7 Things to Love about Visiting the Finger Lakes in the Fall

I was hosted by Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce and Steuben County CVB during my stay in the Finger Lakes. All opinions expressed are my own.


When my friend Angela and I arrived in the southern Finger Lakes, I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting a ton of incredible fall scenery. (Let’s be honest, I was expecting a lot of wine.)

I mean, I’m from New England–I grew up surrounded by fall foliage that most people consider destination-worthy. But once we started our mini road trip around Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake, I quickly saw why the Finger Lakes region is a popular fall getaway. (And I was not only smitten by its small-town charm, but also its natural beauty.)

Here are 7 things to love about visiting the Finger Lakes in the fall…

1. Stunning waterfalls

Nature lovers, let’s get straight to it. The Finger Lakes have waterfalls everywhere. In Montour Falls, a waterfall is literally the center of town. As we drove from town to town, we’d frequently interrupt each other mid-sentence with “OH my goodness look over there!” It’s a miracle we stayed on the road.

And yes, waterfalls are gorgeous anytime, but fall foliage + fall rain = extra magic.

If you’re planning your fall trip around a visit to Watkins Glen State Park, make sure you read up on when they will be closing the Gorge Trail. (Steep rocky gorges + cold rainy weather don’t make a good combo, and they close down in late fall.)

Waterfall in Montour Falls, New York

Looking for a beautiful fall getaway? The Finger Lakes are a lot more than a spectacular wine region. Here's why they make a perfect fall escape! Click To Tweet

2. Grape harvesting time!

You can’t visit the Finger Lakes without at least a little wine tasting, right? And it doesn’t get better than visiting wine country when gorgeous clusters of grapes are being harvested.

Enjoy the view of grapevines glowing in the fall sunlight as you sip wine inside a gorgeous tasting room. Heron Hill on Keuka Lake or Atwater Estates on Seneca Lake were two of my favorites.

White grapes on the vine at Atwater Estate in Watkins Glen, New York

Heron Hill tasting room in the Finger Lakes

Bonus: Heron Hill has a longstanding relationship with local non-profit EquiCenter, which offers therapeutic riding, horsemanship, adaptive yoga, therapeutic horticulture, and canine assisted therapy to children and adults with disabilities, at-risk youth, veterans, and their families in western New York. A portion of the proceeds from their charity wine go to the center! Read more about Heron Hill’s local community involvement here

3. Plenty to do inside and outside

With the humid days of summer behind, fall is the perfect time to go horseback riding or head out on a hike. And if the weather is too chilly or rainy, there’s still a lot to do inside–from wine tasting to exploring local museums.

Watkins Glen State Park in the fall

>> Head here for a weekend Finger Lakes itinerary–perfect for foodies, nature lovers, or history buffs! <<

4. Agritourism at its best

Visiting local farms or people watching at the farmers’ market is such a fun way to get to know the local community–wherever you are. And there’s something absolutely perfect about being on a farm on a crisp autumn day.

While the extent of my agritourism adventure was visiting a mushroom farm and picking my own produce for a farm-to-table meal at Pleasant Valley Inn, there are tons more activities in the Finger Lakes. Check out agritourism options in Watkins Glen (near Seneca Lake) here, Corning (near Keuka Lake) here, and Ithaca (near Cayuga Lake) here.

Harvesting lettuce and carrots at a farm in the Finger Lakes for a farm-to-table dinner at Pleasant Valley Inn

5. Hard cider tastes best in the fall.

This may be entirely subjective, but I’m pretty sure there’s no better time for hard cider than autumn. Apples and fall are a perfect pairing, and who doesn’t want to sip some locally-made cider while sitting around a campfire on a crisp fall evening?

Flight of hard cider and a view of the outside of Cider Creek (New York) in the fall

Head to Cider Creek in Canisteo, New York for live music on Saturday nights, a cool vibe inside their tasting room and bar, or hang out around the fire ring outside.

PSA: The Finger Lakes aren't all about wine! Here's where you can get some tasty hard cider, live music, and a campfire.Click To Tweet

6. It’s a great weekend destination.

Fall is the perfect time to escape for the weekend–after all your summer vacations and beach trips are history but before the holidays roll around. And the Finger Lakes are located within driving distance of many (congested) places in the Northeast, making it a great place for a fall weekend getaway.

7. Gorgeous scenery

Whether you’re admiring the bright fall foliage as it’s swallowed up by steep gorges, or vineyards awash with color on their gentle descent to the lake, there’s a calm and quiet–yet still stunning–beauty in this landscape.

Fall scenery in Watkins Glen, located in the Finger Lakes region of New York State

What do you love most about the Finger Lakes in the fall? Let me know in the comments!
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