – 3 years in a row.
  6. A number of celebrities participated in races in Watkins Glen. Charlie Adams, who drew the original Addams Family cartoon, raced in 1948. The Collier Brothers built cars and raced in the early days of the races. Dave Garoway, who was the first host of the Today Show was a flagman at School House Corner during the 1948 race. He also raced for a couple of years himself.
  7. Officially known as the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Course, the original 6.6-mile track was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
  8. Cameron Argetsinger organized and directed races from 1948 to 1970. He was twice awarded the Grand Prix Driver’s Association award for the best organized Grand Prix.
  9. The Grand Prix Festival (coming up on Friday, September 7) celebrates racing history in Watkins Glen. This festival is designed to recreate the ambiance of the 1948-1952 Watkins Glen Grand Prix and welcomes over 25,000 people.
2016 NASCAR II Credit Watkins Glen International
Image Courtesy: Watkins Glen International

Today, Watkins Glen International welcomes over 800,000 visitors annually for races including NASCAR and IMSA, and even non-race related events such as Finger Lakes Wine Festival and the Ticket Galaxy Beer Festival.

While many people know Watkins Glen and Schuyler County for fantastic hiking at Watkins Glen State Park, wineries, breweries, and stunning Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen will forever hold a place in racing history thanks to a couple of innovative, dedicated dreamers named Cameron Argetsinger and Donald Brubaker and the planning committees that supported them.

5 Free Things in July

There is so much to see and experience here in the Finger Lakes. Whether you’re traveling on a budget or just like to save money wherever you can, you can still have a a fantastic time, because there are many things available in Watkins Glen and Schuyler County that are free (or almost free!).

1. Movies on the Lake – free!

Movies on the LakeThe big screen meets Seneca Lake! Movies on the Lake take place every Wednesday during July and August at Clute Park, right on the shores of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. Before the movie, stroll through Clute Park Market and Food Truck Rodeo from 5:30-8:30pm. You’ll find farmers selling their fresh produce, food trucks serving up delicious dishes, and artisans selling their wares. Local products only are represented in this market, so it’s all about supporting our local businesses. Movies begin at dark and are completely free! Just bring your lawn chairs or blankets. In the event of rain, the screen will be set up inside the park pavilion.

2. Night Market Watkins – free!

Night MarketNight Market takes place on the first Saturday of June, July, August, and September from 6-10pm at Seneca Harbor Park in Watkins Glen. Think farmers market meets flea market meets food festival meets concert. Sample your way along the waterfront enjoying tastings of local wine, beer, craft spirits, cheese, ice cream, and more – and buy the items you fall in love with right from the makers themselves. Plus, local artisans will have handcrafted items for sale including items upcycled from used wine barrels, custom corn hole games, and even handcrafted hats! Night Market is free to attend.

3. Havana Glen Park – $2 per car (almost free!)

travel-guide-cover-2018.jpgHavana Glen Park is a beautiful municipal park, operated by the village of Montour Falls. It’s a bit of a hidden gem, since so many visitors come to our region to see famed Watkins Glen State Park. While Havana Glen Park isn’t nearly as big nor does it hold as many waterfalls, it is a beautiful spot. There are picnic tables, barbeque grills, a playground, pavilions (which are available for reservation for reunions, parties, or other special occasions), and the short walk on the trail leads you to beautiful Eagle Cliff Falls. It’s just $2 for parking and the rest is free to enjoy!

4. Brick Tavern Museum – free!

IMG_5897When it’s too hot or too rainy to venture out hiking or biking, the Brick Tavern Museum offers a welcome respite. Built in 1828, the Brick Tavern Museum is the oldest brick building in Schuyler County and it houses the Schuyler County Historical Society’s incredible collection of artifacts, exhibits, and even a research library for genealogy and local history. Exhibits include a Victorian Parlor complete with furniture, china, and paintings. A music-focused exhibit in the foyer has instruments and other unique items. Venture upstairs to find a Native American exhibit and rooms dedicated to exhibits for veterans (from World War I to the present), medical, industry (including salt, railroads, and canals), toys (including games and dolls), fiber arts, and more. The Wickham Rural Life Center is located just behind the museum and inside you’ll find an array of antiques and incredible historical items representative of the history of rural life. A stop here definitely takes you back in time and it’s fun for kids and adults of all ages. We highly recommend a stop in the gift shop, too! Although admission is free, we encourage you to leave a donation to help support this fantastic local not-for-profit.

5. Concerts at LaFayette Park – free!

concerts at park.jpgIt seems everywhere you turn there is live music in the Finger Lakes throughout the weekend. But if you find yourself looking for something to do during the week, check out the concerts at LaFayette Park on 4th Street in Watkins Glen. Concerts take place in the bandstand every Tuesday from 7-9pm from July 3 to August 21. Bring your lawn chair or a blanket, pack a picnic or some light snacks. Kids can enjoy the adjacent playground, all while the sound of live music fills the air!


FoF July 2018 poster.jpg6 and 7. Friday on Franklin ($10) and Fireworks (Free!)

Though not less than $5, at just $10 per person, Friday on Franklin offers a great experience at a great price. Stroll from shop to shop and enjoy tastings of local wine, craft spirits, cheese, and even locally-roasted coffee. Plus live music from 6-8pm by The Sweats in the courtyard between GRAFT and Glen Mountain Market. This event goes on rain or shine, since all tastings take place inside. If it does rain, music will be inside of the Visitor Center at 214 N. Franklin Street.

Join us from 5-8pm for Friday on Franklin, then stick around for fireworks at Clute Park later (around 9:45pm). Fireworks are free and sponsored by the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce.

We hope this post has provided some inspiration for all of the budget-friendly activities and experiences that exist here in Watkins Glen and Schuyler County – and this list only scratches the surface. Do you plan on adding any of them to your itinerary? Are there other free (or nearly free) things that you like to do while you’re here? Tell us!

What’s old is new again and so much more! Exciting developments in Schuyler County…

One of the most iconic destinations in Schuyler County and in fact, in New York State, is Watkins Glen State Park. As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Parks 2020 initiative, the park recently underwent a $6.5 million renovation, with the majority of work taking place at the main entrance, and on June 18, we officially cut the ribbon, marking this incredible milestone that finally has this park entrance looking like it fits one of the top state parks in the country.

Park HistoryAs we say, Watkins Glen is where Mother Nature meets Main Street. Most noticeably, this project relocated the parking area that used to run along Glen Creek, to improve vehicular traffic flow on village streets and pedestrian traffic flow in the park. That old asphalt parking lot has been transformed into a serene, naturally landscaped park setting, with benches and shade structures, as well as various interpretive panels to help educate visitors on the human, geologic, and ecologic history of the park.

Visitor Center Staff May 2018Other highlights include a new Visitor Welcome Center (which we’re helping to staff!); a small outdoor amphitheater and improved educational displays, including a touchable model of the gorge; a new viewing area just before the Sentry Bridge and entrance to the Gorge Trail, where people who are unable to hike the gorge will be able to enjoy a dramatic waterfall; renovation and expansion of the concession building with expanded Taste of NY offerings including local wines and craft beverages and locally sourced ingredients in the new café area; and renovations of the public restrooms.

But these renovations at Watkins Glen State Park are just the beginning. There are lots of other new additions and updates in our area and we’re happy to pass them on. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to visit to see it all for yourself!

Bicycle Rentals in Watkins Glencvt

One of the long-standing questions we hear from visitors is, “Where can we rent bikes?” and great news, we finally have a positive answer!  Mike’s Bikes offers bicycle rental available in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, and Burdett. Providing visitors with rental bicycles on an hourly, half day, or whole day basis, they’ll even deliver bikes to your location. Each rental includes helmet, lock, basket and maps to get you to everything you don’t want to miss. Plus, a complimentary food or drink coupon from a local recommended business with each rental. Learn more and be sure to enjoy a nice ride around town next time you visit!

New Tasting Room and Retail Shop at Sunset View Creamery

Sunset View Creamery in Odessa is one of the longest-standing creameries in the area. Retail ShopFor years they operated out of a very humble retail shop, but they spent this past winter and spring hard at work and recently unveiled a beautiful new tasting facility and retail shop just in time for summer! Their artisan cheeses are made using only the freshest milk, right from their own dairy and their cows and calves are on stand-by ready to be pet on your self-guided tour. Beyond cheese, they also have their shelves stocked with dozens of local products (including their very own, customized (and absolutely delicious!) flavors of ice cream from The Great Escape and Everything Ice Cream) and unique “Made in NY” items. Oh, and don’t forget about the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival on Saturday, July 28 from 10am-5pm, hosted right at Sunset View Creamery!

New Bakery and Breakfast/Lunch spot in Montour Fallsparadisos.jpg

Paradiso’s Village Bakery, located at 320 West Main Street in Montour Falls is a fantastic local spot, with breakfast and lunch served in-house or you can call ahead and have it ready for pick-up! Bakery offerings include breads muffins, cookies, pies, and cakes. If you’re looking for the perfect place to have breakfast or lunch while exploring the Catharine Valley Trail, Shequaga Falls, or Havana Glen Park, be sure to stop by and check out their delicious options!

Red Cat Dark – there’s a new “Cat” on the scene!

Red Cat DarkAs night falls the Red Cat revels in the dark. You may find him dancing in the moonlight enjoying a glass of delicious Red Cat Dark. A seductive Concord wine, Red Cat Dark is both sweet and refreshing with flavors of blackberry and cherry pie. With the quality and drinkability you’ve come to expect from the legendary Red Cat Original, Red Cat Dark makes any night extraordinary. Be sure to stop by any of Hazlitt’s tasting rooms (in Hector or Naples) to taste this one-of-a-kind wine! Or sample it next time you’re visiting The Oasis during their live music series on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

Phew! What a list! There is always something new and different to see, experience, or explore here in Watkins Glen and Schuyler County – these suggestions are just scratching the surface! The key takeaway? Whether you live here or just love to visit, don’t ever think you’ve “seen it all”. We hope you take the time this summer to enjoy these new opportunities – and many more. There is something special at every turn!

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?