Monday, October 22, 2012

New York's Finger Lakes... Fall Foliage Extraordinaire

In March 2011 my husband and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary on Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen, NY.  It was our first stay at the lovely Harbor Hotel and we loved every moment of our trip... including the 18 inches of snow that fell as soon as we arrived.  As much as I loved that trip, I realized that it would be better to visit the region when there was no snow on the ground, preferably during the peak of fall foliage.  I filed that idea away in my head and assumed that I'd always be too busy at work to take a long weekend to check out the foliage in New York.

Fast forward just 18 months and I'm on maternity leave.  I opted to take a quick 3-day trip back to the Finger Lakes and lucked out and caught this...

I couldn't believe our luck.  The leaves peaked early this year.  We left the unseasonably warm 80 degree temperatures in Delaware and five hours later were greeted by all of the fall colors of the Finger Lakes region of New York.  It was breathtaking.  Plus, the temperatures were in the 60s, so we were very comfortable.  I've never seen fall foliage like this.

We live in a flat area that is close to sea level.  While our trees do change color (typically mid-October to early November) we don't have the mountains or the beautiful reflection of the lake to really set things off.  The colors we saw on Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake were nothing short of amazing.

Photos just don't do it justice.  Right before I took the photo above, we drove over a hill and as far as the eye could see were rolling hills that looked like they were painted with fall colors, plus you could see Keuka Lake in the background.  It was unreal.  It was difficult to pay attention to the road.  I wish I had a wide-angle lens.  I pulled over on a random farm road to get this photo.

Our hotel was on Seneca Lake and the view was impressive.  We even enjoyed dinner on the hotel patio with this view...

The only thing I regret is that my husband wasn't able to join us.  My mom and Max came on this trip and we had a fantastic time.  It was the baby's first road trip and he did very well considering that he was just eight weeks old.  Yes, he did cry almost every time we sat down for a restaurant meal.  Yes, he did have several outfit changes as a result of him... um... "soiling" his clothing.  He also didn't sleep as well in the hotel as he does at home.  We all survived, though, and I'm really happy that we took this trip.  I'm also grateful that my mom was there to help me with the baby.

It goes without saying that we bought a lot of wine.  I don't know when I'll have a chance to head back up to the Finger Lakes and they have some very unique wines (I prefer their whites over their reds, but to each his or her own).  We ended up with a whopping 12 cases of wine...

I'm sure it will take us a couple of years to enjoy (and gift) all of that wine.  It wasn't all for us, I promise.

If you're considering visiting the Finger Lakes Region, here are some things I've learned (and I hope they'll make your trip easier):

1.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of travel planning information available about this region.  However, it seems that each lake has its own website with a list of restaurants, wineries and other attractions.  I've visited these three lakes and I've found these sites to be helpful:  Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, Cayuga Lake.
2.  There aren't a lot of full-service hotels convenient to the wine trail or the lakes.  There are plenty of bed and breakfasts, if that's your thing.  If you're looking for a larger hotel with services (pool, restaurant, bar, room service), I highly recommend the Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen.  It's right at the base of Seneca Lake and just 30 minutes from Cayuga Lake or Keuka Lake.
3.  The Finger Lakes region is known for wine, particularly Riesling.  There are also fantastic parks and hiking trails.  If you don't like wine (and cheese), you may not enjoy the trip as much as I did.
4.  On the topic of wine, pace yourself.  The roads are hilly and winding.  Make good use of the dump buckets, take your time and consider having a designated driver.
5.  While I brought my baby on this trip, I would not bring him once he gets older (walking and talking).  There's not much for children to do on the wine trail and I feel that it's unfair to the child and to the other patrons to bring an active little one into a winery.
6.  This whole region is full of small towns.  Don't expect to see a Starbucks, a movie theatre, or a chain restaurant.  Go with the flow and ask the locals where they like to eat.

Have you done any road trips recently?  I have two more road trip stories to share... I'm really getting around with this baby!


  1. Party at your house. 12 cases?! I almost fainted!

  2. Beautiful fall colors and scenery but yeah! 12 cases of wine? PARTY!!!!!

  3. Sounds like it started out as a quick and fairly inexpensive ride to the country and it ended up costing a little more than that. 12 cases? Good thing the Hubby wasn't along to nix that purchase. Guess the girls will play when the men are away. (ha, ha) Now you have to open up your own winery. Will be waiting for the reviews on EVERY single bottle of wine. :)

    1. Oops. Didn't mean to be Anonymous. -

      Shirl Lord

    2. Ha ha! Well, my excuse is that we have a lot of friends who put in orders with us before we headed up to NY. I'd say only about 3 cases were actually for me :)

      Miss you, Shirl! I'll make an appointment soon!

    3. Bring Max (and your mother or husband) with you and I can show you infant massage and then they can take Max so you can get your own massage.

  4. Well 12 cases of wine would normally make me jealous, but then I just remembered where I live, so cheers to you and yours! I think when I get back to the states, that upstate NY wine country will have a visit from me and and friends. It's more practical and affordable, and now I know where to go thanks to you.


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