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!

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?

A hidden gem in the heart of the Finger Lakes

Watkins Glen State Park is, without a doubt, the #1 outdoor attraction in Schuyler County and arguably, among the most popular destinations in the entire region. But beyond the park, outdoor activitiesPainted Bar Stables Trail Ride2 are many and varied in our area. From hiking and biking, to paddling and sailing, horseback trail riding and snowshoeing – there is something for everyone when it comes to getting “out and about” around here. The Finger Lakes National Forest is just one of many options, but it is truly unique.

The Finger Lakes National Forest encompasses over 16,000 acres between Seneca and Cayuga Lake. It is the only national forest in New York State and one of only a handful in the entire eastern United States. Sadly, it is not so easy to find information on the Forest. On the internet, the Finger Lakes National Forest shares a site with Green Mountain National Forest (located in Vermont) – and information is not readily available nor easily sort-able. So, allow us to help you with a brief overview and more information! Keep reading…Landscape - kari lusk

With over 30 miles of interconnecting trails that traverse gorges, ravines, pastures, forests, and woodlands, the Finger Lakes National Forest will amaze you with its scenic beauty. It is open year round  to the public for hiking, trail running, backpacking, biking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing.

Just driving through the Finger Lakes National Forest can be a storybook-like experience. Trees arching over dirt roads, provide a lush green canopy under which to travel. Trillium blankets the forest floor and you can find blooms around seemingly every corner. Country Road- kari lusk

Because of its size, it is not uncommon to visit the Forest to hike, picnic, or play… and not even see another person. It is a wonderful way to escape the rigors and noise of the world.

If you need assistance in planning a trip to the Finger Lakes National Forest, please contact the Hector Ranger Station located at 5218 State Route 414 in Hector, New York, phone number: 607-546-4470. You can also call the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce at 607-535-4300 for expert travel advice!

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