I love the rolling farms, beauty, and quietness of the Finger Lakes. It’s easy to spend an entire weekend and never leave the house – between kayaking, hammock-reading, waterskiing, third-cup-of-coffeeing, s’moreing and floating – it’s an active weekend if we manage to bring out the croquet set or Settlers of Catan. Heck, going for a morning run (past horse and buggies no less) is a victory in my book!
Here are a few of my favorite things to do (when I do manage to leave the water!):
I love poking around The Windmill on a Saturday morning for some marketing shopping / junk hunting. With a mixture of everything from homemade Mennonite loaves of bread, to handmade jewelry, to festival food tents, to vintage dishes, to t-shirts with wolves on them, you’ll find a wide assortment of goods at the Windmill. Parking is free and it’s worth checking out for an hour or two.
I’m totally biased when it comes to Belhurst Castle – I love it because we got married here! The Belhurst grounds are beautiful. The original castle was once a speak-easy, and is now home to two restaurants, gift shop, wine-tasting, hotel, and spa. They have a big brunch here on weekends, or you can grab dinner at Stonecutter’s restaurant in front of a fire pit. And, in case you’re in the market, it’s a great place for a wedding!
Fox Run Winery is a beautiful winery on Seneca Lake just south of Geneva. Wine tasting is popular all throughout the Finger Lakes, but I love Fox Run for it’s delicious cafe and front balcony with gorgeous views. We had our Rehearsal Dinner here in the barrel room and it was a blast! Fox Run is also home of the annual Garlic Festival (which I still have yet to make it to!).
If you are in the Finger Lakes in July or August, you must go blueberry picking! Not only is it supremely relaxing, but you can get organic blueberries for $1.99/pound! My favorite place to go is Serendipity. I love blueberry picking not only for the delicious fruit, but also the lovely wildflowers!
There are many beautiful places in the world. But there are a few that truly take my breath away.
I’ve posted on Watkins Glen NY State Park before, but we hiked it again a few weeks ago and I just had to share some photos of it’s AMAZINGNESS!
Recently there has been an article flying around social media, “29 Surreal Places in America You Need to Visit Before You Die”, (aka one of those million Buzzfeed articles on your Facebook newsfeed) and Watkins Glen is #8. The author says, “We all know Niagara Falls is a sight to see, but located south of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region lies a lesser-known fantasy-like area called Rainbow Bridge and Falls. It will make you feel like you’re in Lord of the Rings.”
The park was opened in the mid 1800s as an “amusement park” until it was purchased by New York State in 1906. The closest you will get to an amusement park is the laser shows they occasionally host.
The deep gorge was originally carved by glaciers, and has seen been re-shaped by the water flow of the streams, rapids, and waterfalls. The power of water is astounding.
There had been some heavy rain recently, so the waterfalls were flowing and the trail was pretty wet. Walking under a waterfall is always a magical experience. Wear appropriate footwear! (And protect your camera!)
There are some killer stairs at the top, but anyone in decent shape can do this hike. The main drag, the Gorge Trail, is a 1.5 mile hike and takes about 45 minutes if you stop to admire the general splendor, take some photos, and try to catch some of the little frogs. If you’re looking for a longer hike, the trail connects to the Finger Lakes Trail, which is an 800 mile network of trails running through New York state.
The types of artists and designers that I truly enjoy the most are the ones that create things you don’t see with your two eyes. J.K. Rowling, Lisa Frank, Alex Katz, Betsey Johnson. And Mackenzie Childs.
Mackenzie Childs creates whimsical ceramics, furniture and household items. All pieces are created and painted by hand in one of several trademark patterns (the most famous being black and white checks).
The headquarters, store and inspirational-styled Victorian farmhouse are located on what used to be an old dairy farm in Aurora, NY and open to visitors. While the men in our family were headed to the PGA golf tournament, my mom and I decided to have a girls day out and visit Mackenzie Childs.
There is a lovely shop full of everything you can imagine – candlesticks, to rugs, to champagne glasses, to patio furniture. The only downfall of Mackenzie Childs – it is not cheap. But still fun to poke around.
In a small theater off the shop is a 20 minute video where you can learn all about the ceramic molding, firing and glazing process. There is also a massive and intricately decorated dollhouse – my eight-year-old self was in heaven.
Visitors aren’t able to tour the work area – where all the pottery is molded, fired and glazed. But, we were able to peek through a few windows at the shelves full of works in progress!
There is a beautiful courtyard you can sit at and enjoy. Sadly it was a misty, rainy day, so we were unable to linger in it very much that day.
The free Farmhouse tour is given hourly and is quite a treat. Have you ever been to one of those home expo tours and go through beautifully styled homes?
Well, it was like that! Except Mackenzie-Childs-esque – which you’ll see is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
We had to wear protective booties because of the rain.
The style is not exactly how I’d decorate my own home, but I love how the brand beats to it’s own crazy colorful drum and doesn’t look back.
There are small details all over the house – from funky reading glasses perched on open books, to classical painting that have been “modified” with crazy black and white checked pants and flowers.
How adorable is this kitchen? I love the pink knobs.
I feel like I only might bake cupcake and french toast though if this was my kitchen. It doesn’t exactly scream grilled cheese or stir-fry to me.
Mackenzie Childs style waffles between eccentrically funky and decidedly feminine.
How fun is that chair? I could actually see something like that in my house.
Small details like beautiful bottles of soap, large floral print wallpapers and decorative vintage handkerchiefs filled the hallways.
But the tiles in the bathrooms were some of my very favorite features!
Hunter Boots even offers a Mackenzie Childs boot!
The premises are beautiful and on Cayuga Lake – complete with gardens, ponds, and farm animals.
I had to take a picture of this – even the sawhorses in one of the outbuildings are “on-brand” with the classic checks!
We were there a week after their annual sale – which is pandemonium with people traveling from all over the country. Women camp out on air mattresses and wristband access is required to get into the tent to score goods for up to 80% off! About 15,000 people come to the annual sale event – yowza. I’m not sure I am even crazy enough for that.
After our farmhouse tour, we headed into the tiny town of Aurora (population 722 people!) and stopped in a few shops and had (a delicious) lunch at the Aurora Inn – a beautiful building in the center of town.
The restaurant overlooks Lake Cayuga, and the grounds are right at water-level.
(It would be a great place for a wedding – if anyone is looking!)
The town of Aurora and the Mackenzie Childs farmhouse are around 1-1.5 hours from Rochester and Syracuse and definitely worth a day trip! While it would have been nice to stroll the property in nicer weather, I definitely walked away inspired!
Upstate New York is entirely underrated. In case you were wondering.
The region is associated with the three snowiest cities in the United States (Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, thank you very much), but very little is it associated with the summer months!
Let’s keep it that way, eh? I like driving on an empty highway.
It is beautiful – sunshine, blue skies, budding vineyards and lots of big yellow fields that reminded me of Scotland!
A month or so ago, we spent the weekend in the Finger Lakes and spent the morning in Naples, NY. It’s right next to Rome, NY and Italy, NY.
We had breakfast at the Middlesex Airport Diner – a small building on a small meadow that small planes fly in and out of.
While our waiter informed us we were a bit late for the usual plane sightseeing (what? 11am is too late for breakfast?) we still managed to see a few of them.
After breakfast we drove to Grimes Glen.
Grimes Glen is a hiking path in a glen. No surprise there.
It has a one mile creek walk up to some beautiful waterfalls.
Go ahead and swallow that vanity. Put on a pair of ugly nature sandals and walk all the way up the creek! (Some currents are a bit strong, but most places weren’t deeper than 12 inches of water. I was carrying my SLR around my neck).
We went on a Saturday morning and there was a fair amount of hiking traffic.