Our regular readers know we have published multiple articles on the Finger Lakes wine region of New York, its wineries, suggested itineraries, histories and more. However, there’s more than wine to discover in this scenic region, and while I typically spend my days visiting several wineries, there are times I want to explore some of the Finger Lakes outdoor activities off of the wine trail.

This is especially the case when the whole family comes along, and I have to say of all the wine regions I’ve visited, the Finger Lakes is one of the most family friendly. In all honesty, there really is something for everyone here: outdoor activities, charming towns, shops, museums, festivals and so many great dining options. And even better, it’s a friendly, welcoming community that will make you feel part of the family.

As a seasoned traveler, I’ve had my share of adventures: random, like the time I stood up in a wedding in the Dominican Republic for two Canadians I had met only days before; awe inspiring, like the time my husband and I got lost on a treacherous, one-way dirt road in my rear wheel drive sports car in the mountains of Arizona, only to emerge at a summit for a stunning sunset; and some wild experiences, like the time a black bear came to the door of our cabin in the woods of Colorado.

While I could fill a book with my travel stories (and some mishaps!) around the world, some of my most magical moments were experienced in the Finger Lakes. I’ve joined people I just met to play guitars lakeside, sang with the band in a restaurant, ended up on the cover of the regional magazine, tied vines at our bed and breakfast, took a lap in a race car, listened to my daughter’s Stevie Nicks-like voice echo on the lake as she belt out “Hallelujah,” gone behind the scenes at wineries, cruised the lake at sunset with friends, poured Champagne for the first U.S. bonded winery, and my favorite, met the many people I now consider family. This is the real treasure of this region – the community – and it extends far beyond the wineries.

It really is no secret that I’m an unofficial ambassador for this wine region. It had me from the first sip, and as Winetravelers, I think it will impress you too. So, as you plan your visit whether coming as a family, couple, or with friends, here are several options for things to do off the wine trail in the great outdoors (and I’m barely scraping the surface).

Outdoor Activities to Experience in the Finger Lakes

Watkins Glen State Park

Hiking Finger Lakes New York Outdoor Activities and Things To Do - Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park. Image courtesy Kristy Wenz.

Watkins Glen, New York

Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along the path. The paved trail winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of the Cavern Cascade. Additional rim trails overlook the gorge for equally dramatic views. Hikers can hike up or down the trail, or you can take a shuttle bus to the top for $5 and hike the trail back down to the parking area. And in the summer months, there’s even an Olympic-size pool, picnic facilities and fishing in nearby Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek.


Boating on Keuka Lake

Penn Yan, New York

Don’t have your own boat? No worries! You can rent one and cruise Keuka Lake for a day with Morgan Marine. The local boat shop offers half-day, daily and weekly rentals of Ski Boats, Pontoon Boats, and non-powered boats. It’s an incredible way to spend a day with views that will have you spellbound.


Harris Hill Amusement Park

Elmira, New York

This is a fun and affordable way to spend an afternoon with your family (or mini-golf and ice cream date). Harris Hill offers everything from kiddie rides to miniature golf, concessions including hot dogs, French fries and sodas, and an ice cream shop. (The Go Karts are a ton of fun too!)

Go-Karting at Harris Hill Amusement Park. Image courtesy Heather Goodreau.
Go-Karting at Harris Hill Amusement Park. Image courtesy Heather Goodreau.

Tanglewood Nature Center

Elmira, New York

You can meander over 10 miles of trails, attend educational programming for children and adults, and check out more than 40 native and exotic animals. The Nature Center and Museum is always free to visit.

Best Outdoor Activities in the Finger Lakes
Tanglewood Nature Center. Image courtesy Kristy Wenz.

Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen, New York

Fans of fast cars can come check out the action at Watkins Glen or “Drive The Glen!” You can actually find out what it feels like to drive this famous road course while piloting your personal vehicle around the 3.4-mile Grand Prix circuit behind a paced vehicle. (Watch for special events including the Finger Lakes Wine Festival!)


Market Street in Corning

Shopping on Market Street in New York's Finger Lakes
Image courtesy Heather Goodreau.

Corning, New York

Market Street is filled with coffee bars, bistros, cafes, bakeries, and candy shops perfect for popping in following an afternoon of shopping. From handcrafted local merchandise and antiques to toys and clothing, there are treats and souvenirs for all interests and ages. (If you’re lucky you can catch live music in the Gaffer District!)


Hazlitt’s Oasis

Hector, New York

Summers at Hazlitt’s are full of events including live music most Friday evenings. Food and drinks from the Oasis are always available and you will occasionally find a local food truck on site too. Families are welcome and there are games, swings and dancing for anyone and everyone to enjoy. (Kids will love to feed the koi in the pond – fish food is available at the bar for 50 cents.)


Robert H. Treman State Park

Ithaca, New York

Robert H. Treman State Park features the rugged gorge called Enfield Glen as the highlight. Winding trails follow the gorge past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. The park offers nine miles of hiking trails and swimming in a stream-fed pool beneath a waterfall. Swimming is allowed in lifeguarded area only.


Buttermilk Falls State Park

Ithaca, New York

Buttermilk Falls State Park takes its name from the foaming cascade formed by Buttermilk Creek as it flows down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake. The upper park has a small lake, hiking trails through woodlands and along the gorge and rim, picnic areas and playing fields. The lower park has a campground, natural pool and playing fields, beyond which is Larch Meadows. Larch Meadows is a wetland area through which a nature trail winds.


Finger Lakes Soaring Club

Dansville, New York

Feeling adventurous? Soar high above the Finger Lakes Wine Country with the Finger Lakes Soaring Club on a glider.  Rides are usually available from May through October, Saturday and Sunday by reservation or on a walk-in basis. The Club has a fleet of five gliders and two tow planes. (Call in advance to avoid bad weather or long delays waiting for a flight.)


Bonus: Picking Cherries at Sawmill Creek

Outdoor Activities in the Finger Lakes - Sawmill Cherry PickingHector, New York

As 6th generation premium Finger Lakes wine grape growers the Hazlitt family farm began in 1852. Sawmill Creek provides quality fruit to over two dozen award-winning local wineries and once a year, July only, you can experience picking sweet and sour cherries in their beautiful orchards. (Make sure to walk down the farm road a bit for one of my favorite views of Seneca Lake! And if you brought the kids, ask Tina about pit spitting contests!)


More Itineraries & Travel Guides To Explore The Finger Lakes

5 Amazing Seneca Lake Wineries To Visit If You Love Dry Red Wine

Barnstormer Winery: A Unique Approach to Winemaking in the Finger Lakes

How To Spend a Long Weekend in Seneca Lake – Finger Lakes Itinerary & Travel Guide

How To Explore the Finger Lakes Wine Region According to a Master Sommelier

The Best Finger Lakes Wineries Making Sparkling Wine

For more ideas, check out the Finger Lakes Wine Country site. And I wasn’t kidding about the magazine cover! You can find it here. Now that’s a story for ya sometime! See you in the Finger Lakes.


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Kristy Wenz
Wine / Travel Writer & WSET Diploma Candidate at Winetraveler
Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.

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