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My Finger Lakes Travel Blog

Every year the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is visited by thousands of tourists from around the world. The reasons are easy to see – the relaxing lakes, the beautiful rolling hills, amazing museums and in my opinion the best wineries and breweries in the country, if not the world. And oh yeah – the food is DELICIOUS!

I have had the pleasure of living in this region for the past 27 years. I love hiking in our local parks, kayaking on the lakes and checking out the area museums, festivals and locally owned shops.

Whether you live in the Finger Lakes region also or if you are planning to visit, I invite you to join me on all my journeys around the area. I will detail what I see and do, so you will know what to expect when you are planning your Finger Lakes experience.

A Day Spent Exploring Elmira

Elmira, NY a city named after a rambunctious young girl, or so the story goes, is a city full of rich history, museums and old time fun. When you are in the Finger Lakes region take a day to explore Elmira.

Hop aboard the historic trolley of Elmira, NY and explore the rich history of Mark Twain, Elmira College, Woodlawn National Cemetery and so much more. You can catch the trolley during the months of July and August at the Chemung Valley History Museum. The museum is located inside a historic 1800’s bank. I like to go early and explore the museum before the trolley ride. The displays do change from time to time so you will always find something new. As you stroll back in time you will discover stories from the Native Americans that once roamed this valley to Mark Twain’s time writing many of his famous stories such as “The adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.

Once you are on the trolley you will literally step back in time as you walk into Mark Twain’s actual octagonal study, travel back in time to Elmira’s Civil War prison camp and soak up the beauty of historic Maple Ave. Your trolley guide will point out many other features along the way. I have lived in the Finger Lakes region for 20+ years and I still learn something new every time I take this journey into Elmira’s history.

After the trolley ride there is so much more to do. From shopping at The Christmas House, exploring the Arnot Art Museum or if you happen to be in Elmira on a Thursday you can stroll around the Wisner Park Market. I highly recommend you visit Elmira on a Thursday just so you don’t miss this one. Every Thursday during the summer the heart of Downtown Elmira is transformed into a relaxing farmers market and local craft vendors fair.

At Wisner Market you will find melt in your mouth pastries locally baked by the Amish. As you make your way through the colorful array of tents you will discover a variety of booths featuring handmade jewelry, locally produced maple syrup and honey, flavored popcorn and fresh vegetables grown by the Mennonites. You will also find interactive booths for the young visitors. There are a multitude of food trucks and plenty of picnic tables under the large trees to shade you while you enjoy your lunch.

After spending a day exploring all Elmira has to offer I like to enjoy a relaxing dinner with a view. And if an amazing view is what you are looking for Elmira’s Hilltop Inn is the place to go. Sitting at the top of Jerusalem Hill overlooking the Chemung Valley you will find delicious food paired with spectacular views. As you relax sipping your wine you will have a front row seat to watch the sun slowly dip behind the hills. If the air is chilly they have a couple of fire pits to keep you cozy. The Hilltop Inn is a perfect way to cap off your day exploring Elmira!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

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My New York Views

When people hear me say I am from New York they instantly think I live beneath towering sky scrapers, fight my way through bumper to bumper traffic and look out my window to concrete landscapes. That can’t be further from the truth! The Finger Lakes region is…well a picture is worth a thousand words!

Seneca Lake Watkins Glen, NY
Tanglewood Nature Center Elmira, NY
Harris Hill Overlook Elmira, NY
Catherine Creek Trail – runs between Millport and Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park
Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY
Sunset at Clute Park, Watkins Glen, NY
Sunset from the Grist Iron Brewery Burdett, NY
Sunset from Grist Iron Brewery Burdett, NY

Thank you for exploring with me – Shelly

Everything Old Is Good Again

If you are looking for a quaint shop full of local flavor The Shoppes at Oldies But Goodies is for you. Located on St. Rt. 352 Big Flats in the Southern Tier of the Finger Lakes this eclectic shop is an easy drive from the Corning, Watkins Glen and Ithaca area.

This once country craft store has been revamped and made some changes that I am sure will be a delight to all. Their grand re-opening will be Saturday, Sept. 14th at 10:00 am. It will now be a vendor co-op venue. This new format will give shoppers an eclectic and unique variety of items with a local flair.

As you stroll the shops you will find antiques and re-purposed furniture, homemade goods and crafts, primitive and vintage items. There will also be local honey, maple syrup and much, much more.

The opening will premier 60 vendors sharing two levels of this sprawling building. You will have plenty of room to poke around and explore all they have to offer. This truly is the epitome of shopping local. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek today. They have items with country charm that will look beautiful in your home. Tons of fall decorating must haves and even cute specialty socks! They truly do have a little of everything!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Soaring Into The Finger Lakes

When most people think of the Finger Lakes the first things that come to mind are the lakes and wineries. These are both great reasons to visit. But while you are here one place you should put on your list to visit is the National Soaring Museum.

The National Soaring Museum can be found high above you on the top of Harris Hill in Elmira. When you arrive take a moment to absorb the beauty of the open sky. On a clear day the blue is vibrant and the white, puffy clouds seem close enough to touch.

Yesterday the NSM was celebrating their 27th Annual Community Soaring Day. This interactive aviation museum is focused on the history of motorless flight. They feature the transition of gliders thoughout the years. A glider is a fixed-wing aircraft that is supported by air on its lifting surfaces. You soar through the sky with no motor. We watched a small plane tow a glider into the sky for a ride. Once in the air the plane releases the glider and let’s them soar!

When you visit the NSM you can sign up to take your own glider ride. The cost is $105 per person and there is a weight limit. I have it on my list of things to do this fall. I can’t wait to see the spectacular fall colors while soaring over the hills!

Once inside the museum we were able to checkout all the interactive displays and take in the history of motorless flight. The Elmira area has a rich history with soaring and aviation in general. The display’s in the museum are very informative for adults and kids of all ages.

As part of the 27th Annual Community Soaring Day activities, they had an amazing show by Baywing Falconry. These birds of prey are fascinating. The Master Falconer, Cheri Heimbach, gives educational advice throughout the show. One piece of information that stuck with me is about the barn owl. This beautiful bird is decreasing in population. One of the main causes is rat poison. People put out the poison to eliminate their rodent infestation. The owl eats the rodent that has ingested the poison then the owl is also killed. We are actually killing off one of the best rodent predators by using poison.

I was excited to also be part of the falcon show! Six adults (kids were not allowed to do this part) were lined up, three on each side, facing each other. Then Cheri, the Master Falconer, had an 11 year old falcon fly from his perch to her going in between us. The wing span was so large I could feel the feathers tickle my nose as he went by. What an amazing experience to be so close to that beautiful creature!

Give yourself a couple hours to make it through the entire museum. Plus additional time if you are going to soar among the clouds! The museum is located at: 51 Soaring Hill Dr. Elmira, NY 14903.

Thank you for exploring with me – Shelly

Getting our bounce on!

Today was one of the most exciting yet exhausting days I have had in a long time. I took my 4 year old grandson to Party Central at the Arnot Mall in Horseheads. We bounced! We laughed! We rolled around! And so much more!

Party Central recently moved to the old Macy’s building and now only has an outside entrance. It is a little harder to find but it is definitely worth the visit. They have several large bounce houses for kids. And the parents can join in for an additional fee. Although be warned – if you are going to play plan to be sweaty, bruised and pushed to physical exhaustion.

Party Central also offers putt putt golf, arcade games, laser tag and amusement games. The bounce houses and amusement games are included in the regular fee which is $5.00 for up to 30 minutes, $7.50 for 31-60 minutes and $8.75 for 61-120 minutes for kids. The parent fee is slightly lower than the kid pricing. There is an additional fee for putt putt and laser tag. Make sure you bring socks. Shoes are not allowed to bounce but socks are required.

I was pleased to find all the activities are very clean and in good condition. I have been to similar places where that was not the case. The one thing I didn’t care for – and this falls more on the Arnot Mall and not Party Central – the bathrooms are way away from all the activity. You have to go past a curtain into the big, empty Macy’s store. Cross the store and go into a not well lit area that is kind of creepy. But when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Overall if you are looking for a way to let your little one burn off their excess energy this is a great outlet. And if you join in the fun you will make memories to last a lifetime!

The velcro wall

Thank you for exploring with me – Shelly

So Much Fun It’s Gotta Be Ill Eagle!!!

Downtown Elmira is bursting with excitement to welcome a new tap room and restaurant. Tonight was the official ribbon cutting for the Ill Eagle Taphouse.

You will be transported back in time to the prohibition era when speakeasies (illegal drinking spots) were all the rage. Located in the historic Federal building the new owners have maintained the original character with the dark wood work and ornate features throughout the building. The ambiance is spot on!

The Ill Eagle offers a large variety of beer and wine – all on tap! You also have the option of both beer or wine in a flight. And of course you will want a snack to go with your Ill Eagle beverage. They offer a variety of cheese, fresh fruit, hummus platters and shrimp cocktail. And of course you can’t have beer without pizza! The food options will change from time to time so stop in often to see what new surprises you might find.

Sit and relax around the wall mounted fire place or join your friends at one of the many tables to hangout and chat. Or if you are looking for a little more activity the Ill Eagle offers a fully stocked billiards room, darts and lawn games.

The Ill Eagle is easy to find, located on the corner of Church St and Clemens Center Parkway. The front parking lot is small but if you drive behind the building there is plenty of parking.

Elmira is seeing a resurgence and the Ill Eagle is a first step in breathing new life into the city. I look forward to seeing all of you there enjoying a flight of beer and playing a game of darts.

Thank you for exploring with me – Shelly

Garlic Knots Galore and much, much more!!!

Tonight I was in Italian heaven! We went to Guiseppe’s in Horseheads. This is a true Italian restaurant with authentic Italian cooks. It you are looking for fancy dining this is not it but if you want delicious Italian you should stop in.

The garlic knots are my favorite. The warm doughy garlic knots dipped in Guiseppe’s homemade sauce is amazing.

They offer a full menu with Italian and American food. The portions are huge! So plan on taking home your leftovers. Plus they have a large selection of wines, many of them from our local wineries. And Yes they do have my favorite wine – Red Cat!

They offer outside seating but the view is just of the parking lot. We always sit inside where you get an Italian atmosphere with the red vinyl seating and Italian music playing. They do occasionally have live music which adds a nice touch.

If you are looking for a good Italian meal or a slice of pizza Guiseppe’s will fill you up for a fair price.

The Christmas House

A must do destination point when you are in the Finger Lakes region is to visit The Christmas House on Historic Maple Ave. in Elmira. This 1894 Queen Anne Victorian is now the home of a magical Christmas gift shop. From the moment you step on the expansive front porch you will feel the magic of Christmas flow over you.

From traditional to whimsical The Christmas House is bursting at the seams with everything you need to make your Christmas come alive.

Yes, I like to start my Christmas shopping early so I stopped in this afternoon. I immediately went to my favorite ornaments – Inner Beauty. Our family tradition is to add a new Inner Beauty ornament to our tree each year. They sell fast so get in there soon if you want one. Last year I missed out. Maybe this year I will have to go back for a second one…They are mouth blown glass ornaments that are then hand painted from the inside. I just love them!

If you are looking for local memorabilia, The Christmas House has several really unique ideas for you. These wooden ornaments not only say Finger Lakes but they are grown and crafted in the Finger Lakes. The wood is harvested and the ornaments are handmade at Windy Woods Homestead located in the Finger Lakes.

There is also a line of jewelry that is specific to Elmira. Each piece is made from an old atlas. What a great way to use an atlas now that we have mapquest!

I have also collected Christmas village pieces over the years. There is something about putting together these little villages that takes you right back to your childhood. There are so many different villages to see at The Christmas House. You can spend hours in the village room alone!

I was thrilled to find a lot of village pieces for Halloween at The Christmas House today. If you are looking for unique Halloween decorations make sure you go check it out.

The leaves are already starting to fall. Before you know it Christmas will be here. The time to make your list and check it twice is now. The Elves at The Christmas House are ready to help you find a souvenir from our area, a gift for a friend or a special new item to fill your home with Christmas magic!

Thank you for exploring with me – Shelly

Hiking in the Finger Lakes

Fall is quickly approaching. I have started my list of several hikes I am planning to take to absorb the beauty of the Finger Lakes. Walking through the vibrant colors of gold, red and orange leaves is beautiful beyond words. It is truly something you need to experience for yourself.

There are many amazing places to go hiking in upstate New York. The trails vary from challenging to very easy. The Finger Lakes region is rich with waterfalls. The majority of the hikes I have taken are based around seeing the waterfalls but there are some that are trails through the woods with very little water along the way. If you are looking for some suggestions for your own hikes this fall here are five of my favorites.

Robert H Treman in Ithaca – This one is very pretty with many water falls all along the way. It is also one of the harder hiking trails in the area. They even have signs to warn you about all the stairs so just beware.

Stoney Brook in Dansville – This park is very pretty. It is not a hard hike for the most part but at the end of the trail you will find a large amount of stairs. We did climb the stairs and much to our delight… no that would be dismay, there is nothing up there to see. It just leads you to the rim trail which does not offer views of the water. If you are looking for the tranquil water views when you reach the endless wooden stairs turn around and go back for a second look. As a forewarning, wear good shoes for this one. The hiking trail has a lot of broken rocks and steps along the way. The footing can be a little treacherous.

Park Station, Erin – If you are looking for a peaceful nature walk and maybe even kayaking along the way, Park Station is a hidden gem that offers both. This park is tucked away in Erin, NY and tends to be missed by a lot of people. Although the locals love it!

Taughannock Falls – Trumansburg – If you have small kids who want to play in the water, Taughannock Falls is your destination. The hiking trail is very easy so you will find lots of families, young and old, enjoying this park. At the end of the trail you will find one of the most beautiful and tallest waterfalls in the area.

Watkins Glen State Park – If you are looking for beautiful water falls and gorgeous gorges, this is the place. The hike can be slightly challenging so be prepared with the right footwear. You can’t actually get in the water but you do walk right beside it and at times even behind the actual falls. It is a breathtaking experience that is totally worth the exertion. You don’t want to miss this one!

Like I said these are just five of the many amazing hikes you can take in the Finger Lakes region. Please let me know your favorites so I can add them to my list. I will be blogging about each as I visit them this fall so please stay tuned for more to come!

Thank you for exploring with me – Shelly