It doesn’t take a detective to discover I’m a millennial. And even though I’m in that “micro-generation” all the lifestyle bloggers like to talk about, I don’t try to deny my true generational roots. After all, I’m sure I spend more than the average 32 minutes per day on Instagram and it’s perfectly convenient to blame poor posture on my smartphone. Plus, I gave a TED Talk on my 30th birthday and there’s nothing more “millennial” than that.
Except… if you listen to my TED Talk, you’d hear me condemn digital relationships. That’s not a very millennial thing to do, but I grew up in a large family with tons of cousins who loved running around outside and eating too much. Not only did we value food and fun, we valued the people with whom we shared it all. And as much as I love my smartphone, I appreciate every opportunity to share a great experience with those in the same physical space.
And then as soon as I get home, I tweet about it.
All this to say, for my anti-millennial millennial self, the Finger Lakes region is perfect. It has that “pull-over-and-take-a-picture-with-my-phone” beauty combined with a “just-ran-into-all-my-friends-at-the-brewery” social scene. It’s a traveler’s haven and a resident’s dream, and here are the 3 [main] reasons why:
Foodies and Winos Unite
First and foremost, the Finger Lakes is a wine region. The rare depth of these glacier-carved lakes creates a micro-climate that’s ideal for grape-growing and wine production. And as an indication of a wine region at its tipping point, Nova Cadamatre, the first female Master of Wine in the US, recently moved from Napa Valley to become part of the Finger Lakes wine scene. She joins some of the region’s highly regarded wineries like Dr. Konstantin Frank, Hermann J. Wiemer, and Fox Run Vineyards, where she also collaborates with winemaker Peter Bell.
Looking north over red grape vineyards on Seneca Lake. Photo: Sean Lukasik
We’re serious here about our alcohol, so drinking in the Finger Lakes doesn’t end with wine. When you need a break from grapes, check out Upstate Brewing Company in Elmira or Steuben Brewing in Hammondsport. These hot spots will provide an introduction to what’s possible in local beer production, providing a launchpad into the region’s huge network of breweries. If spirits are your thing, don’t miss Finger Lakes Distilling on Seneca Lake where you can take in the view with a cigar and a patiently-aged New York State bourbon.
As many of you already know, a great drink is even better with the perfect meal. And there’s no shortage of those in the Finger Lakes, either. While I’m nowhere close to being a sommelier, I do consider myself an expert on food consumption. My “studies” in this field include dinners at Hand + Foot and The Cellar in Corning, specialty pizzas from Atlas in Corning and Watkins Glen (voted the Best in Upstate New York), brunch at the Stonecat in Hector, impromptu stops at the FLX Wienery in Dundee, and questionably obsessive food truck stalking of Global Taco, Silo, and Coco’s Café.
And when you feel like you can’t possibly consume anything else, read on.
At Hand + Foot in Corning, the sandwiches are as crave-able as the atmosphere. Photo: Alexandra Elise Photography
Hiking Designed for Instagram
When you’re feeling full and in need of some fresh air and exercise, your Instagram feed will benefit as much as your physical health. Whether you’re after the perfect shot of waterfalls or wildlife, expansive views or natural nooks, there’s a hike for you in the Finger Lakes.
Perhaps most challenging is the gorge hike at Watkins Glen State Park, but it’s also the most rewarding. Waterfalls and rapids cascade dramatically toward Seneca Lake and it only takes one glance to understand why it’s the most popular State Park in New York. You’ll have to take the stairs, but you’ll quickly forget about them when you realize your Instagram story is as popular as it has ever been. For the true hipsters, bring several rolls of film.
Not too far away is the Finger Lakes National Forest, over 16,000 acres between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes full of hiking trails, campsites, and endless views. Depending on where you jump onto the Finger Lakes Trail – and depending on where you are in your search for nirvana – you’ll find the precise amount of serenity you need up there.
In Corning or Elmira, you can learn a little more about our natural history and native plants and animals with a visit to Spencercrest or Tanglewood Nature Centers. These locations each have their own network of trails with helpful signage, beautiful views, and more intimate experiences with nature. Check their respective websites for group events like guided hikes or informative talks, or drop in anytime time to cater your own hike.
If you don’t leave any of these locations with a pile of photos for your Instagram feed, there are only 2 valid excuses: you’re bad at photography OR you’re not an outdoors person. I can’t help you with the former, but the latter brings us to the third reason by the Finger Lakes region is perfect.
World Class Museums
I could spend hours and countless blog posts describing the unique museums we have in the Finger Lakes. From Keuka Lake’s Boating Museum to the Corning Museum of Glass, the Rockwell Museum to the Arnot Art Museum, the options are diverse and seemingly endless. But it’s not about quantity.
The Rockwell Museum in Corning’s former City Hall building. Photo: Sean Lukasik
This region has a genuine connection to its artists, its history, and its culture like no other place I’ve visited – and each museum tells a beautiful story, sharing insight and experience in ways that feel playful, interactive, approachable, and seriously fun.
Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes, for example, allows visitors to walk through homes and buildings from this area’s earliest history. The National Soaring Museum tells the story of motorless flight while gliders and sailplanes take off and land right outside. I can’t possible go into detail about all of our museums, but I promise that a little research will turn up the opportunity to be transported into a brand new world. These aren’t your average elementary school field trips.
So there you have it; for the perfectly blended experience in the Finger Lakes, from this local’s point of view, fill up on wine and food, walk it off in a beautiful, natural setting, feel good about spending time indoors by checking out a museum, and then start all over again.
It’s a cycle you’ll never want to escape, and I can’t wait to read about it from your perspective.
Sean Lukasik is a partner at Creagent Marketing and Urban Corning, a blog dedicated to celebrating Corning and the surrounding region. Creagent works with travel destinations to increase exposure and visitation. For a fun guide to the Southern Finger Lakes, follow @UrbanCorning on Instagram and Twitter; you can follow Sean’s personal travels on Instagram at @seanlukasik.
Register for TBEX North America 2018 (Sep 11 – 13) and join hundreds of other travel media, including content creators, photographers, vloggers, bloggers, and top tier travel influencers in Finger Lakes Wine Country, New York. Registration includes two full days of breakout sessions led by world-class travel writers/bloggers/speakers, speed networking opportunities with dozens of travel brands, access to official Opening and Closing Night Parties, and the Pre-BEX tour of your choice. Visit the Event Page at tbexcon.com for complete details. #myFLXtbex